Getting the party inside your character’s head

I just had a fun idea for an occasional flipping of table roles in a way that lets a player GM for awhile but keeps the campaign continuity. The idea is to  let the other players play parts in a story narrated by your character.  Two scenarios where this might happen in an existing campaign are:

  1. Through evil magic the party is trapped inside the nightmare of one of the characters.  In this scenario there are real-campaign consequences (death or madness) and the other players can use their regular characters.
  2. Your character narrates a vivid story from either his own past or from a legend and the other players temporarily play characters in that narrative.  For ideas here, see any Simpsons episode where they play out some myth or Shakespearean play. Also definitely see the Family Guy star wars spoof. The other players can either play temporary characters, or their regular characters performing the role of a character in the narrative.

What does this buy the group? Well, you give the GM a break on the story telling for awhile (he or she can play another character in the story or the NPCs). It also allows you to do character development in a shared way with everyone else at the table.  Fr example, if you go with option 1, you can play out the character’s darkest fears , and option 2 allows you to share a meaningful story with the rest of the party.  This might be a good way to get one’s feet wet GMing, as pulling this off requires a lot of structure and support from the regular GM.

When developing the adventure, work on the story with the GM. She’ll need to make sure she has something to do during the session, and she should have the final say on anything that lasts beyond the mini-adventure. For instance, if the story involves the regular party characters, they should receive XP for the obstacles overcome; the GM makes sure the rewards are balanced and fit into the overall game arc. If the back-story is how you got that magical frost sword, and the reward for successfully completing the adventure is actually having the sword (you had it the whole time but just forgot!). This is a good way to introduce some of the group items or lair items from Adventurer’s Vault 2, since the whole party can share them. Another way to share past rewards is to make them pay out in the present. For example, if the adventure saves a local church from a demon’s attack, and your character hasn’t seen the deacon until the present, then he can hand over 400gp reward, which you graciously share with your adventuring friends. If your character and the party is trapped inside your mind’s imaginings explaining XP is pretty easy, but the treasure is a little more difficult. A tangible, shared reward here is remembering a clue you once overheard to the location for a fantastic treasure.

When actually running the adventure, there are a few ways to play it. If the DM comes up with the plot just using the ideas you’ve given her, and she runs the adventure then there’s not much more for you to do.  If you wind up running the adventure or at least write the bulk of the plot, then you have to play your character as a GM-PC. I’m giving the okay for this one despite my long standing rule against GM PCs, because (a) this is only a side adventure and (b) the regular GM still has veto power. The most important advice is to let your friends at the table do the role playing, figure out the puzzles, and slay the monsters with at most gentle guidance from you. Don’t run their characters, please. Also be sure that the story gives every character a chance to shine; don’t put them in the background because it’s your character’s story. Narrating a legend works well here since you all can take on roles not directly related to the PC.

If the adventure is successful, the DM can extend any of the plot elements that come out as adventure hooks for the main campaign. If you want to try this out, I recommend reading the tons of DM guidance out there like www.newbiedm.com, www.dungeonmastering.com, www.gnomestew.com, etc (see the blog-roll to the right), and find articles on writing and running adventurers for first timers. Running a mini-adventure might give you appreciation for all the hard work put in by the GM.

Let me know if you have any corollary ideas. This just sprung to mind on my drive home, so I haven’t had time to really bake it yet.

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3 thoughts on “Getting the party inside your character’s head

  1. You have to be careful because the dream sequences could become recursive and you’ll end up with a stack overflow.

  2. Pingback: My DM was on the Tome Show « Mike's D&D Blog

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