Number of players

aramis erak

So, I don't have a specific angle to the topic, but I wanted to maybe exchange some thoughts around the idea of number of players:
  • I tend to prefer smaller groups. More time to give to every individual player.
  • Most TTRPGs that I've seen seem to tend toward the classic 4-6 recommended player.
  • The challenges of running smaller groups (action economy, etc).
  • Why is there so few two players games or solo games? What are your experiences with them?
  • Is the "recommended number of player" an important information that shouldn't be omitted from rulebooks?
I like groups of GM+4-6. Why? the creative synergy which I've usually found absent in GM+2p (or the one GMless I've run enough to have an opinion, 0GM+3p). Past 6, it gets harder and harder to run and too long between players in most games.
3p is my flat minimum for home games.
Most I've seen recommend 4-6, tho' a few are fewer...
Freemarket is limited by deck availability; GM needs one, so the 5 decks mean GM+4p
Warhammer FRP 3E is similarly limited by the base action cards; the core box is intended for 2-3 players plus GM; extra packs of character storage box and more base cards were available.
Mouse Guard is intended for 3-4; it plays fine with minimal adjustment up to 7p. (adding extra encounters at 5+)
I've seen a few which had 4-8, but not recently. One of those was pretty darned close to a boardgame.
I know that the Victory Games James Bond RPG had provisions for GM+1 - play a double-oh.

Mekton's Operation Rimfire includes 10 pregen PCs... but assumes not all will be used as PCs.

Why so few GM+1 games? I suspect because it's hard to produce broadly competent characters who are also not übermenschen. And moreover, it requires the GM to work in a different way... You can't rely upon the synergy of players to come up with additional takes. It almost requires a fail-forward approach... almost.

GM+2? I've seen a lot of adventures for 2-4 for non-D&D games. Including Tunnels and Trolls. (Interesting side note: most of the solos can be run with multiple characters; they tend to be marked by "total combat adds"...)

Note that there are over a hundred solo (GM-less single player) modules for Legends of the Ancient World; it is highly compatible with its inspiration, The Fantasy Trip. TFT itself had about 10, and more are coming for the "Legacy Edition" (which has several substantial changes from the original, but is largely stat-compatible).
Tunnels and Trolls has dozens as well.
I'm aware of 5 for Car Wars, 3 of those supporting also Highway:2000 and Battlecars.
These are halfway between gamebooks and standard adventures.

Then there are the gamebook RPGs... Tunnels and Trolls, Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, and others.

Yeah, i know, T&T is in multiple categories. The Corgi editions included a quickstart version of the core rules in the solo adventures they reprinted... making them gamebook RPGs - everything needed to play except the dice. The Flying Buffalo versions usually do not.

The success of the gamebook RPGs is that they said, "Here, try this... and if you want more, you can buy more, but here also are the tools for a player to «write the book» during play with a few friends..."

Recommended number of players is so often 3-6 that listing it is generally redundant... except for component heavy games like WFRP3 and Freemarket, where the components are in fact a limit.

For DL5A (DragonLance 5th Age), I found that 6p really benefitted from two decks instead of one... so I bought a spare. up to 4p on one deck was fine, but 6 resulted in just too many shuffles, and 5 was suboptimal. Similar issues for Castle Falkenstein.

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Solitary Role Playing
I've played several times with just two players. They each had one main character and one sidekick character. Worked really well.

In a D&D game the main characters were a druid and a wizard. Their sidekicks were fighter body guards.

In pulp story the main characters were an investigator-engineer and an upper class business woman adventuress. They had a bodyguard and chauffeur as sidekicks.

Hand of Evil

I am a 2 to 4 player GM. Easier to manage. Anything more and start running into conflicts with scheduling and resource allocation. I find it easier in setting up the game and having interest for all the players at the table.

With larger groups, found that someone may not always have as much involvement in every session. Plus if is easier to add than subtract from the adventure if someone does not show up, talking foes, experience, treasure, information, etc.

GM+4 is my preference; it usually allows play with one person missing. GM+5 is a bit harder, and GM+6 is my limit.

I once played a convention game that had about 30 players; the start-up had been slow and people kept coming along wanting to join in. It was completely unmanageable, of course. Since the DM had two assistants, it rapidly fragmented into three parties of about ten players, which could operate at a basic level, although they were badly coordinated.

I've run a Feng Shui all-combat one-shot for 14 players set in a Hong Kong theme park attacked by demons (5 heroes show up and fight an encounter, another 5 heroes show up and fight a different encounter, another 4 heroes show up and fight a different encounter, everyone meets and teams up in a big boss battle involving a flying demonic orca). But I would never do that again.

My preferred group size is 4-5 including a GM. When running a game online, players who aren't engaged have a tendency to tab out to other that's another problem.

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