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Coy



Joined: 28 Mar 2010
Posts: 5
Location: England

PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 12:24 pm    Post subject: The Big Group Issue - Save Us! Reply with quote

A campaign that i currently play in has 8 people, 1 dm and 7 players.

It originally started with a small quintissential band of 4 characters in a tavern, a group that i myself was not part of. The number went from 4 to 3, and this is where i joined (in response to advertisment) to pick up the numbers again, without knowing anyone beforehand.

Now when a character joins a party, there is an 'out of synch' problem both out and in game where players have to test the waters with eachother, what the mood of a group is, and more; while in game the characters must join up with eachother for a valid reason or another, avoid meaningless conflict, etc. This went well, for various reasons such as ingame i had several chances at it (I had a DMPC to start with who 'found' a vampire, then my first character died due to an unfortunate encounter with a swarm of malevolent fey.)

This left me determined to make a par for the course, relativly optimised warrior (not a favourite of mine, but needed role at this point) with an alignment that meshed with the party (but again, not my favourite).

Because of interest and various factors, our group has swelled, as mentioned before, with a group of various and loveable players that, as the group before made me welcome, we were happy to do the same.

What was not the same, and is the crux of this thread and overdone backstory, is the level of integration or 'party template', or level of optimisation, or rules knowledge, or ability or confidence or will to do some roleplaying. Which is... everything isn't it?

With 7 players, the only combats that challenge us last more that one session of 3 to 4 hours. Personally, i love combat, but the round progression sometimes grinds to a patience pushing halt. There are so many modifiers and rules to remember the players, and our DM, can hardly keep up. This naturally leaves the less enthusiastic behind, and i bet can be hard to cope with on your DnD night.

I myself and conscious of being the 'combat star' thanks to unnaturally good stat roles and relatively high optimisation. Even worse than that, i somtimes feel like the resident rules lawyer who just wants to drag down everyones party (when all this lost soul wants is to help everyone have organised, constructive fun!) And this is something i feel is helping to fortify the problems we have.

Conversly, roleplay intensive sessions (our DM loves his courts and politics!) can leave other players left behind/in the dog house (sometimes literally) and frustrated. And it also leaves some people who might otherwise have joined in to not (myself included) to help speed things along or not get in the way.

Character decisions that seemed like sense or fun (for example I took leadership because we needed a cleric - yea...) now only slow us down. Character development and interaction seem distant memories and possibilites to us all, which is something we would all like to do in game but just can't because we are so god darnned polite and conscious of hogging the spotlight in this or ANY facet of the game.

So I leave you with a challenge. I want tricks, i want tips, suggestions that defy the normal and suspend common assumptions that can save us from our unique and positively self-imposed problem.

Thanks for sticking with the read above and thanks for all advice given, as it will most likely be tried out. And if you can unpick it from the general tragic play, advice to me on how i can fix my own problems i feel i am inflicting on the group.
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Cat



Joined: 09 Dec 2007
Posts: 387
Location: Montreal,QC

PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 6:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wish I had answers for you, and as I myself play in a game with 1 DM and 7 players, I probably should have something. I don't know if the problems you have are completely inevitable with a large party. Different people bring different things to the game, and especially since it seems as though you don't quite know each other very well? How long have you been playing together?

I'm sure it might be difficult, since you say you are all conscious of 'hogging the spotlight' and being polite, which I completely understand, but all I can think of is how some of the best moments in our games have come from characters who absolutely say or do the wrong thing, and then us having to fix the situation. When you say your role-playing portions of the game leave some people behind or 'in the dog house', I wonder if those moments can't be used. If someone has nothing to do, adding a very quick and light interaction between a given character and an NPC, or even just two party characters, might help things. Often, little asides like that lead to amusing storylines and/or conversations. If someone's in the dog house, can the other characters use that? Can they try to help the character or find some way to turn it into some sort of advantage, or just a common occurrence for that character, a personality trait that you take into consideration before entering into court and all its politics?

It seems like some people like combat, and some like the non-combat.....or both. Do you think that there can be a balance between people who are more useful in a fight and those who are more useful outside of a fight?

I asked more questions than anything else - I'm sorry!
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Matt



Joined: 02 Feb 2008
Posts: 1340
Location: Montreal

PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is how the combat goes on an ideal night at our place. We've improved over the years but it's taken some effort.

- Initiatives: Everyone roles and shouts out the numbers. 2 minutes later the DM has arranged our names in order on cue cards. The first cue card is always one that says "new round" so that we know the passage of time. By the third round players should know who is going before them so that they know they are next and should have something prepared. Nobody should have to wait for you to decide what you want to do. Big time sucker.

- Rules. Rules discussions will always come up during a fight or throughout the session. This is normal. What's good is to move on whenever possible while someone else looks up the rules and can inform the DM on what it says. It would be nice to have one person in charge of this. Example: You fighter is trying to grapple something. Token grapple argument ensues. You move on to Rogues turn who starts doing his thing while the rules guy looks up grapple which should be bookmarked. Rules guy finds the rule, waits for the rogue to stop counting the D6s and tells the DM what he found. DM rules and you action goes through without any distraction and no time lost.

Maybe Ry and Jay can mention a few other tid bits we've picked up over the years. Or Denim will mention which episode this topic is mentioned in and you can listen to that.
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Jay
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Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 327
Location: Montreal, QC

PostPosted: Fri Jun 04, 2010 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To be honest, I could go on and on regarding this topic. There's no golden answer. You're a big group, problems are bound to arise.

What I can say, however, is that much can be mitigated by proactive DMing. Unfortunately, knowledge of how to do so requires significant DM experience:

- Keep the game moving - don't allow more than 30 seconds per player per round (during combat)
- Customize the challenges at both the player level and the group level
- Don't play favorites
- Know the rules, and know how to break 'em.
- Don't argue rules; you're the DM, you get final say, so just move on.
- Realize that if you stick too hard and fast to the above, you'll end up looking like a tyrant. Know when to give a little.
- Realize that players will sometimes see you as "the enemy". Accept this but don't play to it. Keep it your little secret that you're actually on their side.
- Play to your player's strengths and interests rather than your own.
- Be ready ahead of time with your story and plot
- Be ready to accept that what you prepared regarding story and plot will likely be useless, so you'll have to think on your feet.
- Don't fret the details. Just keep it moving.


I know some of these things don't sound like they're directly related to your issues, but DMing with these guidelines will hopefully result in the following:

- Faster play
- Less rules bickering/lawyering
- Less showmanship
- More teamwork/commradery
- Ultimately, more fun

I realize you're not the DM, and telling your DM *how* to DM may just be plain old insulting. The thing is, if you're clever you can take advantage of these DM rules as a player:

- Be ready with your actions to keep the rounds moving
- Understand that different challenges are meant for different people. Accept this.
- Know how to play your character, and don't tell someone else how to play theirs unless they explicitly ask
- If the above, then teach rather than do.
- Don't argue rules with your DM. If you have a concern, you may voice it. If your DM engages you for followup, then you are within your right to discuss. If your DM does not, then sit down and accept it.
- Realize that your DM is NOT there to compete with you and/or to beat you. He's there to tell you a story and have fun too.
- Realize that the more fun you have, the more fun your DM has.
- Trust your DM.

Share these thoughts with your group, and perhaps you'll be better off.
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Majuba



Joined: 27 Aug 2009
Posts: 499

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 7:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're scaring me a bit, as I'm just getting ready to *start* my Kingmaker campaign with 7 PCs, some new to the group, others who haven't played with each other before.

I do have one suggestion - ask your DM about retiring your cleric cohort, waiting for an appropriate moment to start a temple or orphanage or something. That will reduce the glut a bit, and make any other healers in the group shine a bit more.
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MerrikCale



Joined: 08 Aug 2009
Posts: 170

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jay wrote:
To be honest, I could go on and on regarding this topic. There's no golden answer. You're a big group, problems are bound to arise.

What I can say, however, is that much can be mitigated by proactive DMing. Unfortunately, knowledge of how to do so requires significant DM experience:

- Keep the game moving - don't allow more than 30 seconds per player per round (during combat)
- Customize the challenges at both the player level and the group level
- Don't play favorites
- Know the rules, and know how to break 'em.
- Don't argue rules; you're the DM, you get final say, so just move on.
- Realize that if you stick too hard and fast to the above, you'll end up looking like a tyrant. Know when to give a little.
- Realize that players will sometimes see you as "the enemy". Accept this but don't play to it. Keep it your little secret that you're actually on their side.
- Play to your player's strengths and interests rather than your own.
- Be ready ahead of time with your story and plot
- Be ready to accept that what you prepared regarding story and plot will likely be useless, so you'll have to think on your feet.
- Don't fret the details. Just keep it moving.


I know some of these things don't sound like they're directly related to your issues, but DMing with these guidelines will hopefully result in the following:

- Faster play
- Less rules bickering/lawyering
- Less showmanship
- More teamwork/commradery
- Ultimately, more fun

I realize you're not the DM, and telling your DM *how* to DM may just be plain old insulting. The thing is, if you're clever you can take advantage of these DM rules as a player:

- Be ready with your actions to keep the rounds moving
- Understand that different challenges are meant for different people. Accept this.
- Know how to play your character, and don't tell someone else how to play theirs unless they explicitly ask
- If the above, then teach rather than do.
- Don't argue rules with your DM. If you have a concern, you may voice it. If your DM engages you for followup, then you are within your right to discuss. If your DM does not, then sit down and accept it.
- Realize that your DM is NOT there to compete with you and/or to beat you. He's there to tell you a story and have fun too.
- Realize that the more fun you have, the more fun your DM has.
- Trust your DM.

Share these thoughts with your group, and perhaps you'll be better off.


sounds like a show
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Jay
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Joined: 07 Dec 2007
Posts: 327
Location: Montreal, QC

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it was fair to post this because it's the summary of about 3-4 shows we've done. All said before - the collected version.
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Redcelt



Joined: 01 Jun 2009
Posts: 132
Location: Virginia Beach, VA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 1:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am running 10 PCs, two with animal companions and one is a conjuration specialized wizard, so as you can imagine, we often wonder whether we should be substituting rules for mass combat.. Smile

I heartily agree with everything Jay has said earlier in this thread, and frankly don't recommend any group sizes higher than say 5, maybe 6 at max to an inexperienced DM, and by experience I mean quite a bit. That being said, here are some tips from Monte Cook someone sent me a while back that helped me refine my DMing with a larger group. You could give them to your DM, and see if it helps him. Hard to be insulted about DMing tips from Monte Cook Smile

Part 1: http://www.montecook.com/arch_dmonly27.html
Part 2: http://www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?otherd20_dmonly_28
Part 3: http://www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?otherd20_dmonly_29

Also, like Jay said before, some of the issues you mentioned are player driven and not areas that can be "fixed" completely by your DM.
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kensanata



Joined: 07 Jul 2010
Posts: 9
Location: Zürich, Switzerland

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Running games with up to seven players myself, I suggest the following additional measures:


  • Roll initiative at the beginning. Take the highest initiative modifier for the enemies and just roll once. Announce the number. Any player character who beats this number can go. Then the enemies go. Then all the player characters go again, in any order. Either by how quickly they can decide, or go around the table. This works because they could delay for another anyway. The only thing that you loose is unconscious and dying characters effectively get to delay as well, but that's not problem for me. The benefit is that you can just ask "has every body gone?" and if nobody says anything, enemies go. Plus: indecisive players automatically have more time to decide.
  • No take-backs for players or DM once the next person has gone. Explain to your players that the DM also makes mistakes, and there will be no take-backs either.
  • Encourage a caller/leader player. Sometimes a lot of people at the table can lead to indecisiveness. Ask: "so, who's the leader? who has the most experience? who has the most charisma?" and then start asking them instead of asking the entire group. Make sure your players are ok with that. Make sure players don't have to announce the obvious stuff. Assume the elf is always searching, the rogue is always sneaking, etc. If you're benevolent like that, they'll accept more guidance by a caller/leader player.
  • Skip over the obvious parts. If the enemies are loosing, have them run away, or surrender, or let players narrate how they finish them off.
  • Modify spells that require a lot of die rolling. Entangle or Web are such spells: A lot of creatures get caught in the area, need to save, every round, etc. Agree upon alternate solutions such as "can move as many feet per round as their "strength or escape artist (dex) bonus" and be done with it. Or have one roll for half the enemies, or all the enemies.
  • Limit the game to lower levels. Higher levels means rolling lots of dice and doing lots of additions. Depending on your game, that slows players down.
  • Encourage players to write the current bonuses down so that they don't have to add up effects after rolling dice (avoiding "uh... prayer +1, haste +1, bull strength +2, …). Less calculations while everybody is waiting.
  • Use the simplification for multiple attacks suggested by Wulf Ratbane. All iterative attacks now have the same attack bonus and get easier to resolve.


The simplification for multiple attacks works as follows: Instead of the cascading bonuses for current iterative attacks, up to a possible 4th attack at BAB +16, the variant works as follows:


  • At BAB +6, you get a 2nd attack. Both attacks are made at a -2 penalty (instead of 0/-5).
  • At BAB +11, the penalty drops to -1.
  • At BAB +16, the penalty drops to 0.
  • When hasted you get an extra attack using the same penalty.
  • With Two-Weapon Fighting, you gain an extra attack with your off-hand.
  • With Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, you gain two extra attacks with your off-hand.
  • With Greater Two-Weapon Fighting, your penalty for fighting with two weapons decreases by 1.


Statistically, you get similar damage output as current iterative attack rules, except at the corner cases when facing foes whose ACs are extremely high or extremely low relative to your attack bonus. The big advantage – fewer rolls, but in particular fewer different bonuses to add!

You can allow both rules as written and the above simplification at the table. Some players might feel that they're quick enough at adding things up and they like the rules – no problem. Those that are slow might prefer this simplification.

And finally, enjoy the chaos at the table! Maximize the part that is cool about having so many people at the table. It's not intimate. It's not personal. It's about chaos, mayhem, confusion, and action. If there's one person that gets the spotlight such as a bard or paladin doing Diplomacy, make sure that this too plays fast and make sure to allow other players to help out. Simply encouraging a lot of Aid Another is a good way to start.
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Redcelt



Joined: 01 Jun 2009
Posts: 132
Location: Virginia Beach, VA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since this thread got resurrected, I thought I would add a note about a new problem that has been brewing lately in my game of 10 players...our groupmind is a moron.

What I mean by this is rather than having lots of fantastic ideas, clever solutions, good ideas about what to do next, instead the party tends to completely grind to a halt when they hit a problem that is not easily resolved. They do not have a "leader" so to speak and so committee and consensus seem to rule the day, or rather, cause huge timedrags on the gaming sessions. Alternatively, the solution to everything becomes, just smash it or kill it, because at least we can all agree on that.

I have also noticed that good ideas get skipped over or ignored, and often unvoiced unless another person jumps on it right away. Several times a player hit on a great idea or solution, or had some vital point they made, but in the sea of voices, it got lost, and then they felt stupid bringing it up again.

So if this happens to your group, I would suggest that as a DM, be prepared to toss out a new clue, random encounter, something to shake up the players paralysis and as a player I would suggest constructively working to speed up the decision making process, and also help insightful but quiet voices to be heard.

On that last note, one of our players is extremly insightful and often comes up with great ideas, but she is soft spoken and we have two VERY loud players in our group. If it wasn't for one of the other players talking even louder over them occasionally to give the first player a chance to be heard, the party would likely have been TPKed by now, not once, but twice Smile
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