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I've got a group I'm trying to get into a regular weekly game, but the problem I'm having is that there are only three players who can come consistently. Then, if even one is busy or gets sick, we're looking at two players and the GM, and it starts to seem like a "why bother" sort of situation.

I'm wondering, from more experienced players and GMs, what's the practical minimum for a fantasy Savage Worlds session? I suppose theoretically you could have a game with a GM and one player, just exploring the world and fighting monsters ad infinitum. But at the same time, the complimentary nature of a party's skills and combat abilities, not to mention the fundamentally social nature of the game itself, makes that seem less than appealing.

I know these sorts of games don't have a minimum set in the rules, and a lot will depend on the exact nature of the session in question, but in your experience is there a guideline worth knowing? Something like "don't bother playing with less than three players," or even something more specific like "combat is best with at least four players but RP stuff can be done with two" or "Savage Worlds works with 2-3, but D&D needs more like 6"?

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Related answer to a similar question: rpg.stackexchange.com/a/30586/321 –  SevenSidedDie Dec 18 '13 at 0:36
    
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You've already intuited most of what I'd answer. "a GM and one player [is possible] ... less than appealing ... [no] minimum set in the rules". It's all taste, and there's nothing in SW that really alters that: more is better for enjoyable group dynamic reasons, but not really system reasons. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 18 '13 at 0:37
    
Yeah, I saw both of those questions before posting, but one isn't for SW and the other is about the best size, rather than the practical minimum. But your third comment makes it sound like there really is no rule of thumb, huh? Fair enough. Thanks! –  Alexander Winn Dec 18 '13 at 0:45
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2 Answers

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The core rules don't say how big or small a group can or should be. Indeed, it's not really an important concept compared to other roleplaying games, such as Dungeons & Dragons (where it's strongly recommended that you have the "core four" types at least).

I've run many Savage Worlds sessions for as few as two players (both one shots and multi-session campaigns) and it generally works out. Pinnacle mentioned a while back that they are even working on a solo Savage Worlds adventure, so I imagine it could even work in a one GM/one player game.

Going a bit beyond the scope of the question, I think that there are things that need to be run a little bit differently with a small group than you would with a 4-6 player game:

  • Combat needs to be a bit smaller and/or more rare. Especially since in Savage Worlds characters can be killed by a single bullet, it's important that the characters aren't going to have half their firepower eliminated with a lucky die roll. If something goes wrong, there is only one character around to pick up the slack. Many adventures from Pinnacle already scale for this by saying things like "two enemies per player" for setting up combat.
  • Characters probably ought to be more well-rounded, since you don't have enough characters to fill all the specialized roles.
  • Allies are an excellent way to help in combat and fill in any skill gaps. The core rules explicitly state that they ought to be controlled by the players and, especially if they are Extras, I find that they generally are simple enough that anyone familiar with Savage Worlds can play them along with their own character. For small games I usually give at least one out.
  • If your players enjoy roleplaying, consider relying more on that than the mechanical rolls since that is oftentimes enhanced when you have more time to put each player in the spotlight

So in short, it totally does work with only a few players. You might need to tweak the scenario a bit along with the number of enemies, but there is nothing mechanically preventing it from being run with only a few players.

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I've had some experience with this. While every group is different, three players tends to be the minimum that work for us.

One session, we only had two players. The third PC was played (responsibly) as a puppet by the other players, so the party wasn't lacking in skills or manpower. What they were lacking was ideas and inspiration. The players bounce ideas off of each other and a third player will bring more than a 50% improvement to the discussion.

It also depends on the intended size of the party. If you're expecting six players, rewriting an adventure on the fly for only three players can be tricky. If the players take on two roles each, the puppet PCs become bland and the players can become confused. They also don't play the puppet PCs to their full effect as they're not intimately familiar with them.

Also, please ask your absent players if they are okay with their characters being played by other players.

Our rule of thumb is we don't play if two or more players are absent, or one absentee if there were only three players to begin with. If we lose too many players, we pull out a board game instead. It also prevents players missing out on too much of the adventure.

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