Do you think allowing one player to play more than one character in a game is a good or bad idea? Does the style of the game make any difference? What about the format (FTF, PBeM, etc.)?
In a PBEM format, I don’t have any problems with multiple characters in a game, if the milieu and game call for it.
In Ars Magica, for example, players are expected to play a troupe of characters at different social levels, it is an integral part of the game by design.
In other games, I am relatively new to the idea. In actuality, its only been a few years that I’ve allowed a few players in SB to take on second characters, and I’ve had some guidelines for doing so
The major one is to try and avoid entangling two characters together. Having a player with two characters in a scene can be a logistical problem, as other players can feel overwhelmed with a player with two outputs. Although it is a game, and a collaborative one at that, it can be daunting to deal with an active, aggressive player who has an extra set of hands in a scene, be it political, social ,or a combat.
Thus, to give some examples from the game on how I’ve managed that:
Bridgette’s main character is Brieanne, daughter of Julian. A creature of the forest, she rarely leaves it further than to Amber. Her second character is Priya, who is a Rebman. It is more than passing unlikely her characters will ever meet or have cause to do so.
A retired/inactive player, Nicole, also had two characters. Dagny was Luke’s daughter, and hung mainly around Amber as she learned about her crazy, mixed up family until it got to be too much and she went into shadow. Her second character was T’Gana, a retired General from House Hendrake, in the Courts of Chaos. Again, unlikely to meet.
Finally, there is Mike Levay. His primary character is Toireasa, Daughter of Gerard. Agent of the Unicorn, Toireasa has gone around quite a bit in the game universe and done quite a bit of things. Rhionde, on the other hand, is an isolated character, somewhat limited, and definitely insular. They are unlikely to meet either.
I also like secondary characters to be different souls than the first one, so that we can explore more themes and styles. To use GA as this example, I have two characters, Delwin and Iolaus Diotrephes.
Delwin is Sand’s twin brother, and plays off of that dynamic. A definite sensual dominant, he might not make the switches in a room switch to subs upon seeing him, but he does like to impress himself upon submissives, given the chance, especially natural ones. Most of his sex play revolves around that.
Iolaus is an outsider to Amber, but his dynamic is much more neutral. Much more playful, he plays at dominance, submission, and just plain sex. Already having engaged as a “tutor” in one scene, Iolaus is my most adaptable and flexible character, and can fit many more holes than my Lord of the Night.
Maybe that is part of his appeal to other characters for threads. And thus Delwin and Iolaus aren’t remotely in the same ecological niche. It makes it easier to play both roles, and well.