D&D 5E Adjusting for Larger Groups? (On-the-Fly Suggestions)

Retreater

Legend
I'm very excited that a regular in-person group has started coming together for the first time since COVID started. In fact, it's looking like it will be a larger one than I've had since the early days of college, and also willing to play weekly and longer than I've been used to (4+ hours) - again the first since the early days of college. Because of the amount of content I'll need will likely outpace my ability to write original adventures, I'm going to lean into some published adventures - and it looks like Ghosts of Saltmarsh will be a good fit for the group's interests.
I've got a group of seven players (2 paladins, 2 druids, 1 cleric, 1 sorcerer, and 1 rogue), and I think that the official adventures will be too easy for them. The main issue is that I think the players will get bored and feel left out if the fight is over before we go around the table once.
So for seven players, would you typically add +50% more monsters to the encounter? Add more HP to opponents?
I don't want to re-write every encounter, just kind of augment them to be more fun.
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
More minions/mooks, more HP. Maybe find a way to add Lair Actions and/or Legendary Actions to some things, just for action economy reasons. I realize you're not looking to edit the encounters, but if you can find a way to give the PCs (and/or the opposition) like ... something in addition to killing the enemy--something like saving a civilian or preventing something from breaking (or breaking it)--you can give the PCs more things they need to do.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Is there a way to limit the seats in the game to 5 on the assumption that at least 2 people probably can't make it on any given week? And that, if more than 5 can attend on certain weeks, one or two people just sit out that week on a rotation of some kind? That would make the game more manageable on multiple levels if you can swing it.
 

IME you need two things, more NPC DPR and a larger pool of NPC HPs. You can do this by simply (almost) doubling the number of NPC in each encounter, or by adjusting the NPCs to have more HP and more attacks. The first is easy, but can make combat tedious, while the second has more considerations.

Increasing the attack damage is fraught with the possibility of character death due to a massive crit. So don't do that. At low levels you can just give every NPC double (or +75%) HP and multi attack. But make sure not to concentrate too many attacks on any given PC. At higher levels as the PCs have more options and the NPCs already have 2 or 3 attacks increasing their number of attacks is troublesome. But at least by this point you can increase the damage as you don't have the frail PC problem you do at low levels.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
When I have had to run for 7 or 8 PCs... my go-tos were adding additional enemies in proportion to how the encounter was build for 4 players... giving all monsters Max HP... bumping their attack bonuses by 2 to 4 points (depending on the tier level the party was in)... and as often as possible have "additional enemies" on standby that could arrive to the combat in 2 or 3 rounds as necessary if things were an unfun curbstomp by the players. (If the group were thrilled with quickly curbstomping the enemies, then I just let it happen and wouldn't bother bringing in any more.)

That last one may or may not suit your particular sensibilities, as it falls within the "Is it fudging?" discussion and I dunno how you feel about that. But those are what I went with. They tended to work okay.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
My gaming group has 5 players, and combat can be a bit of a grind sometimes. A couple of things we've found that help speed the game up:
  • Spell cards. They aren't cheap, but if you can afford them, it makes preparing your spells a lot easier. If you play online, ask your spellcasters to keep a browser tab open to a hyperlinked spell list (we use Roll20, but D&D Beyond and others have this feature.)
  • Group Initiative. Especially for large groups of monsters. Have all of the monsters go on Initiative 12, or make one d20 roll for all of the monsters' initiatives. This will cut down on the "hey you skipped me!" factor, which can really cause combat to snag.
  • Use less combat. Seriously, if combat is bogging down the game, just use less combat! Not every monster interaction needs to be a three-hour long combat sequence, and not every trip across town needs to cross paths with bandits and pickpockets. That reminds me...
  • Talk to your players. Get their input on the pacing of the game, and how much combat they are expecting. If they want a full-on combat simulator, with 10-15 minutes of roleplaying between battles, you're going to have a lot of tracking on your hands--you might want to invest in some electronic tools to help you. But if they are only expecting one massive, epic battle per gaming session, you can pull out all the stops and make it memorable.
Hope this is helpful. Happy gaming!
 

niklinna

Abstraction is a tool that streamlines gameplay.
As long as folks are good with fights taking longer to resolve, I guess that works. An alternative is to have a talk with them about that, and maybe fiddle with initiative so that whoever went last the previous fight has a bonus to initiative. That way folks might not all get a turn in a fight, but they will still all get turns over the course of the session. You could apply that to some but not all fights, of course.

(I was in a group that had nine players at one point and it got really bogged down. Some folks left, and then we were back down to more reasonable numbers.)
 

Retreater

Legend
Is there a way to limit the seats in the game to 5 on the assumption that at least 2 people probably can't make it on any given week? And that, if more than 5 can attend on certain weeks, one or two people just sit out that week on a rotation of some kind? That would make the game more manageable on multiple levels if you can swing it.
That would be tricky, because there are three families involved, each of whom come in a "set."
However, I would expect that between work schedules, extracurricular activities, etc., that we won't have the full 7 players each session.
 

Oofta

Legend
Along with the usual advice such as having different goals (possibly multiple wit a large group), I try to throw in more, but better hitting monsters. So I'll give the enemies a +2-4 attack bonus but not increase HP or damage. I also stage monsters and have them attack from multiple directions.

For bosses, I also add attack bonus and increase how many legendary actions/reactions they have.

Hope that helps!
 

For a group of 7, it means that foes will be doubled. At 5 or 6 I multiply by 1.5.

For bosses monsters add minions that are a CR or two below the PCs, and this for each PCs above four.

For the solo monster, add 1 usage of legendary resistance for each two players above four (round up) and add 1 legendary reaction for each players above four. So for seven players a solo should have 6 legendary actions (in addition to lair action if it has any).

Multiply the hp by 1 +(0.25 per players above four).
Add 1 point of AC per two players above four
Add 1 feat per 3 CR after the first four.

This should give you a good easy rule of thumb for large groups.

PS: "Ho and count side kicks as .25 players. "
 

Rabbitbait

Adventurer
I run a campaign with 7 players at the moment. I have three things to help with that:
  • I double the number of enemies (or double the total enemy xp).
  • I have the group levelling up slower than they normally would
  • I use Roll20

With Roll20 I have a pro subscription that allows me to have APIs. I use that to:

  • Select everyone in the combat and click a button to roll initiative for everyone
  • Indicate on every turn who's initiative it is and centre the map on them (but only for me)
  • Auto roll saving throws and area damage
  • Auto roll concentration checks if someone takes damage
  • Reroll initiative automatically for everyone at the end of each round (I just do this one because it is fun, adds randomness and makes initiative bonuses more powerful)

Even then, combats take a lot longer than they would with just 4 or 5 players. There is a bit more effort in keeping players engaged between their turns.

  • I roll my dice in the open. Everyone knows that they can die from bad tactics or bad luck. Adds more tension and that is good.
  • I play smart creatures cleverly. They will gang up on particular characters if that would be in their nature.
  • Some creatures (such as ghouls) will continue to attack after a character has fallen (feasting).
  • I let characters die. Without that potential of death people would be more easily distracted.
 

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