Behind the Screen: The First Co-DM session…

2007 September 17
by Dante

Vanir and I had the good fortune to run a six-week mini campaign recently. Knowing that the first session of a new campaign is the most important, I would like to share our steps for preparing in a co-DM mode.

The Pre-Prep

The division of tasks for this campaign were clear: Vanir would write the plot, I would run the sessions. Since campaign writing is a collaborative thing, over the course of two weeks we spent some time throwing around ideas: a tyrannical dictator, an oppressed and generally clueless human population that was conditioned to think that the community of nearby elves were dangerous and barbaric, and so on.

Vanir had a great hook: the characters would begin in the employ of the dictator and be tasked to deliver a note demanding that the elves sacrifice their land to him or be destroyed. To further bring this point home, our characters were given a weapon of mass destruction to threaten the elves with if they did not comply.

Unfortunately for them, the dictator had bad information and the artifacts did not work the way the PCs were told. One of our characters was elected the party leader, and he alone was told that if the elves didn’t comply he would utter the command word (“journeymen”) and the artifacts would activate and destroy the elves.

This was a great setup for a fast paced campaign, so we were both very excited.

Knowing Thy Players

A great plot can be unraveled in ways unimagined by your PCs. Knowing this to be the case, we spent a considerable amount of time running “what if” scenarios by each other. This is one of the best opportunities that co-DMing provides you: the ability to run ideas past each other looking for holes and creating contingency plans should your players act randomly.

Since we know our players fairly well (some members of our group have been good friends of ours for years) we knew that there was more than a little chance that our group would do something that we did not expect. We knew one member in particular, my co-DM from another campaign that we are running, would probably be the one to attempt to blow the thing wide open.

The First Session

The player in question acted as we suspected. Immediately upon being given the artifact, our buddy immediately shared his secret duties with the rest of the group, and immediately when the chance arose invoked “journeymen” and found out that the artifact was a dud.

Thankfully, we had planned for this contingency and had some additional encounters planned to help keep the players progressing forward toward some of our other plot points, but with many of the “secrets” out of the bag it became a bit difficult. The normal rails that would’ve been hidden were a bit exposed, and the players were having some difficulty with their motivation to continue on.

The upside to these developments is that both Vanir and I could keep our cool under circumstances that normally would’ve led to catastrophe. Planning for sessions in an iterative way became very helpful during this campaign, and the combined efforts of two DMs helped to make it possible.

More to come!

One Response leave one →
  1. kanati permalink
    September 20, 2007


    These damn magic doritos don’t work. Crap.

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