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    Default Advice on managing 6 players?

    Hello playgrounders!!
    We're starting a new 4e campaign in a few days and I'll have 6 players. I've DMed a couple of campaigns, one with 5 players and one with 6. On the campaign with 6 people, the 2 minor problems we had are that battles sometimes took to long to finish, and the battle grids usually had to be quite large to fit all of the players and enemies.
    Do u guys have any advice to solve those 2 problems?
    Any other advice that may come in mind is still very greatly appreciated.

    Also, one last thing.
    How do u usually make your players run away from something instead of rushing right in? Cuz it seems that no matter how many enemies I use, their first option is fight head-on.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    6 players is about the number where you have to start to watch out that two or three player do not hog your whole attention and the others start to watch them and don't bring in their own ideas what the party should do.

    With combat, you should give all players only limited time during which they can decide what action they will take. Performing the action takes as long as it takes, that is rarely a problem. But when a player says he has completed his turn, the next player should say which action he wants to perform within 10 seconds or so. There is lots of time during which a player can observe what's going on and think of the options he has. He does not need to pour 3 minutes over the map before taking out his character sheet and go through his spell list.
    Either say what you are going to do when it is your turn, or your character doesn't do anything but standing there and it is the next players turn.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    My party has six players, and might have a seventh. We're all new, and it hasn't been a problem at all, though we have had to fight slightly stronger monsters then usual.

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    I've mastered a couple of years with 5 or more players (8 at one point).

    Huge battlegrids can be purchased. We now have one that's 1,44 m≤. That should be enough.

    Battles can be sped up if you have a clock. every player gets 3 minutes. That leaves them 15 minutes to look things up or think about their options and do it afterwards. Give them the option for a team time-out, though.

    Initiative Cards are also a nice thing to have. Ban Laptops on your gaming table. My experience is, that they tend to shift the focus away from the game and slow things down.

    If you want to scare your players, use your big guns at the beginning. If they take a sufficient amount of damage, they will be scared. Add some gory details to your description of the monster or the dungeon where it lives (other dead adventurers, e.g.) and don't tell them straight out what it is. If they are fighting something unknown, they tend to be more cautious. At least that's what worked for me.

    And don't add any more players. 6 is the maximum a single DM can handle imho.
    Last edited by dobu; 2012-01-16 at 03:27 PM.

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    6 players is about the number where you have to start to watch out that two or three player do not hog your whole attention and the others start to watch them and don't bring in their own ideas what the party should do.

    With combat, you should give all players only limited time during which they can decide what action they will take. Performing the action takes as long as it takes, that is rarely a problem. But when a player says he has completed his turn, the next player should say which action he wants to perform within 10 seconds or so. There is lots of time during which a player can observe what's going on and think of the options he has. He does not need to pour 3 minutes over the map before taking out his character sheet and go through his spell list.
    Either say what you are going to do when it is your turn, or your character doesn't do anything but standing there and it is the next players turn.
    I've tried giving players a limited time to decide their actions, but it kinda ruins the fun. As for battle grids, I don't really have enough money to buy tiles, so I've been drawing my own from the beginning. The larger ones we have are around 25x18 squares, but it takes me too long to draw them, and sometimes I'm kinda short on time. What I usually do is to use the same grids over and over again. For example I have a large forest grid, and I use it for all the forest battles that require a lot of space.

    Quote Originally Posted by DarkEricDraven View Post
    My party has six players, and might have a seventh. We're all new, and it hasn't been a problem at all, though we have had to fight slightly stronger monsters then usual.
    We haven't had any real problems either, only minor issues. My main concern is to try to make battles end a little faster.

    Quote Originally Posted by dobu View Post
    I've mastered a couple of years with 5 or more players (8 at one point).

    Huge battlegrids can be purchased. We now have one that's 1,44 m≤. That should be enough.

    Battles can be sped up if you have a clock. every player gets 3 minutes. That leaves them 15 minutes to look things up or think about their options and do it afterwards. Give them the option for a team time-out, though.

    Initiative Cards are also a nice thing to have. Ban Laptops on your gaming table. My experience is, that they tend to shift the focus away from the game and slow things down.

    If you want to scare your players, use your big guns at the beginning. If they take a sufficient amount of damage, they will be scared. Add some gory details to your description of the monster or the dungeon where it lives (other dead adventurers, e.g.) and don't tell them straight out what it is. If they are fighting something unknown, they tend to be more cautious. At least that's what worked for me.

    And don't add any more players. 6 is the maximum a single DM can handle imho.
    What are initiative cards?

    I've tried beating them into running, but the thing is, if the monsters were to beat the PCs so hard that they were about to die, why would they ever let them go?
    Last edited by Silma; 2012-01-16 at 03:55 PM.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    My best advice for making battle go faster? Dont play 4e.

    But i digress.

    Most everything everyone else has said here is right on the money. The best way to make your players run is with terror, sheer terror. While large numbers and forces can be fear inducing, simply throwing more and more enemies at them will not solve problem. a thousand goblins is no were near as terrifiying as one powerful dragon.

    And if that still doesnt make them high tail it? Kill one or two. Sure, it may not make sense for the monsters to let them run, but sacrifices must be made. And if they dont?

    Well, just kill them. They'll learn next game.

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Delvin Darkwood View Post
    Most everything everyone else has said here is right on the money. The best way to make your players run is with terror, sheer terror. While large numbers and forces can be fear inducing, simply throwing more and more enemies at them will not solve problem. a thousand goblins is no were near as terrifiying as one powerful dragon.

    And if that still doesnt make them high tail it? Kill one or two. Sure, it may not make sense for the monsters to let them run, but sacrifices must be made. And if they dont?

    Well, just kill them. They'll learn next game.
    This.

    Your players run into things fighting because, so far, that's been an effective strategy. You need to teach them that it's not.

    It might be effective to frame this lesson in an encounter where the objective isn't "kill all the bad guys", but rather something else that can be accomplished without engaging in full-on slaughter. And then ensure that full-on slaughter will end poorly.

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    This comes up a lot, so I blogged about it. My idea of large is a bit more than 6 players, but you should still find something or other you can use.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Delvin Darkwood View Post
    Most everything everyone else has said here is right on the money. The best way to make your players run is with terror, sheer terror. While large numbers and forces can be fear inducing, simply throwing more and more enemies at them will not solve problem. a thousand goblins is no were near as terrifiying as one powerful dragon.

    And if that still doesnt make them high tail it? Kill one or two. Sure, it may not make sense for the monsters to let them run, but sacrifices must be made. And if they dont?

    Well, just kill them. They'll learn next game.
    +1 to this also; but you might try adding a DMPC whom your monster eviscerates first.

    Initiative cards are small cards (old business cards are ideal) which you hand out at the beginning of combat. The players write their character names at the top, roll their initiative, and write that beneath. You do the same for the the NPCs Monsters. You then collect all the cards, sort them, and the then you have your initiative order.
    When one character has gone, you simply move that card to the back and read out the next one. Having one character delay until after another is easy. Readied actions mean putting the card to one side, though I actually keep them in the deck to prompt the player if a whole round has passed without the trigger.
    The cards can be re-used for dozens of combats - though if you use them to track status effects then they will not last as long.
    One thing to watch out for is if you have a player who, after you think their turn is over, says something like: "And then I do ...". The risk here is if you have already turned over the top card, you turn over another one: you might inadvertantly skip the next player.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Well, managing 6 players isn't above average. I'd say if battles took too long, then reduce the numbers of foes. Instead of just a bunch of mooks, just have mostly it be like 1-3 (mini)boss-level opponents.

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Buy yourself a battle mat for around $25 bucks. If you cant afford it have everybody chip in. If they find it isn't large enough for battles you are all doing something wrong haha. Possibly spending FAR too much time articulating perfect strategies?

    Really, you don't even NEED grids. It just helps. You seem to be tied down the squares and the scenery. Break that mold.

    Make a monsters run away or make the players realize they the option to run when something seems to big and scary. Not every battle should be seen through to the end. You asked how to make them do this? Kill somebody. They obviously aren't afraid of anything, and whats the point all of you getting together and running this thing if the danger is fake? Seems like a waste of time to me. People are supposed to die here and there.
    Last edited by Ozreth; 2012-01-16 at 10:15 PM.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    This comes up a lot, so I blogged about it. My idea of large is a bit more than 6 players, but you should still find something or other you can use.
    Bookmarked for my 12-man party.

    Thanks!

    As far as the battle grids are concerned, I've been playing with dry-erase boards with 1x1 in. grids on them. You can get one at CostCo for about $20, maybe less. They're much more durable, and, of course, they're dry-erase, so you can customize the battleground accordingly.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Silma View Post
    I've tried giving players a limited time to decide their actions, but it kinda ruins the fun.

    [...]

    We haven't had any real problems either, only minor issues. My main concern is to try to make battles end a little faster.
    Tips for speeding up combat:

    - Lots of easy-to-kill monsters make combat quicker than a few tougher beasties. Is it 4e that has 'minions'? Wherever it is, I nicked the basic idea for my system because - especially in a big game - you don't want to be tracking loads of hit points across several different NPCs, but you DO want your PCs to be fighting big, challenging battles (because there are loads of them).

    If your PCs are going to fight something big and scary, then that's what they should be fighting, but make it REALLY big and REALLY scary (because of your 'extra' players) - don't fanny about with mixing a big, complex boss fight with a mook fight; except when you want a complicated battle that will take ages, of course!

    - Group your NPC initiatives. This generally happens anyway (because NPCs have similar initiative scores), but force the issue by rolling for each group, not the individuals - you want to be moving your NPCs as two or three distinct groups, not as individual NPCs; the latter takes longer, and you end up forgetting which ones have moved yet in bigger battles (which slows things down).

    - You will, I'm afraid, have to be fairly strict about initiative and turn-taking if you want combat to flow smoothly and quickly - but think of it this way; if you have 6 players, then each player has the 5 other players' turns to decide what he's going to do on his initiative; that's plenty of time!

    (and a PC is only meant to have a few seconds to actually act anyway - so you aren't really being too harsh if you hurry them along a bit)

    - Make your players remember their initiative and by shouting out the initiative count, not the player's name; one of the problems with a bigger group is getting everyone to pay attention when it's not their turn. Little things like this help.

    I've tried beating them into running, but the thing is, if the monsters were to beat the PCs so hard that they were about to die, why would they ever let them go?
    The most effective way to change your players' behaviour is to have their usual tactic fail catastrophically.

    In this case it just means choosing the right monster for the job - you have to be careful doing things like this - what you want is to encourage your players to think of alternative tactics; you don't want them to feel like they are powerless.

    You could have a victorious (and overpowered / outnumbering) enemy take them prisoner - a prison from which the PCs can escape and fight their way free, hopefully realising that a head-on fight against this foe doesn't work.

    Or you have something happen just as everything looks lost for the PCs - a natural disaster, a second, mutual enemy arriving (attacking both the PCs and the original opponent) - something which would hopefully hinder the enemy enough for the PCs to make good their escape.

    This does rely on your PCs realising that there are some battles they can't win - and that running away (or finding another way around the problem) isn't *failure*.

    To do that, you need to let them lose some encounters (and make them at least believe that their PCs can die - if they think that you'll save them no matter what they do, then they'll keep charging in and hoping for Deus ex GM), and you need to reward them for partial victories and for thinking outside the box.

    Also as others have suggested - let your NPCs retreat sometimes; if you always fight to the death then maybe the possibility of retreat / surrender just hasn't occurred to your players.

    (you can of course just talk to your group about their tactics, out of character)

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Silma View Post
    Also, one last thing.
    How do u usually make your players run away from something instead of rushing right in? Cuz it seems that no matter how many enemies I use, their first option is fight head-on.
    Traps. Walls. Holes. Dragons.
    The trick is to throw them off balance. If you want them to be more careful, let them fail. (At the same time, though, don't use a wall of Ancient Red Dragons to railroad the players...)

    Have them run through tripwires that set off deadly traps, or narrowly realize that half the floor is only an illusion suspended over a lava pit. Play both against their weaknesses and to their strengths to shape the game around what you want.
    Quote Originally Posted by Delvin Darkwood View Post
    My best advice for making battle go faster? Dont play 4e.
    Only true if they're new to the system, horrible at damage, or just can't learn to speed up their turn. (Or you're swarming them with too many targets so they just can't choose.)

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lonely Tylenol View Post
    Bookmarked for my 12-man party.
    As far as the battle grids are concerned, I've been playing with dry-erase boards with 1x1 in. grids on them. You can get one at CostCo for about $20, maybe less. They're much more durable, and, of course, they're dry-erase, so you can customize the battleground accordingly.
    This is an effective solution for the impoverished DM. Another of my old favorites is getting one of those cheap (relatively) rolls of grid paper and laying it out on a table, then getting some old plexiglass and laying that on top. Instant grid board for wet erase markers and you can cut it to the size of your gaming table. Mind you, we always played on a blackjack table so ymmv.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Make MLP references about "Mane 6" and the "6 Elements" constantly.

    It won't help, but it'll be hilarious.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Well thereís two main problems with running with a lot of players.
    The first is making sure everyone gets a fair amount of time to act.
    The second is distractions and OOC talking. With so many people at the table, things can get too chaotic.

    Which is why I keep an Out of Combat initiative order, it makes sure everyone gets to act, and it keeps everyone a bit more focused on the action at hand. So there is fewer interruptions, and less general chaos at the gaming table. (jokes chit chat etc are fine, but sometimes they need to be kept to a minimum). As for combat, well I donít really play 4E so Iím not qualified to give advice on that aspect.

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    I like to pre-roll my attack and damage values for encounters when running large groups. Having a list of d20 rolls handy saves a lot of time and I can quickly resolve the opponent attacks so that the action can go right back to the PCs.
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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    Six is what I consider to be optimum part size, myself - anything less than that feels understrength...

    Quote Originally Posted by Lonely Tylenol View Post
    As far as the battle grids are concerned, I've been playing with dry-erase boards with 1x1 in. grids on them. You can get one at CostCo for about $20, maybe less. They're much more durable, and, of course, they're dry-erase, so you can customize the battleground accordingly.
    And even cheaper alturnative is to buy an A2 plastic document wallet and stick some cardboard with a grid (in one or more colours) in it and then draw on it using a non-permenant marker. (This does require you to either have a safe spot to store it or make on, a it's a bit more fragile than a dry-wipe board though.)

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    Default Re: Advice on managing 6 players?

    I would second the 'Initiative Card' idea. I like to write out the monster stats on the card ahead of time so that I can just refer to that for all things monster during the fight. Battle mats help out a lot, imho. If you cannot afford one then you can't but I would ask my fellow gamers to chip in (you shouldn't have to buy everything after all) - I got mine for $25.00.

    I'm constantly fighting the pay attention, be ready to play, get off your cell-phone battle myself so if I find a way to fix that I'll let you know. As far as challenging them, I think it's always important to make your battlegrounds dynamic - like give them a chance to knock a statue over onto enemies, drop a chandelier, thorny bush that you can force players and enemies into, ect ect. Additionally, traps or skill challenges during combat are cool too, like the close the portal to the abyss or more and more enemies are going to keep boiling out!

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