Episode 216 – playing multiple PCs
by Dan Repperger

* (0:29) Chad is making a science fiction game of some kind for Fear the Con 4.

* (2:07) If you’re interested in helping promote Fear the Con 4 around your town, we have two different fliers available here and here.

* (2:54) Fear the Con 4 will be the site for a regional tournament of the Ultimate Fighting System card game.  If you’re interested in joining, be sure to check the activity list for details!  You can also learn more about UFS or its rules on Jasco’s website.

* (5:16) Responding to Matt’s question about player interference.  How do you let players help each other when it’s appropriate without having them unfairly influence a situation or lock-up a new player with advice-overload?

* (17:04) When a player takes on the role of multiple characters.  Some thoughts on keeping the characters distinct, handling their interactions, and managing the paperwork.  The great opportunities it offers and the problems it can present.

Hosts: Chad, Chris, Dan, Pat, Wayne

Comments (7)

ReedDecember 17th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Whoever doesn’t (didn’t) know what GDQ has lost a lot of gamer-cred in my eyes. Old School Gamers rule!

DragonhelmDecember 18th, 2010 at 12:07 am

Great topic, one that is near and dear to my heart. I think the Booters got most of the points. I’m going to add my thoughts.

I don’t think that just anyone can play multiple PCs. Some people can do it, some people can’t (or don’t want to). Of those who do it, few can do it well.

I have seen a few pitfalls in my time. For example, you may have one primary character and your secondary is often forgotten, either by player or DM. In one game, a friend pops in his secondary character to remind us all that he’s still there. In a game where I had two characters, the DM didn’t have anything for my secondary character to do and so he just sat.

The other pitfall is that the player plays the various characters the same way. You see little or no distinction between them.

As far as playing multiple characters, my advice is no more than two. When I was new to the hobby, I was invited to a game where one guy had 8 characters, another had 5, and a third person had several as well. It was overwhelming, to say the least, to game with such a group. I imagine playing that many would dilute the spotlight on characters so much that they just become numbers, and not heroes. The most I have ever done is three, and only because our campaign was an amalgam of some others that weren’t doing well. This one turned out much better, by the way.

When playing multiple characters, there are a few key ways to have success. First, make your characters friends. They interact and life is good. Second, keep the personalities distinct. They shouldn’t be clones. In the game I mentioned above, two of my three characters are draconians. I kept them distinct by having one be a tough-as-nails vigilante, while the other is a scholarly mystic.

Yes, there can be odd moments when your characters converse. I remember one game when my two characters were in a heated debate. The DM and other player both looked at me funny. Turns out they were enjoying the performance.

How about online games, though? What I found is that using different speaking styles, different font colors, help to set the tone. Again, in the game I mentioned above, I use regular text for my wise-cracking half-kender, green text for my green-scaled vapor draconian, and black bold text for my black-scaled venom draconian.

I don’t recommend playing multiple characters for everybody. Don’t do it just to “round out the group.” Do it because it adds to the story, because you have a really great idea, and because it is fun. And if it isn’t your thing, no big deal. Just focus on the one.

tirsdenDecember 18th, 2010 at 5:33 pm

In chat RP it is common to end up running more than one character, and also if you get into forum roleplays like Landel’s Institute. The plus side of running more than one character in those environments is that you can either keep extensive notes or review the chat logs / posts for all the stuff that the human brain just can’t keep track of over the long haul. Plus, you don’t have to instantly make a decision on what your characters are doing, although time isn’t infinite in chat RP either. There’s definitely more time in forum RP to think about things ahead of time and keep different characters separated properly.

As Dragonhelm said, yeah, it takes a certain kind of person to pull it off. I’ve run 5 or more characters at once in a chat RP (one other player involved) and I tell you what, it IS a bit nuts to keep track of, but it’s also awesome fun and I can easily keep each character’s personality distinct from the others, and their own “stuff going on” in their proverbial heads. That skill probably comes from an overactive imagination, plus I’m a writer, so it’s pretty inherent to the realm of authorship.

I think participating in both chat and forum RPs has helped me run more than one character during tabletops, though so far I’ve only done it as a GM. I know it’s expected of a GM anyways… though technically three of the chars I have run in that situation would be full-blown in-depth PCs if it weren’t for the fact that I was lone-wolf DMing for my kid brother.

ChrisDecember 18th, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I like this Reed guy. He seems pretty cool!

LomythicaDecember 21st, 2010 at 10:03 am

I really liked the ‘tutorial mode’ idea for new gamers. I will execute that in my games.

—Playing multiple characters—-

I think that with the right players, this could be really valuable in a collaborative storytelling game like PrimeTime Adventures, where everyone is expected to be part character, part arbiter, and not all characters are in every scene.

As a GM, when I find myself running too many NPCs in a scene, I try to hand out an NPC (along with personality notes, motivation and goals) to be played by a PC, especially if that PC is not in the current scene. This is really useful if I need to have two or more NPCs have a conversation that the PCs are overhearing. They can tell that two people are talking without me getting too split personality (jumping side to side and changing voices as the conversation goes on).

47 minutes or so.. – Community Game

I’ve never experienced that before. Very interesting. I think it would be interesting to run a game where each PC has multiple characters, but each character is in a different group (so the same set of players have different groups of characters). Each player will play a single character through an adventure and move the story and plot, and then come to a cliffhanger. Then, the story changes to the next group of characters, moving their plots forward. Perhaps they are learning things that explain some of the questions raised in the other group of characters.

I could see a campaign similar to a George R. R. Martin novel (A Game of Thrones and onward) working well in this style of play. It would give a feel of a larger story while keeping the PC count at any given timeframe manageable.

The tension becomes not about what secrets lie ahead, but about how the character may be walking into a trap that all the players know about, but since the character doesn’t know, they walk right in. It would obviously take some level of maturity to do this without using metagame knowledge.

Michael PhillipsDecember 21st, 2010 at 9:52 pm

About out of character discussion of combat. So long as you don’t have a situation where one player is trying to run another player’s character, I think the OOC cross talk helps better simulate the reality of most rpgs. In most cases, if you are playing a game where combat isn’t strongly discouraged, your party is composed of elite seasoned warriors. Unless they just met, they have probably spent a lot of hours of their down time working together, learning eachothers’s strengths and weaknesses and developing roles in a fight. They are the sorts of people who go looking for fights and find them. Thus it is likely that the PCs have spent a lot of time either consciously or subconsciously developing battle strategies, short hands, and the ability to read eachoter’s actions to the degree that they can somewhat anticipate their actions and what will be the most helpful thing to do. After anadventure or two, you are dealing with a party that is at least as effective as a Swat team, and (frex) in D&D it doesn’t take long to be the equavelent of a trained special forces member, both of which spend countless hours practicing coordinated mayhem. Tasctical discussion out of character simulated that. It is silly to expect your players to spend the dozens or hundreds of hours it would take to develop that sort of rapport in real life, so you should not begrudge them the tools to simulate it in game. (Now in a combat light game, that goes out the window.)

Matt R-KJanuary 3rd, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Thanks for addressing my question!

As to my name you can just say the letters, ARR! Kay!

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