[RPG] How to play as a DM, and still have a character who keeps up in levels and can influence the story


I'm forming a group of new players along with myself to play D&D 5e together. The DMing will probably fall to me, and maybe another friend. However, I'd also like to sometimes have my own character and play as that character.

What are my options for my character to still level up and influence the story, if I DM and play?

If we rotate, does my character just go on vacation whilst I'm DMing and level up accordingly? Or do I do the quests, playing my own PC along with the group whilst I DM? (Will that spoil the fun?) Do I join in as a player in the next episode, and receive double XP to compensate for the sessions my character missed out on?

Best Answer

I've done this both ways.

In the early 3e days we decided we were going to rotate GMs throughout the entire group, and I bought the first batch of adventures available (Death in Freeport, that WotC twigblight thing, various forgettable third party adventures) and we rotated. In that game, the GM's PC didn't just disappear, he/she took on a background role and often found excuses to go do something else, but generally "lightly participated" so as to keep up with the group's XP level.

Nowadays in Pathfinder when we do this, since we don't bother with XP tracking any more and just advance the entire party when appropriate, it's easier to just send non-player PCs off on other errands and level them when then come back - there are no "XP police" who will contest your allocation of levels in your game. It's similar to the problem with players with absent PCs, except for the additional drawbacks if you as GM are tempted to "Mary Sue" your GMPC - the other questions SevenSidedDie linked address that concern.