Co-GMing & One-Off GMs

First of all, let me say that it is nice to get back to posting. I've had a crazy few weeks what with starting a new job (having money is really nice) and Impossible Worlds being registered and the website built (more on this later). I've had plenty to talk about, and have half-written more than a few posts, but I haven't been able to take the time to sit down and get anything major out. So I changed that.

Co-GMing & One-Off GMs

Let me just preface this post by saying that, whilst this is an article about advice for GMs and RPG groups, it is also (like so many of my posts) an exploration into my own campaigns, explaining how I came to the advice I am giving as well as how I am employing it.

Having said that now, let me describe to you a little system I have cooked up for my up coming campaign Marienburg: Sold Down the River (for those of you who have been following me for a while, my RPG group, M.O.R.T.E. finally cemented down which campaign we will be playing). The system is based on the results of a difficult issue I was having a little while back wherein I had so many players that normal games were becoming impossible to run whilst maintaining the fun. It is also based on my love of getting new people to GM.

Put simply, during my campaign I will be having 2 fellow players act as Co-GMs to a small degree - they will be informed of the main NPCs, places and plots of a given session, and they will be tasked with running those facets as a normal GM should the party split up. This information will be shared week to week, based on what the party is doing, so it will be given in small, easily digestible chunks.

However, I have added some craziness to this original idea, and that craziness comes in 2 parts.

Crazy Part-A: Rotating Co-GMs

I have decided that the role of Co-GM will not be static in my campaign, and that players will have the option, week-to-week, of electing to be a Co-GM. At first I will choose my 2 Co-GMs as normal, and for the first session (probably first few) they will stay in the role. Then, I will open the job up to others.

It will work on a first-to-volunteer gets the job, sort of deal, with the first player to put their hand up getting to run it. However, there will be a few extra rules in place.
  1. One of the two Co-GMs assisting me has to have done the job before.
  2. A new Co-GM always takes precedent over one who has already Co-GMed (so even if they volunteer after, if they have never done the job before, they will bump to the front of the queue).
  3. A Co-GM Combo can be vetoed by me at any time (this is just to prevent two Combat-specialist Co-GMs from running together when I might need a Social-specialist Co-GM for a session).
Co-GMing will grant the player extra XP for helping me out, as well, so there is some incentive beyond just the fun to do it once in a while.

It is my hope with this system that A) the starting Co-GMs get a chance to be normal players every now and again, and that B) a player who would otherwise be terrified of committing completely to Co-GM would feel free to jump into the shoes at least once so they can test the waters. If they don't like it, fine, it is only for one night. But if they like it? Well, they can go onto Crazy Part-B!

Crazy Part-B: One-Off GMing

In addition to the rotating Co-GMs, I have decided to add in interlude games. Once every X weeks (I am yet to decide the exact amount, but it might be anything from 4 - 8) I will open the floor to a player who wants to run their own adventure. For this adventure alone, their character would be on the side-lines (not even featuring) and they would command the same authority as I would otherwise as a full GM.

Like all Sold Down the River adventures, their adventure would be planned as mission that could be completed in 1 session, and they would be accompanied by Co-GMs (one of which will always be myself).

I would sit as a Co-GM only to guide the proper GM - making sure that nothing happens which crosses any continuity in an irreparable way, and making sure that nothing gets out of hand for the GM. I would only actually take the reins on the request of the GM, and would for the most part just spectate and "play".

That being said, I (like any Co-GM) will be fully briefed on the adventure before hand, and will have a cheat sheet on the NPCs, places and plots taking place.

Much like the rotating Co-GMs, there are a few extra rules:
  1. One-Off GMs are "first-to-volunteer gets the job", with players who have never GMed in the campaign taking precedent.
  2. To be a One-Off GM a player must have already been a Co-GM.
  3. The One-Off GMs other Co-GM must have also already been a Co-GM.
  4. The potential One-Off GM must first pitch the adventure idea to me before being sworn in as a One-Off GM (this is merely to make sure the adventure idea fits the tone of the campaign / makes sense with the rest of the campaign / doesn't cross any boundaries with any of the players).
It is my hope with this system that I will get a chance to introduce every one of my players to GMing in some way. This system would work great for new GMs as it is an established campaign with established NPCs, places, plots, rules, and everything, meaning that all the new GM has to bring to the table is a willingness to try and a cool idea. It will also means I will have less to prep some weeks!

Have you ever had a Co-GM in one of your campaigns? Have you ever held a similar role for your GM? Have you ever wanted to GM but felt intimidated with the prospects of a new game with new rules standing in the way? Let me know what you think in the comments section!