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Dual-ing Personalities

Playing in a tabletop game can be challenging, even when you have just one character to control. Your options tend to open up much further when you can add even just one more to the mix, a nearly overwhelming feeling most GMs know all too well. Almost all of us have run into the situation where we have a friend who can’t make it to your gaming table that week, and we've all had to come up with ways to mitigate that absence. You might cancel the session, have the missing character off on another mission, etc. We’ve even mentioned those options in previous posts. We could even duel over which solution is the best - the answer will change from person to person and table to table. This week, we'd like to talk about one solution: dual character playing. As we said above, one character is challenging enough, so what issues can a “second personality” cause, and what are some tips to make things run a bit smoother? Buddy up with Never Say Dice as we discuss just that.

There are a lot of potential problems when it comes to taking up a second character, no matter if it's a temporary one-time thing or a regular secondary character you’ve added. When it comes to the "roll playing" aspect, you have the challenge of additional set of skills and abilities, as well as managing two separate players in combat. As difficult as that sounds, though, the social aspect of roleplaying can be even more daunting. You don’t want to hog the spotlight, but you do want to stay in character…or, rather, characters. You don’t want to leave a character out or slow the game down at all, especially should the two need to converse. There's also the power aspect to consider: does this give too much control to give to one player? While any of these problems could turn someone completely off to the idea of a player controlling two characters, there are a few ways to make it a bit easier and still accomplish your goals.

If a player is taking over from someone else at the table, take your time figuring out who it should be. Hopefully you’ve had some notice before the absence occurs, in which case, you can get input from the character’s owner and maybe a few instructions on what to do and how to play the role. Otherwise, a good choice would be someone who's not only good with the rules, but also knows both the character and their player really well. This may not work for all tables, but even general familiarity can be informative of what the absent player might do in certain situations. That "rules" part is important, too - whomever is taking on a second character will need to make sure they have at least a quick grasp on the basics of what each character can do. You don’t want to be floundering when it's your turn in combat or when approached conversationally. Combat can be a bit smoother by determining one or two default things each character might do. That way, if things are happening too fast, you’ll have something to fall back on. You can even do this without access to a character sheet by just taking a few notes of their basic options from whatever game materials or sourcebook the group is using. Roleplaying, on the other hand can be a bit trickier. Try using body language or different voices (even imitations, if you can manage it) for each of the characters. The hardest part will be finding the balance between the two personas, and only having the occasional conversation with yourself. When it comes down to the wire though, don’t forget that you can always ask for help. Soliciting the other players and GM for how they think the character would act or respond in a situation is always an option, and everyone there shares the goal of a smooth-running game and good time.

GMs may be reluctant to give a player two characters of their very own in a single game, at least in systems that aren't designed around the concept. The potential for metagaming, or at least the fear of it, does increase. When you only have one or two players at your table, though, it may still come to that. If this option is becoming a reality, consider having one of the characters act in more of a supporting role, both in personality and ability. The main character is going to need the help, and unless the GM wants to take on party NPC duties as well, this might be the best solution available .

It might seem like a daunting task, but don’t forget that GMs take on multiple roles at tabletops all the time. Try not to stress about it too much, especially when it's a temporary thing that will only last until your friend is able to make it back to the table. It can also gives you an opportunity to learn and try out different kinds of characters than the ones you're used to, and that variety could give you ideas for future characters of your own. Remember to keep some default actions for both combat and carousing on-hand and ready to go. Take plenty of notes and always feel free to ask others for help. Until next week folks, enjoy your tables even if you have to do it as two (or more) people.

Send questions, comments, and solo chat logs to or demonstrate your"X"-pertise by reaching us at @neversaydice2.

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