Good games for large groups?

Let's say you've got 8+ players plus the GM. What games would you recommend for a sprawling group like that? Sessions would be 2-3 hours long and players are interested in character development over time and a variety of challenges (including, but not limited to, combat).
 

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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I just ran Pirate Borg for seven players a few weeks ago (nine people actually signed up). As with Savage Worlds, it's a very lightweight system that meant things went quickly.

I would probably recommend Shadowdark for the same reason, and it even mechanically enforces making sure everyone gets a regular turn throughout the gaming session.

Both games are somewhat deadly, though, and there's probably a lower chance of character progression, unless character progression means "I take all the loot off my last character's corpse and continue from there."
 

aco175

Legend
I DMd 8 players in a 5e game but combat did not a bit of tweaking. I mostly had a pole with clothespins that tracked initiative and had them roll damage against themselves while I moved on. Going around to the player turns did slow some.
 

I DMd 8 players in a 5e game but combat did not a bit of tweaking. I mostly had a pole with clothespins that tracked initiative and had them roll damage against themselves while I moved on. Going around to the player turns did slow some.
I've done huge games with both D&D and GURPS and it's worked ok. I've been running this game with GURPS, which is my preferred system. I have a lot of experience with GURPS, so I can tweak it to keep things moving, but as we've hit the 9-player mark, I've begun to wonder if there's not something out there that is better designed for dividing spotlight time into that many slices.

I've even considered how to decentralize the GM role, allowing sub-groups to effectively GM themselves and report back.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
What about an onion of a game? You know, peel back the layers until you have something manageable/not overripe?

Outer layer: magic/metaphysical combat+. Who wants to see 4+ players A) choosing spells each round, or B) trying to figure out how to maintain their prior spells, get defensive against the enemy tanks/chargers, and still have enough actions to cast a 2nd level spell from a spell implement? Peel it off.

Next layer: combat. Each PC's armor reduces incoming physical damage by a fixed amount (which is a simplification of that armor's protection die). PCs aren't fixed to a grid, but the GM can add a defensive posture to character positioning, and all those PCs might then have flanking options too, which is a juicy but thick layer of onion. Peel it off.

Middle layer: extended conflict. The reason combat is above this layer is that this lays the foundation for combat: turns, actions, and making progress toward a goal. This is a maybe layer for big groups; it allows for team members to contribute to a common goal without over-complexity ("does my shield provide protection? Wait, I need an action to use it?"). Peel it off, but set it to the side, just in case.

Next layer: characters. The building blocks of the actors in the game. You can tinker with this layer (slice, dice, or mince), but it's essential unless you're going for the simplest of RPGs. Keep it.

Onion core: the basics. What's a roll? Why is it called a contest? Do contests get more difficult? The core of the onion takes it from role-playing to role-playing game. Keep it.

One more thing about this onion: if you have toothpicks, you can add decorations, Mr. Potato Head-style. I call them rules modules. For a big group, you might alter the Round (202), Turn (203), Initiative Contest (212), and the Reaction (214) rules to allow for a group-discussion-style round of conflict, or a regimented use-all-your-actions-quickly type of round. Whatever you think will work best.

Start cutting onions and get teary-eyed here (rules under "Five Rules Modules"):
 


With a group that large, in that short of a time, that's going to be a tall order. When you say character development, I'm not sure if you mean personality or mechanics, so I'll answer both:

Personality:

Troika, Americana, Kids on Bikes

Mechanics:

DCC RPG - it's got enough levers and growth opportunities, but runs fast enough that people won't be waiting forever for their turn to come around in combat
 


Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
With a group that large, in that short of a time, that's going to be a tall order. When you say character development, I'm not sure if you mean personality or mechanics, so I'll answer both:

Personality:

Troika, Americana, Kids on Bikes

Mechanics:

DCC RPG - it's got enough levers and growth opportunities, but runs fast enough that people won't be waiting forever for their turn to come around in combat
Honestly, a game with a funnel -- DCC or Shadowdark are both good choices here -- is probably the ideal way to start off running games for this group. Everyone gets to jump in, there's lots of chaos and carnage baked in, and when some people flake on future sessions -- always the way to bet -- you can just say the others fled back home to become gongfarmers.
 

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