D&D 5E Single Players with Multiple Characters?

Lehrbuch

First Post
Let's look at lord of the ring. Gimli was a dangerous warrior, but he wasn't the leader. But let's say he wasn't just a very good fighter, but the *best* of the land. Would he have lead the party? No, it wasn't in his character/nature to be a leader, no matter how good he is at swinging an axe...

Yeah, but that's because Gandalf was the leader. If the rest of the "party" had been dwarves, then sure Gimli would probably have been the leader unless a more highly ranked dwarf-noble was present. He's pretty clearly a "leader" amongst dwarfs. That's why he's at the council in the first place.

Also, literature isn't that good a model for the internal party composition and internal party dynamics for a party of PCs.

In my game one of the DM's "PCs" at the moment is basically a demi god. (it's not D&D but whatever). If he gets mad, he can level a city (but he tends to kill *everyone* so the PCs really don't want that to happen). However he is letting the party lead him around (it's part of a quest) because he knows he can't trust himself in a fight (due to berserk-ness) and in general due to faulty memory. Even though he's immensely powerful, he's a terrible choice for a leader and he knows it.

Sure, this might be working well for you. However, (no offense intended) this is what I mean by convoluted and unlikely. You are needing to invent special reasons why the natural leader isn't acting like it. Which could be fantastic the first time. But it's liable to get very old if you pull the same trick in the next campaign.
 

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ArwensDaughter

Adventurer
We've done this in most of the family games we play. In LMoP, my husband and daughter both play two PCs, while our son plays one. This was in part because LMoP was optimized for 5PCs, and as a novice DM I didn't trust myself to adjust as necessary.

Because my husband's schedule doesn't give him much time to play, the kids and I started another game. While we use a series of adventures that scale by party size, my daughter chose to double play again, and I run a PC as well. (Same level as the other PCs, but I let the players take the lead in decision making).

Recently we played a game with my two children and a friend, and my son tried his hand at double playing.

It does make role-playing more difficult. In LMOP, my daughter resonates far more with one PC than the other (she's using pregens). In all three games, the double-players sometimes forget they get two "turns" during combat, especially if their characters are right next to each other in initiative order, which happens more often than not.

When we've finished LMOP, if our "full family" group continues, I will encourage my daughter to retire the PC she's less connected to. I have a better feel now for adjusting adventures as needed.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
DM PCs that are lower power/level than the PCs are much better, as mostly they will just do what they are told by the player PCs.

Why not give them a henchman then? There's no point in playing at all if A: you're not actually going to meaningfully contribute and B: you're not going to actually get to play.
 

spectacle

First Post
Let's look at lord of the ring. Gimli was a dangerous warrior, but he wasn't the leader. But let's say he wasn't just a very good fighter, but the *best* of the land. Would he have lead the party? No, it wasn't in his character/nature to be a leader, no matter how good he is at swinging an axe...
Gimli was a dwarven noble who became king after Sauron was defeated. He's quite young for a dwarf and inexperienced at the start of the LOTR story so he's not a natual leader for the Fellowship, but leadership is clearly in his character and he could have taken charge of the party if Gandalf and Aragorn hadn't been there. Had Gimli been more experienced (higher level) then it would likely have been him rather than Aragorn who would lead the Fellowship after Gandalf falls.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
To paraphrase D. Vincent Baker, from his excellent gaming treatise, Apocalypse World:

PLAYING 2 CHARACTERS: Oh like it’s such a big shocker or so difficult to do. I mean, :):):):), you’re the DM, you have 30 characters at a time, and your players shy away from playing 2? The real question is, why don’t people usually play with more than 1?
 


Nickolaidas

Explorer
When I was 13 years old, I played the D&D Rules Cyclopedia with my big brother as the DM. I created 12 characters and divided them in two parties of six (one human based party and one demihuman based party). Since we were kids it was easier to roleplay and goof around, so we had no problems. I had tons of fun back then.

Now, after many years we are having another go with my brother as the player controlling a 4-character party, and I'm the DM.

And I'm not having fun. At all. It's a horrible combination of me not being experienced enough as a DM, my brother being uninterested in playing a campaign the way I want to play it, my lack of proper preparation and his video-gamey approach to the game itself.

For example, we had an encounter when a band of tribal warriors attacked his characters. At one point, his (lawful evil) rogue dropped to 2 hit points, and when his turn came up, my brother had him attack in melee as if nothing happened. When I had a tribal warrior withdraw from my brother's PC fighter to turn his attention to another target (his PC cleric, who was already engaged in a fight with another tribal warrior), my brother joked about the fact that leaving his opponent to go fight another opponent was unrealistic. I told him "Yeah? The tribal warrior withdrew from your fighter because his attacks seem to bounce off your fighter's armor. Instead he chose to attack the cleric because A) the cleric killed a friend of his in the previous round and B) the cleric is engaged in battle with another tribal warrior, which means my tribal warrior will have advantage when fighting your cleric because, pack tactics. Your lawful evil rogue is reduced to 2 hit points and he keeps fighting as if nothing happened - he doesn't withdraw, he doesn't fight more cautiously, he doesn't ask for a heal, he doesn't act like a real being - what's your excuse?"

The fact is that my brother, because he controls an entire party and not just one character, is seeing them as a collective entity, as an army unit under his command, rather than actual characters. He's not so much role-playing as he is unit managing. Basically he's playing Baldur's Gate - the tabletop edition. And that's ok. That's a style some players will go for if they're not engaged in the story and the characters, if they're not big into role-playing or if they're just playing to kill time rather than invest on the story (in which the DM is usually accountable for).

I think a party with one player can work, but it seriously cripples the enjoyment of the game and its true goal. It can happen, but it's not the ideal way to play.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
When we were gearing up to play the Shackled City AP from Paizo, I had only 3 players. The first few APs were getting reputations as meat-grinders so I thought a 3 PC party might be a bit weak and short on flexibility. So I had them all play 2 PCs - and they generally played up one as the primary and the other as secondary, though they were generally pretty good at making the PCs very distinct in abilities and outlooks.
 


Mercule

Adventurer
At the same time? Nope. Would not allow.

Troupe style, where the player(s) rotate their characters based on who's available, story, etc.? Sure. Ars Magicka works pretty well.

"But the GM runs dozens of characters!" So? They aren't PCs. In fact, I'd say that a good GM never has a GMPC, except in "hot seat GM" games. Even then, I'd rather see the GMPC conveniently unavailable for that adventure. The GM runs NPCs. They aren't the protagonists -- they're sidekicks and supporting cast. The GM shouldn't have any characters to brag about, directly. The GM gets to brag about how well he entertains the players (while having fun, himself). Sometimes, that means running a bunch of NPCs. Meanwhile, the players get to sit back and immerse themselves in the adventure and their character.

Every group has its own dynamics. As a general rule, giving less attention to the PCs reduces the Narrative axis of a game. If the group doesn't mind that, then it might not be a big deal. For me, unless I'm in a true beer and pretzels game, where it's really about the players exploring the dungeon through the characters, I wouldn't want the hit from splitting the players' attention.
 

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