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So I'm about to DM a game again, but it's a small group (myself and two players). I'm suddenly stricken with the urge to join the party. I know from experience that the DMPC is a bad idea, but that got me wondering: what if we all play characters but two of us take turns DMing?
Yes, this means half the time I'll have a DMPC, but the other half of the time he'll just be a PC. And with some thought and effort we can come up with rules or plot reasons to prevent a DMPC from doing things like spotting traps the DM knows about or generally solving encounters designed for the party.
So what do you think? Is alternating DMs and a character for everyone a good idea?
Depends heavily on the type of campaign. An episodic West Marches-style campaign could work, kicking up the open table concept to 11 and basically saying each session, "Okay, who wants to GM today's foray into the frontier?" You have to be willing to surrender the worldbuilding to a cooperative, sometimes schizophrenic effort, but I could see some interesting things come out of it!
For an adventure path or more linear campaign, I probably wouldn't try it.
I think you would be better off with 2 campaigns, alternating when they are run and worked to run with 2 players.
There are several ways to do this, most obvious is having a second character for each player, although I'd do something to make one the primary PC for roleplaying focus. Another option is something like gestalt and a regular 1 class PC or two, possibly a level or two lower, like a cohort to balance out the numbers.
In any event, I think you would find letting a GM focus on his own campaign and not ever having to worry about a GMPC to yield a better outcome.
In those situations, I typically build a GMPC to run alongside the players HOWEVER the GMPC plays more like a minion or hireling for the players, gaining equal cuts of the rewards and deferring to the players about tactics and how they proceed. I even allow the players to give some input on the how the GMPC progresses in its abilities and powers. It really isn't too different from the player's getting the Leadership feat for free.
And I second Dave Justus' suggestion of running two different campaigns so that you get a turn in. My own group have 5 people in it and we run a weekly game (I am the GM) and have two biweekly games run other GMs (one week is one game, the other is another).
If you wanted a slightly bigger party my suggestion would be to create 2 NPCs, one for 'your character' and one more with a detailed personality that anyone GMing could understand. When the players are doing RP stuff they run their characters and you treat the other two like normal NPCs letting the PCs take the lead.
In any tactical situation let the 2 players control the 2 characters. Stop the NPCs from doing things massively out of character, but otherwise they are fully controlled by the others. This prevents situations where you use GM knowledge to shortcut the adventure. You'll still have some problems with RP encounters since your most socially skilled party member may be a NPC at the moment. You may set it up otherwise, but if someone else steps in as the GM that could change things dramatically.
I have a game where i am co-GM with another. It is sad that we both know the over arcing story but we each make seperate dungeons for our playera when we GM the other gets to play for real. So far it has worked for us. The way we handle it is that our characters are front line fighting types. Meat heads more or less that do one thing. It makes it easy to keep them in character that way.
I've never had a problem with a DMPC because I get deep into character and story. My DMPC never has access to information that solves a problem unless the party specifically requests assistance from the DM because they're getting frustrated and don't know where to go (and I'm not in a position to hope they stay that way for story reasons).
As far as multi-DM multi-DMPC, that feels like it opens up more difficulty than just one of each. Not that it can't be done, but it adds complications like whether you're allowed to be more actively helpful when you're not the DM, and one of you accidentally blocking off something the other wanted to do. If you feel you want two DMs, go for it. If you're only considering it so you can have a half time DMPC and half time normal PC, I don't think that's really all that necessary.