D&D Party – What Size To Party At?
We’re back with some D&D. This time we’re looking at Party Dynamics and how you might want to create your party so that you feel like you’re a good part of the game.
The the first thing I’m going to to talk about is the size of the party. This means, how many players do you want around the table. Assuming everyone is controlling one character, which they should be, is there an ideal number?
Wizards of the Coast in their D&D books would suggest that 4 is a pretty strong number. It allows you to have the balanced party of a magic user, a healer, a tank, and a rogue-type character. That keeps you bases fairly covered for what you need in a game to do well against a lot of what a DM might throw at you.
But do you need to have four players, can’t you go above four? Critical Role starts with eight players, if I remember correctly. And they consistently have a fairly high number of players, possibly seven most of the time, it’s been a long while since I watched. So you can certainly play with a larger number. You can also play with a lower number. I ran Dungeons and Flagons with 3 players for a long time, and often without that traditional combination.
The there are two things you need to know as a DM when you do that.
First, the math for encounters will change. Basically, the more people you have, the monsters you can throw at them, the less people you have, the less monsters you can throw at them. In the Dungeon Master’s Guide, they tell you how that math works. However, I recommend not doing the math yourself, you’re going to be doing enough math in the encounter anyways. Instead there’s this very handy Encounter Calculator that I found from http://dhmholley.co.uk. This is going to do the math for you so that you can see the XP budget that you could be using for different types of encounters. I believe that D&D Beyond has an encounter creator as well, and if you have a subscription for that, it would be great to use that.
The other thing, and this is more with the larger groups, but with larger groups as a DM, you need to keep everyone involved. It’s easy to simply pull a single person’s story and make it the biggest focal point and focus on that person who will interact with you the most. But you need to keep everyone involved and keep things moving at the table. One thing you’ll probably have to do is ask someone who hasn’t spoken up in a little bit, specifically, what they want to do, or what they think of a situation. Sometimes you’ll need to pull out that interaction. And that suggestion isn’t just for the DM, sometimes as a player you will have to do that to another player as well. But there will also be some people who, in combat, take up considerably more time than everyone else, so it feels like the focus is really on them. I would suggest implementing a rule (made to be used sometimes), where players have to have an action ready when you come around and if they don’t, they have a signature action that they can use without having to think about it. The reason I say this rule is made to be broken, because sometimes you’ll have a player who wants to target a certain bad guy or wonder about a situation, but they should still have a plan and something to fall back on.
With smaller groups, you can really focus in on each players story and give them all the spotlight from time to time. You can certainly run into the issue of focusing on one players story too much, but with less people, it’s easier to move around and engage everyone. The tricky thing with a smaller party is creating encounters. You might have a barbarian who is extremely adept at killing everything, so you might throw in something that is going to be able to hold up to him, but now is that going to just murder the wizard? Or maybe it’s resistant to magic because the wizard has been mind controlling and polymorphing everything, now does that mean you ruined the druids fun who casts smaller spells? I personally have kind of rotated combats so that sometimes the magic users have the advantage in the battle, and sometime the melee combatants do.
So, what is the right number? I don’t think there is a right number, games can work well at higher numbers and lower numbers. Personally, I like running for a smaller group, 3-4 seems ideal to me. But for you, that might be a large group and having that dynamic is what you want. If you are just starting, I’d suggest starting with a smaller group and then working up to a larger group.
Do you have a preferred number of players to run a D&D game for? Or, as a player, do you have a preferred number of other players to play with?
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