The Benefits (and Pitfalls) of Rotating Players

Ever since I became the regular GM in my little slice of the gaming community there is something I’ve been trying to implement. Player and GM rotation.

What I mean by that is having regular game in a persistent setting that does not always feature the same characters, or even the same players. I envisioned a weekly game where different people would show up depending on schedule. As you might expect, this has always been met with much resistance. I’ve always thought this a bit curious, there just seems to be many benefits. Players can alter their schedules without disturbing the game for everyone else, nobody is stuck playing the same character over and over, and new people can drop in to test the waters.

I’d also tried implementing  a rotating GM on more than one occasion. The idea for this was that players would take turns as the GM which helped spread the prep around a bit. Again, there are similar drawbacks, such as the overall plot becomes more of a chain story and some people might just be better than others at GMing. I think the benefits are pretty strong as well. The regular GM gets to stretch his player muscles, everybody becomes more involved, and players get a chance to see how the GM seat fits.

As I mentioned, I’ve never actually been able to get this to work. I wouldn’t have enough players, others weren’t interested, or I just couldn’t get the commitments. No harm done. Some things just don’t work out. Nothing to be done for it but to move on and try something else. Imagine my surprise when, out of the blue, my players started doing it on their own.

Once I started messing around with the Doctor Who RPG this style of play organically emerged. Some of you might remember from my first post here at Troll in the Corner that I happen to run a local gaming organization. Thanks to this, I have around 100 gamers at my disposal and, when they aren’t busy training for my military coupe, they like to play a game or two. With my games I usually put out a call for whatever I’m interested in running and those interested sign up. It works well, and usually 3-6 players will sign up and we will run through a campaign together. With Doctor Who I got people interested in playing right away. What I didn’t expect was that the next week sign ups would double. It was more than I could seat, but no-one else was running a game. So I let the players switch up each week, and this worked well for the game.

I have finally managed to create a game with rotating players, and I had done it by accident. It is working great as well. Each week,  I am getting a different set of players and characters to adventure around with.and the lack of commitment is encouraging the busier members to come out for a game. It didn’t stop just there though. I’ve started getting requests from players who want to try running an adventure. Not a whole lot, but enough for me not have to plan the game each week. This works really well in the Doctor Who setting, but I imagine it would work well with games like Ars Magica just as well.

In summation:


  • Meet new people and new play styles.
  • Flexible scheduling.
  • You get to try out various characters and playing styles.
  • GM gets a break every now and then.
  • Curious players get to try their hand at GMing.
  • Newbies can get their feet wet without commitment.


  • Story can be disjointed.
  • Characters popping in and out needs explanation.
  • Mixed level of quality.
  • Meeting new people (You won’t like them all).
  • Requires a certain amount of organization.

So far, this has been everything I ever imagined it could be. Less prep, more people, and just generally a good time. I’d encourage others to give it a shot, but I realize not everyone has the same pool of gamers that I do. Even still, there isn’t any reason not to try out a few of these ideas, if just on a smaller scale. Try having a guest GM once every few games or open up a drop-in slot in your group. It creates a slightly different style of play, that, at least for me, refreshes my creativity and brings interesting characters to the table.

[tags]RPG, Role Playing, GMing, GM Advice, Tabletop[/tags]

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