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DM rotation

Playing D&D 4E with only two or three players not only has disadvantages. It also gives you the chance to try a special DM rotation system. Have you thought about switching the Dungeon Master several times on one evening? Give it a try!

If you have only two or three players, you are three or four people. Let’s say you are playing for about three hours on an evening during the week. This would give every one about 50 minutes of DM time. This isn’t much, I know. But if you are well prepared, this can turn out to be really fun.

One way to do this is simply having each of you prepare one encounter you play through. Even though this can already be fun, something is missing. The story. How would you build up a coherent story this way? And how do you explain that, in every encounter, a different character is missing?

Here is one idea to solve this problem:

You first need to find a reason for the characters to enter a dungeon. This shouldn’t be too hard, but simply putting the players into a dungeon without reason isn’t really satisfactory either.

Everyone has to prepare one section of the dungeon with one encounter in advance. The encounters should be really, really hard. I will explain that to you in a moment. Remember that you don’t have much time, so everyone has to be prepared as good as possible.

Now pick the one who’s going to start DMing. Let your first dungeon master introduce you to his section of the dungeon and run the encounter. As I said, the encounters should be really hard. So hard that one player dies in the end. The DM should try to make sure that really one and only one character dies. After you finished the encounter, it’s the turn of the player whose character just died. That player will be the next DM.

Now play through the second DM’s encounter. The player, who was the first Dungeon Master, will not play a character but a henchman of the next villain. This way you don’t have to explain why that character missed the first encounter. Ensure that again one character dies. That player will be the next DM, while the current and the previous DM will play henchmen.

Repeat this until one character fights alone against a whole bunch of bad guys. You need not kill that character. Let it be a fair fight—whatever fair means, fighting one against many.

If you want to use your characters again next time, don’t kill them but leave them severely injured, unable to join the other fights. And now that you hopefully finally finished the big boss, you can go back and heal them.

If time permits, you can of course prepare more than one encounter per player. It also is not necessary to stage this in a dungeon. You might also be on a track through the wilderness or in some city. In any case, you should agree on the general theme of the dungeon (or city etc.) and the villains.

This is a first sketch of a part of the guide to playing D&D with only two or three players, that I’m currently working on. Please tell me what you think about it in the comments.

Photo by Pirate Alice under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

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This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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