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I've just started GM'ing The Lost Mines of Phandelver for a group of people new to RPG's. They're all very excited about it and originally it was meant to be four people, but I now have 7 people wanting to play after the first session of 5 went exceptionally well.

I've told them that the adventure as published doesn't really scale well for more than 5 characters but that I will investigate if it is possible to modify it.

What would I need to do/Where would I start to ensure the adventure remains challenging but fair?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You might want to look at some of the other questions on this site about running games for more than the recommended number of players. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Apr 11 '16 at 0:21
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The adventure will take care of itself. I've run some of the other (DDEN) published materials with larger-than-recommended groups and didn't bother making many modifications.

The effect is that the party breezes through some of the early stuff* but, because of dividing XP by 7 rather than 4 or 5, they level a little "slower" along the story arc. These adventures haven't been written with much in the way of real gating, so being under-level and over-numbered isn't much of a problem. (Warning: that was an Angry link. Foul language mixed with good advice lies ahead.)

The big challenge, in my opinion, is managing the larger table, not the larger party. But you're in luck, as there's lots of wisdom here on that score. See, for instance, How do I run a game for a larger group? Or the results of this search.


* Probably good in this case, as the beginning of LMoP is known to be challenging at 1st-level.

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As a GM who was in your exact situation (except I had closer to 9 players at the table) I speak from experience when I say:

Rooms can get cramped.

It is probably a good idea to add a few five feet to either side of a room. Leave hallways and doors alone, though, those are excellent ways to funnel your players so that their numbers aren't very overwhelming.

A few times I have increased the room size is: WARNING! SPOILERS!

1. The fight with the Green Dragon in the Ruins of Thundertree
2. Various small rooms within Wave Echo Cave
3. Any room where a random encounter occurs

This is, of course, optional but I found that this lessens the frustrations a bit when several players are trying to attack one bugbear. If you like making an encounter feel cramped, feel free to ignore this.

Players will swarm your creatures

It's not often creatures get into a situation where they are fighting with inferior numbers. Cowardly races such as Goblins, which are featured more in the LMOP module might not take on 7 PCs if they number only 4.

You will have to increase the number of Goblins or introduce some other creatures into the mix to give the goblins a fighting chance. To get this right, you will have to study the encounter difficulty based on the budgeted experience for each encounter as intended (i.e. if there are only 4 players) then workback the intended difficulty using 7 players. See wax eagle's answer on budgeted XP for HOTDQ (another module), he explains it better.

Boss monsters will be a breeze

As a workaround to this, you can adjust their Challenge Ratings as you see fit, still basing on the intended encounter difficulty. See my answer on scaling down a creature's CR. Though it is for scaling down CRs, it is still applicable for scaling up.

One Mini-boss monster I especially created was:

King Grol, the leader of the Cragmaw Goblins and 2nd-level Barbarian.
I gave him resistance to BPS damage, a +2 to damage rolls and Reckless Attack. All of these features can be fine tuned to the rules in creating/modifying creatures.

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There are online LMoP encounter modifiers (like this one) that will adjust the number and strength of the monsters for the encounters. I used it to run LMoP with 6 players with moderate success. As a new GM, I didn't have the best understanding of the system, and some of the battles went a little quicker than I was expecting. Don't compensate for this by giving the monsters more HP in the middle of the fight! Let them have their easy victory, and make sure to choose one of the harder ones next time.

Some things to beware/note:

  1. Think about the story effects of changing the monsters. The adjuster tries to keep the same monster, but will sometimes swap out one monster for another. They should make for well balanced fights, but you'll have to think about it, especially for the boss fights where it may tell you to have two of your bosses. Not that that can't work, but you should then figure out why two of [insert boss here] are working together.
  2. Increasing the number of monsters will change how the tide of battle swings. When fighting lots of weaker monsters, the average DPR will reduce over time. When fighting fewer, stronger monsters, killing one will make a bigger difference, but won't happen as often. Just keep this in mind when looking at the encounters. Do you want them swarmed (“why are there so many of X in the area?”), or do you want them scared of how strong the enemy is (“how did these things get so strong?”).
  3. If the encounter modifier tells you to swap out (for example) hobgoblins for goblins, feel free to keep them as goblins, but use the hobgoblin stat block. Just make sure you hint to your players that they look stronger than your average goblin.
  4. Consider room size. If you're fighting outside, you shouldn't have much of an issue, but when you get into smaller areas, be sure to check that the players won't have issues maneuvering. (Unless that's what you want. Depending on how strategic your players are, they may enjoy the challenges of tight spaces.)
  5. If you end up choosing the options that have more monsters, be aware that this will make your PCs level slower. When calculating encounter difficulty with XP, multipliers are used on the XP to decide how many to use, but the straight XP listed in the stat block is what the players receive. This means that they will get less XP per PC than a smaller group running a campaign balanced for them. This is less of an issue with this adjuster, since you can set PC levels, but it's something to think of. If you want your PCs at higher levels at the end, consider adding in some homebrew content in the middle. I did this with the factions: I made them a bigger deal, and had the Zhentarim bring in enforcers that were higher level than the PCs, meaning they needed to get help from the faction representatives, who I gave class levels to.
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