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I have a party of 8 players, and more continue to join (against my wishes). How would you recommend challenging low-level (4 or lower) players that are in a large group? How do I give everyone a chance to be in the spotlight without rushing through or ruining some stories?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: "How do I run a game for a larger group?" and some of these as well \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Apr 12 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ How are people joining "against your wishes"? That seems to be the topic of another, probably wiser, question. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Apr 12 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ well, it's a bit of a story but the simplest I can put it is. a lot of players threaten to leave if I don't let their friends in so It just keeps getting bigger. so I'm kinda being bullied or pressured into putting more players in. \$\endgroup\$ – Cat of doom2 Apr 12 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ That.....that sounds like your bigger problem here. If your players are being that pushy/bullying towards their DM, this is a recipe for all kinds of future trouble. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Apr 12 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you may actually have multiple questions in here but let's dig in on the one that you are immediately asking. Are all of these characters at the same level? What exactly are you concerned about and trying to do that you haven't been able to do? Or is this something about planning and trying to get ahead of issues? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 12 at 16:01
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Large parties can be diffcult to run for any DM. You have a couple options to deal with this.

Force split the party

Pitfall traps, haunted houses with secret rotating doors, dopplegangers inflitrating the party, Magic maze, etc. By dividing the group, they can handle a lot less at once. This allows you to use creatures such as goblins, zombies and other lower CR monsters that a large party of even low level characters would normally step on as well as make sure each player gets to do something in a combat or have time to shine in a RP session.

Big monsters

As the party levels up, especially with 8 or more players, they will be able to take down higher CR monsters much quicker than a normal sized party of 4 or 5. Or you can send more creatures their way at one time. Orc war bands, gangs of Grimlocks, etc. Dropping characters is not the same as killing them, with 8 party mates someone is bound to be able to do some sort of healing. 5e is very forgiving with its death saves and low chances of insta death, keep in mind your players do have the option to run when things are tough, so don't be afraid to gauge their strength and reward good teamwork.

Red flag

I have a party of 8 players and more continue to join (against my wishes).

This is concerning to me as you are the DM. Ultimately, you can only handle so much. I don't know your situation but extra players joining eithout the consent of the DM is INCREDIBLY rude. You have to work hard to make sure everyone is having a good time. You have the right to cap off a campaign. If it gets too full then no one will have a good time. Perhaps these new people can play if and when you start a new campaign, or have another game going among themselves. To be blunt, if your game is full, say it's full and be firm.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you used these techniques in large parties? Did they turn out well? I've used some of these and run large parties and I"m not sure I'd recommend them. Hearing why you used them and how it went would be immensely more helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 12 at 18:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Yes, Especially splitting the party in CoS with Strahd's castle. I won't drop any spoilers but there are several chances to do just this written right into the module. It also helped me push a more shy player into roleplaying with one of the vampire spawn there because she had no one to talk for the party (She was stuck with the beast shaped druid) and it also split up the paladins to keep them from going on a smiting warpath through the dungeon. \$\endgroup\$ – Samara Markcosian Apr 12 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Awesome! Can you please add those details and go into a little bit more depth as to what happened when you did those things and pitfalls for others to look out for when dealing with large parties? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 12 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, what about CoS made this more 'doable' than other situations where "split the party" is usually frowned upon? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 12 at 19:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example, CoS contains hidden traps such as a forced elevator trigger that splits the party across several levels of castle. \$\endgroup\$ – Samara Markcosian Apr 13 at 14:18
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Balancing is always tricky with large groups.

In such a large party i would separate them in smaller groups. Like a secret wall in a dungeon, pulling some of them to another room, or something like that.

If you choose to compensate in numbers (+ foes, -hp), you are at risk of some characters outshinning others because of large dmg bursts causing "one hit kills"(we are looking at you, paladin with divine smite) and also, you will have a combat that would make Snyder's cut seem like a short movie.

I would make them fight a NPC with HUGE ammount of HP, multiattack and some legendary actions to be successful in saves. If you feel that he's being overwhelmed too easily, you could make him summon some minions or give him a regeneration trait.

You could also give them a buff in temporary hitpoints (a blessing, a powerful ally, a mysterious scroll). That would make less likely they die, while still mantaining the sense of danger and damage.

But personally, i would try to convince them that is not a good idea to have such a large party. Stealth would be penalized (a small crowd entering a dungeon would hardly pass unnoticed), the combats will take ages, the xp will be miserable, the social interactions will be chaotic...

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    \$\begingroup\$ The challenge with "separating them into small groups" is that now you, the DM, have to juggle multiple parties. And that also means that some players are going to have to sit out and do nothing at all while the other party is doing stuff. And then switch \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Apr 12 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I completely agree. However, handle a party of 8 is not ideal either. If the party already got that big, some compromise will have to be made by the DM and players. \$\endgroup\$ – Alan Régis Apr 12 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you used these techniques in large parties? Did they turn out well? I've used some of these and run large parties and I"m not sure I'd recommend them. Hearing why you used them and how it went would be immensely more helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Apr 12 at 18:28

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