All manner of scifi/fantasy/nerdness: Roleplaying, comic books, .... okay, so mainly just RPGs & comic books. And Dr. Who. And Firefly. And comic books. And role-playing games. And Community. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And comic books. And RPGs. And Avengers. And RPGS. And whatever else amuses me today...
I currently, and I should say consistently, play a game with five players. I have been doing so ever since I moved to my current location, which would now be five years of GMing, from Dark Heresy to Shadowrun to Pathfinder, and an absolute slew of games in-between.
I will openly and honestly say five is the limit.
I tried to bring in a sixth PC to games several times throughout this time period, and each time it really does not work. In my experience, six players is too many voices to accomplish a fluent story within, as there are too many attentions to attempt to keep and too many voices to listen to for one person running a game.
That’s not to say I didn’t continue to try and play with six PCs during these times, as I was determined to have everyone play, but it did lead to a direct decrease in entertainment for the players, and an increase in stress for myself as the GM to try and constantly keep all parties entertained and active.
All of this is my own experience, I do not mean to command your games or tell you what to do, but I can honestly say that I’ve tried to bridge the five-to-six gap, and it just would not fly.
I don’t think I’ve ever run a group of less than 6, my current group has 8 players, and my lifetime record thus far was a campaign that started with about 17 players.
In my experience, the number of players isn’t nearly as important as the diversity of player character archetypes. If you have 2 players both playing charisma-oriented “face” type characters, that leads to duplication of effort and somebody feeling superfluous. If most of them are damage-oriented combat junkies, then they’re going to be tripping over each other to get the first strike or kill shot in. The best thing I’ve found to preserving group cohesion and keeping it enjoyable for everyone is making sure each character has their own “lane in the road” that they know is theirs and nobody else’s.
So player management doesn’t have to be that difficult. Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that really help out in order of how important I find them:
Between #4 & 5, I was able to move through combat faster with a group of over a dozen people than you average group of 5 or 6. It helped keep combat fast-paced and dynamic. If I got to a player who didn’t have their rolls ready, then they got to involuntarily hold their action to the end of the round. By our third session that wasn’t ever a problem again.
So yeah, there’s my tips on running larger groups. Personality is also key, but it’s harder to make a rule written in stone for that. Some people get along IRL better than others. If you think a player’s personality will mesh well with your group, don’t let the number of players stop you from letting them in.
I call this “Philosophy 101 Syndrome”.
In an introductory Philosophy class, there’s always going to be that guy that knows exactly what X Philosopher meant by “A fish is a fish”, and will spend the next forty minutes exclaiming to the professor (and therefore the class) his theories.
To the point that no one else would want, or be able, to talk. Either from fear that their ideas are not as good, or from apathy over the situation, or because they don’t get a chance to get a word in edgewise.
Some players are naturally more gregarious than others. This isn’t something that needs to be fixed, but it often times needs to be contained for others to be able to speak.
The first and easiest solution is to directly ask others if they have an ideas before moving on. This can be as simple as “There’s an idea! Does anyone else have anything?” or as specific as “What do you want to do, (X other player)?”
The second option would be to go with the flow. Just because one player comes up with something that is good and first doesn’t mean they have thought of all of the angles. Take the immediate response of the spotlight player, then encourage the other players to add in effects, moments, scenes, or character-specific actions within that plan.
This keeps the player from getting the limelight by making the entire table a stage where everyone shares interest equally. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a game if one player could actually do everything.
Lastly, and this is unfavorable for most situations, you could split the party. This would appropriately force the players to create solutions for themselves, without the help of the showstealer, but it would negatively influence the concepts of teamwork and essential skill combinations of players for most systems.
Good luck! I hope things get better.
I would say that “splitting the party” in this situation doesn’t have to create an unfavorable solution. That character being poisoned/knocked unconscious, getting kidnapped, sacrificing themself for the greater good, taking on particular part of the job the others do theirs… it doesn’t have to be artificial or divisive. Just be creative with it and give them something important to the plot, while the other PCs are also struggling with a separate section of the challenge.
I played Shadowrun with a Technomancer who is potentially the world’s most laid back player.
For a guy that built his character to simply dive into the Matrix, filled with a team of combat specialists and headstrong mages, he very often took his own backseat to doing a full-on Matrix session.
With that being said, the other players universally understood when it was “his scene” in that he was allowed to go into the Matrix and research some stuff, or have a conversation with Silvery K, or find files hidden deep within ARES/Aztech territory.
I often tried to throw Matrix operations in at the same time as players were doing other operations. “Protect the Technomancer while he gets inside” was an encounter used two or three times, and generally kept everyone interested and doing their unique jobs.
However, this often took away from the Technomancer’s scene, in that he had to contend with four other people shouting plans, establishing tactics, and felt rushed into doing what he did as fast as possible to get back to the rest of the game.
My best advice is to let it slow down the game.
This sounds counter-intuitive, and I absolutely hate slowing down the game in 90% of situations, but something as specialized as full-hacking or an extended decking scene both requires and warrants a good focus on what’s happening within that situation, as well as for the operating player.
Alternatively, make the hack/deck really, really important to the other players. Make it so important that a run might live and die on the success of the hack. Then all players are equally invested, the operating player is super empowered, and everyone will be cheering for their success.
It also makes for understanding if they fail, and delicious complications for you to unravel.
Everyone’s so ingrained in D&D-inspired advice like “never split the party”/”never let one player hog the spotlight” that they carry it into other games or settings where it simply doesn’t work. What corruptionpoints writes goes for rigging, recon/scrying, the face, and depending on the party even the climactic fight against the BBEG.
A great run in SR—to me at least—plays more like a spy thriller, with each specialist getting their 15 minutes, their one chance to push everyone forward with success or to throw the next team member into an improvisational lurch thanks to their failure.
If the entire team is together in a gunfight—the muscle and street sam, sure, but also the decker, rigger, and magical glass cannon trying to figure out how to load and aim their pea shooters—and playing out a D&D-style “encounter” of “kill all the minis on the board that aren’t yours”, someone done fragged the pooch bad.
If it’s business hours, they shouldn’t be in the same room, maybe not even the same area code.
And if they’re not on the clock? Whoever makes it out alive is in charge of taking a monowhip to their fixer’s neck and drekking down their throat.
A lot of my posts have been critical of games and settings, specific parts of broader communities, $*** Gamers Say—that sort of stuff. It might be nice to talk about the game and setting that got me into RPGs, and especially fantasy role-playing games, in the first place.
Reblogging because Earthdawn. <3
no one, ever (via direhuman)
I think what you’re looking for is a Class. I’ve done a few custom prestige classes for my players, but they always get upset when there are any prerequisites at all. To which I just say, “Do you want a PRESTIGE class, or just a multiclass?” If you want cool things you’ve got to pay the piper.