Exposition, thy name is Khalinor.
I have a large gaming group. Most games I’ve been in have been large groups; my very first group consisted of 8 players (we named our PCs’ adventuring company “The Octagon.”) My current situation has me wrangling 7 players, which presents unique challenges. For anyone out there dealing with a large group, here are some pointers I’ve found invaluable:
- Exploit – err, ask your players for help. If you’re the DM, you know that you are essentially running the entire show: coming up with the backstory, rules adjudication, roleplaying everyone except the PCs, maintaining game balance, etc. If you can find someone to take on minor tasks like maintaining a “When last we left our heroes…” journal or acting as quartermaster for all the magic items and party gold, so much the better. In my first group, our DM and one of the players had worked out a verbal system that enabled the player to draw accurate maps of the dungeons we were in (Thanks, Steve D.!) Give out bonus XP (or if you’re playing D&D 5E, Inspiration points) as incentive. Money works too.
- Don’t split the party EVER. This is old advice, I know, but for a large group, it’s almost vital, unless you like juggling two to three different plotlines and can keep all those balls in the air effectively. Letting the party split up can only end badly for everyone concerned, including you as the DM. The players not involved in the current plotline will get bored and get out their phones or iPads or start quoting random movies for no damn reason and this has of course never happened to me (ahem). It will end badly for the DM because you’ll know that no fun was had that session. Why? Because half of the group had to wait while JoJo the Monk, Cindy the Sorcerer and Flingar the Barbarian parleyed with the goblin king while Sister Christianne the Cleric, Edrick the Knight and Totoru the Ranger were in the midst of trying not to get killed by the 14 flesh golems that you had prepared THINKING that the entire group was going to be fighting them.
- Plan waaaaaaaay in the advance. Don’t make the mistake I’ve made more times than I can count where, in the midst of planning out the next game session, I think to myself, “3 encounters ought to do it, right? There’s no way they’ll be able to blast through all three of these encounters tonight! Right?” It’s bitten me in the butt many times. Regardless of how much prep work you’ve done for your adventure, prepare at least twice that amount before you sit behind the DM screen.You never know when your players will manage to neatly circumvent the epic fight scene you had planned by simply not going down a certain hallway. It hurts when you have to shrug your shoulders and admit to your players that you have burned through everything you had prepared for that session.
- Streamline the Dice-rolling. This actually several smaller tips, but they are all huge time-savers: roll your attack and damage rolls simultaneously. If you miss, you can ignore the damage. Also, especially when you’re dealing with a horde of opponents against your PCs, instead of rolling up damage for every single attack, choose the average amount (plus or minus any modifiers) and just deal that as damage. Also, pre-roll initiative for the NPCs and have all similar bad guys act on the same turn (ex. Goblins on 1, Bugbears on 12, etc.).
That’s all I’ve got. What tips or tricks have you used?