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I would like to avoid any "they should just leave" answers, as we all know that is obviously a possibility.

We have an 8 person campaign for 5e, and it has been going on for about a year now. When we first started it was just a big group of friends wanting to hang out and play a game together. But as we progress, everyone is maybe overly eager to the point that we are stepping on a lot of toes to pretty much get anything done. Any time we are faced with a decision, we ALL have our own idea of what to do, and it becomes a long discussion about whether or not we should save the goblins, or dispose of them, and we're almost pleading our cases to the other group members to get on our side. Too many voices. It's hard to have input in the group, AND even if you do, for it to have a big enough impact to matter.

All this being said, there is someone in our group that is having an issue with the party size. He is pretty adamant that it's not any of us as players or our PCs, but solely because the party size is so large that we don't all get to play the game how we want. He enjoyed a campaign where we were split, because both groups were smaller in their own campaigns essentially, and everyone had a say.

For my question, I am wanting to figure out ways to alleviate this problem WITHOUT splitting the party up again. There was an ordeal we had where it seemed like we'd be split for good, and the point was made "why are we even sitting at the same table then if we can't play together?"

With all that in mind: What are some ways we can make party members feel involved enough, and to make quick less argumentative decisions in order to overcome the large group?

I have read other questions of how to manage large parties, but those are from the DM perspective and don't address this specific type of situation. If there is another question asked about this, I would love to know!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did they run a session zero to get an understanding of what folks wanted out of the game? How did that go? What were the directions people wanted for the campaign and where did they disagree? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 15 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ We ran a session zero and all understood the party size, however pretty much all of us were brand new to 5e. Because of that we didn't really know how any D&D really worked, or what to expect. A year later, I think we have more of an understanding now \$\endgroup\$ – Just Another Guy Jan 15 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Has the idea of splitting into two separate parties that would meet at different times been mentioned, entertained, or thrown out? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jan 15 at 15:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 That has been thrown out. The DM doesn't want to run 2 separate campaigns that affect the world at the same time as others. And we would like to all play together \$\endgroup\$ – Just Another Guy Jan 15 at 15:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've had this problem too, but I don't think it's party size - I think it's just people overthinking things. Can't count the number of times my players have spent an hour in the tavern trying to decide what the best/safest way to hit the bad guys is. \$\endgroup\$ – piersb Jan 16 at 15:28
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Talk to your DM about re-running Session Zero

The good news is that you all understand more what you want out of the game, the bad news is that there are some differences causing issues.

The best thing to do at this point is to try and all get on the same page. Talk to the DM about your concerns and recommend running a session zero.

Make sure everyone is honest about their expectations and what they do and don't like.

The DM will need to try and balance those expectations, but also make clear that at times one expectation will get met while others won't. And the same goes for when they work to make others happy.

Compromise

This is going to be about everyone needing to make some compromises.

The DM needs to try and balance the expectations and needs of the players, but the players also need to be understanding that they're not going to get what they each want all the time. For this to work, all players will need to remain involved when it's not 'their time' - just as they'd want other players to remain involved when it is 'their time.

Party Size

To be honest, 8 folks is a lot for a group. My primary group has 6 players and during combat (or even otherwise) there is a lot of downtime for each individual. Adding two more players on top of that isn't a small change, but it does create 'delays' for each player in their opportunity to act.

Given that everyone, including the DM, wants to maintain the group as-is, then making sure everyone understands this delay and that they won't get everything they want at all times is imperative. And the players need to be understanding and kind (and quiet!) when it's not their turn. It'll help if they stay focused, too - but they may be a trade-off. You'll get folks on their phones, etc when it's not their turn. As long as they're not disruptive while 'away' or asking too many questions when it's their turn to 'catch up', then I wouldn't make a big deal of it.

Decision Making

This also needs to be part of the Session Zero. Coming up with consensus is hard, but clearly you need a way to help ease the path.

Some possible methods:

  • The DM making the campaign a bit more 'railroad-y'.
  • The players deciding that there is either in-character or out-of-character leader.
  • Maybe there's a simple voting system. Maybe you just roll a die to determine which of the actions you want to pursue as a group. Talk with everyone and come up with a plan, but see above that when folks don't get their way, they'll need to acquiesce and move on. Maybe they'll get their chance in the future. \

What my table has done in the past is have everyone write down what they want to do (or heck, order for food), and assign a die value to each. If there's an odd number, then assign a reroll value. DM Rolls a die and whatever comes up is the direction taken.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have any die roll systems as an example as to how that would work? The others suggestions I like and we will probably try them out and see which fits best. \$\endgroup\$ – Just Another Guy Jan 15 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll break that section up, i was considering doing that :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 15 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding appointing a leader, best remind your players that a good leader knows how to listen and delegate. Even if it might be slightly out of character for some, a leader which decides to save the goblins everyone else wants dead and then does all the negotiations by himself while the other players have wait, will ruin the game for everybody. \$\endgroup\$ – mlk Jan 16 at 10:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or for the "voting": have people roll a d20 and the highest number gets to make the call. They can delegate to second highest if they want to keep out of it. YES this does take away agency from 7/8 players, but maybe its a sacrifice necessary for such a big group. Maybe explain it ingame with some sort of Pact or curse upon the group \$\endgroup\$ – Hobbamok Jan 16 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Side comment for the OP: The Angry GM has a lot of thoughtful articles about how to make combat efficient, which might be quite helpful for such a large group. Of course the decision-making aspect seems to be your primary concern. \$\endgroup\$ – Greg Martin Jan 16 at 20:08
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Change the game

D&D 5e isn't built to support 8 players (or 7, if that includes the DM). You can shoehorn it for a session here or there, but getting a consensus on how to play is going to be nigh impossible, and even if everyone agrees, it's very likely that someone's expectations aren't going to be met.

In my experience: 4-5 players is the sweet spot, 3 and 6 are doable. Outside of that the game begins to fall apart because of either action economy or spotlight economy (not enough people to do the things or not enough things for the people to do).

Try a West Marches style game

"The West Marches" is a style in which players drive the story, specifically by choosing plots to pursue. Sometimes characters cycle in and out, or different DMs handle different plots. Generally speaking, not everyone will make every game and this will perform a sort of "natural selection" to group up people with similar interests - Bill likes the way Cindy runs her games or whatever.

I play in a group right now with, theoretically 8 players, but none of them are all present and the players organize the games and decide DMs on a sub-plot basis - I think we have 3-4 subplots running right now.

Try a different RPG system

Lots of systems with fewer mechanical parts (i.e. Roll for Shoes or Bubble Gumshoe or even anything PbtA) "accommodate" larger groups by making decision times more about deciding what to do, and less about reading your sheet (if this is one of your problems), not to mention that they cut down on combat.

Try a different activity

Are you sure that D&D is the best fit for this particular group? Could you be playing Werewolf, or Cosmic Encounters, or 7 Wonders, or some other board game? Or some other activity? If the group is more focused on hanging out than RPGing, then there are plenty of ways to do that, without making every wait turns and pay attention to "the rules".

Get a second DM

I put this last because I don't like it and I've never seen it work outside of a LARP environment, but I'm sure someone out there has done this successfully (and if they post an answer, I'll link to it). If the real estate between 8 players and the DM just isn't enough, increasing the number of DMs should, in theory, soothe that problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I find 6 players vs 7 players to be the break point ;) \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Jan 15 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch with the right group dynamics having 10 or 12 people and 1 DM is totally feasible. That doesn't mean it'll work for most groups. \$\endgroup\$ – aslum Jan 15 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ i DM a group of 7 players and we've been going for close to a year and we have had no problems. \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Jan 15 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, D&D as a game does not work very well for large group sizes. You can make it work if your players don't mind extended downtime and barely having any spotlight, or if a few players don't mind "being along for the ride", but the more players you add to the game, the slower it becomes. 6 players is already pushing it and is something I've only done if there was absolutely no other option, 8 players is insanity. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Jan 16 at 9:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Was going to suggest this, but since it's been answered I will just add that for a PbtA, Dungeon World is a great stand in. The supplement Class Warfare also adds lot more class options to let people run their fantasy (could be a bit much to start with though). The neat thing is that someone keeps screen time only as long as it is interesting for everybody, so may help with some of the issues described by the OP. \$\endgroup\$ – wakkowarner321 Jan 16 at 18:44
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You've indicated that most of the problem comes from players arguing over what to do next.

I have a technique I use for this: I ask them to vote. We do one round around the table and let everyone say what they think the group should do, and then we do a second round around the table and I ask everyone to vote. If there's a tie, I break the tie myself.

This isn't perfect -- if you're really trying to run a game for eight players, nothing's going to be great -- but it lets the group move past the arguing phase and into the doing-things phase, and it sounds like that's what your group needs.

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For over a year I have been the DM for a weekly in-person D&D 5e game with up to 13 players (other than me). Most weeks we have 7-10 players running PCs at the table. With that background, here is how I attempt to keep the game fun for everyone involved:

Know Your Audience

The DM should facilitate a Session 0 (and probably re-facilitate one every few months), but they also need to talk to each individual player away from the table to make sure everyone is engaged and having fun. With this many players, there will always be tension between focusing on combat (which is slow), role play, puzzles, plot development...

My players need to vent at times about choices the group did or didn't make, or give feedback on how I can adjust my DMing to make the game more enjoyable for them. This isn't as likely to happen in the full group as if there were only four of us though, so I have to take initiative to ask questions before and after each session.

Don't Split the Party

Most of the time I actively discourage splitting the party through in-universe and out-of-universe appeals. As a rule having three groups of players just leaves everyone sitting around longer waiting for me to adjudicate the outcomes of their character's decisions.

Sometimes though, we need the party to split to complete a plan or because they simply find they want to explore different parts of a city. My group shines at these points. We find a stopping points for each group where they can RP together in a way that will not require DM adjudication and they get to know each others' characters. There have been duels, impromptu raves, and quiet library visits, all with personality and color that make the scenes shine.

Do note that these moments are character-focused and role play heavy. Players that thrive on strategic combat or narrative exposition may not enjoy them as much. Players that feel the need to know everything that is happening, whether their character would or not, will struggle. It works wonders for helping everyone agree on the lines between what is known in-character and out-of-character though, since if your PC isn't in the room, you as a player probably missed the lore-dump conversation as well.

Change the Game (Warning: House rules ahead)

Share the Spotlight: Each player needs the ability to claim the spotlight each session. I replaced DM Inspiration with a system lets players basically invoke "The Rule of Cool" twice per session without breaking our game. (As a bonus, I gain a number of legendary actions for NPCs to help me balance the action economy without players feeling like I'm cheating.) I stole this system whole-cloth from another RPG.

Streamline Combat: On that note, certain optional rules, like flanking and facing, don't work with my large group of players. Combat is as simple and streamlined as I can make it while still keeping it engaging and interesting. I find succinct descriptions of each action and 4e minion rules are important tools for the action to move at a fast enough pace.

Fail Forward: I started with a fully open world and quickly learned that I needed to have rails, even if they're optional, for the party to follow. There have been a couple times I have taken players aside and asked them to adjust their character's attitude so that the party can progress. With a group this large you can plan for a while or talk chaotic stupid, but when push comes to shove, the party needs to make a decision and run with it. [The Angry GM's Tension Pool][1] (Note: Strong, if mostly censored, language) helps us with this. It's a mechanic that both threatens characters if they waste too much in-game time and signals to players that they are wasting too much out-of-game time.

No D&D is Better than Bad D&D

Finally, as you indicate you are aware, large group play is not for everyone. It's role play heavy and fights can turn into slogs. There are players who will prefer joining a smaller game more tailored to their preferences or just hanging out with the group. Periodically my group discusses breaking into two or three games, it's a healthy way to make sure that we are all having fun and that there are no hard feelings if someone chooses to find a different game or comes less often. We're still friends, we just might see each other one night less a week.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you handle split-party combat at the table? Does that still create a similar issue with regard to 'waiting' for turns? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jan 16 at 19:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the party is split in the same location, we just run everything together. I have a large map. If they're split in different locations, we run one combat at a time and I try to either keep it simple or make it clear that they should leave and come back together if they want to survive. \$\endgroup\$ – raithyn Jan 16 at 19:57

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