Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

The Sweet Spot

Over time I found out something about roleplaying groups: There is a certain sweet spot in the size of a group. It’s roughly around 4 to 5 players. Less and the work of the DM becomes more tedious because players will have the constant need to bounce of from the GM in order to find their place in the gameworld, more and all the calculating and numbercrunching for all the characters bogs down everything. I don’t know how that latter thing goes with the rules-light systems I now espouse (Traveller and OD&D), but in Shadowrun and D&D 3rd it was a horror playing with more players. And I played with a lot of players sometimes.

My prime venue back then was the local youth club, of which I had been voted the leader through charisma and sheer awesomeness (the awesomeness partly being that I was the first in the group to have a car). But a lot of the guys there were geeks and so a lot of time went into playing RPGs, mostly D&D 3rd edition (which just had come out) and trying to edge in a few plays of other systems. I think the largest group I had back then was in Shadowrun though, with about 10 people sitting around the table, some of them newbies. It was horror. And I decided to never try that again. I now now that older games used to be played with much larger groups, I still don’t think I ever will cross the 7 or so again.

The sweet spot, it turned out over time, was with four players. And so far I haven’t had a really bad game with four players, if they were more or less in the game.

Of course that sometimes was a challenge, considering that some of the games were interrupted by lengthy discussions on the best pizza to order, bets on wether anyone would try the snails from the restaurant’s menu, and then later getting the pizza and stuffing us with it. Not with snils though, those for some reason were always sold out. Which leads to two different questions: 1. why were they on the menu if they never were available -and- 2. If they were available and really just always out, who in town ate so many snails to deplete the restaurant’s freezer?

I wonder about gaming food sometimes. Some people seem to have taken up the philosophy to not eat and drink anything on the table, while others (me included) like to drink some wine, beer, or mead on the side. And have a nice filling meal before or during the game.

This weekend there will be another session, and I should prepare something. Or at least think about what I should prepare. But the summer has arrived, it’s swelteringly hot outside and stuffy inside, and thoughts come only in drops, or they pour on the page just like that, but without much connection to actual gaming. The setting to play in I think would be Dark Sun, because I feel like that. But I don’t think my players would like yet another change of direction there. On the other hand the area we play in right now is the Wilderlands, so why not do something about that. I think I read the idea once before, and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy actually have a population lower than the Sahara. Lower than Athas even. And considering I am using the larger measures for the game (one hex = 1 league) that would make a lot of sense. A lot of terrible hidden stuff there in the wild lands I guess. Let’s make something out of that. I think I haven’t played up the danger of the whole area enough lately…


One response to “The Sweet Spot

  1. mikemonaco June 25, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Running B/X and variants thereof, I find that anything from 2-8 players works just fine and dandy.

    I can see there being a smaller sweet spot in more complex rule sets like 3e, and in versions where you really “need” at least on of each “type” of character (AD&D, 4e).

    We try to hit at least 4 players for a session, and more than 7 wouldn’t really fit around the table. I guess we see a pool of six players plus a DM as ideal.


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