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Group sizes

AthenorAthenor Battle Hardened OptimistThe Skies of HiigaraRegistered User regular
edited September 2006 in Critical Failures
I'm not really in the mood to continue posting threads for my favorite games yet (I want to give the forum time to generate 'em on their own), but seeing posts here has made me think of what might be another good topic to discuss:

Gaming group sizes.

Now, most of the games I've played in have hand 5-12 members, leaning towards the high side. My personal comfort zone is 6-8 total, as once you start going higher than that, people either start to get forgotten, or it just becomes an unweildy mess. And for the life of me, I can't personally picture how you play games with 2 players.

Now, this is just my thoughts on roleplaying -- wargames and boardgames are another matter entirely, of course. I know in wargames, I've played in groups of up to 20.

So basically, this thread is mostly a discussion of player sizes: What size are most of your games, how many do you prefer, and what merits or problems arise with certain group sizes?

He/Him | "A boat is always safest in the harbor, but that’s not why we build boats." | "If you run, you gain one. If you move forward, you gain two." - Suletta Mercury, G-Witch
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    GolemGolem of Sand Saint Joseph, MORegistered User regular
    edited September 2006
    When I was reguarly going to a Gaming store to play Warhammer, D&D, Magic, Mageknight, etc, etc, etc. I would have a group of regulars about 12-18 ppl with newbs walking in for a game all the time. If you didnt show it was no biggie, If you did always room at the table for another chair, was some of my favorite times. Once I got to college shrank to 3 ppl before we all started playing WoW. WoW killed our college gaming group but since im hopelessly addicted I dont miss it much. every month we get together and play an old school game (we have a few more for the monthly group now, bout 6 to 9) hopefully ill get an Amber Campaign going on a bi-weekly or weekly basis.

    Golem on
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    DeVryGuyDeVryGuy Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Games I'm In Right Now (My Role) - Active Players

    Eberron (DM) - 7 Players
    Eberron (Player) - 8 Players
    Forgotten Realms (Player) - 7 Players
    Deadlands (Player)- 6 Players

    The least I've played with was 2 players, myself included, in the first Eberron game I got into at the beginning of the year which has since wrapped. The largest was the Forgotten Realms game which also just wrapped that was pushing 10 players when it ended (which at that point combats were taking a really long time to resolve.

    I do find that when the group gets larger, the roleplaying tends to suffer because all the conversation and jokes flying around make it hard to get a word in edgewise, not to mention there is always some asshole who will charge in both swords swinging when the group is trying to be diplomatic about something.

    DeVryGuy on
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    Conditional_AxeConditional_Axe Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    I had a group with 9 PCs going for awhile, which is much larger than other DMs I know are comfortable with. As long as everyone stays focused, it's really great.

    Conditional_Axe on
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    exisexis Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Just started my first game of Forgotten Realms (I'm a tabletop virgin). The original party consisted of 4 players, but one has since left. We're playing with 3 until we pick up a 4th, and maybe a 5th. I doubt we'll go larger than that.

    I'm enjoying the smaller size. We dropped the NPC's from combat (we're all newbies; just trying to learn the ropes for the moment), so the rounds are really quick. Makes for an exciting game.

    exis on
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    NerissaNerissa Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    My first RPG experience was with a relatively big group (10-12 players), and an awesome DM. It actually worked well, partly because the DM did a few "special" things, like not letting the players keep track of their own xp, and just telling them when they've leveled (I'm not 100% sure HE kept track of xp either... I suspect he just had enough gaming experience to say "ok, you've done enough to reasonably expect to have leveled by now"). Unfortunately, I now judge all of my RPG playing by that, and it rarely measures up.

    As a GM, I like 4-6 players, that way you're more likely to get a good mix of characters who can stand on their own without special help (i.e. NPCs, access to heal potions, etc.) It broadens the types of encounters I can throw at them. With only a couple of players, the game has to be more specially tailored to their strengths in order to work well. On the other hand, more than about 6 can be total chaos unless you're REALLY good at multi-tasking and keeping folks in line.

    Nerissa on
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    KarilmatKarilmat Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    My first D&D experience was actually a DM running a tailor-made game for just me (i.e. table of 1 player). It was pretty fun. I got the learn the ropes, and that character actually ended up getting to pretty high level before we had to stop (it was an on-line thing; this guy liked to run stories for individuals, and he had games going for several different individuals where the stories would occassionally overlap, and what one person did would affect the others). That was something like 8 or 9 years ago, though, back in good-old 2nd ed AD&D. Good times.

    To state the obvious, D&D 3.0/3.5 is designed for a party of 4, but obviously you can have as many or few as you want, you just need to adjust the encounters. When DM'ing, I prefer 4-6 people, but I had a great experience running 12 people in a game that played twice a week for almost an entire year at college.

    In smaller groups (which I prefer), everyone has a chance to shine and do their own thing. In a bigger group, you end up seeing a lot of overlap and folks end up trying to out-do each other and show how their character is the awesomest. However, in those big groups you can split the party up to do different things and still have viable parties. And, with that big group, you will pretty much cover every possible skill, ability or spell that the party could need, which lets you do pretty much anything you want and know that the party should be able to continue with some smarts and teamwork.

    If you go the big party route, though, you had better have your DM game on and keep things moving because a simple random encounter that isn't a pushover for the party can take 6 hours to complete. In my big game, I made my players decide what they were doing while the person before them was acting and have their dice pre-rolled to speed things up a bit. You also have to be sure that you maintain order when doing roleplay stuff, because having 12 people trying to do things at once isn't going to work. Go around the group, one at a time, and see what they want to do and resolve one issue at a time. It's tough, but you can end up with some crazy situations that are fun to resolve.

    Karilmat on
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    Conditional_AxeConditional_Axe Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    when i ran a big group, we fought maybe every other session. the game was kind of political, so there was a lot of intrigue and roleplaying to keep everybody occupied.

    nowadays, i'm lucky to find enough people to even run a game (i'd like to have a minimum of 3).

    Conditional_Axe on
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    gredavingredavin Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    I think it really depends on the game. I prefer, as a general rule, a group of four. It's not too many if they seperate and have to do individual stories to give all players equal time and its not to little so that there has to be this feeling of, "Well, I'll play a healer I guess, no one else is."

    gredavin on
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    LitejediLitejedi New York CityRegistered User regular
    edited September 2006
    4-5 is ideal in my experience if you're dealing with newish folks.
    6 is only okay if they're all vets.

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    AsumaAsuma Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Litejedi wrote:
    4-5 is ideal in my experience if you're dealing with newish folks.
    6 is only okay if they're all vets.

    Yeah ours tend on the low side as well.

    Asuma on
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    Premier kakosPremier kakos Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited September 2006
    I've always found that 3-4 is perfect. It allows a good interaction between the players and the GM. It also allows a lot more character development and actual roleplaying. The big problem I've found with larger groups is that you have the people who are largely just waiting to get a turn and people that don't care and do nothing. With small groups, it's a more collaborative effort and driven more by the dynamics of the group rather than simply driven by waiting for your turn.

    Premier kakos on
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    Conditional_AxeConditional_Axe Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    I've always found that 3-4 is perfect. It allows a good interaction between the players and the GM. It also allows a lot more character development and actual roleplaying. The big problem I've found with larger groups is that you have the people who are largely just waiting to get a turn and people that don't care and do nothing. With small groups, it's a more collaborative effort and driven more by the dynamics of the group rather than simply driven by waiting for your turn.
    one of the things that i applaud my players in a big group on was going out of their way to interact with one another and create their own subplots. characters in largue groups that can make cliques and genuinely want to do things with those characters make the game a hell of a lot easier, and more fun to run, since you're reacting to what they do, not just going by rote.

    Conditional_Axe on
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    gilraingilrain Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Asuma wrote:
    Litejedi wrote:
    4-5 is ideal in my experience if you're dealing with newish folks.
    6 is only okay if they're all vets.
    Yeah ours tend on the low side as well.
    I agree, and am pretty surprised to see al the high numbers in here! Our GM has been doing this for decades, now, but things still get rough with any more than six PCs. We've found that four or five is about ideal. We've gamed comfortably with as few as two or three, but never for more than a few sessions.

    My numbers don't include the GM, by the way -- are you guys including the GM?

    gilrain on
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    Captain KCaptain K Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    In my experience, 3, 4 or 5 PCs seems to be the only way to ever get anything accomplished. 2 PCs is just too few to accomplish anything exciting (3 is almost too few) because they can't fill enough character roles. 5 PCs generally means every necessary character role is filled, but it's almost too many people to keep things on task. With 6+ PCs, I've found that it's just impossible to keep things moving.

    Hearing you guys talk about playing with 9 PCs, or 12 PCs... I can't even imagine. That would be a total disaster for me and the people I've played with in the past.

    Captain K on
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    DeVryGuyDeVryGuy Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Captain K wrote:
    In my experience, 3, 4 or 5 PCs seems to be the only way to ever get anything accomplished. 2 PCs is just too few to accomplish anything exciting (3 is almost too few) because they can't fill enough character roles. 5 PCs generally means every necessary character role is filled, but it's almost too many people to keep things on task. With 6+ PCs, I've found that it's just impossible to keep things moving.

    Hearing you guys talk about playing with 9 PCs, or 12 PCs... I can't even imagine. That would be a total disaster for me and the people I've played with in the past.

    In the game with ~10 PCs that I played in, we accomplished everything far too easily, because we were double-dipping in almost all of the character roles, but there was almost no roleplaying, because half the group didn't give a shit about roleplaying and just wanted to kill stuff. (And for some reason the DM thought it was a good idea to keep throwing Ice Monsters at a party with 2 casters capable of 9-10d6 fireballs)

    DeVryGuy on
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    Captain KCaptain K Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    DeVryGuy, it just seems to me like that group of people could have had much more fun by splitting up into two different gaming groups, with two different DMs.

    I would certainly not complain if I knew 12 people who were chomping at the bit to play some RPGs, but if I did, I wouldn't put them all in the same game. :P

    Captain K on
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    CzechCzech Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Captain K wrote:
    Hearing you guys talk about playing with 9 PCs, or 12 PCs... I can't even imagine. That would be a total disaster for me and the people I've played with in the past.
    Man, you have no idea. When you left our last D&D session, the fucking thing fell apart with 3 PCs.

    It's not the size of the group. It's the... uhh... members. :oops:

    Czech on
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    Captain KCaptain K Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Czech wrote:
    Captain K wrote:
    Hearing you guys talk about playing with 9 PCs, or 12 PCs... I can't even imagine. That would be a total disaster for me and the people I've played with in the past.
    Man, you have no idea. When you left our last D&D session, the fucking thing fell apart with 3 PCs.

    It's not the size of the group. It's the... uhh... members. :oops:
    I still haven't really heard that whole story.

    By the way, get on AIM or gmail chat if you can. I didn't even know you were still alive.

    Captain K on
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    GolemGolem of Sand Saint Joseph, MORegistered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Ya in my experence a 5man group would work alot better, but sometimes you just gotta have a big group to do some fun senarios.

    My DM would often split the group up by having events or battles split us up. And my favorite campaign there was 11 of us, by this time our characters were all pretty good level and pretty well know throughout the realm. So the DM had the Realm erupt into Civil war and several chracters were given units to be the commander of, while others were given different roles throughout the army (such as spys, quartermasters, medics). With a great story and seperating everyone up and drawing the story out piece by piece the group actually started roleplaying, it was beautiful.

    Hope that will help someone come up with an idea for a large player campaign if they have a large group all wanting to play together.

    Golem on
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    DeVryGuyDeVryGuy Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Captain K wrote:
    DeVryGuy, it just seems to me like that group of people could have had much more fun by splitting up into two different gaming groups, with two different DMs.

    I would certainly not complain if I knew 12 people who were chomping at the bit to play some RPGs, but if I did, I wouldn't put them all in the same game. :P

    Thing is, this year we formed a D&D Club at work, so we get to use the conference rooms/etc after hours to play, which is nice. There have been a total of 5 campaigns, and most of us are so RPG-starved that we play in every campaign (most of them are monthly affairs, with only one being bi-weekly).

    DeVryGuy on
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    XieflowXieflow Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    for boardgames, we aim for a groupsize of 3 to 5. We'll take more, as it often comes up, but 6 players severely limits your game selection (and it's too few to split up into multiple games). Puerto Rico was our group's game of choice for a while, but Betrayal at the House on the Hill (which is even 6 player, although oddly enough we haven't had 6 people for it yet) has gained momentum due to how different it is every time.

    RPG groups are just too difficult to get together. And none of us are too into wargames.

    Xieflow on
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    PkmoutlPkmoutl Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    Let's see.

    My very first gaming experience was three. GM and two PC's.

    Then it was four later on.

    When I moved out here to Buffalo, I found a group that was almost all new players, and there were 6, 7 including myself. They were what I like to call the "Idiot Crew."

    In college, I was in groups from four to my highest, which was 18. 19 if you count me.

    My current group started off as 9, went down to 7, back up to 8, and is now down to a lowly 6. Once in a while, it jumps to 7 or 8. We have a couple of fair-weather members now and then.

    The game I run over at Flying Stove is down to 6. When it started, I think we had 11.

    I don't really have a preferred number, for the most part. However, there are games I won't run unless I have more than or less than a certain number. For instance, I won't run Wraith with any group larger than maybe four. Six at the most. I wouldn't even consider running Amber with a group of less than six.

    Pkmoutl on
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    Draw On Holy MightDraw On Holy Might Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    (For D&D, by the way)
    A lot of people I talk to claim that four is the ideal number. And really, with even a semi-competent group, it really is a good number to have. However, you really have to hammer out your weaknesses and make sure everyone has, in some way, one of the "big four" archetypical roles. There's no real reason not to, unless everyone is familiar with each other and wants to just have a good time without being bogged down by "zomg who iz haeler??" It makes things more interesting when you don't have a way to fill to normal roles, but it means everyone has to work harder.

    Honestly, after having been in several serious campaigns where we had five players, I've come to really enjoy it. It allows for far more flexibility in your party make-up, and it really allows the off-classes (Monks, Hexblades, Rangers, etc.) that don't have a lot of up front utility or obvious task to shine. It keeps the group large enough to have diversity, but small enough to not cut into experience or play time too much.

    Personally, I have had terrible, terrible luck with groups any larger than six. It's bad enough keeping things on track with four players and a DM, much less seven or eight people in the same room together, drinking beer, relaxing, and having fun. The problem seriously comes from combat, even though it is the most all-inclusive thing in a D&D game- people wander off, sleep, talk to others across the room, and generally don't pay attention to what the fuck is going on, so that when it comes back to their turn I invariably hear the dreaded, "So... what's going on?"
    I've made my own sort of side game where I tell them random shit whenever I get asked that question, just to see if they notice. I progress to more and more dramatic situations, just to see how long it takes the others to figure it out. Sometimes, it's all I have to get through the night.

    Also, three players is a great thing to do, assuming you're with people that know what the hell they are doing. Not that everyone needs to powergame and bend the rules as they see fit, but sub-optimal characters become even more so the less people there are to cover for their shortcomings. It's really a give and take thing, unless people start multiclassing, but some of the most fun and memorable stories about D&D have come from our old three-man groups. Lots of fun.

    Draw On Holy Might on
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    Aroused BullAroused Bull Registered User regular
    edited September 2006
    I've played with between 4 and 9 people, including the DM, and I think the ideal size varies depending on the people involved. Five or six players plus the DM is probably my favourite number, though. In any group larger than six, I think it's worth having two DMs, if it can be arranged. Of course, that means the DMs have to have time to meet up and design the campaign as well as attend the sessions, but if you both have a lot of spare time or you're DMing with a roommate I recommend it for large gaming groups.

    Aroused Bull on
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