View Full Version : Dealing With A Large Party

09-13-2009, 06:12 PM
Recently, I was part of a production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). After talking to the cast and discovering that they were all really into console role-playing games and books like the Dark Tower series, I asked them if they wanted to try table top. Five of them seemed interested and we decided to meet the following Saturday.

When Saturday rolled around our group had swelled to eight players and myself as the DM. Well, I thought, a couple of them will not like it. And I'll be down to something more manageable.

I was wrong.

We're playing a 3.5 campaign in a world we created using the Dawn of Worlds game I posted in another thread, and I'm wondering if any of you have advice for how to deal with such a large group?

The biggest issues I've faced thus far are XP rewards and a tendency for the party to split up along alignment lines, since there are so many people, all of the chaotic characters can do one thing, while the lawful characters do another.

Any advice is helpful. Thanks!

09-13-2009, 07:21 PM
I've always thought it best to guide the PC generation, along the lines of the game you want.

A lot of groups just have players generate "Whatever" and then try to make it fit.

So you end up with a witch type and a pirate type and a paladin and a necromancer.

Then it's expected to see these people on an adventure.

If the adventure is written, you usually can get an idea of what will fit and what won't.

A large group especially, needs a guiding vision as to are they:

A band of mercenaries in a war-ravaged world?

Freedom fighters overthrowing the repressive government?

A noble, and his / her retainers, clearing the land around the stronghold?

Good luck

09-13-2009, 09:00 PM
Etarnon is pretty much right on. Generally I run five to seven players at a time, even then you have to run the game. Players, especially new one, tend to run amuck in every aspect of the game, character creation, rules clarification, alignment choices, splitting the group up, table talk, being ready for their turn, everything. The one time I ran ten players they were mostly new role players at a convention. By the time we were finished I said that I would never do that again.

Really, you need to discuss these issues prior to actually running the game or they will run you into the ground and look at you like why can't you keep up, all you do is make a few choices? You don't even have a character to play! You will need to guide them and they will need to follow your lead or the game will be too much for the reason you have already stated. Either that, or you will be forced to drop the characters that do not fit the game. That will lead to grumbling and compliance or accusations of being a Nazi of some sort.

Good luck in enforcing the reset on this one.

09-14-2009, 01:28 AM
We spent about half a session talking about characters and what you could and couldn't be and I've made them read the entry for their character race and class in the PHB. I should have made them read alignment. And I might do that before the next session.

They're doing fairly well with the role-playing side of things. I have 7 brand new role-players and 1 who has played White Wolf. Fortunately, we're all actors, which lends itself well to role-playing.

What I'd really like to know is how you guys have handled rewards such as experience and magical items.

09-14-2009, 02:36 AM
I just use the guidelines in the DMG for 3.5, if it's D&D 3.5...than I take a half of that.

So by 2nd level, they'd get about 500 GP worth of stuff, that took them about three adventures to get there.

For other games like star trek, there is no cash reward...you do the plot, for the greater good of the federation. Star wars, likewise.

For a game like Twilight:2000, a little ammo, and some gasoline to get to the next town.

In the end, as an actor, it might be easier for you to look at what the story requires as a dramatic need, or what the plot will require, down the road.

something to enhance the flavor of the specific character, as a prop, or foreshadows or leads into what will happen, as each episode happens.

09-14-2009, 02:50 AM
I think as long as you adjust the challenge rating to the size of the party the rewards should be just fine. Adjust the Exp awards down for the party and keep the gold piece value in-line with their level and it should be fine. I've never ran such a large group in D&D but I have run several groups of more than ten and participated in one as high as 17. The only thing we had to adjust for is such a large group has much more capability then a smaller party. The ability to truly specialize makes large parties much more capable. A party of 8 is well more then twice as capable as a party of 4. Adjust the challenge rating of encounters down one for every two players above four and you should be fine.

09-14-2009, 07:54 PM
Experience: if you don't want to count, just bump everyone up at the same time, after a certain number of sessions. And reward the most productive members with a level one session earlier than the rest.

Magic items: Random musical chairs: roll for seven items (8 players, right?) each session, and let them handle the distributing. Mwa ha ha...

09-14-2009, 08:51 PM
I have run both large and small games. You as the DM must take a strong hold of the reins and make sure that each person "acts" his/her part. Allow them their roles:

Chaotic barbarian charges into battle unsupported...
Paladin knight saves the day and rescues...
And above all rememeber that not every night will everyone be be to make it but with a large group you can still play if two or three fail to show up but a small group that means a cancellation of game night.

09-15-2009, 03:35 AM
Thanks guys. This has been very helpful.

The problem I had with just bumping up everyone at the same time is that there are going to be situations where some people were unable to attend. And I don't want to run the risk of the players who actually showed up, put in the time and effort (and sometimes cash) feel cheated. I like the idea of lowering the challenge rating. I think we'll try that and see what happens.

Scaling encounters to make them difficult enough is another challenge, that I think is going to require a bit of improvisation on my part depending on who is able to make it to a session. But that's always an issue.

I'll use these tips and see what happens. Thanks again.

09-15-2009, 03:55 PM
Then don't bump up everyone - you are the DM you decide how to run your game!
Have fun! And make sure they have fun as well!

09-15-2009, 05:27 PM
skipped ahead, but my best advice is to maybe split the party into two groups, and allow them to do their own adventures. Do one group one night, and the other another night.

09-15-2009, 05:31 PM
skipped ahead, but my best advice is to maybe split the party into two groups, and allow them to do their own adventures. Do one group one night, and the other another night.
I totally disagree - you cannot have story without conflict! So, what if part of the story's conflict is with the party.

09-15-2009, 05:54 PM
my advice is more associated with the chaos of having 8+ players. I have been in groups like that, and if they are splitting up, the dm has to take turns in terms of who they have to address, and the others get bored while waiting for things to flash back to them. from a player's perspective, I hated being in that big of a group. It was only nice when we took on the huge demon army, but for dungeon delving, not so much.

09-15-2009, 06:07 PM
Point understood - alternatively the DM could set up side scenes on alternate nights. However, these are all actors used to waiting for their scenes to come up during rehearsal hours and in the interest of fun could certainly metagame the heck out of information they do not have.

09-15-2009, 07:46 PM
here a thought on your leveling up problem. this is what we do: lev up all who show to the game and if they get slightly ahead of the rest who dont show then so be it but do not let them getr more than 2 levels behind. if they happen to then just have then readjust their character to the highest corresponding level at the lowest exp point level.( ex. 3 of say 5 characters lev to 4th lev on monday and other 2 didnt show. tuesday all players show those that can lev then do so. continue on this path until done keeping in mind not all players will always be there and not to exceed 2 leevel difference between characters)

09-16-2009, 02:22 AM
My secrets for handling large parties:

1. Make plot hooks obvious and juicy. You don't want to rail road the party, but give them some easily identifiable quests and rewards so they don't have to committee every decision.
2. Learn to be flexible and fast. Don't try to plot out every possible thing the party is going to try, and don't try to script every encounter. Drill down to the core events and ideas you want to happen for a plot line, and have things ready to pile up as needed when the moments are right.
3. Order is your friend. Be organized. It will save your game.
4. He who hesitates... goes later in the round. When it comes time for the dice to roll, give people seconds to respond on their initiative. At first it's going to confuzzle them, but as they get used to it your combats will run much faster and feel more intense.
5. The players are their own content. When you have that many people, the party can often entertain themselves. When they do, let them. Use that time to prep your next actions with the NPC's of the world; and let the players roleplay some of the time away -- if they are having fun it can't be wrong.


09-16-2009, 02:44 AM
if they are having fun it can't be wrong.
The mantra of a great GM or famous last words?

09-16-2009, 03:05 PM
Since I run a game that has 9 characters in it, I will chime in here.

I personally see nothing wrong with having differences in levels of the various characters. It can lend well to some rather good exchanges between the characters. A higher level PC can help a lower level of thier class. What better way to gain a spell than to interact with another Character.

In my Tsojcanth game, the character levels vary from 5th/6th to 9th. This allows the players to roleplay thier characters which does gain them XP. Now if a player isn't present for a particular session, I run the character as an NPC, so that the party has everyone available. Any character run as an NPC for a session does not gain any XP for roleplay, however. Just the same, those that are present and contribute to having the other players roleplaying thier characters gain XP and those not there for that session miss out on those points too.

Now to keep everyone moving forward with XP, I do add the points that would be earned from spell and ability use, as well as from group encounters that are faced. This way the character of someone that isn't present for a session does gain the XP for group efforts, especially since that character was used in the group encounter.

09-16-2009, 07:44 PM
Sounds pretty fair to me.

09-24-2009, 07:46 PM
i do not think i have much to add, lacking experience, but i appreciate the good advice given thus far.

with such a large group, i think education is key. getting them to make all the rolls upfront so they can just read them off at the appropriate time. perhaps less rolling focused activities, and more role-acting. save the rolls for the big things, and let all the little checks just slide with the occasional dramatic shake-em-up.


10-06-2009, 09:12 PM
This past game day , Sunday, we were able to play beacsue we have a large group. Two players were sick and one had his daughters 2nd birthday party to fall asleep at ;)!

10-07-2009, 11:51 AM
I wish I could offer some advice but I can't. I used to be inclusive and ended up with 9 or more players but those days are gone and I can't dealt with big groups anymore. Too much in game chatter. My limit is 4.

10-24-2009, 09:07 AM
I've had this problem aswell, I had grown use to running a game with 4 players of less. Now I run them with 7+ at times and it can be a head ache. I decided right of the bat that the party may not split into more then two groups. This way I could keep better track of them all. You may thing a bit restricted but they may still do what every they wish but now they have to chat it out before going on a quest that normally ends up in a vote. As for XP i use the most simple system. I give XP for good roleplaying directly to the player then I got party/s XP that I split amoung who were in that party at the time, as basic as it gets.

11-02-2009, 07:15 PM
Honestly, yesterday we had a massive combat with 32 dretches, 3 herzous, and two marilths. Combat was quick and flowed very well as each player was ready and raring to go!
As soon as the current plot point is done I actually plan on expanding my current campaign even larger. Take a peek at my blogs as I will update as I go but I am planning (see the letters) on expanding the party. Each character that the players are currently controlling will be recieveing a letter for an offer of a mission. This will entail in some/most cases splitting the current party up.
The party members either have the choice of making new characters for these side quests or taking their current character along and ignoring the mission they have been offered (or if not time sensitive going back to it at a later date). Each campaign/side quest will run simultanously (unless not time sensitive). In effect each player will most have at least one or two 'alts'.

11-18-2009, 12:30 AM
This is just an update.

I don't think I really had anything to fear. Because I wasn't sure if any of my newbies would like D&D, I chose to use a pre-published adventure, which I don't usually do, just because I have so many ideas floating in my head to begin with.

We're using the Witchfire Trilogy form Privateer Press. It takes place in their world, the Iron Kingdoms, which I am not a huge fan of, so I've altered it quite a bit. I don't really like a lot of big machines and guns in my medieval fantasy. I'm a traditionalist [strokes his black moustache].

But it's going quite well. To make combat more interesting, I add monsters to certain parts of the game, give them the maximum number of hit points for their hit dice, and so far it's worked well. No XP problems, I just started picking certain points in the adventure where I feel that they should go up a level. Since the first book was designed to take the characters to 3rd level, they gained one level in the middle, and reached third level at the end of the second book. I plan to use a similar process for the second book.

We have also created a second smaller group after realizing that none of us really have anything going on Wednesday nights. AND I've created 2 new DMs. Several others are itching to try it, but the rest of the group decided we should have no more than 3 games going at once to avoid clutter/confusion/etc.

Thanks for your help everyone who responded.
--- Merged from Double Post ---
Oh! And Grimwell, your 4th rule... He who hesitates goes later in the round. Has definitely become a necessity.

The first person in the initiative is given leeway. Anyone after that who begins their turn with "uhhh...." gets a "You're holding your action." I've found that it tends to force them into deciding quickly and thinking prior to their spot. Which is great.