Any tips for incorporating many players into one campaign?

Any tips for incorporating many players into one campaign?

Any tips for incorporating many players into one campaign?

I have a group of 7+ people (all newbies) who are interested in learning to play. I know that some may drop out, but want to plan for the eventuality that everyone commits.

We’re all in grad school together. We all have the same VERY busy schedule, and a big part of the interest is the group bonding time, so it isn’t feasible or desirable for me to split up the group and run two separate games.

Any ideas about the best way to juggle all those players?

A pair of thought starters:

-Do I run a game for all of them at once? (Can’t imagine that working. I’ve always felt like 4 PCs is the highest you can go…)

-Do we just establish that there are only 4 players per session, so people will miss some weeks and make other weeks? In which case, any suggestions on how to run a coherent narrative-driven campaign if people miss a lot? (This group is going to want to focus on wacky characters and stories, not dungeon-diving and monster-slaying.)

Any better ideas?

Thanks so much!

12 thoughts on “Any tips for incorporating many players into one campaign?”

  1. Allow for the possibility of multiple groups. End sessions so the next one isn’t dependent on specific people showing up. A central hub in a sandbox-y location can be a great way to get random groups together for an adventure.

    Bonus points if the hub isn’t a tavern. More bonus points if it’s something you can’t think of an example where someone’s used that kind of hub in fiction, gaming, or media. Even more bonus points if it /is/ a tavern but you all have awesome and memorable adventures without ever leaving it; that’d mean your NPCs are all on point and well prepared.

    Rotate GMs. Discuss what you did in terms of GM Moves, Fronts, and other actual mechanics and named techniques after the game. Revel in the joy when you get to pick a playbook because someone else had an idea and wanted to see how it would play out.

    For sessions where everyone shows up, you’ll want to embrace the GM as DJ archetype. You’re going to have to work really hard to get the players to gel into groups. Even harder is to keep a large group focused on the game instead of their phones. Take every player in small vignettes and switch players rapidly.

    The only mandatory thing is to engage with everyone as soon as possible. Keep your scenes very short – or just set them up – until you have had a chance to get everyone involved right away. Getting to everyone early also informs the GM of what’s going on with everyone early. That is when the players start telling you what they’re interested in in the game. Not necessarily in so many words, but running with whatever they bring up can’t hurt. It’s an art, not a science.

    Some people will need to be brought into the game in stages, work with the, they’re your friends and some people need a lot of coaching to get up on “stage” and create and do interactive improv. Watch out for anxiety afterwards among the players, and take care of yourself. Breaks at the 60-90 minute mark are good. That’s usually a good stopping point for some OOC chatter, In Character private moments, and recharging mental batteries/restocking on spoons.

    Asking questions is a great way to leave one player still involved in the game while you interact with someone else. In a live game, keep an eye on body language to know when to cut back to someone you asked a questions of; in a text or video chat game ask them to type an x or something into chat to signal they’re ready to answer; in PBP frame the question so you let them know to just put the answer in, in character, when they’re ready. Good questions drive a game forward and encourages the other players to really engage with their answers and thereby the world, leaving people hanging creates disengagement in everyone.

    You’ll get situations where there are, let’s say two PCs at the docks asking questions, 3 or 4 are on the wrong side of the canal looking for someone, 3 or 4 staking out a manor, and a couple of goofballs are off by themselves. There’s no hard and fast rule for when you should cut between characters in the same location, and alternating between people in different places. Both work. You’re the DJ, it’s your mix. Do what feels right in the moment. This IS an art form after all..

    One technique for managing large groups is to empower one or two characters as deputy GMs of some specific scope. Characters who are fixers, facilitators, bosses, or other kinds of string-pullers can be set loose to interact with other player in-charactyer, within parameters the GM sets. Encourage IC interaction, the GM really only needs to be there if a move is triggered. GM Nirvana is when all the PCs are actively playing the game amongst themselves and only bugging you if a Move was triggered or to settle a question about the world (players participate in world building, but sometimes the GM has to be the referee between them).

    In live games have the players of characters in the same location sit together. If you have room, put groups in their own spots and have the GM bounce between them as needed. Name tags, with the character’s name of course, can help drive immersion. Remind people to address the character and not the player whenever appropriate.

    Embrace the use of cliffhangers when you switch between groups. And between characters if possible. If you can leave half the group hanging with something lethal incoming, then mark XP. [1]

    [1] The GM never actually marks XP.But pat yourself on the back.

  2. Although games with 3-5 do seem to work the most smoothly, we have successfully run campaigns with 7-8 players. The only caveat is that our group has been playing together for over 20 years. The larger games tend to be more casual and less narratively intense. People will have to be more patient in terms of getting the spotlight and it will definitely be more work for the GM. You may need to fall back on some older school RPG techniques with a larger group to keep track of everything, such as taking turns round robin or having miniatures on a map to keep track of positioning in combat.

    My suggestion is to start with two groups in the same game world location alternating sessions, allowing a player to swap to the other session if they can’t make their normally scheduled one. Once you have a firm commitment and folks are more comfortable with running and playing the game, then you can try a combined session.

    Perhaps the players could all be part of a larger mercenary guild, which is why there are multiple groups, and they can be brought together later for a larger contract or threat. For a hub location, check out the City of Dis in the free Planar Codex for DW: – Planarch Codex: Dark Heart of the Dreamer

  3. You could also try a sort of West Marches style of play. With this style you can set a date and time for each session, and whoever can make it comes. You follow a simple hook out into unexplored wilderness, then let people share what they experienced with the rest of the group, letting rumors grow and change the world. It’s more complicated than that, but it can be a great way to run a game with this many people.

  4. I have a similar issue and am planning to handle it as an extended universe, like Marvel or something. My idea is to have the players split up and play different adventures.

    But the crux of doing multiple parties in the same world is that I get to have a lot of fun planning things with another gm who I’m sort of helping to teach to set up the sessions I’m not going to be running so that we can make the world (we call ours Heckworld) as cohesive across sessions and fronts as possible. Namely, by focusing on the larger consequences of everyone’s actions in the world.

    As far as allowing for bonding, what if the players who weren’t “active” that session still got to come hang out and watch the game like it were tv? Idk if this would be too distracting or not. I’ve never done it yet.

  5. I don’t have any kind of DW experience with big groups, so feel free to completely ignore my answer 🙂

    I get the feeling that a fiction-first shared-narrative game like DW could be a great tool to experiment around the idea of a “bench”. You could have a session with 3 or 4 players that have their characters and play them and have other players come and engage with the fiction by introducing NPCs or places, playing them, suggesting MC moves, etc.

    I would probably need some rules (to manage who gets to intervene) but I’m pretty sure it could work.

  6. Guybrush Threepwood I’ve thought about trying that recently, because I have three new players coming in to a relatively young living campaign, and I want them to see what the game is like with all of their friends in some capacity as a way to hook them in.

    It seems like a cool idea, basically crowd-sourcing gm moves and stuff from them or something but it does seem really challenging from a facilitation standpoint at the table.

    I wonder if anyone around here has actually tried it.

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