Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Discussion: Number of Players In Your Group?

Every Friday, the blogosphere becomes a ghost town, full of tumbleweeds and the spectres of hits long gone. But here at RPG Blog 2, we hold steady, pull up a folding chair near the folding tables of our virtual FLGS, and have some gaming discussion. Nothing too serious, nothing too deep, just talking about the hobby we love.

The question for today is pretty basic: How many players play in your current campaign group? For extra credit, what's the largest group you're comfortable running for?

27 comments:

Stargazer said...

Usually we are four people: me (as a GM), my girlfriend and two friends (as players). The largest group I was running a game for was 6 (7 including me) people or so (We were playing Shadowrun and Trinity back then) and that's pretty much the largest group I am comfortable with. Usually in larger groups each player just doesn't have enough "screen time" of his or her own and it's hard to maintain a good gaming atmosphere when several people are unoccupied at any given time.

JimLotFP said...

Current group is six people (me and five players), down from a total of 9 between September and November or so.

A few years back in Vaasa I had a group that was 10 total people in the group.

The key to running larger groups I think is to have wilder adventures where there is more stuff going on so everyone's got something to do. Smaller, "quiet" adventures leave some people twiddling their thumbs as the planners of the group seem to overshadow everyone.

kelvingreen said...

I run one game (Call of Cthulhu) and am playing in another (D&D 4e). In the latter, we started with five plus the GM, although we're going to be losing two of them. The former started out as a one-off with four players plus myself, dropped down to two players at one point, and then the last session had six players, which was probably just over my comfortable GMing limit.

MountZionRyan said...

Our current group has 5 (GM + 4 players) but ideally we'd like to add one more.

My largest group would be 6 players and that's too big for my taste.

Joseph said...

Our AD&D 1E game has six regulars plus myself (tonight's our gaming night, as a matter of fact). Sometimes we get one or two stragglers, but six is the rule.

I've run games upwards of fifteen people with no problem, but I'd never want to do a group that large with a rules set I wasn't intimately familiar with. Jim's correct about the nature of running such a large group; action makes it go much more smoothly.

Alex Schroeder said...

I play in several campaigns. The two Monday games have 5 players and 1 DM; one Sunday game has 5 players and 1 DM; the other Sunday game has 6 players and 1 DM; the irregular game has 5 players and 1 DM; the large campaign 8 players and 1 DM but for any one particular session we're limiting the number of players to 5; the game with the kids has 3 players and 1 DM; the Rolemaster campaign has 7 players and 1 DM (but I've never seen all of them attend a session).

I've run D&D 3.5 games with seven players on a regular basis and I thought it was OK, but when one of the players left and I asked the group, they said they preferred the smaller size.

I think it's much easier to run larger groups with simple rules, and group activities like fighting and riddle solving work better than social interactions (where usually just one person does the talking).

What works admirably well is having a big player pool but limiting the number of players per session. I like it! I'm not doing more of that because the players I have right now want to come to every single session.

Syrsuro said...

"Officially" - there are five players (plus the GM) in our (4E)group. However, for the last couple of months we have only had four players who were able to make it; hopefully, the fifth player will become more available soon.

I generally find six players to be the largest convenient group, and we usually cancel if fewer than four players are available (although I am starting to question this policy).

I have DMed for as many as 10, although rarely and the largest group I ever recall playing in was around 20, but that was just weird (it was also in the late '70s). I don't think I would want to try and run that many with any of the modern (overly complex?) rulesets.

Carl

clash bowley said...

My current group is 5-6. The largest group I ever GMed was 17, back in the 80s. Now, I wouldn't want to GM more than 7-8. 5-6 is about perfect.

-clash

Jeff Rients said...

I've got three regulars for my Labyrinth Lord game and a few off and on players. Anybody is welcome to show up, so on a given night I have no idea how many players I will have.

Jeff Rients said...

Oh, forgot the extra credit: Twelve seems to be about my limit without invoking things like junior DMs and multiple callers.

The Recursion King said...

I run a Labyrinth Lord campaign for six players, so it comes to seven including me. Group will likely expand further in the next month or so as my players are recommending the game to people they know.

Badelaire said...

I think the largest group I ever played in was ~12 back in college. The biggest group I ever GMed was ~10, and my current C&C campaign has 8 players. The Traveller game I was in (which recently went kaput) had 4 players + GM.

shimrod said...

I’m playing in two groups, basically, right now. Four campaigns.

My every-other Sunday group plays from 11am-10:30 or 11pm, and we split the day in half for two different games. That group has seven people, so it’s basically 6+DM for each game, each DM being a player in the other’s game (I’m one of them). Two of the players are somewhat unreliable, however, so it often winds up being 5+DM, which is a sweet spot IMO.

I also play Thursday nights from 6:30pm-10:30 or 11pm, and that group alternates from week to week between two different campaigns. Again, the DMs play in each other’s games. Those groups are also 6+DM, though there is one player in each of those campaigns who isn’t in the other. Dave and Ian only play biweekly, whereas Dan, Chris, Lorne, Ragnar, Phil and Mike play or DM every Thursday.

Like Syrsuro, we typically find 6 players to be the top end of playable for a game involving any significant roleplaying and/or involved combat. 5 is about the sweet spot. Fewer than 4 players (not counting the DM) usually means we don’t bother. Which rarely happens, as the groups are pretty committed. Recently it happened unexpectedly with the Sunday group, and the four of us who were around got together anyway for card and board games, and I ran a quick Labyrinth Lord session with them each running two characters. That worked pretty nicely.

Welleran said...

Six players in my face-to-face campaign and 3 (sometimes 4) in my game over Skype. I had a memorable session in the early 80's with a dozen players but it was too much work keeping them all focused. Fortunately, a serious feud in game resulted in a massacre of most of the characters which tidied things up nicely.

Rob Lang said...

Four spawns of evil but I will go up to 6.

jstater said...

I have six players - two women, three men and one boy (11). I've had up to eight, and it got a bit crowded.

rustybattleaxe said...

Our current C&C campaign has 5 players plus me as the, uh, Castle Keeper (can't quite get used to that one). It has worked well. I've DMed from 1 to about 12 and, in most cases 3-6 seems to be optimum (which, quite happily for those who care about such things, is what organizational theory would tell you about groups). I did a large group of 12+ players for a while with two DMs back. It went surprisingly well but we had to maintain and copy lots of notes, charts, reminders, etc. In this case, we did as JimLotFP recommends. It was wild. Really wild (of course, with co-DMs we could do all sorts of stuff--split the parties, have two groups of opponents from different directions and actually take groups of players into separate rooms to play it out). That was fun while it lasted but I wouldn't want to do it long-term.

Jonathan said...

Right now I have two players in my Star Wars D6 1st edition game, with another player joining next week. I'm soon to be playing in a D&D 4th edition game which will be about five people in all, including the DM. I've not played D&D for twenty years!

I'm not really comfortable with more than four players these days, but the largest group I ever GM'd for was ten, one group of seven and one group of three, both in different rooms as the smaller group was being hunted by the larger group. It worked, but damn it was stressful. Never again.

MJ Harnish said...

Our overall adult group has 7 potential players in it but we never have more than 4 in one game.

The school club I run has 7 players in the group I run plus another 6 or so in the other group.

As far as how many I am comfortablerunning for, I'd say 4. Anything more and the players don't get a lot of spotlight time and there tends to be too many side plots and story threads to really deal with effectively.

ckutalik said...

We're running a drop-in/drop-out West March-ish campaign centered around a decent-sized friendship group (plus kiddos), so it's now up to about 16 players roughly in two parties. The real core is about 7-8 though, most others have played once or twice to date.

ckutalik said...

Forgot to add that Jim's advice is dead-on for the giganto sessions. One of the biggest drags was having a few players running around town doing mundane things and the best huge gonzo battle royales with Barsoomian White Apes, Flying Fungoids, and Sleestaks rushing them from all angles.

When in doubt: cue the baddies.

Blotz said...

My champions game has four players and our core D&D 3.5 group has 5.

We've had as many as 8 players in a game at once.

Norman Harman said...

Currently have Two players in my 3.5 group. Which isn't enough but I'm winding that campaign down and don't want to add anymore.

The Extra Credit is highly dependent on rule system. I was use to running 6-8 players back-in-the day. Tried that when coming back to the hobby after long hiatus and got kicked in the nuts by 3.5. Four players, no more no less, is the correct number for 3.5 And as others have noted there is an inverse relation to rule's liteness plus action orientedness and number of players.

There is another aspect to consider, Number of characters per player. In 3.5 I'd push hard to have 1to1 ratio (all those feats/prestige classes etc are just too much it bogs game down). But with other systems "entourage" or "mob of hirelings" style play is almost required. This is also a bit dependent on genre. Horror regardless of system I'd prefer 1to1 ratio, maybe with some redshirts.

Both aspects are also somewhat dependent on the specific players. I've run many games for new players and it's really much better with a smaller group to provide the hand-holding and tutelage they require to become ravenous RPG fans.

Questing GM said...

The biggest table I've run for is 8 players and we were playing 3.x at that time, so you could imagine how long a single combat took.

Ideally, it would be 4 players for 3.x but we usually have 5 or more in most cases. I'm really excited to see that 4E has introduced 5 players for its default number although I haven't tested to see whether the system can hold up to it without feeling the grind.

Preferably I think a game system is solid if it can go up to 6 players and still keep moving.

James Mishler said...

The current Tuesday Night Game has five players and one judge; I'm the DM of the 1E AD&D game, and Mikel is the GM of the Rifts game.

The most I've ever run at one table was 13... or maybe 14, it's been a while. And they were all between the ages of 8 and 15. And it was D&D 3.0... so needless to say, it was interesting.

At conventions I prefer to run with no more than six players when I'm running a demo, but am open to as many as can fit around the table when it is experienced players. I think I had six or seven at the 1E AD&D pick-game two years ago... that was fun.

I think I'd be comfortable with at most eight players in a regular campaign -- more than that and I'd want to break it into two groups meeting in seperate sessions. Of course right now it is difficult enough to put together the six we have every Tuesday, and often it is four players and one judge, depending on who has to work overtime or odd shifts...

Mike said...

My current Warhammer group is 5 players, which is about my "sweet spot" for # of players.

The largest group I'm comfortable with is 7. I ran a RIFTS game for 9 players once, and that was a disaster. Anything larger than 7, and anything resembling order quickly breaks down into anarchy.

Simon said...

Four to five plus GM.

rustybattleaxe: I agree on the joy of playing in large groups with several GMs who play in parallel and sometimes meet up or shuffle. But we only succeeded in doing it for a few weeks.

We only ever did one attempt at a fight with 20 people around the table. We were young and we had to try!