Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tips On Co-Gming a Game

Tips On Co-Gming a Game 
by Tobie Abad

Not that many groups have ever tried having more than one game master in their games.  There are many possible Perhaps the gm is new to the hobby, and wants to run a game but isn't that confident yet with handling system-related decisions?  Or perhaps the group is a large one, and the gm doesn't want others to be bored while individual scenes are run?  Ultimately, the co-gm role is an interesting one because a second person is there to engage the others players even while the first gm is still handling a different scene with another.

Here are some tips on how to approach co-gming a game:
1) Know the "need to know" stuff
To run a game with a co-gm means being willing to trust a second person to help you in the game's narrative flow.  While this might sound unthinkable to some more old school groups, for those who have explored narrative-control friendly games, this is a very acceptable and fun thing to do.

But since the co-GM usually wants to help usher the first GM's plot forward, there might be a list of "need to know" stuff you should be aware of, whether they be the outline of the session, the key scenes to hit in the game, or even just the motivations of key NPCs which you may end up portraying.  That way, things don't go completely contrary to any pre-established scenes or narratives that included the said characters.

This also means checking with the GM if there are any things that are meant "not to be clarified/wrapped up" as far as the players may be concerned.  For example, the GM might have an ongoing plot being built up, and a recurring clue is a tattoo in the shape of an octopus.  You might want to ask the GM beforehand if that plot thread is off limits, or if you're free to make up details or maybe even the truth behind it.

2) Volume Modulation
When scenes run concurrently beside one another, the tendency is to get more and more vocal to try and maintain the focus of attention.  It might be better to keep any scenes running at the same time to a minimum, just to avoid this very problem.  But when the need to run scenes at the same time does arise, considering finding a comfortable volume level that works without intruding on the other scene.

Smart co-GMs can use the second scene to give the player an introspective moment, perhaps throwing him questions to ponder in his head, or playing the scene out like an assisted internal monologue while the other scene unfolds.  Key lines can include, "You start to think about.." or "That moment, your mind remembers this time..." as jumping points for such scenes.

3) Have a Blue Book/Laptop Communication Option with the GM
Given the need sometimes to keep things "behind a GM screen", consider having a notebook or program like Notepad or Word open to quickly type in anything that you might need to discuss withe the GM quickly, without breaking stride from running the game.  The messages should be kept short and concise of course, as to not disrupt the fun of the game.  But the gaming gods know how many times I've been happy to be able to quickly type, "Is it alright to have this NPC die?" to bring a scene to a dramatic conclusion.

4) Don't Get Lost Playing With Each Other
When a GM plays an NPC and a co-GM plays the second NPC, it can be fun to have them banter at each other or interesting to use that as a mechanism to reveal more of the story.  The scene where the leader of the Cult discusses with his lieutenant while the players spy on them can be cooler to watch when two people portray the scene.  But if the two start portraying it a bit too long, the players might wonder why there's in the scene at all.  So don't get too caught up enjoying each other's role-playing.  Keep in mind the group is still there!  I know it sounds like a stupid reminder, but I have had games where a SINGLE GM portrays two NPCs and the narrative goes on and on and on to the point I end up telling the GM, "I step out into the open and say, 'Really?'"

5) Use Some Unique Psychological Opportunities
Say you want the players to feel uncertain.  Or paranoid.  Because you want them to feel immersed the way the characters are.   Then here's a few quick ideas:
by Jon Gosier

a) The head shake.
While one gm runs the scenes and is very supportive of the player's plans and declarations, have the other one focus on the laptop/notes and slowly, quietly shake his head as if to say no.    For that added push, have him glance up at the player at a key declaration. Then slowly roll his eyes back to the notes and again, almost imperceptibly this time, shake another no.

b) The Dice Roll
The characters are escaping from the prison.  They are now quietly moving in the shadows, hoping to reach the sewer line before the others spot them.  As the gm runs the scene with all the drama and tension needed, the second GM can amp up the tension by rolling dice, then consulting the notes, and occasionally pointing at something for the first GM to either nod yes or shake no to.   Trust me, they will definitely feel the tension grow because they know, "SOMETHING IS HAPPENING THAT WE CANNOT SEE!"

If you want to really push their buttons, do all dice rolling in plain sight.  Let them SEE the results.  So each time the dice show a success, or worse, a failure, they will be dying in worry over what it is about.

c) The Twin/Double/Doppleganger Scene
The players are forced to two groups, and group A finds the contact they need to talk to.  As the GM runs that scene and has the contact warn them of the big bad guy's major plans, have the co-GM start the scene with group B.  Only in the second scene, they meet the SAME contact.    This contact, on the other hand, tells them the exact OPPOSITE of what the first GM stated.

Who is telling the truth?  Who is lying?  And why are there two of them?
That should make for a cool game story there.

So there you have it.  Some ideas and tips on how to share the GM reins with a friend.
Have fun.  Together.
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