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I am a DM who is going to be running AD&D 1e for my first time next week. I have a group ready, and I bought the newly reprinted edition of "Against the Slave Lords" to play because it looked very fun for beginning players. I plan to start the players off with A0, which is designed for players of levels 1-3.

I was bewildered, however, when I read that the adventure was designed for six to nine characters. As it stands, I have about five players. Without having one or two players roll more than one character (as I believe this would complicate roleplay), what is the most effective system to make up for this gap?

I could perhaps make use of NPCs. Or could I give the players collective control over a simple, say, soldier squad that follows them during the adventure under their command. The troops could ask for a share of the treasure in return, or something along those lines. I am not sure, however, if the rules agree with me.

What are your thoughts?

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I would not automatically rule out 2 characters per player. That lets you have a variety in the group and lets you as a GM kill some off without feeling too guilty... –  GrandmasterB Mar 25 at 20:26

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By far the simplest solution is to start the players at a higher level. If you dont' want to do that then get either B1 In search of the unknown, B2 Cave of Chaos, N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, or T1 Village of Hommlet. Get them leveled up through those adventures and then proceed to the A series. I personally used Hommlet and made the evil cleric a agent of the Slave Lord instead of the Temple of Elemental Evil.

Another common solution is for the party to have hirelings. However they have to remember that loyalty and morale is important and they will not be willing cannon-fodder. The rules for this can be found on Page 36 of the DMG. This is where high charisma becomes a huge help.

Ultimately the players will have to be smart about handling the first couple of modules by conserving resources and creating advantageous situations for themselves like frequent ambushes.

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Groups Used to Have More Players

It wasn't unheard of in RPG gaming's early days to play in much larger groups than are expected when playing contemporary RPGs. A group of 6 was reasonable, and I played AD&D in high school with groups as large as 12, with players rotating in and out week by week. Thus it's not uncommon for older adventures to be built for larger groups. As the complexity of characters and plots increased and the popularity of tabletop wargaming and role-playing games in general decreased, larger-sized groups became less and less common.

Parties Used to Have More Members

Exploring a dungeon in AD&D was not a task done lightly. PCs interviewed potential employees, hired or didn't some NPCs, allocated (very small) treasure shares to those they hired, took them into the dungeon, congratulated them if they survived, and then either murdered them or took them on to the next dungeon. The comic Knights of the Dinner Table explores this dynamic in great detail. So, yeah, filling out the ranks with trap-bait--I mean, linkboys--was totally a thing.

...But Not So Much in Tournament Adventures
The Slavelords series originated as a tournament series wherein awards were given depending on time it took the party to reach certain points in the adventure, what goals the party had accomplished, how many encounters the party overcame, and so on. It wasn't designed--like some adventures--for forays into the dungeon, return to home base for recruits, and repeat.

Of the 6-9 characters that they expect to undertake that adventure, half will die. I suggest rethinking letting players play more than 1 character and allow 2 characters; the characters won't have--or, at least, shouldn't have--deep backgrounds anyway. I especially urge this for the players otherwise burdened with low-level wizards, as once the wizard casts his spell he basically hides behind the fighter until tomorrow.

Otherwise, if you want a firmer hand and more opportunity to role-play, encourage them to employ hirelings. Or sheep--they're good at finding pit traps, too.

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