Most RPGs are designed for 4 players and one GM. Having one extra player or being short 1 player is usually easy enough to work around. But some of the more popular twitch shows and podcasts are featuring big parties of players, anywhere from 7-10! This is pushing a lot of players, especially newbie game seekers, into thinking that this is the norm.
This is not the norm we grew up with, but that might be changing. And even if it is not, we are still going to find ourselves with more people interested in playing a game than actually running a game. We at BEG love to promote and encourage new GMs as much as we can. The world needs more people like you running games! So for this week’s article, here is a quick list of some of the problems that come up with a large group and some tips on how deal with them.
Games tend to lose a lot of their fun when you spend 10 minutes waiting for each 1 minute turn. Most GM guides will have tips in the official books about combining dice rolls or setting time limits. For a large group, we find it also helps to combine combat encounters with trap or puzzle encounters. The idea is to keep everyone engaged in what is going and let them use the time in between to work out the trap/puzzle.
Spotlights and Shadows
It can be hard to work an adventure where everyone has a chance to shine, especially when you have 2 parties-worth of players. Communication is always helpful, and experienced players learn to accept that not every session can be all about them. But rather than leaving 7 PCs in the shadows each scene, often times it helps to have your spotlight moments center around multiple player characters: good/bad cop, bait and switch, strike high and low, fast ball special, and other iconic moments actually require two people. Not only does this help reduce the number of spotlight moments you need, but it also encourages relationships between PCs.
While communication is always good, too many cooks in a kitchen often leads to a lot of talk and not a lot of actual resolution. While there should be times to allow the group to discuss major decisions, you do want to keep the game moving forward without OOC scolding the players. Try to push things in game appropriately by reminding them of what happens if they wait too long. Nothing encourages the party to move forward like a giant boulder rolling down the tunnel behind them.
Metagaming is not a bad thing in and of its self, but it can be (and often is) misused to the players’ advantage. The most common way to deal with this is counter with penalties to experience points or difficulty checks when it occurs, but use this method sparingly. If one player blurts out some information that their character should not in game be able to communicate to another player, you can also remind that player that their character does not know this information and encourage them to act in character. Only deal out punishments if the players are unable (or refuse) to try and fix the problem on their end.
These are some of the most common problems that come out, or are exponentially magnified, when you have large groups. What are some other problems you have experienced? Or solutions? Or amazing fun stories? Share your tales with us!