View Full Version : What are your experiences with players handling more than one character?

2012-05-25, 06:24 PM
I've been fleshing out the classes and basic mechanics of the Drift (d20) game that I mentioned here a while ago.
One thing I've been kicking around for a while is doing away with prestige classes, and adding in prestige class options. You play one class from 1-20, but you have more options as to how you want the class to progress. These are meant to provide flavor and new features, but also determine whether the player wants to become more powerful in a specific specialization of roles, or become much more versatile. My prime test for this idea is the main combat class, Soldier. The Soldier is very similar to what you would expect from a Pathfinder Fighter in that it has more relevant class features than the standard 3.5 Fighter.
It can use all non-exotic armor and weapons, and can carry a wide range of tactical equipment (flash/smoke/emp grenades, extra ammunition, etc.). For the prestige options, my current two prototypes are Juggernaut and Tactician.
Juggernaut provides access to even heavier suits of power armor, provides bonuses to charging/being charged, and upgrades the soldier from speed bump to deadly vehicle hazard. This is basically your standard "make the big tough fighter bigger and tougher" route that many players enjoy taking.
Tactician provides a higher capacity for utility equipment and weapon choices, but also places non-player soldiers under his command (as a part of his character) for extra firepower and tactical flexibility. This would function in a manner very similar to the multi-model characters in Dawn of War II, most notably Tarkus. Here are some screenshot examples for those unfamiliar with the series.
The Juggernaut is a giant with spear and shield where the Tactician is a phalanx squad.

I would be very interested to learn from your experiences in players managing multiple cohorts, and find out what improved and complicated the situation.
If this could be done properly then I'm going to include the option for some other classes as well. The Exo-Jockey may forego training in powerful Mechs to become a Swarm Commander and multitask a larger number of unmanned support and weapon systems. The Drifter may forego attaining a state of being One With the Desert and become a Sand Prophet who can rally wastelanders with incredibly diverse backgrounds.

Totally Guy
2012-05-26, 12:30 AM
I don't see how the post content is related to the question in the thread title. What information are you after?

2012-05-26, 05:38 AM
Since I tend to play and run solo games, this comes up a lot. It's no hassle, really, but you need players you can trust. Giving a player more than one character is breaking the action economy or simply giving them more resources than the game expects them to have, and as such it has to be handled responsibly.

2012-05-26, 05:43 AM
It tends to really mess up roleplaying. RPing two characters at once is much, much harder than just doing one, because you have to keep switching from one personality to another.

When I've seen this done, it usually ends up with one of two results:

The player settles on one character as their "main", identifies with that PC, and treats the other as a remotely-controlled drone.
The player gives up on getting into character and treats both characters as playing pieces on a gameboard.

2012-05-26, 03:26 PM
I've had some experience DM'ing with multiple characters per player, and it works pretty well as long as all the players have the same amount of characters, and as long as the characters and players get along well (you are giving each player a lot of power, and it tends to be hard to create issues between one's own characters, what with the self dialogue and all).

However, one of the great aspects is that it makes having a balanced party very easy; people get to play something they really want to play with one character (or try a whacky build) and also have another character to round out the party. Plus, if a character gets killed, the players can still play, albeit less than they used to, until a replacement can be found.

As far as favoring one over the other, maybe it's just my players, but they tend to make pretty far out characters, and they get into their separate identities pretty easily, splitting their attention pretty neatly between them, or at least, without looking like a bunch of schizophrenics with multiple personality disorder on top. Them being quite genre savvy probably helps though.

2012-05-27, 02:24 AM
It depends very strongly on the players in question. Particularly on how generally good they are at roleplaying and staying in character, and how much experience they have with the system.

I have a lot of experience with players handling multiple characters - both from the DM and player side, as that's how my normal game always works, there being only three of us. We always play at least three characters a piece, and have sometimes had as many as twenty a piece (our latest campaign being a bit unusual).

I have also been in one or two other campaigns that attempted this, sadly with not all that much success. The players in those campaigns, however, had a few other problems with roleplaying as well.

Some things I have observed over the years:

- Players need to be able to separate player knowledge and character knowledge. Generally good anyhow, of course, but otherwise you can end up with all one person's characters acting as a sort of horde, trying to save a particular character that player likes, making the same decisions, et cetera.

- They need to be good at roleplaying and moreover enjoy doing so. If your group is the type who likes to play a variety of very different personalities, two or three characters is probably fine. Maybe more.

- It slows things down just a little bit compared to having one character, but not nearly as much as adding players does.

- The main problem, once you reach beyond eight or so a piece, is that some characters start getting left behind in terms of speaking often. If you split the group up frequently or are careful balancing it, it can still work out.

- For me, eight characters are the most I can comfortably play in one area at the same time. For some it's less, for some more.

- So long as you trust your players to be good at roleplaying and use separate character knowledge and all, there should be no problem with adding some characters. Starting small is probably best though, with adding one or two more and seeing how they handle that.

- Not surprisingly, first person doesn't really work when playing more than one character. Third person recommended.

However, it sounds as though you aren't asking about adding PCs as much as adding some sort of minions, and I'm not entirely sure what you're going after. It should work on a similar principle, I would think, perhaps easier and perhaps harder depending on what sort of cohorts you're talking about exactly.

Me, I really prefer playing more than one character, since creating different characters is fun. Especially when they're rather different from each other.

2012-05-28, 02:25 PM
@Totally Guy. Sorry about that. I tend to provide as much context as possible for the questions I ask, and the question itself can get a bit buried sometimes. :smallbiggrin:

I'm just curious how people have handled players acquiring control of more than one character. Whether it be through the leadership feat, or any means of acquiring more than one cohort or animal companion, somehow the player is micromanaging more than just one individual.

For my prototypes I don't mean someone just playing three level 7 PCs in a level 7 party or anything like that. The end result I'm hoping for is that I can make 3-4 individuals function as a single character where the additions are lower strength subordinates that are more of an accessory to that character. I mentioned Dawn of War because that is how I envision this working. You have a few "models" functioning as an individual character that are always sharing the same goal with the main character being the representation of the group. The way I see it working in practice is that as subordinates are earned you outfit them for various support roles. Instead of just flat out giving the character a ton of combat abilities, you are giving them smaller platforms that perform specialized tasks. Each subordinate would have a rudimentary set of skills and a specialization within the combat squad (suppression fire, room clearing,etc.).

@Shadowknight. The available resources will be a little higher in this game as there are classes built around piloting mechs or vehicles, and players who choose versatility over focus should be able to remain important. For a multi-model character, there should be a specific list of possible actions that can be taken during that player's turn, and breaking a certain distance of coherency will probably cause some penalties to the offending character.

@Saph. What I'm considering is a situation where there is a main PC to begin with and cohorts are added in after the fact and to much less impact than the main PC. You can give them some flavor/fluff, but they are basically pieces your character puts on the game board. In the case of the Exo-Jockey class however, they are literally remote controlled drones.

@Dead Jester. Players talking to themselves is a non-system error existing between pen and paper. This wouldn't be multiple complete characters, but I would be interested to know more about how you kept the situation running efficiently.

@Remmirath. I see where you're coming from there. The idea of a micro-horde is what I'm going for in this prototype, where the models do move as one and make a single decision as far as actions or targets are concerned.

2012-05-28, 06:29 PM
Meh, DMs do it all the time.

2012-05-28, 07:34 PM
@Dead Jester. Players talking to themselves is a non-system error existing between pen and paper. This wouldn't be multiple complete characters, but I would be interested to know more about how you kept the situation running efficiently.

If your going for squad based system for some PC's ( la DoW II), the PC with the minions is the squad leader and primary focus, while the others tend to be played as standard supporting characters, filling tropes related to the situation and the setting (so, if the character has a group of mercs under him, you'll probably get the holy trinity of new guy, grizzled veteran and comic relief joker, unless one of those roles is taken by another PC). This tends to work especially well if they are kept as flat persona, serving as a contrast to the players' complexity of character (this is actually quite easy to do, but takes some getting used to for most people), because the PC with the followers does not get too much spotlight. Also, it works much better if the group of followers are all specialized in a single thing, so as not to step on too many toes.

If you are going for a multiple heroes/primary characters for every player, then, in my experience, it helps if a higher structure is keeping the group together and focused on something bigger then them (as players tend to separate characters between "my PCs" and "the rest", and to act based on their individual character's motivations with all of them). Separation of player and character knowledge can also be a challenge, as it can sometimes become difficult to discern what each PC knows; my players tend to mitigate this by forming tight-knit groups with their PCs, so the amount of independent knowledge is small. I found that getting the players to separate their PCs in smaller groups to fulfill multiple objectives at the same time is a great way to train them to think of their PCs as distinct individuals. When that's achieved, the game tends to flow quite well. As an added bonus, it's a great way to get your players to start thinking creatively, as splitting the party forces them to find solutions with partial resources.

2012-05-31, 08:51 PM
@Dead_Jester. I'm not really shooting for having a situation where someone just has a leadership feat or other method of having more than one PC per player (although the lessons learned from those campaigns are what I want to consider here). The added subordinates will not have the necessary stats to function as full PC characters, instead of having multiple character sheets they will be handled by small additions to the main character sheet.

While not completely relevant to this discussion (and definitely not mechanically defined yet) the mention of party splitting does warrant discussion of another game mechanic which will have a large impact on player cohesion and how resources are handled. I will be including a factor in the game that will definitely keep the players focused on the same goals (or at least staying in the vicinity and working together). I've been going through a few different names to see what ends up being the most catchy, but right now it's called a Proxy Frame. The Proxy Frame is arguably the most advanced technology that the main player faction has at their disposal, and it's complexity and power make it indistinguishable from magic. It is a hyper-dimensional object that is an extension of the core (AI Mainframe, Powerplant, and Drive System all rolled into one. A ship's core is something of a demigod in it's own way) of the crashed player faction ship. It allows the ships core to project influence and resources to any location and has yet to be disrupted by any known force (Think, a similar concept to that of Protoss warp prisms and pylons wrapped up in a shoebox sized crystal). This allows any faction vehicles, weapons, and equipment within a certain range to function without depleting their fuel and activates more features in most faction technologies. It also maintains a direct communication and data-transfer link to the main Core (as well as the clone vats). Every group leaving the safety of the ship is supported by a technomancer (either PC or NPC) who operates the proxy frame. As a result, the party has many incentives to stay together and focus on a goal, or a particular area of the terrain or battlefield. This also provides a mobile epicenter for the party as everything that happens on a mission will usually be measured relative the the Proxy Frame. The majority of the settings are deadly and uninhabitable wastelands so any excursion party will generally try to centralize their members and resources to ensure nothing is lost that didn't need to be. The party can still be split, but players will have to balance the risks and rewards of wandering off on their own vs. the sustainability and survivability of maintaining proximity to the epicenter where their armor, weapons, and sensors function at their peak performance.