Today’s guest article was written by Gnome Stew reader Tony G., who has been GMing for 20 years. He’s got co-GMing on the brain, and we thought this was a great topic to revisit from a new perspective. Thanks, Tony! –Martin
I have asked many of my fellow GMs this question: Why do we run games by ourselves? Tradition? Why not share the responsibility and the work with a fellow GM? If you think about it, it kind of makes sense. Most entertainment is a group effort. Movies are a large collaboration. Television shows most certainly are. Even some books are written by two or more authors.
Yet we work on our RPGs alone. We are the writer, director, producer, special effects coordinator, actors, etc. It can be a daunting task sometimes. The players of course help make a game successful as well, but you can always use a little extra help. I am not saying that we need five GMs from now on. I do, however, think that having two separate GMs could be very beneficial and enjoyable. Here is a small list of pros and cons:
Some pros include:
- You can assign duties between the two of you. If your friend is a better actor and you a better writer, you can play to your strengths. For example, one GM can take care of NPCs (accents, attitudes, and overall impression), one GM could handle plot and environment descriptions and details.
- It allows for larger parties and the dreaded “split up” fear could be handled easily. I myself am comfortable with 5 or maybe 6 at the maximum. Having another GM to share the load would let me feel more comfortable about running maybe 8 or 9. Multiple conversations happening at the same time can add a level of realism and cut back on small amounts of metagaming. In real life you can’t usually have an engaging conversation while listening to another.
- It is great to have someone to help make rulings on problems that come up. It has more of a council appearance than a dictator vibe.
- Two heads are better than one, after all. Especially dealing with writer’s block or just being able to bounce something off someone else can be a great asset. Maybe that molten crystal giraffe that fires poison darts creature you came up with late last night sounded good at the time, but…
- You can both learn a great deal on how the other puts stories, characters, and plots together. Over the years I have learned so much from just simply listening to others run games. It really is an amazing craft, in that we have to create our own way of building an experience for the players.
- You can have conversations between two NPCs happen without having to adjust your voice or mannerisms twice. I have seen some great GM performances in the past, but it is more natural sounding for two characters talking to be two different people.
- Not having to draw ALL the maps yourself! Always a plus!
- You can meld two different genres that you were working on separately into a new game. If your friend is doing sci-fi and you are doing feudal Japan…meld them together for something engaging and unique that you may not have come up with by yourself.
Some cons include:
- Not having a reliable co-GM could be frustrating (being late, forgetting the plot or motivations you both came up with).
- Not agreeing on how hard and fast you use the rules set within the game.
- Not having the same general vision for what the players want out of the game you both are running.
You don’t necessarily need a Pacific Rim mind drift to make it easier, but someone you know that has a similar taste and style would be great. Find a like-minded friend and let them share the space behind the curtain — or in this case GM screen. It will probably take a few sessions to work out all the kinks, I imagine. At the very least, try it. You never know. Some people may have trouble letting some of the responsibility go and want to only do things “their way.” That is a tried and true method that has been the expected norm forever, maybe it’s time to change it up a bit?
Have any of you tried this and had enjoyable experiences with this type of gameplay? If so was it a relief or more difficult than it was worth?