Friday Favourite: Playing Two Characters

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 7, 2013

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From June 8, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Playing Two Characters.

I like playing two characters. As long as I get to create them both, then I’ll play two characters any time the DM allows it. But playing two characters when one is yours and one belongs to someone else is a lot more difficult and generally not as much fun.

I’ve played in games where the DM gave players the option of playing one or two characters. Most of my friends choose to stick with one character, but not me; if I can play two characters, I will. Here are some of the pros and cons I’ve found over the years of playing two characters in the same campaign.

Pros

  • Role-playing experience

Playing two characters lets you try out more classes, races, powers and feats. New sourcebooks are coming out every month and the number of options is expanding exponentially (or at least it seems that way). It’s impossible to play every build in a real game setting, but playing two at once lets you sample the new stuff more quickly.

  • More action

If I’m playing two characters I get to do more. Every round I get to act twice. More swipes with my sword, more spells, more fun.

  • Coordinated play

The best part of playing two characters is that you control their actions and can work them as a unit. They can move to flank together and they can use their abilities to the maximum benefit. I recently played a Rogue and a Warlord – what a combination!

  • Backup

If one character falls below 0 hp or is knocked unconscious, you still have an active character in the campaign. This is also true if one of the characters is killed. There’s no immediate need to find a wandering adventurer in search of an adventuring party in the next room of the dungeon or at the local tavern.

Cons

  • Too much responsibility

Playing two characters has definitely become more difficult in 4e. Characters in 4e have a slew of At-will, Encounter, Daily and Utility powers to choose from. And don’t forget that many magic items have their own Daily powers too. That’s a lot of choice. Now double it.

  • Slowing down the game

The mechanics of 4e are all about keeping the action moving. If you can’t keep up when you’re only playing one character, then forget about playing two. If your attempt to play two characters brings your game to a screeching halt then any benefits from playing two characters is lost.

  • Clones

If you’re playing two characters then they have to be unique. They should act and talk differently. They need separate and individual motivations. I’ve found giving them very different personalities helps a lot. But you don’t want to have them arguing all the time, because in the end it’s just you talking to yourself while the other players try to suppress the desire to punch you.

  • Favouritism

The down-fall of most two character adventures I’ve played in comes down to favouritism. You end up liking one character a lot more than the other. And suddenly you’re not playing two equal members in the party, but a master and servant. If it comes to this, then one of the two characters has to retire. The most obvious sign that this is happening is when one character lends or gives the other money or magic.

Conclusion

Playing two characters is certainly not for everyone. Most DMs I’ve played with won’t allow it, except when someone is absent. It can be a rewarding experience for a player to successfully juggle two distinct characters in the same adventure. But, it’s a lot more difficult then you might think, so don’t rush into it.

Have you played two characters in a long-term campaign? How did it work out? What sort of challenges did you run in to? Do you think it’s easier or harder to play two characters in 4e simultaneously?


Looking for instant updates? Subscribe to the Dungeon’s Master feed!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michael S. June 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

I’ve got two characters in the campaign I’m currently playing in. It hasn’t been going on for very long and I’m not a super experienced player (I mostly DM), and I found this post to be very helpful! We only have three players, so I needed to pick up the slack and play two PCs (which is fine, I’m having a lot of fun with it), a Gnome Bard and a Human Druid.

What you said about making them work a cohesive unit is completely true. It’s a lot of fun to allow the characters to feed off of each other and use each others abilities together to maximize efficiency.

Now all I need to do is talk to the rest of the party and make everyone else work together as well Dimney and Nunzio! :P

2 John M. June 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I’m hoping to play 2 characters in the next Encounters. I am returning to D&D from a 21 year hiatus and I must say 4e has taken a lot of reading to get up to speed. I think playing 2 characters is going to help me understand the new mechanics and all of the powers and feats by putting me under the gun so to speak.

Unfortunately the DM at our LFGS is going to do this one using D&D Next so just as I am getting started learning 4e I’m going to have to switch gears and go with the new system. Maybe he might change his mind.

John

3 Sean Holland June 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I used to play in a small group (3 player + GM and well before 4th edition) and the players often played two characters. It was fun and challenging for exactly the reasons you list above but allowed the PCs to have enough variety of character skills and abilities to deal (potentially) with most problems.

4 Tivaan June 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

In my campaigns, I allow two characters as long as the person wanting two has some experience starting with a character and a pet. I use pets as character-like tests. A player cant just throw there pet away, that pet means something. Crazy as it seems the folks I play with grow to use their pets as a separate extension to there main character opening the door to two regular characters in a game.
What I like are the backgrounds that are created in the game for their pets. These backgrounds somehow always come out in the game, during certain instances, that make the game more involved.

5 dan July 16, 2013 at 4:41 am

I briefly tried playing a game with 3 players (including me, the DM) as a result of people dropping out at the last minute and the highly restrictive schedules of everyone involved. Also, the fact that it was being done over Skype also limited number of players. To make the adventure more fun without the challenge of overwhelming the players, i asked if they wanted to run 2 players each. In addition, since I had built the campaign for 5 players, I threw in one that I had in reserve for other potential games as an NPC.
Only one of them had d&d experience, but they both had a firm grasp of their characters and the rules going in. Also, their secondary characters were both fairly straightforward, but had quirks that made them equally fun to play, such as the cleric with no offensive capabilities, but healing out the wazoo.
This 2-character system was born out of necessity, but worked surprisingly well. Unfortunately, I can only speak for short-term, as non-related issues caused our group to be unable to meet to continue for the long haul.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: