[RPG] Is it feasible to let a newcomer play the “Gandalf”-like figure I created for the campaign


I'm writing and DMing a campaign based around members of a nonprofit organization in a province of a decaying empire undergoing a civil war.

The premise

The player characters are new members of the NGO, who are being given an orientation by their Program Coordinator (basically their boss) when the city they're in comes under attack by the government's troops. The entire NGO's presence in the region is destroyed and the PCs and the program coordinator have to decide what to do next.

The program coordinator is the "Gandalf"-like figure in that she potentially directs the quest and accompanies the PCs on their adventure to find and return 12 children still missing after the raid. This may or may not spiral out of control into joining the insurrection to topple the evil emperor depending on the choices of the players in the campaign.

One member of my prospective group actually works at a nonprofit organization and it just occurred to me that her perspective might bring something interesting to the table that I couldn't. I was thinking of asking that member if she might be interested in taking on the role, with the sole precondition being that finding those children is the character's main motivation, and everything else around that is up to her.

Point of clarification: I've previously discussed the campaign with said player and she expressed an interest in the idea she'd be part of a team making the kinds of decisions NGOs regularly have to make when they're working in a conflict zone, but in the context of a fantasy world. So it's not an ask out of nowhere.

Three linked questions:

  1. Is it feasible or advisable for me to delegate so much storytelling authority to a single player?

  2. Is it feasible or advisable for me to do so given that this player is new to tabletop gaming?

  3. If the answers to both #1 and #2 are "yes", what are some things I should consider when helping to come up with the character?

Best Answer

It sounds like you are trying delegate a large chunk of story telling to this player...

...and in doing so, you are removing their agency. You want this character to play in a certain way that you will feed them. They must fulfill a specific role within your narrative. You said, "I'd be tempted to let her come up with exposition for stuff and assign quests...". What if her exposition goes against the world you built? Or she goes "off script"? You are now in the position of back-tracking, updating your story to her ideas, or feeding her more information to keep things on track.

This also forces the spotlight on to this player, as they will always be responsible for making the choices the rest of the party must take. This means all the other players become bystanders. While some players are fine with being second fiddle, or letting the high-Charisma character do all the talking, you are forcing one player to rule them all.

Regardless of how much or little experience this person has, you are stacking the deck against this player.

Let them shine on their own.

You say that the starting premise is that the characters are being shown around by the Program Coordinator when the town comes under attack. Instead of making this player the Program Coordinator, just have them be one of the new recruits. In every given group of new hires, there will always be those that rise to the top and those that just follow. You, as the DM, should play the boss that they all refer to when seeking guidance.

As a note: I have not personally had this issue, but something tangential.

Our DM was trying to designate one of the players as the quest giver. No one wanted to fill the role, so we asked why we needed one. The points above, and others, were brought up. In the end we discovered the DM just really wanted an assistant to off-load some work so they could do more world-building. Based on the "...her perspective might bring something interesting to the table that I couldn't." statement, I felt the "why" is different, but the discussion points were still valid. I just wanted to format it in a way that didn't feel like an opinion piece.

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