Part 2: Becoming a Temporary Co-DM
In Part 1: Go Beyond the Backstory & Build Your Hometown I talked about how to lead your players through designing their hometowns and beyond to help with world building, but in this part, we're going to talk about how to let them take the reigns and co-DM with you!
I love seeing my players light up with excitement about leading the party through their hometowns! My group likes to plan specific sessions where whoever comes from that town/city becomes the temporary co-DM. They can plan special events, festivals, dances, competitions, side-quests, mysteries, & more to bring their towns/cities to life for the rest of us. And because they're mini adventures, it takes a lot of the stress/pressure off them to do all the work of being the DM the entire time while I, the DM, gets a break for a session or two.
I still interact as the world around them, so I roll to see what the weather is for any given day, if anything unusual happens, etc. And I'll happily help my player that's leading the party if they are stumbling through any parts. I usually sit down with them ahead of time and plan out a few things they can do while in town outside of the basic "this is where I grew up" tour. We can use rumors, local legends, general problems of the town that we established when we built their towns to pepper the adventure if needed.
This is also a great way to both pick up new party members (need a local guild through the woods, "I know this farmer's kid who runs between here and the Nomfell all the time! I'm sure they'd be happy to help you all get there!") as well as end a campaign. Or even just a mid-campaign side quest that let's the player really show off their backstory in a truly epic fashion.
Imagine your party arrives at Morgan's Lament and upon arriving, an elderly woman sees a party member she recognizes and walks up to them, proud as can be at how much they have grown! Next thing you know your player is talking about their home town and all you need to do as a DM is gently guide them into the DM seat. "Describe what this town looks like. Who was that woman? What's happening in this scene set before your party?"
Can I also say that this is a FANTASTIC way to ease new DMs into the chair as well? I have had numerous sessions taken over by players who went from terrified to incredibly enthusiastic to run more adventures! I do, however, always make sure I have something planned "just in case" a player starts to get uncomfortable or unsure of what to do.