View Full Version : Controlling 8 players

2008-01-16, 12:44 PM
I starting a new campaign and I got 8 players. I prefer playing with 6, but I cant tell no to my friends. So I need some advice on how dealing with 8 players at the table. I think Ill use the rule : you speak, you tell it in game...

2008-01-16, 12:52 PM
In general action, a kind of overall chaos isn't in and of itself hideous, but side conversations are naturally going to come and go. During turn-based action, having each player ready with what they want to do, ready to make the appropriate dice rolls, will really speed things up.

2008-01-16, 12:53 PM
What about splitting them in two separate groups and play a different game with each one? This way you will have two decently-sized groups instead of one OMGWTFBBQCOSMICHORROR!!1one1!1-sized one.

Keld Denar
2008-01-16, 01:00 PM
It may be kind of archaic, but the use of a "Talking Stick" might be enforceable. Unless you are the DM, or holding the Talking Stick, you are not allowed to talk. Passing notes from player to player may or may not be allowed, so long as it isn't disruptive. Pass the stick around for initiative.

Also, combat is gonna be rough. If you have a single threat, for it to be threatening, it'll probably completely squish 1-2 PCs before it goes down, or none at all as the PCs use their superior number of actions to crush it. Multiple combatants will get very laggy, as you may have as many as 20 combatants in a single encounter. I recommend using initiative cards or an initiative tracker (the magnetic ones are AWESOME!). Have one card denote the end of the combat round, keep track of ongoing spell effects with short durations here. If a player acts, his card goes to the back of the stack. If a player readies, his card turns sideways and moves to the back. If a player delays, remove his card from the stack and hand it to the player. They can return it to you when they wish to rejoin combat. This will increase combat efficiency a TON. You can also record bad guy vitals (ABs, spells, damage, hp) on the cards on the fly or in advance to keep things organized.

Also, see if you can recruit an assistant DM. Someone who can help roleplay significant NPCs, help control large combats, and help you come up with ideas that will challenge and captivate such a large group.

Avoid having the players split the party at all cost during a session. This will result in a couple of the players having fun, and the rest fidgeting/napping/reading/chatting etc. If the party wants to split, handle it in different sessions.

EDIT: Use a battlemat. It helps players keep comprehension about what/where/howmany the enemy is. For Foes, candy such as Starburst work excellent. Write a number on them with a non-toxic sharpy to easily keep track of which is which. (you hit the orc red 4, dealing 4 points of damage. That drops it, you may eat your foe).

Aquire some Steelsquire or equivilent spell templates. They are great for dropping spells on the party. It speeds things up when determining how many people you catch in the Evards.

Find or make a reference guide for common things. Copy the rules for grappling, bull rushing, etc here. The tables for conditional modifiers are good too. Less pageflipping means more PC smashing. If it can't be referenced in a heartbeat, postpone it till after the game. Make a ruling you think is fair, and look it up afterwards. If your ruling was wrong, offer the player some minor compensation.

2008-01-16, 01:01 PM
Because Im playing at school and I can only play 3 hours per week. Maybe play a game one week and the other, another game...

2008-01-16, 01:01 PM
Lots of combat.

My reason for this, is that when you're roleplaying, you're going to have one guy who is the natural leader, another 1 or 2 (at least) who require constant attention whether they're the leader or not, one or two socially awkward guys who don't speak up a lot, but occasionally get pissed that they're not getting enough attention, a guy who doesn't need attention, but will occasionally come up with a great idea that will help everyone, a guy who just surfs the web on his laptop the whole time, and a guy who doesn't know how to play and is just there because he has nothing better to do.

So you'll have 2-3 guys doing 90% of the playing while roleplaying.

However, in combat, everyone will get a turn. Combat will still be dominated by the spell casters (especially summoners) because you'll have to look up every spell, and roll saves, and describe effects, while fighter-types just roll to hit and damage. And summoners will have their minions to control. But at least everyone is getting a turn.

Edit: Out of combat, be sure to put variety in your challenges that address each of the player's strengths individually, so no one player dominates.

2008-01-16, 01:02 PM
One possible issue is noise level. It just takes 2 or 3 people that don't know how to use their "in-door voice" to result in a noise ordinance violation as others try to make themselves be heard...

Add a little drinking to that and it could get quickly out of hand.

Still, that's a good rule, if you can get them to follow it.

Edit: A school...different story...

Make liberal use of index cards maybe. Try to get people to pass ninja notes when they want to do something.

2008-01-16, 01:05 PM
Another thing we do (we have 8 people, 1 DM, 7 players) is whenver decisions are being made out-of-combat, that are clearly important, the DM just goes around in a clockwise circle, and says "ok, what's your input?" and gives everyone a turn. Each person gets about a minute.

2008-01-16, 03:07 PM
I was in a 15 person game many moons ago. Combat was molasses-esque. The big problem in combat was players not paying attention (which is reasonable because it was often 30min between turns) and then not being ready when it was their turn, so they'd have to look at the battlemap and figure out what to do while everyone else waited.

The solution the GM came up with was to use a stop watch. I think he gave players 45 seconds to explain their turn. Die rolling wasn't part of this time. It worked pretty well.

I'd also advocate telling players who is on deck when you go through initiatives. Let them figure out a strategy one turn before their own. This should help speed things along.

Finally, I realize you said you can't say no to your players, but I think you should be willing to kick out players if they're too disruptive. A single bad player can grind any game to a halt. With so many players you're likely to get one or two so don't be afraid to punt them if you need to.

2008-01-16, 03:25 PM
The solution the GM came up with was to use a stop watch. I think he gave players 45 seconds to explain their turn. Die rolling wasn't part of this time. It worked pretty well.I second this advice, though I would personally use an hourglass stolen from any number of board games (boggle and roborally come to mind). They usually are a length of time anywhere from half a minute to a minute, so it should be the range you are looking for, and its a little more visceral than the stopwatch. I'd also allow a "default", in case a player is too wishywashy. Set it to something like "full defensive" or "delay".

edit: as an aside, I'd suggest setting your custom avatar sizes to 120px height, 73px width

2008-01-16, 03:29 PM
For that many players around the table, I'd pray you have players who know how to control themselves.

2008-01-16, 03:40 PM
The solution the GM came up with was to use a stop watch. I think he gave players 45 seconds to explain their turn. Die rolling wasn't part of this time. It worked pretty well.

That's what we do. We have a minute to say what we are going to do, and are expected to "pre-roll" our attack rolls and damage. We have an honest group though, so no one is worried about cheating.

The guy who goes immediately after the NPCs (DM gives NPCs all the same intiative) gets a little extra time, since things have usually changed very dramatically.

2008-01-16, 05:02 PM
I also enforce the 1 minute limit for deciding what a character is going to do, and how. If a player decides at some point that their character is going to delay, just write down the number of seconds they have left on a sticky note.

The biggest problem with running a big group is extraneous chatter. Chatter
makes it hard to hear;
distracts the people who need to be making decisions; and
delays everything.
Here's the rule I require for big gaming groups:

If we're in combat and it's not your turn, everything you say is in-character free action talking. If you talk enough you'll use up all your free actions for your next turn. Drawing ammunition for a ranged weapon, or material components for a spell, are free actions, so spending your free actions on chatter can really hurt you. If you want to ask a question, write the DM a note or wait for your turn.

2008-01-16, 05:51 PM
Even in a relatively small (5 person) group, my DM rules that if you don't have an action verbalised and ready 15 seconds after he says "Your turn", you miss your go and he moves on to the next player.

2008-01-16, 11:59 PM
Time limits are your friend. I think my group plays along the lines of: You have 30 seconds to state and briefly describe your action before skipping to the next player's turn.

That tends to make combat a bit more "fast-paced" and "gripping." The lack of exact party synergy and the approximations players have to make (there's not a whole lot of time to figure out who you're hitting with which spells) creates more interesting situations than the long drawn-out fights with the tightly-honed tactics that I've seen a couple groups use. The DM really has to have his act together if this is to work (checking two or three Monster Manual entries per round ruins the momentum entirely).

We're a fairly experienced group though, and we approximate the details on rules that we don't know off our heads if it speeds up gameplay.