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Co-Op GMing: 3 Ways To Leverage Epic-ness With Shared Storytelling
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Co-Op GMing: 3 Ways To Leverage Epic-ness With Shared Storytelling

Every week, Satine Phoenix helps GMs tackle the task of creating immersive experiences for players on GM Tips with Satine Phoenix. Recently she covered co-GMing with the game masters Keith and Bruce Monach, the two storytellers of Storm, where they reveal to tabletop gamers, the secrets of running a successful LARP.

Us LARPers are supposed to steal the secrets of tabletop. Not the other way around. I’m not so sure how I feel about this….but get caught up below!

Alright, the cat’s out of the bag, and the master plan is revealed. This article is going to talk about leveraging this co-storytelling idea to craft some friggin’ epics.

Change Your Scope

It goes without saying that when you have more ST’s, you can get more done. A good rule of thumb for LARPs is one ST for every 15 players. For tabletop games, you ideally want 1 for every 5-6. The reason is tabletop games tend to focus less on player with player roleplay, and more interaction with NPC’s.

I asked Satine this question: What kind of tabletop scenarios do you think work well with multiple GM’s?

“Mass amounts of creatures in an encounter where the GMs can split control of the scene.
One person who is better at stories and one person is better at encounters.
One person who likes to role play NPCs and the other organizing the table.”

For LARPs, multiple storytellers is almost mandatory. You need trusted confidants to pull off important NPC’s, or run side scenes, but also to handle the sheer amount of paperwork to run a game for 100 players. Dividing your responsibilities is paramount.

Epic Events

Even in a game where you are the sole storyteller, sometimes you come across a major epic conflict or massive battle that just needs more oomph. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask a friend to assist. Ideally, you want to pick someone not connected playing IN the actual game. Once you do this, you can have your mini-tables set up.

In the case of a massive battle, make sure you design each phase or portion of the battle as a pass-fail for the party with branching trees. Something like: The first portion is sieging the gates, and once the doors are open, characters can race to the wizard ramparts or charge into the barracks. The party will want to split up here. Success or fail at each of these other locations can lead to more. If the players ignore an area, treat it as a fail.

Satine, you’ve done 10 players at the same tabletop game, which I think is absolutely insane. What is the best division of responsibility for assistant storytellers to keep things rolling?

“The GM who isn’t in lead keeps time/pace, helps players who aren’t in action with mechanics and rules.”

Not Killing Each Other

Two, three, four storytellers all co-writing in the same game world can be amazing. New ideas, twists and turns, and other advantages far outweigh any disadvantages except one: When players play the GM’s against each other.

This is a systemic problem in Live Action Games and, as much as it pains me to admit, it happens time-and-time again in most of the usual big-named LARPs. But it can bleed through into your tabletop epics as well. Player’s will complain that X storyteller did Y thing and it was stupid, so Z storyteller should fix it. Next thing you know, the storytellers are talking about retcons and drama, and players walking. It’s a nightmare.

One of my best friends, whose games I love playing in, we can’t co-GM because we have different viewpoints on canon. Know where you stand, work together, and communicate. Before you make a snap call to undo your fellow storytellers work, make sure the staff all talk to each other *first*.

Satine, what pitfalls do you see, or have run into with Co-GM scenarios?

“When hierarchy isn’t set ahead of time, sometimes game masters will step over each other’ lines for the good of the story. It’s important for GMs to trust one another and respect the pre-negotiated duties.”

What kind of games have you ever done with multiple storytellers? Tell us your stories in the comments below!

Featured Image Credit: Critical Role 50th Aniv. by Hugo Cardenas ( and Youtube)

Rick Heinz is the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, and a storyteller with a focus on LARPs, Wraith: The Oblivion, Eclipse Phase, and many more. You can follow game or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or Facebook.

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