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Handling big gaming group as a GM


Advice


1 person marked this as a favorite.

So i'm a gm and my group just grew from 5 to 7 player (and they are asking me for and 8 :V ).

I never handled group this big so i hoped that sone more experienced master can give some some advices.i'm particularly worried about:

-Less time for each player = less roleplay, how can i avoid this?

-For the campaign to become really slow; i really wanna avoid this

-handling 7 pg at once

Thanks in advice for any help :)


add 8, split the party into 2 groups, and run 2 sessions. You DM cause you like it, and running the same campaign twice is easier than running two new ones.


Yeah, the split is the best option. If you have oodles of time, each group can meet once a week. This won't work well for most APs (Except Kingmaker). The RPPR audio game "Heroes of New Arcadia" did this and it worked out. Though more work for the GM.


HarbinNick wrote:
You DM cause you like it

Cool, most DMs I know, including myself just DM because someone has to do it. Not because it is so much fun.


Really? I'd prefer to DM 75% of the time and play 25%. I find the limelight quite fun. Sadly in uni I had to DM 100% of the time. I was a popular DM but people refused to let me play.


It helps to keep everyone focused. Many times in combat, by the time someone's turn comes up they are distracted. Get them to move mini's for you or handle initiative if they have a short attention span.

When I make up encounters I did it as if I was making an encounter for 2 groups. I should have also reduced the number of encounters to get more story time in, but I did not think of it at the time.


split the groups, but don't run the same adventure for them both. I tried it, it burns you out quick.


Splitting the groups is a good option also, if you have time to run two games.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Split the group. 6 is about as big as you can go and the game still be fun for everyone. The 2 problems you mention can be mitigated to a degree, but you *cannot* avoid them entirely.

If you are dead set on finding out why a 7-person group is not a good idea, you can mitigate the suck by doing the following:

ban Leadership
ban summoners, and in fact all summoning spells
ban animate dead
ban animal companions and familiars; force players to pick alternate class features such as druid domain or bonded item instead (mounts are OK unless the player insists on his mount taking full attacks in combat instead of being a vehicle for charges--if so, ban mounts)
use a low point buy
use narrative level gain instead of XP

In short, ban anything that would add MORE friendly combatants. Your players will cry and whine but that's the price of a large group.


Thanks to all for the advices, expecially Charlie bell and wraithsnake.

Splitting the group seem a good idea but i don't have the time to do it :( so i'll to try and see how it go (in the worst case scenario i'll "just" have to say to the new players "sorry i can't play well with this many people").

I'm in a custom campaign so some adjustment are not a problem. A friend of mine suggested to take one of the player as a side-dm for helping me but i don't have any idea of how this work ...

Contributor

In my experience of DMing a 6-player group for the last few years, they don't all turn up at once. It's usual for me to have a 3 or 4 player group at any one time. If they did all turn up at once I'd probably have to adjust the encounters, but it works out satisfyingly since I can usually run an AP as written with the ones who do turn up.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

I use these table rules to help keep things moving quickly and smoothly. If everybody is not on the ball in combat it will be 30 minutes in between a player's turn and his next turn.

Initiative: Know what you are doing before your turn comes up in the initiative order. That implies paying attention to the fight when it’s not your turn so you know what is going on. Declare your action at the beginning of your turn. A combat round is only 6 seconds, so if you take too long to declare an action, I will start counting down. If you haven’t declared an action before the countdown ends, you delay by default and can reenter the initiative order after anyone else's turn. Think fast! I will be more lenient if you are the first one to act in combat.

Attack and Damage Rolls: To speed combats, please roll your attack and damage dice together, using same colored dice for each attack. If you have multiple attacks due to a feat or high base attack bonus, indicate beforehand which attack bonus applies to which color dice, then roll them all at once.

Spells, Special Attacks, Special Abilities: If you are casting a spell, using a special ability, performing a combat maneuver, or doing some other special attack or action, please have the rulebook open to the relevant page (or have the rule pulled up on d20pfsrd.com) when your turn comes up in the initiative order. Again, I will be more lenient if you are the first one to act in combat.

Talking in Combat: Speaking is a free action. Free actions can only be taken when it is your turn. That means that in combat, you can only talk to your fellow party members when it is your turn—no instantly formulating ten minutes’ worth of tactics in 6 seconds worth of combat. I enforce this rule strictly. However, you are permitted and encouraged to help other players with rules questions, etc. The telepathy special ability and spells such as telepathic bond allow instantaneous communication, even when it is not your turn, and can therefore be used to circumvent this restriction.


I've a similar (but smaller) problem. My group usually has 5~6 players.

And that's about as many as I'm willing to DM to. Better have only 5 guys having fun than all 8 getting bored.

In addition to Charlies's advice, I suggest you pre-roll your NPC/monsters' initiatives. And make the player roll 4~5 initiatives as they arrive. This saves a lot of time.

Make similar enemies share Initiative. (e.g.: All goblins' initiative is 3, all wolves' is 16, etc.).

If they are still allowed, make animal companions/eidolon/familiar/summons act in the same initiave as the PC controlling them.

The big problem is that not only bigger parties have more members, but they require more monsters per encounter.
In the end, the best solution would still be splitting the group in two.


Charlie Bell wrote:

I use these table rules to help keep things moving quickly and smoothly. If everybody is not on the ball in combat it will be 30 minutes in between a player's turn and his next turn.

Initiative: Know what you are doing before your turn comes up in the initiative order. That implies paying attention to the fight when it’s not your turn so you know what is going on. Declare your action at the beginning of your turn. A combat round is only 6 seconds, so if you take too long to declare an action, I will start counting down. If you haven’t declared an action before the countdown ends, you delay by default and can reenter the initiative order after anyone else's turn. Think fast! I will be more lenient if you are the first one to act in combat.

Attack and Damage Rolls: To speed combats, please roll your attack and damage dice together, using same colored dice for each attack. If you have multiple attacks due to a feat or high base attack bonus, indicate beforehand which attack bonus applies to which color dice, then roll them all at once.

Spells, Special Attacks, Special Abilities: If you are casting a spell, using a special ability, performing a combat maneuver, or doing some other special attack or action, please have the rulebook open to the relevant page (or have the rule pulled up on d20pfsrd.com) when your turn comes up in the initiative order. Again, I will be more lenient if you are the first one to act in combat.

Talking in Combat: Speaking is a free action. Free actions can only be taken when it is your turn. That means that in combat, you can only talk to your fellow party members when it is your turn—no instantly formulating ten minutes’ worth of tactics in 6 seconds worth of combat. I enforce this rule strictly. However, you are permitted and encouraged to help other players with rules questions, etc. The telepathy special ability and spells such as telepathic bond allow instantaneous communication, even when it is not your turn, and can therefore be used to...

These are really good rules to follow. +1

I have had groups as large as 11 players. First and foremost it can be exhausting. Some additional things to do that help alot.
- Have one player track everyone on the table including mooks with an initiative tracker.
- Use minis so there needs to be much less tactical descriptive discussion.
- I have used a player as an assistant DM. A good way to do this is when the group is split. I let the waiting players run some of the NPCs in combat against the players. I generally give the player/dm assistant a short narrative of the mooks intent such as "Attack joes character first by whatever means necessary in order to incapicatiate him before you move on the freds character. If you become too wounded say 25% hp then perform a fighting retreat." This can really backfire so you have to pay attention to how its going but since I have issued the order of attack the player is harmless from party blame.
Another way for assistant DM is simply research assistant, prep rule pages, look up questions, things like that.
Another is to have a trusted player/dm run the satellite groups encounter as you run the main encounter. (I never discourage splitting the party, in fact I rather enjoy the tension it can build) This approach really requires you to have a semi permanant assistant that you can "read in" to the part of the game that he/she is assisting with. This works well in an ongoing campaign where a pc dies and the party is in no way near any sort of area where a new pc can feasably be introduced.
- In larger groups i tend to use alot more fudge factor than in smaller games. The reason is more suited to the flow of the story than anything else.
I am sure there are more good ideas for larger games but the best thing I can think of is be ready to adlib, alot.


Lemmy wrote:

I've a similar (but smaller) problem. My group usually has 5~6 players.

And that's about as many as I'm willing to DM to. Better have only 5 guys having fun than all 8 getting bored.

In addition to Charlies's advice, I suggest you pre-roll your NPC/monsters' initiatives. And make the player roll 4~5 initiatives as they arrive. This saves a lot of time.

Make similar enemies share Initiative. (e.g.: All goblins' initiative is 3, all wolves' is 16, etc.).

If they are still allowed, make animal companions/eidolon/familiar/summons act in the same initiave as the PC controlling them.

The big problem is that not only bigger parties have more members, but they require more monsters per encounter.
In the end, the best solution would still be splitting the group in two.

In our group we handle initiatives once per encounter and as you have suggested I make all mooks go in initiatives by type or group. we then track everything on a tracker board and this has all but eliminated the "ok who's turn is it" This also helps you to enforce the you have 6 seconds make-em count rule.

Also, while I do agree with permanantly splitting the group, I didn't suggest splitting the group in two because it has been well covered by all, however this may not really be an option for you if your players want to game with each other or if you only have time to run one group.

Cheliax

eleclipse wrote:

So i'm a gm and my group just grew from 5 to 7 player (and they are asking me for and 8 :V ).

I never handled group this big so i hoped that sone more experienced master can give some some advices.i'm particularly worried about:

-Less time for each player = less roleplay, how can i avoid this?

-For the campaign to become really slow; i really wanna avoid this

-handling 7 pg at once

Thanks in advice for any help :)

The game breaks down at 7 people. The group needs to split or it will reduce everyone's collective enjoyment by a significant amount.

This is a big issue I've noticed as I've played the game for the past six months. I always feel like an ass when trying to start a game because part of the circle of players won't be invited once the table hits 5-6 players. At the other extreme, if you only get a table of 3, and one person cancels, then you might not be able to play.

A table of four or five is the sweet spot and everyone should make an effort to ensure that. Split up and run two tables on the same day if you guys want to game together and enjoy everyone's company before/after the game and during breaks.

For PFSociety I'm at the point now where I just want to prep any mod I'm signed up to play; just in case we're forced to have a 7 person table I'd gladly run a new one. It's just not fun with 7.


I can't really add anything here other than to say that I do much the same in my groups as a DM and a player.

1) Have someone track the initiative order (can be rotated around week to week or the same player who likes doing it). Speeds up combat so that the GM isn't tracking everything.
2) Have someone be the rules looker-upper, probably the most rules savvy player in your group. This speeds up time for having to look up rules by the DM. He or she can have the rules in hand for the GM if needed.
3) Enforce a time limit as has been said above, give 30-60 seconds to take their action and then place them in delay status if they don't do it fast enough.
4) Again, as said above, roll damage dice and attack dice at the SAME time, this speeds things up considerably as well.
5) Damage Bonus(es) - I've personally made up a spreadsheet to keep track of my damage outputs based on what my character does. This adds in all possible damage output for my barbarian/fighter that I play (power attack, overhand chop, enlarge, rage, magical weapon(s), etc). If players have a lot of different feats, powers, spells that they can do I suggest having them come to the table with things like this already added up so that it's faster than sitting there counting out with their fingers how much they did.
6) I do the same thing with my ATTACK bonus(es) and AC bonus(es) as I do with my Damage bonus(es) I created another spreadsheet so that I know what they are when certain things are applied or subtracted.
7) I agree with keeping the mooks/minions all in one group and acting together, keep the BBEG separate, makes combat go faster.
8) Personally, I hate splitting the party in-game and wouldn't do so with the group either. Splitting in-game leads to more time where you are interacting with the parties separately and the one that you aren't interacting with is very bored. I wouldn't run a separate game either, but that's a personal preference and one that you have to decide upon for yourself.

Silver Crusade

We usually trade turns on who puts the inititive on the board, the damage by the monsters, etc. This is never done by the Master... just the initial setup for placement.

If a player has additional help (animal companion, etc), they should be ready to declare both and roll all at the same time. If they don't have enough dice to handle it, let them borrow, but encourage they buy additional dice.

As was suggested above, we also do groups of monsters together. If we have a mixed group, say orcs and worgs attacking, the orcs go together and the worgs go together as determined by a single initiative roll. And unless something changes, we usually just go with a single initiative roll at the beginning of each combat instead of each turn, unless someone does something that could change this...

You don't have to roll dice until everything is dead. If you can tell this is going to be a decisive victory, move to box text and describe the final moments.

If you are short on time, use email to handle base treasure/loot unless you have something special that you want them to look through.

I also like to prepare player "handouts" (clues, mysterious items, etc). I'll give it to them as we are about to go on break or to one of the members a day or so before we meet again. This allows either the group to focus on a handout while they get drinks and go to the restroom or a single player has found something and can either discuss it with the others or feel he has some inside information.

It also depends a large degree on your group makeup. Ours is a bit unusual as we always have more female players than male players (because the girls don't want to be the GM). We tend to have more roleplaying moments and showcase the really important fights. Before this, I have to say I was more hack and slash oriented and didn't really know it. Know what's important to your group and put an extra 15-20 minutes on that side of the scale.

Decide ahead of time how you are going to handle people missing. Does someone play their character? Do you pull them from the group (even if they are the only healer)? As most of us are married, if one of the pair is missing, the other one handles it. We also use a lot of NPCs and if they have something to do with one of the characters (family member, friend, "special friend", etc) we have the player take over their character sheet during combat. The GM still gets to do their one-liners (don't give over all control, just the dice rolling) and make their decisions, but the players deal with the mechanical aspects.

Setup situations at the beginning of the session for a limited group of players. Whether it is in a town and one of your NPCs talks to a player, or you have relationships within the group (brother/sister, lovers) that will talk about what has gone on previously. Or talk about someone else in the group and what they are doing. Use dreams to involve a character that might be shy to engage the others. Basically, create box text to build a group dynamic and get them talking to each other as their characters. The game isn't all about rolling dice and killing fiends. Once they talk to each other, the combat will work more fluidly and you'll enjoy it a lot more.

Most of all keep it fun for you and watch to make sure your players are having fun. It can be done in large groups, but it takes more work on your part, more help from your players and more interaction and patience.

We also trade out between a couple of game masters and different sets of characters so that the GM doesn't burn out and blow a gasket trying to work up material. In each of our down times, we try to build bones and flesh out stuff so you don't have to do so much on a weekly basis. I would propose this early and see if someone else is interested in taking a stab at their own campaign. Some will fail, but you hope that you can trade off and both enjoy crafting the story and playing in someone else's story as well. Good for the creative soul...

Sczarni

My advice is to use Google Sites. You can set this up so that every character sheet and important stat is at your finger tips. No more looking up stats on sheets or items on sheets or asking who has what AC or spell DC. Its a click and there is all the info you need. Just look up th Pathfinder theme that SRD put out.

I made my players roll initiative once at the beginning of every session and that was what they got. I recently added in a chance to reroll the initiative ONCE but you had to take that second roll. This made it so we didn't have any confusion or changing order. It was a simple order established early.

To avoid everyone talking over everyone else I also made it very clear that the party typically has a face for a reason, so by default if there was a social interaction the party face was going to be who I went to unless they tell me to look to someone else. If its not a social time I use the raise your hand method.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Last week I actually had a surprise big group.
I had been trying to add a new player to the group for a while with little luck, and I had missed two weeks b/c I was on vacation. So when I got back I invited a new guy and he showed up. On Thursday evening (we play on Friday), I got an email to find out that one of my players had also invited 2 new players. So a normal group of 4 players turned into 7, and I had a little less than 24 hours to double the size of the game. To add insult to injury, I had killed two players the week before so I had to introduce 5 new PCs to a group of 2 and not completely destroy the narrative and plot.

I was lucky and had a big fight that was coming up that allowed me to just add 3-4 more low level mooks and and 1 mid mook. Also one of my players had to cancel.

One thing that really helps me is that we alternate weeks, so I have 2 weeks to prepare instead of 1. This really helps since we're all adults and have things like families and jobs.

Also be prepared. Type out your outline for this nights game, and keep a master document of everything that you do. Keep notes. It can be really easy to forget the name of the bar keep or the inn or the town, not to mention how many days it took to get where you are going or other small details that can hurt your game flow.


Do inititive differently. Instead of going in order. Everyone who beats the monster gets to go in round 1, then the monster, Then start round 2, with everyone going round robin, monsters going last.

-- Delaying an action = skipping a round

-- Readying an action is allowed but does not there after change inititive order due to the round robin style.

-- Ask players to have a default action. If you decide they are taking to long, they must skip their turn or take their default action against the nearest logical target.


Lots of combat advice which is much needed. I used a visual aid with clothes pin on my DM screen for initiative order displays. Easy to see and follow. Names and colors on the clothes pins.

Out of combat advice, if u have a scene where u want npcs played out have your other pcs that might not be in the scene act them out. Perhaps a small script to follow. It adds flavor and keeps everyone involved. My 10 person group loved it. Sadly, sometimes they would get so wrapped up in the npc that the scene would last longer, bit heck they were having fun. Just my 2 co worth.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

Aristin76 wrote:
Lots of combat advice which is much needed. I used a visual aid with clothes pin on my DM screen for initiative order displays. Easy to see and follow. Names and colors on the clothes pins.

I do the same thing with the names on cut up pieces of index cards. That makes it easy when you have a delay or ready because you just hand the player the card and then they give it back to you when they want to come back in the order. Besides each PC, I have 3 other tags: Badguys, The Boss, and NPCs. If there's a special boss or NPC I might make an additional tag for them.

Some players will get distracted. Make your most easily distracted player track PC spell durations. If they drop the ball all buffs end immediately. That's kind of the nuclear option for keeping a distracted player on track, but it does work.

I also take volunteers for some extra duties such as mapper, handout keeper, chronicler (keeps track of the in-game calendar and gives a recap at the beginning of the session), party treasurer, party XP tracker, and social coordinator (reminds people about games and tracks who's showing up or not, where the game is held, start time, who's bringing food, etc.).

Making maps beforehand saves you a lot of in game time drawing maps on a blank battle mat. If you're artistic, you can even make really nice ones.

Taldor

I have a regular game with 6-8 players. I haven't altered initiative much beyond when I announce whose turn is coming up I will also tell the next player that they are coming up next. That usually gets them focused on deciding their actions while PC #1 is having their turn.

It is difficult to avoid cross-talk and out of game distractions with a group this size, but overall everyone gets their moments to shine and seems happy with it.

This week I took a slightly more hands-off approach; instead of strictly keeping the party focused on their objectives (they do need reminders as to why they are on this mission), I let them discuss plans at length among themselves. It helped them to establish trust, heirarchy, and relations between PCs who may have spoken twice to each other before and yet are trusting each other with their lives.


1. No pets/cohorts/companions/eidolons. That does disallow two classes.
2. No more than one summoned critter per side at a time.
3. Have "full defense" add a little something extra like +1 to all saves, thus making it a decent option when a player doesn’t have much to do. Allow FD to flank.
4. Never split the party. Be ruthless here.
5. No coaching, except for newbies. But yes, a PC can yell "heal me!" or "flank him" or something out of his round.
Don’t worry, I now play with 6+dm and it's not that big of an issue

Sczarni

DrDeth wrote:

1. No pets/cohorts/companions/eidolons. That does disallow two classes.

2. No more than one summoned critter per side at a time.
3. Have "full defense" add a little something extra like +1 to all saves, thus making it a decent option when a player doesn’t have much to do. Allow FD to flank.
4. Never split the party. Be ruthless here.
5. No coaching, except for newbies. But yes, a PC can yell "heal me!" or "flank him" or something out of his round.
Don’t worry, I now play with 6+dm and it's not that big of an issue

What two classes does that disallow? Every class has an option to do away with its extra pet/cohort/companion/eidolon.


I've done 8 before, but usually just for a miniseries (pregenerated characters within a well established campaign world, @5 long session game). It took a lot of energy to run it.

I've run slightly smaller (6-7 players) games before as well on a more normal basis. For these I'd ideally like an assistant GM, but I've found that not too many people enjoy that role. What I have found really useful is to recruit some older players who are willing to do a limited commitment 'animating' some of my major antagonists and major minions of same. Basically they're game for a cameo appearance and usually some impromptu setting of direction, objectives, etc via email or cellphone, their own kids/family/job preventing anything larger than that. As to the players, I find that experienced players require less energy than green ones once they are effectively 'housebroken'---i.e., they've managed to grok the different game contract I tend to run with (much more simulationist than gamist/narrativist than the mean).

What I've found really helps---a LOT---is to have LOTS of space available---typically a long conference room style table with lots of dry erase boards surrounding it. This makes many things a lot easier with large groups. Often I'll reduce the granularity of combat from miniatures table style to American football play diagram style. A dry erase board is very useful there. Allowing initiative 'blocks' of several players or monsters at a time is helpful also in managing your hordes. Dice of several colors helps too---so you can simulataneously roll to hit, crit confirmation, etc to keep things moving quickly in combat. Some like using automatic rolling via computer, but most of my players are old-school and find the tangible dice preferable---I admit the same is true for me. But if you're not that way, automatic mass rolling programs and such can speed things up pretty nicely--I first saw this in use back in the late 80s at a convention with a high powered Champions game.

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