Any advice for running an 8-man (or more...) group?


I teach Theater to High-Schoolers who somehow found out that this is a hobby of mine and asked me to GM for them. 3 people turned into 4, 4 to 6, and 6 to 8, with the possibility of another 9th player. I'm expecting to have at least 6 be able to make it every session.

Because there are so many of them, I was planning on setting up sessions as one-shots from an Adventurer's Guild, with the overall plot leading from level 1 to a supreme BBEG, most likely at 20th level.

I'm also considering banning Summoners and the Leadership feat, as I can foresee the numbers going atomic.

I'm worried about encounters not being challenging enough for them, as well as wealth distribution and encounters taking too long. I'm also nervous about boredom and schisms in the party due to having so many opinions present.

Ultimately, I want them to have a fun time (Only two of them have played RPGs before, and only one of those has played Pathfinder) while still keeping everything balanced and exciting.

Are there any guides, threads, or just general ideas you have for running a campaign with a big group?

What are the biggest challenges I as a GM would (be likely to) face?

Anything I should prepare for or be aware of?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Can you split them into two parties of 4?

Otherwise, you're going to have a ton of cross talk and "face time" will be severely limited.

If you can't split the group, definitely ban summoning and pets. Make spellcasters pre-roll their damage dice.

Make them roll attack rolls and damage rolls at the same time. Give out Vital Strike and Improved Vital Strike and Greater Vital Strike for free and get rid of iterative attacks. Make crits simple x2 or x3, not rolling twice and only multiplying some things (for example, multiply sneak attack damage.

Consider making Saving Throws static (10 + the normal bonuses) and making spellcasters roll their saving DC (1d20 + spell level + etc.). Then only the active casters are doing something, the defenders are being passive, so it will move quicker.

Pre-roll initiative. Or just get rid of it and go around the table in order.

You will probably need to double or triple the numbers of monsters or come up with another way to counter the Action Economy disparity, like using 5th Edition's Legendary Actions and Lair Actions.

(Honestly, I would run 5th Edition, it's a lot easier and elegant to run, with a lot less math, so turns go REALLY quickly!)

Agree, no Pets or Summons.

If you're only going to have 5 to 6 of them at the table per gaming session, it won't be too bad. You'll have to figure out a reason why those people can keep jumping in and out of the story.

Have them make out little cards with all their calculations already done. Nothing slows the game down more then some one trying to add up 4 to 5 different numbers.

You need something to stick out in the middle of the table where everyone can see that you can write Player Group Buffs on. Tell the Players they are responsible for those buffs and try to add those buffs after their turn is over, tough. Rolling the game back a person or 3 is a royal pain.

Going around the table in order goes a lot faster then trying to figure out where people are in initiative order. Also allows people to know when their turn is coming up and they should be prepped for it.
If you do want to play with Initiative, I've found folding a 3x5 card in 1/2 and having everyone write their names on both sides in big letters. Then set these named tents up in order where everyone can see them works best. It's easy to move those name tents around for people that delay or ready actions. Maybe have them pre-roll a bunch of initiatives and have those name tents set up ahead of time.

Suggest your first run or two with everyone be a simple dungeon crawl. Social events can be a lot of fun but take a lot of prep work on the GM part and will almost always leave someone out and bored.

Stay away from stuff that can nerf players characters due to bad dice rolls. How you figure if it's bad or not, is if it's something that can completely freeze the player out of a encounter if his dice are cold and can't make the DC roll. A good example of this is the Cause Fear spell. It is not that fun to spend 1D4 round running away and then you need to spend those same 1D4 rounds running back.

Some fun stuff you might want to try out -

This link takes you to a bunch of modules, of which some are free downloads.

Grab the Pathfinder Module: We Be Goblins.

This is a module where your table gets to run around and play goblins. The more crazy and insane you're players are, the more crazy and insane fun everyone can have.

Just be sure you tell everyone that this is a one shot and that Goblins aren't really a legal pathfinder character race...unless you, as GM decide it's legal :)

Liberty's Edge

Combats will take forever. Do what you can to speed things up on your side.

Have all similar monsters have the same stats and avoid needless diversity in monsters.

Preroll your NPCs' rolls to hit, damage and saves and skills if needed for each round of combat. If you have more than two similar monsters in your adventure, three sets of prerolled values is enough : the 4th monster uses the same set as the 1st one and so on

Some awesome suggestions. Thanks guys.

Can any of them GM? If you have 2 players who are skilled enough to run, then you just supervise 2 groups of 3.

You could make half the characters heroes and the other half villains, having 2 teams playing at odds with each other. I once played a Tick-themed RPG, where I was one of the Idea Men. It was stoopud fun.

The big problem with the large group is wandering minds and chatter. You will need to keep giving everyone something to do while they await your roving attention. It might work really well if you incorporate LARPing elements into your RPG. Create physical challenges that simulate swinging across a chasm, picking a lock, building a raft, whipping the locals into a combat-ready militia, finessing information out of the town guard, digging through arcane scrolls for magical clues, etc. Break up the tabletop narrative to act out certain scenes. That will dispel boredom and occupy everyone's attention who can't have yours.

I've done this a couple of times, once with 9 people.

General DM'ing advice:

1.) Have reasonable expectations for in session progress. you will cover less ground than a 4 man party. Make the fewer encounters more interesting.

2.) Do not be a rules hawk. Handwave confusing situations, so people stay plugged in. Pathfinder can totally bog down when a bunch of bites, grabs and grapples happen to 6 players.

3.) Don't worry if it's too easy. Focus on it being fun/interesting.

Specific concerns/thoughts:

1.) In 9 person parties, an appropriate APL encounter is very often lethal to a PC. This is because you have more monsters or tougher monsters. Even though the monsters are doomed to lose, the extra dice on the initial round of attacks typically drops a front line PC. If you concentrate fire, players will go down frequently. In our 9 man 4th campaign, we had 3 incapped players a fight on average (actually dying is very hard in 4th). This despite 3 healers; be aware.

2.) I've never had trouble with summoners or pets in big games. The trouble usually comes from slow players. If a player wants to play a controller class, give them a test session to make sure they can make decisions. You'll likely have a lot of people who want to play a druid with a wolf or tiger. It's a major archetype.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

One thing to be aware of, is that in such large groups, the people with the lowest initiatives don't ever get to do anything since the combat is usually over by the time their turn wraps around. It's no fun watching others get to roleplay while you sit on the sidelines. You will want to take steps to make sure everyone gets an equal share of the action, such as by adding more NPCs and monsters to encounters (though that may slow things down, causing its own problems). Don't make them nastier, just add more of the same.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

If you have 8 players, roll 1d8 to determine which player goes first.

You can "fake it" and have a mixture of goblins, orcs, and gnolls, but give them the same stats so it's easier for you to run. Or mostly the same stats.

If a monster gets reduced to 1 to 6 hit points, it's dead. Move on.

Just try to be as efficient as possible.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Boxing gloves.

Liberty's Edge

I also work at a high school, and I run the gaming club. If it is at all possible, split into two or more tables. PFS scenarios are good for a group like this for three reasons. The continuity of a campaign setting is not so good when each school year means a new group of players. The chronicle sheet experience and loot format simplifies record keeping. Scenarios are the easiest way to have rotating GMs.

You and your new players will have the most satisfaction by running 2 games, just rotating the week's of play. Remember its intended to be a social game, and 8 (plus GM) tends to not allow for nearly as much social interaction. Combat problems have already been pointed out as well, and with new players, no amount of prompting and pre-calc of math will improve this much.

If you're looking for a way to continually intergrate/replace players some kind of mercenary guild (or PFS as others pointed out), where the group does more "one-shot" or 2 session type adventures which allows various players to slip in and out

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

My normal game table has 8 PC's and we haven't had any real problems in our campaigns, but we stick to the following guidelines/rules:

1.) Keep a tight control on crazy race/class/feat combinations. The less "weird stuff" in your game the easier it will be for everybody.

2.) Absolutely NO Min-Max characters. In our game no PC may begin with any stat below 8 AFTER racial modifiers.

3.) Double the number of any "mook" enemies to counter action economy problems and have them all act on the same initiative roll.

4.) Give the Advanced Template to all "Boss" enemies and then double their new HP totals. This will prevent what should be a thrilling end battle from becoming a cake-walk as five people smash the enemy before it even acts.

5.) Pre-Draw out any needed maps on 1" grid paper / game mats, etc... whenever possible. Not having to draw things in game is a HUGE savings on time and keeps the action flowing.

6.) Likewise, have any needed miniatures / pawns sorted out and ready to go. Don't spend time digging through your collection for every fight.

7.) Print up cheat-sheets that have the combat stats of every enemy that will be faced in that session. This saves another HUGE amount of time wasted flipping between various books since you have it all in front of you.

8.) Ban all electronic devices from the table. Nothing stagnates a game like a player who has no idea what is going on because they were playing a game on their phone instead of watching the actions of the other players and deciding what to do as events unfold.

9.) All treasure gets divided equally into "shares". If people want to claim an item, it gets deducted from their share or they can toss in additional gold if their share isn't sufficient. If they can't afford it....too bad, unless the entire party is willing to give up the portion of their shares that the item generates.


Second on the electronic devices.

Grand Lodge

It sounds like most of these house rules and guidelines might help you with your group.

Here is some additional advice on creating characters for new Pathfinder and/or RPG players.

I hope this helps!

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