Players running more than one PC


First Post
Oh, yeah. In some systems (Shadowrun, DARK SUN, and any mercenary- or army-based RPG) work great if you allow multiple PCs, but only one PC per player at a time. The other characters are not involved in the current "mission". I enjoy that style of play, and maybe I'll adopt it in the next campaign I run (it'd fit in well with a 4e game, I think).
Yup, the best incarnation of a similar system that I know of is Ars Magica's troupe gaming style:
Every player has a wizard PC (Magus), a non-wizard pc (Companion), and any number of mercenaries/npcs (Grog/Turba). Typically only one player gets to play the magus, while the rest either plays companions or grogs. When we played adventures at our home base (Covenant), players would switch between the different roles all the time, depending on what pcs were available at a given location. This can be great fun if you can pull it off.

In D&D 2E when a player wasn't present someone else would play her pc as a secondary character. This didn't work very well, though, so in 3E pcs of players that aren't present simply fade into the background.

I'm often using DM-PCs but those are played by the DM (if/when required; generally they also just fade into the background).

I'm not fond of the army-of-henchmen concept that seems to have been the prevalent in 1E.

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First Post
Normally I am not a fan of multiple players to a PC since it can make a character seem shallow. Although for 4E, two PCs to a player worked pretty well us for when our group tried 4E.


First Post
I've played in groups with more than one player.

I've also had players play with a second character when someone couldn't make it.

Basically the only problems I've found are that either all the roleplaying suffers (if there is no "primary" character) or the characterization of the non primary character suffers.

For instance, when I had two "interesting" characters, I failed to roleplay either very well, and had an awful time having them talk to one another. But when I had an interesting character and his servant thug who couldn't speak, it was more like "normal" d&d.

So my opinion is that additional pcs are fine, but each player should have only one "character"


Do you like it or not?
No sir, I don't like it. I don't like it one bit.

Does that change if you're the DM or a player?

Finally, is your opinion categorical, or are there exceptions?
No exceptions. Running multiple characters gets in the way of the experience I want out of the game, both as player and as DM (well, less so as DM. I suppose I could a campaign in that mode, but my preference would be to use NPC's to bulk up a small party).


First Post
Other then the aforementioned troupe style, I'm not a fan, but I've done it.

In a game I'm running now, a player faded out and then disappeared. Due to the number of players, the party needed his character around for both combat and non-combat roles. He's run by me for social issues (not really an issue since the character was a quiet loner in the first place), in combat he's run by the players (generally one player at a time, with it pretty much going by default to someone whose PC isn't present). Non-combat rolls and ability use is kind of a toss up, sometimes the players invoke them, sometimes I do.


First Post
Our DM has been letting the players run his 2 DMPCs for the last several months, it has greatly sped up combat. The DM also loves not having to "Play against himself" and can focus more on monster tactics while us players can focus more on Player/team tactics. It has worked out great for us so far. We rotate who plays what, The Dwarven Cleric or Dwarven Bravura Warlord, and it adds a nice bit of variety to our play styles and a bit of game knowledge at that.


I'm curious what you folks think of players running more than one PC at a time.

When I started playing D&D (back with the Red box) it was only myself and my friend Tom that wanted to play so we took turn playing the "party" and running the games. Granted as young boys we didn't desire a lot of role-play in our games we just wanted to kill monsters and take their stuff.

When I entered High School there was a D&D Club which at that point we had enough people to allow 1 PC per player and have a party. But in my home games I still ran multiple PCs.

After High School we as a group were often 1 DM and 2 or 3 players so we often ran 2 or 3 PCs each and did so for many years.

It has only been in the last few years where I have sought new gaming groups that I encountered the 1 PC to 1 Player rule and found it odd to me but then we usually had 4 to 6 players in each group so it seemed fair.

One thing I found a little odd is several people mentioning that multiple PC stifled Role-play in the game. I suppose my style of gaming is more narrative then immersive as I tend to describe what a PC is doing or saying then try and act it out. But as far as PC to NPC role-playing I always found that fewer Players with more PCs actually worked better when it came to the interaction. I suppose it is from the 2 or 3 PCs played by one player are all on the same page as to the goal of the encounter. Some might think that is not the way to play the game but I look at it more as 2 good friends (the PCS) getting together where one knows the other so well as to instinctively know what the other would do.

When I ran more then 1 PC I also tended to create 2 PCs that complimented and had a connection with each other. I wouldn't say one was primary and the other secondary because to me secondary seem too expendable perhaps it might be better to describe them as best of friends but one was the leader and the other followed.

When I run games I tend to let the players decide what is a good number of PCs for the party so if there is only 2 players and they want 5 PCs then it is up to them how that happens but I tend to not want to have a DM controlled PC as I have my own NPCs and monsters to handle.
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First Post
I don't mind but to me it makes sense for the player to have a "main" character to focus on for roleplaying, and then take more of an NPC approach with the other character. Roleplaying conversations between PC 1 and PC 2 from the same player's a little weird. :)

This is how I handle it in one of the games I'm running right now. The 3 players are all hard core 3.xers who love system mastery and want to try out as many options and whatnot as possible (they enjoy crunch). So they each have a character that they RP with and then can add a character of the same level which they don't RP with but control in encounters.

If the story is at such a point that it can even pass as plausible, they can change the second characters as they like-- their main 3 characters are the heads of a mercenary adventuring company and have a wide pool of people to bring in as needed. With PHB2 having just come out, I'm expecting to see the Paladin and Wizard replaced by a Warden and a Druid very, very soon.


5ever, or until 2024
I don't mind but to me it makes sense for the player to have a "main" character to focus on for roleplaying, and then take more of an NPC approach with the other character. Roleplaying conversations between PC 1 and PC 2 from the same player's a little weird. :)

Right, it works well when one is clearly a sidekick/cohort/henchman. At least with not too many players. (I have used some henchmen in pre-3E d&d, but never the true old school style of 6 pcs with two henchmen each...).

In 4E, I would also recomend doing the cohort "NPC style", with a smaller suite of powers and simpler presentation.

El Mahdi

Muad'Dib of the Anauroch
I'm currently running a game with only two players, so I have them playing two characters each. However, when we started the game, I had them each make only one character (they chose a Bard and a Wizard/Rogue). These became their primary characters. For the first adventure, I filled in extra roles (such as Fighters, Rangers, etc.) with DM-npc's. Also, during the course of that first adventure, they encountered a couple of npc's that wanted to join up with them (a Human Fighter/Mercenary and a Warforged Monk). Of course the joining up was my idea. I wanted to fill out some of the roles in the group that were missing, but I still wanted tactical decisions in combat to be the players decisions, not mine.

It's actually worked out quite well.

The players original characters were obviously their primary characters. And, as far as roleplaying outside of combat, really the only characters that do the talking. But, I don't see a problem with that. Also, my campaign plots are really only built around their primary characters. The extra characters are really only there to fill out tactical roles in combat. But, some roleplaying with the extra characters has trickled into the game, especially with the Warforged. I think that's probably because my players had to think up a name for him when he joined their group (he was found in a Wizards tower and has amnesia).

If you allow this or do this in your games, I think you have to accept that your players are probably going to have a primary character (the one they actually roleplay) and the second (or third, or fourth, or...) characters are just going to be combat characters. Personally, I don't see a problem with it, and it easily fixes any shortcomings in party roles. It also saves me the extra work of running even more characters, especially when the actions of those characters would have a major impact on what my players may do. When they are running those characters, the parties decisions are all theirs, and not mine. As it should be.

Silver Moon

I do it all the time. A lot of my modules are designed for simultaneous teams, so players typically field more than one character, but inevitably the teams do get back together so you have a larger group with more than one PC per player for the module's climax battle. They sometimes also decide to rearrange the teams due to skill sets, so a player may have two PC's with one team and just play an NPC in the other. It's all good.

Bishop Odo

I have to say it depends on the campaign, DM, group and just how good your player is at role playing. I have ran two characters, but really one of them was just quite casually, it was really just a mechanism for the DM to add input into the campaign, and it worked well, because he was a lower level apprentice and I have a paternal streak.

However, I have seen it go very wrong as well. I have been in a game once, where one of the player’s habitually, saw, every NPC as a mechanism for the DM to manipulate his character, and he went to great length to KILL them, even if he was a Good characters, if they, the NPC, where in the game for more that a passing plot hook.

Kids, to him where the biggest anathema, and as an NPC no way, they where dead meat, I walked, no ran away from that group, and yea, the guy was as psycho as he sounds. Later, I also found out different guy from that same group who, always played Asian female characters, became a female himself, or herself. What can you say, I hope one guy is not in the mental ward and the other “gal” is very happy with her choices. Generalization are hard to make, it all depends on the group, what more can you say.


I don't like it in general.

I DM'd it in 1 game becaue I thought I would only have 2 players. But, it turned out to be 4 players. 8 PCs just made things too slow for d20.

As a player, one of the reasons I left our 3.5 game several months ago was because of another player's "party of 1". He had his PC wizard, 1 cohort cleric, 1 follower fighter and a magically-controlled minion. It was just too much. My paladin with cleric cohort couldn't compete, even with a special mount. I don't mind spending a feat to get a cohort (which is essentially another PC), but I think it can really upset the game's balance and fun.

The exception is Savage Worlds. The extras are spread among the palyers. While useful, they are inherently less special than the hero wild cards. So, it makes it fun to have extras around without them stealing the limelight.


Staff member
I'm in a campaign active (now, only sporadically, though) since 1985, and all of the players run multiple PCs AND take turns behind the screen. The PCs in question are not main guy & sidekick- they're colleagues, equals

So far, no problems.

However, its not for everyone. Some players simply can't/won't do it. I can think of at least 2 players in my current main group who play the same archetype nearly every time they play, regardless of system or campaign. Running multiple PCs would either result in their confusion, 1 well-run PC and one (or more) poorly run PC(s), or "identical twin" PCs.

It also doesn't fit certain campaigns.
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I'm A Banana

Yeah, it's fine. I did this frequently in 3e with cohorts and animal companions; this isn't dramatically different. The big issue is the "economy of actions" and the tendency for one player to hog the spotlight if they have 5 characters and everyone else just has 1. Just stuff to watch out for.

FFZ likes this, and prepares for this in a few ways.

Way #1 is the "stable": where characters involved in the ongoing plot but not on the current adventure stay. The players are only controlling the characters on the adventure.

Way #2 is the high level of "mechanical personality" FFZ characters have -- it aids you in roleplaying several characters at once, since the dice can dictate your reaction (if you don't care to emote it yourself).

A few FFZ philosophies work in tandem with it, such as simple job and power design, sub-jobs, and "non-role" design so that you don't need a team of 5 to do something.

Of course, everyone has the same amount of characters on the given adventure, and the DM always has a number of monsters to compare. Rules for running big groups of monsters help in streamlining multiple PC's, too.

I might not try it in 4e just because of the overwhelming options, but I might, too. It's fine. It's one way to play one-player D&D, for one. :)


As a DM, I do allow it in my regular campaign in the rare instances when the fighter is late/can't make it (happened twice in 35 sessions, so not a huge deal). We have a "light" version of him that the cleric runs as an NPC henchman. I am not a huge fan, but it works fairly well.

As a player, I have been playing a 15th level rogue + 15th level taclord, and now I am playing a barbarian and a druid in the SoW AP.

It general it sucks for the roleplaying, but the combats work fine. I would rather not, but you do what you have to do in order to play ;)


There are drawbacks to it, but it can certainly work in the right circumstances. We've had cases where attendance was uneven, so someone's PC would be turned over to a fellow player or the group as a whole, with myself as the GM having veto over anything that seemed completely out of character. It's also a good way to field a larger group when you have something specific in mind.

The dangers are:
- Lack of knowledge about a character's capabilities.
- The awkwardness of role-playing with yourself.
- Insufficient screen time to develop a personality for each PC.

All of these can be remedied with conscious effort. If the players spend a little extra time they can get to know each PC well enough so that they won't forget abilities, leave out bonuses, and the like. The GM, in turn, should be easygoing about letting players correct oversights, but then again, really hard-minded about saying, "No, we already played that out," when it would mean undoing important events in the game. Learning to role-play with yourself is not a hard skill. First of all, try to avoid needing to talk with yourself. If it's just informational, just narrate: "Joe and Zoe discuss their options, and they decide Joe will ___." If the dialog would be useful or entertaining, practice the look-left-look-right approach. Finally, as far as the PCs go, don't overburden them with complicated backstories. Just take a little time to come up with the relevant background information and make sure the players spend time identifying what motivates each character and what relationship they have with their PCs. Make sure each player's PCs have relationships with the PCs of other players. Drawing a little relationship web might help. Just writing, "They met at the wharf last month, and since working together they have tended to banter," can add a lot to the game.

I know different groups handle metagame stuff differently, but especially in this situation I think it's okay for the group to hive-mind their decisions, even OOC stuff, provided the individual characters do not act on OOC knowledge. If that becomes a problem, the GM can start enforcing rules about communication.

Definitely, definitely, track initiative as a group, ideally, with something visual.


I've been thinking about a Transformers campaign for a long time. One of my ideas for the campaign is for each player to create two characters - one Autobot, one Decepticon - and then alternate playing them each week. Each session would be a self-contained "episode," much like the series itself, with occasional longer arcs - but players would get to experience playing both factions and, perhaps, witness the same events from different points of view.


I never had strong opinions about it one way or another, though I'd prefer one character per player. However, my experiences yesterday at WWDDGD have soured me on the concept (definitely, IMO don't try it in 4e with higher level characters; we didn't bother roleplaying and had problems with running our second character); so now, only if absolutely necessary.

Each of the players in my group has been playing 2-3 characters (depending if we have a third person or not) each for a while now. However, none of them are very big on the amatuer-acting side of roleplaying, so it hasn't been a big problem for us.

If we ever did a campaign more focused on roleplaying than dungeon crawling (unlikely), I would imagine we'd only have one character each, however.

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