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I picked up Dogs in the Vineyard this weekend, and I fell in love during the first read-through. I noticed these lines from the rulebook:

"You’ll need a GM. You’ll need some players— the game works well with as few as two, and I wouldn’t go over say four, plus you the GM. There are other games that really rock with a big group, so if you’ve got a big group, try one of them." (Page 3)

What are the reasons for this limitation? Should I consider it a hard-and-fast rule, or is there some wiggle room with it?

(Background info: My group usually plays D&D 3.5 or oWoD. We've played a couple of games of Fiasco: one went really well and the other not so much. There would be seven players, including the GM.)

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Fiasco has a 3 to 5 player limit and it suggests to play two (or more) games simultaneously when you have 6+ players. The same might work for DitV provided you can recruit another GM. –  Eric Apr 2 '13 at 21:23
    
"I wouldn’t go over say four" is not a phrasing a good writer would use for a "hard and fast" rule. Vincent Baker is a very good writer. –  Russell Borogove Apr 2 '13 at 23:36
    
@RussellBorogove It entirely fits the writing style for Dogs. –  okeefe Apr 2 '13 at 23:41
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IIRC, another issue with too many players is simply the sheer number of dice the PCs can throw against NPCs. –  Bobson Apr 3 '13 at 19:20
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2 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Because it's a character-centric, personal game, having too many players simply means not everyone will get to play properly. A large group is OK in a game that's combat-centric, because everyone gets a turn to contribute at least minimally; or in a game that's exploration-centric, because everyone discusses how to proceed and moves as a group.

But, "minimal" and "group" contribution in a character-centric game like DitV just doesn't work. If a player isn't in the spotlight often and regularly, they simply aren't going to get anything out of DitV. If they're just tagging along with the group, they're not getting to experience the central draw of DitV – the personal impacts on your specific character's faith and assumptions about the world.

You can juggle more players, but without a lot of experience with the game, a GM is as likely to pull that off as they are to thread a needle blindfolded with their toes. Consider that sentence less like a hard-and-fast rule and more as a warranty limitation. If you run the game as recommended, it has the best chance to perform as described. If you run it "out of spec" by having a larger group, the warranty is void for that session and you're on your own for making it work.

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+1 For the warranty analogy. That makes a lot of sense! –  Discord Apr 2 '13 at 20:27
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Look over The Structure of the Game chapter, starting at page 93. There's a lot for the players to be doing, and if you double the recommended number of players, there's not going to be enough satisfying interaction between the players and the town. At best, it's going to draw out play unnecessarily. Four Dogs is enough to throw a town into upheaval!

Avoid changing rules for new games. Often the result will not be satisfying, and blame might end up on the game and not the fact that you've changed the game.

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