View Full Version : How to handle large partys?

2011-10-23, 06:11 PM
As the title suggests, I am currently running a campaign and I have a lot of people wanting to play (currently 5 players with 3 people waiting) so I have a few questions about how to handle a large group. How much treasure should include? I don't want the game being too easy but I don't want to be a killer Dm either. What kind of monsters should i throw at them they are all 1st level but if there is so many of them, could they handle something like an ogre?
So wha kind of advice do the Playgrounders have?

2011-10-23, 06:20 PM
A large party will excel(read: tear apart) against one large monster vs. a mob. Simply due to the fact that a large monster will only get one turn vs. your party's 8. You would say "Well that's common sense." but it really does make a difference in practice. The easiest/most effective way to break the game is exploiting the action economy, and having a large group is the easiest way to do that.

I would say that since your party is so huge, it's better to throw lots of small monsters in big groups at them vs. one giant ogre.

2011-10-23, 09:40 PM
Other options are to setup scenarios that break them apart temporarily. Such as a classic where walls suddenly grow between group members, conveniently splitting them up till they hit the end of the new maze. Or even just dividing the group in half in a room and having a different monster attack both groups as a trap. Just to break up the usual 8 versus 16 type mob battles you might normally do. Id imagine they would take awhile to run through with that many pcs and npcs all rolling for damage every round.

2011-10-23, 09:53 PM
In addition to the above advice, combat can also be a bit of a chore with a large party. I would recommend using non-animal companion (and maybe non-familiar) variants and possible house rules restricting summoning, simulacrums/self-duplication and the Leadership feat/Thrallherd PrC (followers). In a nutshell, each player should only control one character in combat. Players tend to get bored if there's a large time gap between turns.

You could also try recruiting a co-DM to help you out with party splitting, streamlining combat etc.

Sorry if that was all a little too 3.5 related, but the basic concepts would reasonably apply to most other games... I think.

Dusk Eclipse
2011-10-23, 10:36 PM
Another option is to recruit a Co-DM who can help you run the monsters during combat.

2011-10-23, 11:58 PM
Some general advice, as I ran a party of over 12 for over a year awhile back.

A: Keep a firm grip on table chatter, otherwise the noise will drown out the game.

B: Get a white board and write important info on it for everyone (like when everyone goes on init). A battle board or something to physically represent everyone's position is good to, otherwise you will sooner or later forget someone.

C: Unless it's a bloody Dragon or something like that, don't do one big monster. They gang up on it like Hyenas on a crippled buffalo and eat it alive. You want mixed mobs of monsters. Also try attacking from different vectors. I've noted that a party that feels surrounded tends to panic and that never gets old.

D: Breaking up the group via traps and such, broken walls, collapsed stairs, rivers and such are other good things use.

E: Be a bit more strict on when characters can talk to each other. If the character isn't there, keep the player out of the discussion. This actually streamlines the hell out of most arguments.

2011-10-24, 02:43 AM
You could just tell the 3 newcomers that the group is full. I know it sounds harsh, but 5 is a good cap. These 3 could be their own group you DM. But if they really want to join this group, maybe think of getting a second DM to move things along faster.

2011-10-24, 07:17 AM
thank you everyone, very good suggestions.
@ Dr. Epic: I don't really want to tell them no to playing, but I'll see if the new guys can get their own group.

Basket Burner
2011-10-24, 08:04 AM
More players are better handled by more enemies than bigger enemies.

Level 1 characters can't handle anything that is remotely difficult. A party of 5 or 8 or whatever could probably defeat an Ogre but since one attack from it = one dead PC, there will be a body count > 1 for that fight.

So while at higher levels you can just put in x% more enemies, at low levels that doesn't work.

2011-10-24, 08:05 AM
Just pick out 3 people you like the most and dump the others. I find that party of three works best by far. You are the DM, you are sweating your brow off for this campaign to work, so ... just do not tax yourself with such massive groups. Don't forget who is the boss here or you'll get stuck with a bunch of players, unmanageable game and probably discontent on your and players' side.

2011-10-24, 02:00 PM
If you do have to use one monster (like a dragon), give it lesser minions. In the case of the dragon, let it invite it's half-dragon ogre offspring into the fray, or use its spellcasting abilities to summon giant scorpions or something.
Use enchantment magic to neutralize at least one character, but don't make it the same guy over and over. At middling levels, dominate person is your friend. It lets the character (and the player) keep fighting, and hopefully keeps two party members busy fighting each other and not you.

Also, and this may sound like common sense but people forget about it, for every four party members, double the number of monsters for the encounter. Yes, there are more things going on in the combat, but everyone gets a chance to do stuff.

As someone who has DM'ed for nine or ten people in a weekly game, I do know the mistakes to avoid. Never have your boss monster, NPC, or wandering monster alone. Never skimp on treasure. Never let the party turn on itself (with the exception of enchantment magic).

2011-10-24, 02:10 PM
Speeding up combat is important, too. I DM'd a party of 8 once, and combat was a serious grind until I figured out some methods to speed it up.

People have already mentioned restricting summons/animal companions, reducing table chatter, etc. I have never had to resort to this myself, but I've heard that requiring players to decide on their action in advance can speed things up a bit. Rolling attacks all together/in advance can work as well, but it depends on whether or not you trust your players.

If you DO have people roll attacks together, make sure they designate which die is which attack (the red one is my 15 BAB, the green one is my 10, etc), since that can become an easy way to cheat.

IMO, sticking with just the five would be best in the long run

2011-10-24, 02:45 PM
Eight is doable, but it's a lot of work to keep track of. I suggest increasing enemies for a given combat by 120% of what a part of four can handle.

Why more than double? Because of synergy, teamwork, and statistics. If one person goes down in a party of four, you're in a tight spot. One goes down in eight to a bad roll? No big deal. Much less vulnerability to a bad roll or three.

Your party of eight will generally have more bases covered, and more redundancy on those bases than the party of four will. Also, it's a lot easier to flank and focus fire with eight people.

So yeah, quantity is a common attribute of fights. Be aware that this does run a much higher risk of slowing combat down ridiculously, though.

Flat out ban leadership when you have this many players, IMO, and go to great lengths to avoid PCs conning NPCs into joining the party.

2011-10-24, 02:48 PM
I blogged about this (http://gm.sagotsky.com/?p=225) a while ago. My suggestions are time limits, calling out current and next players each initiative, preselecting dice, providing bonuses for players who act immediately, sorting players so initiative goes clockwise, pre-rolling your own dice (esp initiative!), and appointing a designated rules lawyer.

2011-10-24, 10:18 PM
I've been in, & ran, with a large party. Best to use mobs of low CR enemies. Don't mess with the amount of loot they should receive, but make it more specialized to the characters. No one wants to see an argument over a +1 sword, cause everyone could use it.

Also, if someone is taking too long with their turn, give them 6 seconds to start talking or skip them, rounds are 6 seconds long & it shouldn't take you more than that to go something, they have all the time in the world to think of something to do while they wait for the other player's to take their turns. It worked great for my group.

2011-10-25, 01:33 AM
Also be aware that, even while not in combat, things can get tedious. You need to be very aware of how you handle spotlight, such that the three extras don't just sit there.
Stuff like shopping trips and so forth should probably be dealt with out of character, that is, they give you a list of things their character wants to buy, and you'll give them a price (and say which things they can and cannot buy).

Regarding combat, a way to get over it quickly is to use average damage instead of rolling for damage - but this might be seen as, eh, less than great. It works good for your mobs, less so for your players (depending on the players, of course).

Remember that when you let in more players, each player will have less spotlight. If one players spends five minutes (extra) roleplaying a shopping trip, he's wasting 35 minutes of the other players time/spotlight. And that may lead to a feeling of favourism, and you definitely would like to avoid that.

2011-10-25, 05:32 PM
My advice? Don't. Having more than six people in a party can become impossible to handle. Players get easily distracted since time between turns can easily be 10 minutes or more. If you insist, disallow animal companions/minions/summons. Less logistics for you to deal with.