Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Few Questions on Party Size

I read somewhere that the typical party size expected in OSD&D is six or above.  There is evidence for this at least in B2 and in the AD&D PHB.  I was wondering how Old Schoolers dealt with party size now that group sizes, at least in my experience, tend to be much smaller.

How do you handle this in published modules?  How big of an issue do you think that it is?  How does it affect the stocking of your homemade dungeons?


  1. Multiple characters can work. So can hirelings and henchmen.

  2. Yes, I like one PC per player, but let each player have a henchman to beef up the party numbers. They're regularly sending 8-10 adventurers for a 5-man player group. (The henchmen just level slower).

  3. The campaign I play in has a lot of players, but usually somewhere between 4 and 6 of them show up. Hirelings and henchmen are very important - we usually have 2-4 of them to round things out.

  4. Since the avaialablity of players is low here I usually don't get to dictate how many players can play. I like having four to five people. Henchmen come into play rarely, but are there is needed.

    I ran a group of eight over a three year period and it was almost too much. Much of the time they split into two or three groups anyway so I was GMing only 3 or 4 at a time anyway.

  5. It's telling that the AD&D DMG lists a default party size of I think 9 for NPC groups. In normal Gygaxian style, you roll for the numbers of characters from certain classes, then round out the party with extra Fighters to get a party of 9.

    When I was young, we tended to only have 1-3 players plus a DM, so running multiple characters, and the DM running some of his own as well, was the default. These days, I'm more likely to only have one PC per player, and heavily encourage men-at-arms, henchmen, or retainers to round out and buff up the party.

  6. To me, the more the players the better the campaign. I really don't like multiple characters, so I think I would arrange monsters quantity to the party. Is not just a matter of "how many players", it's more "how they face" combats and hazards. Three Kobolds are enough for a party of ten players, if they are not able to fight as a team.

  7. In our home games we usually have 4-6 PCs, 1-2 henchman, and a few weird NPCs following along.

    The most extreme party size game I ever played was a high level OD&D game with Tavis Allison as DM (NYC Red Box / Mule Abides). There were like 8 PCs and each PC had 1-3 henchman. The party was well over 20 people! In the first 10 minutes most of the henchman died, though - they fell from they sky when the rocs carrying the party in a net was attacked by a demon. It was super fun!

    I also played in a World of Darkness game that had around 16 players. There were 3 GMs. We would split into groups, do stuff, and then rejoin together. I read that back in the day Gygax ran some big dungeon crawls with multiple DMs. I'd love to try running a game like this some time!

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  9. I play in a Castles and Crusades game (http://candc.forumotion.com/the-legio-campaign-gmt-f6/) using the Fantasy Grounds II Virtual Tabletop system. We have a large pool of players (not everyone makes every game) but on Sunday we had ten delvers enter the ruins of Gordon Keep in one session.
    Due to the slower pace of using a hand-typed chat engine rather than using Teamspeak (as we do in some other FGII games) we only managed one encounter. Yet it felt far more old school than any previous delve with five or six players.
    In fact, I even commented that the ecounter ran very similar to the "alignment encounter examples" in the alignment section of AD&D 2ed's Player's handbook. In fact, we were about as (in)effective as the party in the examples as well, with one PC death and three close-calls.
    Not the most successful delve we've made during the campaign, but almost certainly one of the most atmospheric, enjoyable and down-right "old school". Hopefully we'll have a similar turnout next week, now that we have the wrinkles ironed-out.
    For another example of an old school 1st ed style game, visit this campaign blog, written from the DM's point of view: Kicking it Old School

    This thread tells the story of the same campaign from the players point of view: Being Kicked Old School

    They usually have around 8 players per session plus a dozen or so hirelngs and henchmen. Even so, they still seem to get through 3 or 4 combat encounters per session. as oppossed to the one encounter a five man team might manage in 4th ed.

  10. I've found that henchmen and hirelings work better than having multiple PC's per player.

  11. In the current campaign Mike Curtis is blogging about, he initially allowed two PCs per player (plus hirelings), but seemed to be not entirely happy with the impact on immersion/character attachment. Right now the group is limited to one actual PC at a time per player, but they round out their numbers with hirelings. Also, I notice that Mike seems to keep the monster numbers faced at any one time fairly low.

  12. I'm considering trying to keep the numbers on the low side, depending on the number of players who I can get. If I can get six players, then I'll just go balls out.