The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

The Joe Schmo Campaign

There was a TV show which aired on Spike TV some years back called “The Joe Schmo Show“. Basically it was a parody of reality tv shows. The show’s whole premise was that it was all an elaborate ruse played on one guy. That one guy (Matt Kennedy Gould) was led to believe that he was appearing on a reality show called “The Lap of Luxury” (basically a Big Brother rip off), when in fact every other contestant on the show was a paid actor.

Matt aka Joe Schmo

I wonder if you could, or if their would be any point to, doing this in a gaming group. What if you had the DM and four players who were all in on the plot, while a fifth player was not in on what was going on (knowing neither the plot, nor the status of the other players). The four players could help steer events in a way that normally wouldn’t be possible in a game. Not only that, but as they would effectively be co-DMs, the player-actors would likely be willing to surrender their share of the spotlight, thus making the fifth player’s character the star of the campaign.

Such a story could actually come across as much more like your typical fantasy story, with the main hero and his cast of supporting players (rather than the ensemble piece which is a typical game). Moreover, other staples of fantasy might be worked in more easily, from dramatic character deaths, to party members that are at a very different power level than the main hero (higher or lower).

The main impediments I could see for this game are first of all time – it would require more hours of prep by more people than your typical game, and second of all its massive dependence on just one player – if he is absent, or worse leaves the group there is no game. But other than that can you think of any reason this wouldn’t be awesome?

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.


December 6, 2010 - Posted by | Campaign Ideas, Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , ,


  1. Huh.

    What would Joe think if he found out that the whole game was centered around him? Would he be flattered with all the attention? Or insulted that he was never in on the joke?

    I think it would depend heavily on whether or not the campaign was awesome or not.

    If I found out that the best ever campaign of my life was due to the hard work of everyone at the table, I’d appreciate it. If I found out that the worst ever campaign was because all my friends were hanging out at special DM sessions without me, I’d be uber pissed.

    Of course, now any paranoid gamer who reads this is going to wonder if they are Joe!

    Comment by Nicholas | December 6, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hmm, that does sound pretty badass actually. I think I would probably go with a little less people “in on it” and 1 or 2 more players persay, just for the above reason of campaign playability. Also, I don’t think the prep work would be huge, the other co-DM’s would just have to read the cliff notes before it started.

    This would also probably be better for a short series or a one off rather than a proper campaign too.

    Comment by Grey | December 6, 2010 | Reply

  3. I don’t think there would be any point to it. Imagine a game of Monopoly where everyone had agreed to try for a certain outcome beforehand, except for one guy who was not in on it. Sound like fun? Neither does what you propose. I suggest writing your ideas out as a story instead of inflicting them on people who want to play a RPG. In other words: pre-arranged stuff sucks the life from a game like nothing else can.

    Comment by Jack Colby | December 9, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] the some of my other campaign ideas I have shared on this site, I feel quite certain that this would work and work well. […]

    Pingback by Reinventing Mythology « The Red Box Blog | December 30, 2010 | Reply

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