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D&D General Expanding a 3-player campaign to a 6-player with 3 newbies

So, in our group of friends, there is a sudden interest in D&D. We have an ongoing campaign with 3 players, and recently we talked in a restaurant about that campaign and now 3 others would like to join. But I don't have very good experiences when people join into an existing campaign. The group dynamics will be different and there is a real risk that the introduction will be rushed because everybody is eager to get going again.

So, taking earlier experiences into account, I'm considering to organize a one-off in the same campaign-setting so that all the newbies can get to know the game a bit, and get some introduction into the campaign setting as a bonus action. Then I want to organize another "session zero" where we align style and characters, and where we draft the 3 new characters. And then it's up to me as DM to merge the 3 new characters into the existing storyline. It's gonna take some time (i.e. 3-4 sessions) before we're doing "normal" sessions again, but the current players themselves are enthusiastic to expand the group, and it's in fact their idea, so I hope they'll be patient.

My main worries are:
  • When we're discussing new characters, the existing 3 players may also get inspired and want to make a new character. Should I allow that? Seems mean not to allow it. But if too many characters change, we might as well start a new campaign.
  • I'm thinking to merge the new PCs into the story at level 1, and level them up really really fast to catch up with the group, who are approaching level 4. There's a danger in having squishy level 1s on a battlefield, but there's also a risk when you level up new players too fast (learning curve may be too steep). I may give the new level 1 PCs each one extra healing potion at the start of their existence in the game to avoid too many deaths.

Any thoughts or tips?
 

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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Just to throw out a likely impractical idea: What do you think abotu continuing to run your 3-person campaign and also running another campaign in the same world? This gives you the opportunity to start all of the characters at the beginning so they are all well integrated, start at level 1 which si a good place for newbies to learn, existing players who want to be in both (may not be able due to time or other commitments) can have new characters, and it doesn't impact the first campaign directly, but as it's in the same world they will enrich each other by making the world feel more dynamic and living.

And in the future, if one fo mroe of the newbies - no longer new - want to join the other game they will be up to speed on the world and that call can be made. And, worst comes to worst it falls apart due to scheduling or whatever you still have the original game.
 

Horwath

Hero
If you are worrying about lvl1 players being too squishy and do not want to burden your new players with lot's of mechanics, consider having their 1st level characters have 3rd level Hit points. There will be fewer stuff to memorize but they will be able to take few hits before going down.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
If it was me in this situation, I would start a whole new game with the six players so that old and new alike are on even footing. Then if we had the time, continue to run the original three in their other game, maybe just less frequently (if the three actually care about their current game that much.)
 

GSHamster

Adventurer
I think you should let the 3 experienced players make new characters for the one-off. That way everyone starts together and has fun together. Encourage them to try something very different from their main character.

Ideally, the one-off will take the new characters to 2nd or 3rd level. That way they can merge into the existing group more easily.

If one of the experienced players decides that they like the new character better, just roll with it and retire the old character.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I support your plan: Start them off with a standalone adventure that covers about 4 to 6 sessions to give them a chance to learn before they make characters for your regular campaign. By that time your other players will miss their PCs, most likely. Also, right before the break, give them all a good story hook that they'll want to resolve with their existing PCs because it ties into their stories...
 

aco175

Legend
I may poo poo on this, but you may find that some or all try it and then not like it. You may be back to the original campaign in a few weeks. This is a risk with new players who find it not to their liking.

I would be tempted to start a new campaign that lasts only a few weeks/months. Grab something basic like one of the box sets to help the new players to like the game and stick with it. The old players can help and play new PCs, maybe even ask them to play '2nd tier' and let the newbies shine more. After a month or two you will find out a lot.

Another idea is to start with the new players and add the old players as NPCs/henchmen depending on how the new players set up the group. You can advance them to 4th level and then join the old party with some experience under your/their belt. You come up with a side track that joins the original campaign and everyone is happy. The NPC/henchmen can come and go as needed, orrrrr, you kill them off in a climatic battle before the new party meets up with the old party. This shows the players that PCs can die and to be careful.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I think there is good advice in this thread so far, but @aco175's warning is also very important. It may be that one or more of the new players end up not that into it and that is okay, too! As such, it is better to do a one-off 3-session mini-campaign or something to let them try it out without long-term consequences to your ongoing game.

I have pretty good record these days, but there was definitely a time in the past where getting 1 out of every 3 possible new players to join was a positive thing because not every game is for everyone (and that'd be true even if they were already experienced with D&D).
 
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Li Shenron

Legend
Others already said what I thought...

Despite the enthusiasm, I would not count on the new players to stick around. Therefore I would not yet let them join the ongoing campaign.

Instead, I would organize a separate one-night game or maybe even longer, but still a single adventure (3-4 sessions max) to let the new players try.

You can set this adventure in the same fantasy world so that they get to know something about it.

I would prefer that the 3 resident players make new PCs for this adventure so that everyone starts at level 1. At the end of it, you can level up to 2nd, and have the 3 new player's PC join the 3 old players 3rd level PCs which they will resume playing.

This way also if something goes wrong, the old players can resume the previous campaign from where they stopped.
 

aco175

Legend
Go light on making the campaign epic and make it more fun for the new players. Also remember that you are now going to have 6 players and that you may need more adjusting to the flow of the game. Combats may take more time or giving each player some shine-time may be harder. Your adventures fleshing out backstory become longer for everyone to hit it. Go easy on yourself to make it better for you as well.

I would recruit an experienced player to track initiative- off your plate
Another to look up rules or spells- off your plate.
I have the players roll monster damage against themselves, but some find this abhorrent.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Pull out Phandelver or a classic "starter adventure" for the new players. Figuring out the rules and the mechanics of a new game is its own task - whether CandyLand or D&D. Invite the existing players to join as "mentors" both in-game and out. Everybody gets new L1 characters.

If you want a limited objective, the haunted house near the beginning of Saltmarsh will work. Combat, exploration, investigation ... and a few dangling threads if they want to come back to it later.
 

Yora

Legend
I think the old players making new characters is a very good idea. Especially if the players are already on for it.
The three old players will be doing a lot of the work teaching the new players the game, and that's always so much easier if everyone has comparable characters. Giving new players higher level characters to start with greatly increases the learning curve. And when the new players with new characters look to the old players to see how it's done, it's best when their characters are comparable. 1st level characters trying to follow the example of 4th level characters probably won't work out so well and lead to avoidable problems.

I think the other players have the right idea. Having everyone start with new characters will make it easier for the new players to learn the game.
 


ReshiIRE

Adventurer
Lots of excellent points here, but if you are going to put any of them into the current campaign at a lower level, consider level 3 going to level 4 soon afterwards. It's not too far off, and depending on the class and subclass choosen, it wouldn't be too much extra information or features to consider for new features (especially for classes like Fighter etc.)
 


With that many new-to-the-hobby players, and the existing players committed to including them, just switch to a new, short campaign with everyone at level 1. They are just going to get overwhelmed trying to catch up on the existing campaign while learning a new complicated game, and the existing campaign won't really be the same with that radical and abrupt a shift in the players.

When that campaign resolves you can see whose still playing and what they want to do. By that point integrating them into the original campaign as level 4 characters probably won't be so daunting. They might not understand level 4 of a new character class but at least they have a basic feel for the game and the table. And at that point everyone will need to be reminded what had happened in the paused campaign so they're all on somewhat even footing.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
How many 6 player games have you played?

That is a lot and I think should be your biggest concern.

Personally the most players I will ever play with is 5 though I prefer 4.
 

Stalker0

Legend
But if too many characters change, we might as well start a new campaign.
So lets here, as this is the first fundamental question. Do you and your existing players want to start a new campaign? If so that is the easiest way to go.

Assuming the answer is no....one thing you want to talk with the new players on.... its their job to make characters that will work with the existing party. Aka probably not a good idea to bring in a dark wizard in a group of paladins...etc. Unless you are forcing the group together through plot, the old characters are effectively inviting new members into their group..... and realistically they aren't going to do that if the new players completely clash with their style. So to avoid those issues up front, I would take the new character ideas and run them by your vets to see if they think there would be any conflicts here. If the answer is "hell no I would never adventure with such a person"....then the newbie might want to rethink their concept.

In terms of level, personally I would just make them 4th.... there really isn't that much in 5th edition to pick up between 1st and 4th. Its 5th where you get crazier things and 3rd level spells that have more of an impact, but 4th level I think is just fine for even newer players to pick up.
 

I am going to take the advice that many of you wrote: In the introductory one-off ALL players play with new characters, at level 1. I will create some 8-10 pre-made level 1 character sheets and they can grab one (creating 6 new character sheets with newbies takes all day, and I want to play the game, not create char sheets). I will place that one-off in the main campaign-setting but at a geographically different location (i.e. they learn a little about what is wrong with the world, but won't encounter the same locations/NPCs).

The 3 "veterans" indicated that they would like to keep the story going, and also keep their existing characters. And I think I should respect that request. In addition, I spent a fair bit of time to come up with the story so far, and would not mind to keep it going.

So, after getting to know the game with a one-off, we will have a "session 0.1". The three veteran players are allowed to keep their characters (if they still want that), and the others must ensure that their characters will fit in and get along with those existing characters, and also have a motivation to at least start following the main storyline (there is no railroad, so the group can take any random turn at a later stage). Looking at the group, I actually foresee very few problems with this, but I will not skip this session 0.1. At the session 0.1, the newbies will have to create their own character sheets, and we will also roll stats at the table.

Then I will ask the 3 veteran players if they mind if we run the 3 newbies through a little mini-arch before they encounter the rest of the party. Maybe some quick combat against a few kobolds at level 1, and then level up to level 4. If players grumble about sitting out for a moment, then we will level to level 4 immediately.

How many 6 player games have you played?

That is a lot and I think should be your biggest concern. [...]
It's outside the scope of this thread, but you are very much right. I'm both worried and curious to learn if I can handle 6 players. I have experience with 5, but I am aware that one extra player is not insignificant. However, my experience is with 5 rather loud and chaotic players, and this will be 6 more lawful and calm players. (Note that I really mean the players' alignment, not their PCs' alignment). My estimate is that it's going to be fine. But we should probably evaluate this after a few sessions.

Approaching it from the other side: it's one group of friends and it's not easy to kick out just one person out of a group of 6, so I am going to try it. I gave the players a disclaimer already that it's also my first time with 6 players. Again: we should evaluate how it goes.

(also, in the OP, I should have written "my main worries that I'd like to discuss here are:") ;)
 

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