Author Topic: How many player characters in your typical group ?  (Read 3337 times)

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Offline MisterK

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How many player characters in your typical group ?
« on: February 04, 2022, 04:08:20 AM »
I'm interested in knowing how many player characters (characters, not players, in case each player plays more than one character) are in your typical party.

I've not seen this poll in the archive - so if it has already been posted, a moderator can point me to the appropriate post and close this one :)

Offline Vladimir

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2022, 12:07:52 PM »
  From personal experience, I'm more comfortable with a party of at least four PCs.

  In combat, I like to deploy 2 front line and 2 in support roles.
  In RP I like a decent consensus to make important decisions, just in case we may have missed a point.

  I've had more than my share of solo campaigns while the largest party I have ever gamed with was 19 players at the same table. To maintain order, the party was divided into squads and I led the support squad of archers, mages and healers. Coincidentally, both myself and my frontline squad counterpart served as squad leaders in the US Army, so had no trouble assuming command of our respective elements.
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Offline jdale

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2022, 01:18:09 PM »
We generally play with six. As the number goes up, each player gets less attention and it's harder to keep focus. If the number is lower, they are better about making decisions and progress but it's harder to fill all the necessary roles and a single character being incapacitated can be a disaster.

It's useful if the players pick characters who do a good job of filling all the key roles. Neither of the parties I am GMing for have done a good job of that. One party has only a single real melee character (who's a semi at that) plus an archer and four pure/hybrid casters. The other party has only a single pure caster who is the healer, which leaves them without much magical support (at the moment they have an NPC hybrid caster, but that was very short term and she will likely be gone by the end of next session). In the latter party, you'd expect that would at least permit them to establish a good melee line, but you'd be wrong. Vladimir would be appalled by their lack of tactical cohesion. :)
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Offline Frabby

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2022, 02:02:51 PM »
What Jdale said.
In our group (on hiatus because of the pandemic) the core is four players plus the GM, so I've selected four as typical. We had more at times. At one point we had a campaign with six players playing altogether 14 (iirc) characters. But when the GM basically tells you to bring more than one character you know character deaths are to be expected…

Offline Cory Magel

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2022, 09:07:47 PM »
Averages out to five, but we've ranged from 4 to 6.
We've had as few as 2 and as many as 11 or 12 once.
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Offline Hurin

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2022, 12:03:44 AM »
Almost always either four or five. Five is good because it is less likely a single bad roll will cause a TPK. Four gives a bit more time in the spotlight to each player, and is certainly playable, but makes the party a bit more vulnerable to swings of the dice.
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Offline MisterK

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2022, 01:13:03 AM »
I've started with five, but my standard group size for about ten years now has been four (as a GM, and most of the time as a player as well). We typically don't play combat-heavy games, so having combat redundancy is less important than having information gathering and utilities. The general idea is also that most combat situations are won (or lost) before they even begin: if you don't have a good enough situational advantage, you'd better take a hard look at what you're doing... or bring friends if you can.

Offline Ecthelion

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2022, 04:00:25 AM »
I prefer to have four or five PCs in the group, but for a long time we've also played with three.

Offline Spectre771

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2022, 06:03:16 AM »
Our players have only one PC they play in a session.  Extremely rarely, I'll ask a player to use an NPC character sheet of mine to help with the situation if that player's PC is not in the scene at all.  It makes the NPC more relatable and fleshed out rather than me trying to do voices and mannerisms for every NPC.  It keeps the non-present player involved in the scene rather than having him just sit there until the scene plays out.

For RM, if I'm GMing, I prefer 1-3 players.  3-4 players if they are veteran gamers.  If they are veteran RM players, I can go 5-6.  Our annual all-weekend game is 6 players, but they are all RM veterans so it's much easier.  They can even lend a hand with some combat scenes if their PCs aren't involved.  It flows pretty well.
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Offline Cory Magel

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2022, 11:17:12 AM »
I personally prefer the five as this tends to leave the party with three melee oriented, or at least capable, characters.
We tend to be combat heavy and having that 'front line' to keep the other two out of melee is a tactical advantage most the time.
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Offline PiXeL01

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2022, 09:42:10 PM »
Three to six in general, fluxing around that.
Two always needs support NPCs in one format or another.
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Offline OLF, i.e. Olf Le Fol

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2022, 01:35:41 AM »
This begs the corollary question: how many NPCs do you usually have in your players group, if any? As far as I'm concerned, there' has been almost always one, and most usually two, and not supporting ones but full fledged characters, with a role  (often essential) in the plot.
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Offline Cory Magel

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2022, 01:58:01 AM »
If no one wants to play a character with healing capabilities then I'll toss in an NPC for that typically.
Otherwise I'd have various NPC's as more like 'guest appearances' for one to several sessions.
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Offline MisterK

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2022, 04:35:37 AM »
NPCs who tag along on a permanent basis : not anymore - I did it previously, with anything from one to five NPCs. I never used them to fill in for things no PC could do. But having to manage NPCs who are always with the party (and, as such, interact with them frequently) detracts from me managing the rest of the world. It also increases the risk of having NPC-NPC dialogues, which are always awkward at best (unless you use socks, I guess...)

NPCs who come and go, who have a relationship with a PC but have their own life ? Almost all the time. As many as is logical according to the PCs background and the situation. Those *can* have skills and abilities the PCs don't have. Sometimes, they are significantly more powerful (and sometimes, significantly less).

Offline jdale

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2022, 01:49:49 PM »
I don't like having NPCs in the party, aside from being a distraction it also involves the GM in player decision-making that I prefer to avoid. But sometimes it's appropriate. At the moment in one game I have one real NPC (who happens to be an NPC cultist healer who was secretly helping the PCs against an opposed faction in the cult, thrown in with them when she got caught) and one sort-of NPC (a hybrid mage who is being played by a player until they can introduce a new character). In the other game, I have one real NPC (a semi stealth character who was mostly stripped of her magic, and then rescued by the party, staying with them until they get back to civilization).
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Offline Hurin

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2022, 02:01:38 PM »
Sometimes the players have an NPC healer if no one wants to play the healer. But that's usually the only party regular that is an NPC.
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Offline Cory Magel

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2022, 11:00:03 PM »
Thinking about it more, unless the party really needs a Healer, my opinion is that an NPC needs to drive the plot/story somehow, otherwise it's just the GM playing a character.
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Offline MisterK

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #17 on: February 21, 2022, 11:59:09 PM »
Thinking about it more, unless the party really needs a Healer, my opinion is that an NPC needs to drive the plot/story somehow, otherwise it's just the GM playing a character.
But isn't it a bit of a letdown when the NPC is driving he plot/story, and your PCs are just along for the ride ?

I'd rather turn it around and have the PCs drive the plot/story, and the NPCs being caught in the whirlwind because they are linked with the PC in some way (friends, family, best rivals, assigned bodyguard or servant, romantic interest, whatever). It gives you the opportunity to have the NPCs come and go (because they have their own life) and still have the main cast drive the plot.

Offline jdale

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2022, 12:43:38 AM »
They can advance the story by having the problem the players need to solve, by needing to be escorted somewhere or protected, by providing information the party needs or having the connections so the party can meet who they need to meet, etc. They don't actually have to do the work -- I agree the NPC should not actually be doing the work, that just takes away from the PCs. Story hook, not leader.

You could also turn that around and put a real or potential enemy in the party, as long as they have some reason not to outright kill them. Maybe the party can resolve their issue without them becoming an enemy, or they are an ally of convenience who can't be trusted. (I offered my party a chance at someone like that but they just left him tied up with a note. :)  )   Maybe the party can go along with them long enough to figure out their plans. Those scenarios also give the party plenty to do even though the NPC is important for the story.
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Offline Vladimir

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Re: How many player characters in your typical group ?
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2022, 06:07:09 AM »

But isn't it a bit of a letdown when the NPC is driving he plot/story, and your PCs are just along for the ride ?

  It depends on the players. I've GMed a group that pretty much refused any role in leadership or responsibility. They just wanted to go from one battle to the next and needed a NPC to give them orders to fight. No role playing, no negotiation, the players didn't care for any of that -Just a series of combat scenarios tied together with downtime. None of the players could RP anyway -They Min/Maxed their characters to be gods on the battlefield and would be hard pressed to negotiate their way out of a paper bag. I ran a series of campaigns over five years with the same group under the same conditions -they just wanted to kill things and I gave them a loose storyline and let them fight.

  I could never RP under the same conditions but the group chose the conditions, so you never know.
When the Master governs, the people
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