DM of the Rings Remastered LXXVI: Our Once and Future Party Leader

By Peter T Parker Posted Saturday Jun 22, 2024

Filed under: DM of the Rings Remaster 8 comments

It’s always amusing when the in-game party leader is a different person from the out-of-game leader. The most articulate player – or the one with the most decisive personality – is usually not the same person as the one with the high in-game charisma score.

I’d often have NPC’s assume things about the party leadership and see how the players handled it. I’d have NPC’s walk right past the party leader and start talking to the guy at the back of the formation as if he was in charge. This was always good for a laugh.

-Shamus, Friday Mar 16, 2007

It’s a bit funny to hear the concept of a party leader. I don’t think i’ve ever played a game where there was a character actually designated as ‘in charge’ of the party. In one of the games i’m currently playing in it’s actually a bit of a joke that my character tries to be in charge and convince the others not to do shenanigans (a doomed task, but she isn’t aware she’s a character in a D&d campaign so it’s an understandable mistake) and instead just has extended arguments with the other guy in the party who is also trying to be in charge until the barbarian takes the initiative and does whatever the hell he wants while they’re both distracted.


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8 thoughts on “DM of the Rings Remastered LXXVI: Our Once and Future Party Leader

  1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I had no idea who that Greg Louganis fellow was but damn that “did you take a level of bard while I was down there” joke got me good!

    1. Alarion says:

      He was an Olympic platform and springboard diver in the 1980s. Didn’t even have to look it up…geez I’m old

      1. MrGuy says:

        More directly, he famously hit his head on the board and gave himself a concussion during the ‘88 Olympics (and still won gold)

  2. LizTheWhiz says:

    I think it might just be a mutation from older editions of DnD, where there was a player who was a “caller”, responsible for interfacing between the other players and the DM. That made some degree of sense in the game’s original context (with some sessions having over a dozen players) but understandably has fallen out of favor since.

    1. MrGuy says:

      I don’t recall if this was officially per the rules or just a common convention (I think the former), but it was more that the player with the highest charisma would be perceived by NPC’s as the party leader, and would be the one the king/sidequest giver/tavern keeper/merchant would address and negotiate with.

      Which sort of makes sense – charisma tends to correlate to assertiveness/negotiation skill/etc., so your high charisma player is probably who you’d want leading those efforts.

  3. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I feel like it’s been happening somewhat organically in most of the parties I’ve been in. It’s a combination of which players have the stronger voice but also which character has the most pronounced agenda or is the most in tune with the campaign’s story. I’ve generally tried to avoid leadership roles but in one of my recent groups ended sort of leading mostly by virtue of being the most experienced player and the one with the most knowledge of the setting.

    In some of my other active and semi-active groups right now:
    -in one we’re sort of trying to lead by consensus although there have been some players who have taken much more of a backseat and my character is very strongly ideologically motivated and Has Opinions so ends up at least steering if not leading. I was actually trying to be a sort of “dark vizier” but the player whom I was trying to shove into at least an apparent leadership position quit so ¯\_(?)_/¯
    -second game: one PC technically employs all the other PCs so she’s ostensibly the leader, although individual players have pushed and pulled (and in some cases “took initiative”) towards their own agendas
    -third game: the GM so far introduces quests to the party via individual character contacts and PCs have a sort of “trading favours”, “I scratch your back” relationship so technically whoever provides the quest leads at a given time because they are the most motivated and they face the most consequences of failure, although people have definitely taken lead situationally if they have crucial ideas for or the way we’re trying to resolve the quest focuses on their expertise. We’re also presently in deep kaka in part I think because I phased out a bit during someone else’s quest and have not protested Doing A Stupid Thing but sorta followed on autopilot.

    1. LizTheWhiz says:

      In my home game, my dad has a semi-leadership role by virtue of being the only one with a 100% attendance rate (the game takes place in his house), but mostly its just our druid trying and failing to contain everyone’s worse natures.

  4. Philadelphus says:

    I’m in an interesting Shadowdark game at the moment where there’s a pool of ~12 players, with the set-up being that we’re all adventurers going out on these essentially one-shot expeditions to explore a new land, with fluid party composition in a connected world. Each in-game two-week period a few people will be like “I want to go explore X (or Y or Z), then other people will join them based on where they want to explore until a party is formed (when there are multiple parties, they’re assumed to be out adventuring in parallel). One of the Session Zero things was no backstabbing or serious inter-party conflict, and the fluid party composition means we all tend to be pulling in the same direction because we all wanted to explore the same area/thing, but in the occasions where we need to decide what to do next (“we crossed the river we set out to explore, which of the interesting landmarks beyond it do we investigate now?”) we tend to unconsciously look to the person who first proposed that expedition, even if there’s no formal “party leader.”

    Though Shadowdark keeps things moving with real-time light sources and turn-based dungeon crawling even out of combat, so everyone has a pretty equal chance to do things and we don’t tend to stand around discussing or planning much; that might hide a nascent party leader, since we tend to respect each other’s turns and offer at most some simple advice or a clarifying question rather than one person “taking charge” and leading the party.

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