I said we’re closed!

Remember ages ago when I lamented the fact that I was down to a single player? Well, things have a way of turning out much better than we hoped they would be, and then a lot, lot worse. At least count, we have ten people in the group, that’s nine players and the GM/DM.

I don’t think the current DM is too worried about the size of the group (she can contradict me if she likes) but I am. As I have run a session for rather large groups, a group of six players not nine, and have some idea of what it is like.

So, what are the problems with big groups then? Why wouldn’t a GM want more people to enjoy their awesomesauce game?

CL Does NOT Stand for Chicken Legs

For Dungeons & Dragons, there is the XP budget. The Dungeon Master’s Guide has a table of the apporiate amount of experience points for the number of players and their level, and then just fill the encounter up with monsters. For Star Wars you add the levels of the enemies together and divide it by three, this should come at or around the level of the characters. The problem is, these guides are based on the average-sized roleplaying group. The average-sized group of four to six  players.

I guess, you could take this one step further and go with the average of their level for a rough challenge level, but it doesn’t make much more sense mechanically. And it just means that you will have to add more and more mooks to be killed, which starts another sort of problem altogether…

The GM’s Special Headache

More people means a higher encounter level is needed, this means more monsters, this means more mooks for the GM to control…and that’s kinda hard to keep track of. And sticking a high level enemy for them to whack at is not the solution, as scaling up adventures is usually done by number, not levels.

Add to that the fact that with a large group you have an absurd amount of people rolling for initiative, and the rest, as they don’t say, is insanity. The group is also less inclined to work together if they are quite numerous, and if they are mostly new players the combat round is going to take ages. And if you miscalculated the difficulty of the encounter and made it too easy, there could be a chance that the last player in the initiative count won’t get to do anything at all.

So how do we resolve this? I’m not sure, I would like to know how to. One thing I do know, we are in for a rather interesting time.


~ by katanageldar on March 29, 2010.

4 Responses to “I said we’re closed!”

  1. Have the player that is on deck make his rolls just before his turn starts, so that he is ready on his turn. That will significantly speed things up.

    Put numbers on the enemy figures so that it is easy to tell them apart and keep track of.

    Watch out! With so many extra enemies on the battle field – the overall difficulty of the challenge might be appropriate for the encounter, but the difficulty might skyrocket if so many extra enemies gang up on one player character.


  2. With 10 people, why not just split in to two 5-person groups? 4 plus a GM is the sweet spot for most RPGs.

  3. The other problem that I, personally, run into is division of attention. First, it becomes hard for the GM to respond to everyone’s questions as they come up, because so many people have questions at the same time. Second, it becomes very hard for the GM to remember everyone’s abilities and take them into account (in the “oh, damn, I forgot you have detect magic up, you should have seen through the disguise self spell from the beginning of the encounter” fashion). Finally, and most critically for me as a player, the GM ends up with a LOT of subplots to juggle, and I just don’t get enough spotlight time. I end up feeling like I’m only getting two hours worth of decent gaming out of the six hour session.

    And, for the record, I am currently strongly considering dropping out of my current D&D game for exactly this reason.

    I’ll second MJ’s comment. Split the group into two. If you want a touch of extra coolness, have the two GMs work together to interweave the plots, and have the two parties be aware of one another. (Or, heck, have them be two units of a larger merc company, and characters can occasionally move back and forth.)

  4. We’ve had success with an assistant DM who runs half the monsters, looks up rules for the main DM while he keeps the main part of the game running, and rolepalys a couple NPCs. It also keeps splitting the party from being a nightmare.

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