View Full Version : Few players, big party

2007-09-10, 05:08 PM
A friend DM told me recently about the way he runs his games. The particularly interesting thing he said is that he requires all his players to run at least 2 characters. The extra characters could be fully fleshed out PC's with backstories, or they could be cohorts, followers, hired mercenaries, etc. The other house rule to go along with this is that you cannot use tumble to go through an enemy; you have to push them out of the way with a strength check or shield bash to get past. Finally, he reduces all movement speeds to half.

The reason for this, he said, was that with a group of 3-5 players, you can have an adventuring party with about 10-12 bodies, which has a huge effect on combat tactics. A line of 3-5 melee-ers in a normal sized dungeon room or hallway can actually block enemies from reaching the spellcasters and archers without ranged attacks or spells of their own. Tactical positioning becomes more interesting and complicated, particularly since he likes to roll for random directions of attack (automatic fighter-in-front marching order goes out the window) and random enemy responses based on intelligence and circumstances (a fireball-ed troop of orcs might actually choose to flee or surrender!). It also becomes a lot more reasonable to throw large numbers of enemies at the party at once (casters actually might have to think about which targets to hit with a 1 target per level spell, and tactics of focusing on the biggest threat versus quickly wiping out the weaklings come into play). Compare this to the standard 4-man party where every battle becomes fighter and rogue flanking the enemy, hoping the enemy doesn't just run/tumble straight past them to kill the wizard.

Finally, he noted that most of the time, one of a player's multiple characters tends to survive more often than the others, and that one usually turns out to be the one the player actually likes more and spends more time working on. Fairly standard roleplaying still results, with players really getting into a character, while still allowing players to try out lots of different character types in one campaign without getting bored ("Aw, shucks, the wizard of my wizard-cleric team died. Well, I did want to try out a warlock anyway").

I understand that this probably requires a slightly more mature and intelligent set of players and DM than the norm to pull off effectively, but I think this style of play really helps make D&D (or even other roleplaying games) combat much more interesting while avoiding the problems inherent in actually having 10 people at the table. What do you think of this style of game, Playground? What other house rules might you add to improve it? And would you be interested in a hack-and-slash play-by-post game using these rules (since roleplay would go *really* slow on forums with that many characters)?

2007-09-10, 05:20 PM
That looks fascinating... but also it looks like combat would progress very, very slowly.

Does your group do anything to speed up the flow of combat? I might like to implement this if there's a way to do that.

2007-09-10, 05:25 PM
That looks fascinating... but also it looks like combat would progress very, very slowly. Does your group do anything to speed up the flow of combat? I might like to implement this if there's a way to do that.

I haven't actually played in one of these games yet, but I believe one of the keys would be having all the players know the rules and their characters well enough to make combat decisions and rolls quickly when their turn comes around. Also, in a PbP campaign, you could have someone post for all their characters at once and then have the DM resolve the order in which things actually happen.

Green Bean
2007-09-10, 05:28 PM
Sounds like an interesting concept to me. Combat would be rough for the DM, but it does have a few bonuses. You can split the party without leaving people out, or avoid the class boredom issue.

Incidentally, combat tends to be the big time-waster in PbP. If you're online at the same time as another player, you can accumulate oodles of RP fairly quickly. In combat, though, you need DM adjudication, which can create a bottleneck.

2007-09-10, 05:32 PM
You can split the party without leaving people out

Hadn't thought about that. That is a big plus.

Incidentally, combat tends to be the big time-waster in PbP. If you're online at the same time as another player, you can accumulate oodles of RP fairly quickly. In combat, though, you need DM adjudication, which can create a bottleneck.

Yeah, but that's a big IF. Some people may post once and then not check back for a day.

2007-09-10, 05:34 PM
An...interesting take on the game...

If I were to run a game (or play in a game) like this, I'd prefer to have the players run 1 "Major" PC as their main character and then have 1 or 2 "Minor" PC's to flesh out the party.

Major PC's would have access to exotic Races, uncommon PrC's and the like. They would also be the "Heroes" or "HQ" of the group as a whole. If using Point Buy, they would also get more points to spend than the "Minor" PC's.

Minor PC's would have to use Core races, have little to no access to PrC's and possibly even use NPC Classes. These would be the "Henchmen" and/or "Soldiers" of the group.

This would not be a hard and fast rule...for example, Greg is one of my players in this game. He has a Whisper Gnome Rogue 3, heading for Shadowdancer PrC as his "Major" PC and 2 Halfling 'Apprentices', who each have 1 level of Expert and 2 levels of Rogue as his "Minor" PC's. For the most part, the 2 apprentices are there as back-up, to help get flanking positions, do the chores and other tasks "unworthy" of their 'master'...they don't get the best loot, they can't take PrC's and they don't make a lot of independant decisions. After a while, Gregs main PC dies and, rather than roll up a new Major PC, he promotes one of his Minor ones to the status of Major, making him/her eligible to take PrC's, make party descisions, etc.

This way, you get the feel of bigger combat with all the tactics and strategy and stuff, as you described, but you don't get the major problems of long winded arguements where every character has to have his say...most characters don't have a say and keep to the background. It'd be a bit like having a standard party, where everyone has the Leadership Feat, except everyone earns their own XP.

Having said that, I probably wouldn't play a game like that...gameplay (especially combat) has a tendancy to bog down if too many characters are involved, though I like the idea of the increased tacical and strategy involved with those larger groups...

Citizen Joe
2007-09-10, 05:40 PM
Incidentally, combat tends to be the big time-waster in PbP. If you're online at the same time as another player, you can accumulate oodles of RP fairly quickly. In combat, though, you need DM adjudication, which can create a bottleneck.
I will also point out that some people maintain tabletop etiquette in a PbP game. That means they don't do anything until everyone with a higher initiative goes. That means they could wait two days before the missing player posts (or gets defaulted). Then the next person has two days... etc. Combine that with not knowing if your attacks actually hit (since the DM usually resolves combat AFTER everyone posts) there just isn't much point in waiting. I usually just post my actions immediately and let the DM sort out the order.

2007-09-10, 07:55 PM
I've seen players take less than 20 seconds to complete a round in combat. I've seen other players with characters of the same complexity take at least a few minutes.

Its not party size that's the problem with speed of combat but a lack of understanding of the rules and indecision on the part of the players involved.

Dark Knight Renee
2007-09-10, 08:00 PM
I use a similar approach in my games, due largely to the fact that I have only one regular player besides myself (I'm usually the DM, but I see myself more as a player doubling as a DM than the other way around). Between the two of us, and not counting characters that are simply NPCs, a party can and often will inflate to 12+ characters at a time, of varying degrees of "mainness". At about that point is when RP starts to bog down due to character clutter, I should add.

However, normal as it may be for me to have at least two characters in any game (and abnormal as it is to just have one!), I find the very idea of D&D-style combat with 8+ characters, much less 12+, to be horrific :smalleek:
Add PbP to the mix, and I would never dream of attempting it.

Regular D&D combat is something rarely seen in my games, I usually either gloss over it or handle the cinematic details in whatever way is most interesting at the time, since we focus more on RP than combat and often forgo roll-playing entirely. In fact, we only use the D&D system for structure because we're playing in FR, and then we just use it as a rather bloated set of guidelines. And I guess because I find it very interesting, despite all it's flaws :smallconfused:

Part of the reason that I don't use the D&D combat system is that I started out with freeform games and never really warmed up to that aspect of the D&D game, and another part is that the D&D system is often too illogical or unrealistic for me (I've killed many catgirls) in addition to being clunky. Number of charcters definitely contributes. But perhaps the biggest reason is due to the fact that I hate DMing, and can't stand the extra effort anymore. I've got a seriously bad case of DM Burnout. :smallannoyed:

2007-09-11, 07:28 AM
My regular DM often runs two characters per player. So did I in my last campaign that's currently on hiatus 'till next summer. With the regular DM, it doesn't slow down combat a lot, partly because he doesn't bother with battlemaps (and gets frustrated when I ask for one to clear out how the situation looks like :smalleek: ) and partly because he likes splitting the group up (which frustrates me). I admit combat IS kind of slow in my sessions, though.

I like it, because it encourages more variety in character choices. A group of four players and a DM is no longer stuck with one meleeist, one arcanist, one divine caster and a skill monkey. We're free to try some more interesting choices, which is always a good thing.

I like the tactical aspect you described. Gives a more expeditiony feel, I guess, with a few 'heroes' and a bunch of henchmen making a team of 10-12. Sounds fun, although I can imagine combat being even slower than in my old campaign, which had 7 PCs. I might try it sometime.

2007-09-11, 07:31 AM
Sounds pointless and unnecessarily complicating to me, but if they're having fun with it, rock on.

2007-09-11, 07:36 AM
A good campaign I played in started off with one group (one PC per player) in the past, and another group (same situation) in the present. It was fun and broke up the monotony some when the actions of our past PC's could be experienced by our present PC's. Another bit was when the group changed due to people leaving or new ones showing up, we would start a new first level group (about 2 PC's per player) in a different region and situation. As mentioned it lets the group split up easier and no-one gets left out of the action. So far I think I've got six 14-18th lvl characters in his campaign realm with various and spreadout responsibilities and a handfull of lowbies in graves (Oh Hung Lo the Monk, I will remember your first un-lucky encounter where you died to a vicious troll attack where he 'luckly' swung at you 3 times in a row after dicing randomly between you and 4 other targets...). It sucks when you die before raise deads become an option.

2007-09-11, 07:50 AM
I have to say I've never had a good experience with running multiple characters, we have done on occasion when the game group was at its lowest in number, but it didn't really work out. Combat was slow, and every player had one character they heavily favoured over the other, and the second schmuck was just a meat-shield in most cases.

Having said that, I think that if you want to have multiple characters per player, then the main character-cohort combo is probably the best way to go. At least then it's obvious that one will be focussed on over the other etc. Not gonna fix the combat issue though.