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I'm running an 8-player 5e group in a completely custom realm. Everyone is pretty close friends and most of us have played together before (with me as DM 90% of the time), but this is the first time we've gone over 5 players and the three new ones are first-timers. In preparation for a large group we've put some rules in place to keep combat moving smoothly, but in the RP parts things get bogged down by everyone wanting to explore this or check that or persuade this person or decide who should be the first to step into the tavern because "reasons".

This is all well and good for 7/8 players, but one of the vets is particularly annoyed by people "wasting time" this way. I understand his frustration because it really does slow sessions down and limit us to about 1 encounter per session (and he likes rolling dice slightly more than talking), but everyone else is having a grand old time smelling the roses and getting into trouble with the locals.

I'm not going to kick this guy out because his playstyle is slightly mismatched with the rest, but he's told me of his completely understandable frustration with the situation and I want to help. Is there some way to inject some more action for this guy without disrupting the fun for everyone else?

Things I've considered but have either dismissed or been unable to work out:

  • Making him the secret villain (not sure how that would add interest on a daily basis)
  • Having someone take out an assassination contract on him so he's occasionally assaulted or trapped (the party would likely wipe the floor with whatever ninjas are sent after him)
  • Have him get randomly pulled into another realm and assailed by daemons (would interrupt everything else and ultimately serve no purpose)

He did suggest (in private) early on that he wanted the story to include him getting turned into a werefolf, which would have made some more action as the party had to deal with his transformations and the progression of the disease, but that ultimately got struck down when one of the other players rolled a Paladin of the Silver Flame by coincidence.

What would be an easy way to give this guy some more interesting action without forcing the rest of the party to change their play style? Preferably something that can be worked into a story and isn't just an arbitrary "You get assaulted by giant killer bees constantly for no reason" situation.

Edit: A combination of answers has put me on a possible lead for a compromise. The free-form RP parts are the ones where the odd-man gets frustrated, but the root problem is because all 8 players are focusing on one room and one situation. One possible way to create a compromise is to have the RP areas (in town, out of combat, for example) mapped out so the group can split up and do their own things without having to trudge around as a group. That way some can go interrogate the local alchemist, some can go get drunk and sing songs at the tavern, some can go snoop around for dirt and others can happen to get assaulted by something.

I have no idea if that's feasible, so I'm not writing up an answer to that effect. Please chime in if you've done such a thing before and tell me how it did or didn't work. I'm not keen on writing my own answers either, so even if this is the best way, someone else please write it up so I can accept it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Please answer from experience - your random opinions are not a good RPG.SE answer. How have you handled this problem, or seen it handled? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 30 '16 at 4:48

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D&D 5e does not play well with 8 players, and this is likely the source of your player's frustration. Whenever the designers of 5e are asked how to play with so many, they usually give an answer like "bring enough booze that half of them pass out, then the rest play." Split the group into 2 groups of 4.

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I get the feeling you are overthinking this assuming this is going on during down time and the players don’t just like smelling the roses instead of adventuring. Having players want to do different things during down time is not unusual.

It just requires a bit of discipline, especially with such a large group.

You don’t need to map out a town or anything and prepare a master list of shopkeepers etc. Depending on its size and population, a locale will have a market district, an entertainment district, a rich district, middle class/lower class district and a slum area (add harbour districts or religious districts etc. as required). In smaller towns/villages, these might be just a street or square.

That’s all the information the players need to determine where they are going. As a DM, you then just need to enforce discipline.

  • Ask each player individually what they are going to do.
  • Formulate a response to their goal.
  • Allow them a short follow up.

Examples:

Player 1:

GM: What is Ragnar going to do this evening?

Player: He is going to the inn and hopes to get lucky.

GM: (descripe the inn for colour locale), tell the player there is a wealthy widow, a pretty hooker and a cheap not so pretty hooker.

Player: I try to romance the wealthy widow.

GM: (let the player roll some dice for seduction) inform him of the outcome and the reactions of friends or acquaintances such as “lucky dog” or “there’s more fish in the sea”.

Player 2:

GM: What is Ulfric going to do?

Player: He is going to shop around for a good deal on a new sword & scabbard.

GM: After checking out a few stalls/shops, you realise a decent sword costs 20gp and a second-hand sword can be gotten for 8gp.

Player: I go for the second-hand one and haggle the price down to 6gp.

GM: The seller laments the fate of his children who will go hungry tonight while your friends now call you El Cheapo.

Then move on to player 3 etc. With 8 players, this will take some time but not the entire evening, leaving time for actual adventuring or further plot development. And if you already have your campaign arc mapped out, these small encounters can be used to further the plot (for example the wealthy widow could be in league with the main villain).

Short encounters allow each player to do his thing, establish his playing character’s character etc. but not take up too much time during a session. It is pretty much the same thing a GM would do in a combat encounter when you get down to it.

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It is awesome that so many of your players love role-playing rather than just roll-playing, but that doesn't require wandering around the town making useless conversation. You should subtly motivate them to advance the plot with their role-playing. They are adventurers after all. They need to start asking the right questions of the right people and get things moving.

  • Chatting up the locals? Have the locals bemoan the BigBadEvil.
  • Still keep chatting up the locals? Their favorite barkeep weeps because he lost a family members to the BigBadEvil
  • Still not getting it?, the barmaid gets slaughtered
  • Still not getting it? the BigBadEvil attacks the tavern while the party is there

If your plot doesn't work with the BigBadEvil working its evil in the tavern, you could also have thieves take all of their gold. Now they can't afford to stay in town - treasure, the great motivator!

In any case, you don't want to stop the role-playing - you want to leverage it. Once they are in the dungeon/cavern/forest/whatever they can stay in character and explore different ways to play their role. You don't need to make that 8th player the focus - you just need to give him a chance to adventure and roll dice.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like where you're going with this. Obviously the BBEG needs to be putting more pressure on the party, because otherwise they wouldn't be smelling so many roses. Maybe I should look at ways to ramp up the intensity of the story? \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Nov 30 '16 at 5:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know if intensity is necessarily the word--pace seems to be more what's at play. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 30 '16 at 15:27
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Having a large party is always hard because you're bound to run into troubles. How you handle it depends largely on what you decide to change.

I want things to change, but I don't want to change anything

From what I can see, this is the path you want to travel. Unfortunately, things don't work that way. If you want to help the odd-man to get some more action, you're going to have to change something in the game. This means that the other players will have to conform to a different play style. Perhaps only slightly different, but still a change.

I want fewer players

Split them up into two groups. Give them a reason to split, different tasks towards the same goal and get them together again before the big finale. This is probably the best option and will benefit all players, but it will also be more taxing for you and might make scheduling sessions hard. I've been in a few games like this and it works out well, as long as the GM makes it work.

If scheduling is a problem, let them play at the same time. Switch between groups every half hour, let them interact at times and always have them reconvene before a boss fight. This is hard and time-consuming and it will probably not be the best option for the players. I personally hate waiting while others do their stuff. :-)

I want to speed things up

Don't allow the players to meander off too much. Keep your adventure tight and focused and when someone wants to check out something irrelevant, don't let it get drawn out. You don't have to cut all dead ends short, but let the players know fairly quickly that there's nothing to gain that way. Same about locations. Don't walk the players through a detailed map if all they need to do is get on with the adventure, just tell them they explore the rest of the town and give them some general information.

I've sped up my games a lot by being more clear and not let the players work too hard for the price. I also played in a game where the GM wanted us to get into an isolated town. Instead of waiting for us to spend a lot of playing time come up with a perfect strategy, he simply let guards discover us outside and assume we were citizens caught in the blizzard. Welcome back in, hope you didn't freeze too much. Done.

I want to keep the odd player occupied

Branch off the adventure into small branches that quickly join together again. Perhaps they need to force info from someone or take care of a troublesome person. While the odd-man and a few others are off slashing monsters for a piece of the clue, the rest can enjoy bickering about who sleeps where or what color the get-away carriage should have.

If my players splits up (and some players like to split up...) I always try to maintain two threads at the same time. Before I GM one of the groups, I make sure the other group is in a place where they can RP freely.

I want to cater to both sides

Try alternating your pacing. Let the players dawdle on for one session, then give them a time-limited task and set a timer IRL. The more time they waste on side-tracking, the less likely it is they're going to make it. The timer should be visible at all times and they should be aware that it's a problem if they let it run out.

I want to keep everyone happy

Buy some cake and talk it out. Seriously, set aside one session, bribe the players with some fika and discuss in the group how you can make sure everyone gets what they want from the game. Make it clear that it's not about accusing anyone, but that it's a way of bettering your experience as a group.

I early got into the habit of asking players for their input after a session. Not individually, but as a group before they leave for the night. This way the group can talk amongst themselves and by asking good questions you can get them to work out issues together.

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This is a precarious situation, as you do not wish to ruin all the others fun, but do not want the meets to be boring to anyone. My suggestion is adding a few consequences for lagging behind. Perhaps the villain expands his sphere of influence, attacking town, due to his being unopposed by the "heroes". This could motivate them to defend the town they have grown to enjoy, giving both a combat encounter, and an RP element.

Another solution is to roll with the majority, but make their exploration meaningful. For example, hide some secrets in the town. Dark secrets. The adventurers could stumble upon a secret society, an ancient catacomb, or hear too much of a nobles nefarious plot. If they are as annoying to the villagers as you say, they could be blamed for misfortunes, missing property or even being spies. Cities can be hotbeds of violence, and the group might end up finding out they blindly walked into a minefield.

Finally, just be more adamant about roleplay. It sounds to me like the role playing is mostly lesser concepts and jokes, so just tell them, or show them, that this is serious business.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good ideas, but here are my comments on that. I don't want to force everyone else to speed up or change their style because they're having a good time. I also don't want to let those meanderings lead into side stories because then we'd never get anywhere in the main plot. I'm really looking for a solution that targets the one guy who is slightly against the grain without curtailing the experience for him or anyone else. \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Nov 29 '16 at 20:26
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D&D is in many ways a game of compromises. Especially when it comes to the material in the game. The only time everybody gets everything they want is when they all want the same things. In this case they don't. The odd man out wants more action.

You can't change, but stay the same. That is, you change change the game to give more to one player without forcing the others to go along with it at least a little bit...unless you separate that one player from the others.

Now, I'm not saying get rid of him, or split the party. But even if you can end the game for the other 7 players just 30 minutes earlier, or spend an extra 30 minutes in a one-on-one with the dissatisfied player, you can give him more of what he wants, and not force the others to sit through anything. Give him some missions to tackle on his own that can help progress the story. Have him fetch a quest relevant item solo, or scout out a castle, or interrogate a captured thug. Play these scenarios out with him, one-on-one and you can give him as much action as he wants, and nobody else has to change very much of anything.

Barring that though, either the odd man out needs to shrug and fall in line, or the others are going to have to agree to at least a little bit of compromise since you can't give him more while they are at the table without them being affected in some way or another.

Realize of course that, the style that the others play with doesn't have to change. They just have to accept the fact that there are going to be some more action like scenes going on because you are playing for the whole table. If they are all close friends, they will no doubt accept the extra time to make their friend happy, and then go back to smelling the roses once those moments have passed

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You've sparked an idea... Update in the original post \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Nov 30 '16 at 5:27
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First, 8 players is a pain to DM for. I've stopped doing it except if I want a really silly campaign. It is hard to appropriately challenge that many different characters, it is hard to keep track of everything for them, and it takes a lot of time to do anything in the game. That's been discussed in comments and other answers, so I'm not going to deal with that here.

The best solution I can think of is to have the impatient player play an impatient character (motivated by whatever he wants). We have this dynamic going on at my table, and it both speeds up action and brings that player into the roleplay (and leads to many funny moments).

Our barbarian is easily distracted and prefers straightforward answers. During one extended strategy discussion, he got bored and started walking towards the village the party was trying to sneak into, resulting in the party quickly deciding on a plan among those they had discussed, and rushing to stop him. Another time, after an extensive back and forth with a merchant haggling on price, he just slammed the difference in gold on the counter and walked out. What he does isn't very disruptive to the other player's fun, but it does cause tension between characters, which is great RP fodder.

You could also "motivate" more encounters per day by having one of the players (maybe your impatient one, maybe not) receive a cursed magic item that "hungers." Basically, unless they kill a certain number of creatures or beings per day, they become extremely hungry, and need to eat 4x the normal amount of food. If they go several days without killing, they will feel the need to eat constantly, and eventually will starve to death, no matter how much they eat. Once bonded to them, it takes along with a high level Remove Curse to rid them of the item. Tweak the rules and such to your liking.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This exact kind of method just sort of evolved naturally as we played. It's not completely solved the slowness but it's helped speed things that are taking way too long. This guy has been getting (IC) frustrated and charging into rooms while everyone else messes around with plans and skill checks, which ends up being fun and hilarious and shaves a bit of time off. It fits his character too. Maybe I'll work with him to take that a step further so it impacts more than just encounters. \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Jan 5 '17 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thanby I would make sure that sometimes this ends badly for him, and sometimes it ends badly for the rest of the party. Don't want to punish either of them too much, just nudge them along that they need to act quicker or give the frustrated guy a coloring book or something \$\endgroup\$ – Marshall Tigerus Jan 6 '17 at 14:49
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Put in conflict....

Add a rival group of adventurers who will sometimes bump into the player group and cause trouble. Then add the town watch who will dislike both parties because they make their lives more difficult.

This can lead to the occasional brawl between both groups in the inn, a mugging of a player character who wanders off smelling the roses all alone, player characters being followed and/or robbed of hard-gained riches, both groups hauled in by the watch to answer questions or pay for damages etc....

This way, there is some tension when the group is enjoying downtime in town and there is room for some action, either because the rival group is up to something or because your action-seeking player finds opportunity to get even with the rival group.

And the rival group can help you with your main quest by having vital information which your action player can acquire...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You've sparked an idea... Update in the original post \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Nov 30 '16 at 5:27
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There is no good solution to your problem.

You've told us that your group keeps getting bogged down in roleplaying, and that one of your players doesn't like this because he thinks it's boring. (Your example, discussing which character will walk into the tavern first, does sound pretty boring to me. I guess it's one of those things where you have to be there to appreciate it.)

You've also told us that you don't want to change the roleplaying -- any solution which stops your group from being bogged down in roleplaying is unacceptable, because seven of your eight players like this sort of thing.

If you're not willing to change the roleplaying, unfortunately you're not going to be able to fix the problem.


Let's suppose you were willing to accept some small amount of disruption to the roleplaying -- or, at least, to the particularly boring sort of roleplaying where people are haggling over trivialities.

There's a quote attributed to Chandler which goes like this: "If things start to get boring, have a man burst into the room with a gun in his hand." In other words, if the player characters lose track of the plot and bog down in roleplaying, have something attack them.

You came close to this with your idea of taking out an assassination contract on one of your players. You wrote that you're worried that the party would trivially kill the assassins, but that doesn't need to be true. Maybe the assassins are demons or elementals or some other level-appropriate monster. Maybe it's the Undying Ninja Clan, which thinks nothing of getting twenty of their guys killed because they'll just come back to life again at midnight. You can come up with something workable.

The problem with this approach is that it will disrupt your players' roleplaying, which is something you said you didn't want to do.


Regardless of what you choose, I'd advise against a solution that focuses the spotlight directly on your one frustrated player. The problem you're having is that there isn't enough spotlight (ie, not enough DM attention) to go around for your eight-player game. If you devise a special event for just your one frustrated player, that will take the spotlight away from everyone else, and then everyone else will be frustrated. I recommend planning only large-group activities while you have such a large group.

Do not split the party. Players hate being told that they can't do anything because their characters aren't in the scene.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough, there's no way to keep the status quo and have everyone happy. So what I'm looking for is something that will only minorly {sic} affect the RP while adding speed or action for the odd-man-out. I like your Chandler quote, it would just require me being able to integrate it smoothly into the story, which isn't a problem but something I'd have to think about some more. \$\endgroup\$ – thanby Nov 30 '16 at 5:24
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I agree with the other answers which suggest mapping out your town and allowing the players to split up - but with an added element of risk via another adventuring party, assassination contract etc.

One thing you may also wish to consider is suggesting to your players that rather than rely on you to create everything in a town or area, have them ask you for things they want to find. For example, instead of your rogue asking "What is there in SomeTown?" he might ask "I want to find the Thieves Guild, is there one in SomeTown?. This give you idea of the sort of things he wants to do, and takes the onus off you in terms of planning out every little detail of a town before the party gets there. It does mean you'll have to improv more and come up with some stuff on the fly, but as long as you're clear on your major story beats and don't interfere with them you should be fine.

This may help your disinterested player feel more engaged if he is able to live out his fantasy by asking you for permission to do the cool things he thinks his character would like to do.

Caveat: this can be carnage if all 8 PCs run off in different directions and you have to throw together 8 separate encounters. But with a persistent threat of getting mugged etc that should be mitigated by them staying together for safety.

Hope that helps!

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