Two Parties, One Goal: Ideas for Playing D&D Against Another Group

Although I like to stick to terrain projects and general advice here, I have, in the past, used this blog to put forth D&D thought experiments I’ve had. These mostly deal with non-traditional ways of playing the game; I suppose I like to put the ideas out there for feedback, or maybe just writing them out forces me to flesh out the idea into something that’s logical and cohesive. In any case, this is one of those posts.

I originally asked Dice of Doom to kick around this idea in one of their podcasts. I kind of forgot about it until The Angry DM posted this tweet, and got me thinking about the topic again. Someone else tweeted this in response to a comment I made that both groups of adventurers should be actual play groups. This got my brain churning even faster.

So, the idea: two groups of D&D players, both entering a dungeon from different entrances, and both looking for the same MacGuffin. The delve happens in real time, so the team that works together most efficently will most likely come out on top. Which party will get there first? Will they encounter one another? And what happens to the “losing” party?

There’s even a certain amount of abstraction that can be used in a scenario like this. For example, the backstory, and even the MacGuffin itself, could be different at the two tables. The “game” could simply be to beat the other team through the dungeon to the “MacGuffin room.” At the end of such a scenario, the two DMs determine what the outcome means for their particular campaign, and move on. On the other hand, something like this could become bigger. The losing team may will probably decide that the only way to move the campaign forward is to retrieve the lost item from the other party. How will the winners cover their tracks or otherwise evade their pursuers? There is plenty of potential for intrigue.

So, here are some random specifics that came to mind:

  • Slow play will hurt a group. DMs could even decide on scenarios where time penalties are appropriate. Pressure from the other group will incentivize quick decisions and fast play. This is only a good thing, and could even begin to teach your group how to move things along in solo games.
  • Even though I hinted earlier that intrigue, and maybe an overland chase could ensue, I think such a scenario is initially best suited to a dungeon where “paths” are defined, and the end goal is confined. So there should be two entrances (one for each party), the possiblity that paths cross at some point in the delve and a definite end point. Truly, a dungeon is the best way to achieve all three of these things.
  • Of course, if you’re going to build the dungeon to allow for the possibility of party run-ins, you need to decide how to handle PVP. I think the answer to this is largely dependent on the two groups. You could abstract it in some way (one roll determines the outcome) or let them play it out. This second option would probably require a webcam and Skype, or possibly something on Maptool. The former solution is probably more simple and elegant, but some players would only be satisfied by the latter. That’s fine.
  • For something like this, I like the idea of old school style play – someone at the table has to map the dungeon as the party moves along. This way, the group has to positively identify their path through (and back out of) the dungeon. It also rewards attentive play.

Years ago – not that many years ago, really – something like this would indeed have to be run at a con. How else could the two DMs collaborate in real time while still paying attention to their game? But now, with internet tools as robust as they are, DM collaboration in real time is easy. All the DM needs nowadays is a laptop at the table and an internet connection.

For a scenario like this, I actually think Facebook is a great tool. The two DMs could set up a private group, and start a discussion thread for each room. As the PCs move through rooms, the DMs would add notes below that room as to what happened – was a chest looted? Is there a dead monster now on the floor? Then, if the other party comes to that room, the DM has up-to-date notes on what the room should look like. But why Facebook, and not another forum? Two reasons: the updates in Facebook notify the other DM in real time (no constant refresh needed), and Facebook also has built in chat. So not only could the two DMs be updating rooms in the group threads, they could also have a chat box open to notify one another of which room each party is in.

Do I think this would work? With the right groups, yes. The DMs also have to plan for what will happen afterwards. Will they allow further interaction between the groups, or turn the “other party” into NPCs? And how will the campaign progress if their party is the “second ones” to the goal? These are small things though. Overall, I think this is a great idea, and would love to see it, or hear about it, in action.

What do you think? Are there obvious flaws in my idea? How would you execute it?


5 thoughts on “Two Parties, One Goal: Ideas for Playing D&D Against Another Group

  1. Philo Pharynx

    I could also see this as a play-by-post game. That would allow one GM to run this and reduce the timing effects. Hmmm… I’ll run it up the flagpole at Rondak’s Portal and see who bites.

  2. TheSheDM

    I play at a game store and my group recently got to the point (10 players) that we decided to split the group into two tables. I like this idea and I think I’ll talk to my husband, who is taking over the new table as I continue my table, about working in something like this!

    1. Benoit Post author

      I’d love to hear how it goes. This could certainly turn into something more than a one shot – with close DM collaboration this could become a very dynamic part of the campaign. A constant tension between two play groups that both think they’re working towards the “right” goal.

  3. philo

    benoit is really on to something with respect to the idea theshedm is talking about: you could have two different patrons with opposing viewpoints setting the different players against each other in an attempt to gain the upper hand in pursuit of or possession of the monkey’s paw [or whatever.]

    reminds me of joe abercrombie’s FIRST RULE trilogy, when you start to realize it might not be so great if one of the main characters actually gets what he’s been looking for…

    sounds like a really fun game, at any rate – good luck!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>