D&D 5E Strategies for Big Parties

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
I would have my group roll Initiative at the beginning of the night, and write that on a whiteboard. I added enemy initiative rolls as they showed up in the plot.

Let somebody in the group do work for you.
- Got a budding artist? Let him draw the map.
- Anybody whose day job is at a restaurant can go home this week with $20 and instructions to bring munchies (entrée plus sides)

Pre-prep "random" encounters. Or roll them up during the week, and ignore your "random" rolls at-table.
Come up with a personalized format that shows the most important combat stats for enemies.

BBEGs can be one-upped for extra toughness: max HP, +1 or +2 to their to-hit mods, +1dX for damage. I altered an Adult Dragon into an Ancient Dragon to drive home the point that he was venerably old and experienced and tough and powerful. He was the closest I have come to a TPK.

Do not be afraid to try to kill the party, when plot-appropriate. Lizardmen defending their hunting turf might swim away after taking a casualty and some injuries; that Dragon took exception to intruders in his lair.
 

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thorgrit

Explorer
If you're using an interactive map with a tactical grid, you may want to play fast and loose with the rules on it. Have PC and NPC/monster avatars, but only as a very rough guide as to who's generally where. Instead of having everybody count out squares, just say when you move, you can get from one room to another, from near to far, from melee to short range, etc. (With Death House, the kickstart-them-to-level-3 intro, there are many places where that many PCs absolutely cannot crowd in and fight effectively.) If you do go this route, talk to your players about battlefield control spells/options, either recommending they not take them, or hear opinions on how they could be modified in that kind of simpler system.

Put a time limit on deciding what to do in combat. How strictly you want to enforce it is up to you. I haven't looked to see if VTTs have an accessible timer. If a player is really indecisive, you can allow hold action and just speak up when they want to go next (technically not in 5e I don't think), make them lose their turn entirely, or declare they're taking the Dodge action and move on. Even if each player only takes one minute to resolve their actions, and you as the DM resolve npc/monster turn actions in a total of two minutes, that's still 10 minutes between rounds. If you let players drift into taking 5 minutes to resolve a turn, that's stretching into the 45-60 minutes per round area.

For exploration / social situations, ask all players what they intend to do before responding to any of it. This is one of my pet peeves, as in my experience, the larger the group, the more a quiet person gets ignored, when the DM immediately declares responses to the first person to speak or the loudest voice. Once you get everyone's intentions, then go ahead with interaction and responses in groups.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Hope at least some is useful, and good luck!
 

sydbar

Explorer
One of my dm's has us roll(usually 3) some initiatives before the game, and has a player keep track of the initiatives. He also has a player pull the crit and fumble cards, another to place corpse markers, and another to place condition tokens. Anyone that does one of those jobs, gets a token for a free reroll that is only good for that session. I have another dm that informs who the next character to go, so they can decide during the turn of the person before them, what they are going to do.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Good news: the "talking stick" initiative worked wonders! 8 people, and by all accounts, butter smooth and still responsive. Even didn't have to be quite as draconian about out-of-turn talking as I anticipated I'd be (once laying down the rule, everyone was on board with the main thrust of the "turn" being about the person with the stick). I actually think I got MORE in-character performance out of some of the party than in a normal game. :)

Being in a VTT undoubtedly helped - the sense of space and relative nearness of players and ability to spin off into side-convos wasn't something I was fighting too hard against.

It went well, and I look forward to the next few sessions! We'll see how it holds up when the party hits some of the more populous combats in Death House, but so far so good!
 


Kalshane

First Post
Fortunately, doing this over VTT, so quickly referencing name, AC, and initiative are pretty easy.

But, on the other side, there's no body queues or anything for seeing when someone is done talking or about to speak or anything....

One recommendation I would make (especially with a large group) is that if you're using voice/video chat, have the players do side conversations via text chat. This will cut-down on people talking over one another. The "voice line" should be left open for player/DM interaction or group discussion.
 

indemnity

First Post
I actually think I got MORE in-character performance out of some of the party than in a normal game.

I find this too. Especially in regards to non-combat situations.

Some players just dominate others, usually to the detriment of the game. Happens all too much at the FLGS and turns off new players looking for a group.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
One lingering concern is the "cramped-ness" of battle. I've turned on Overrun and Tumble from the DMG, and I've made grappling able to move a creature within your reach, and I've ruled that prone enemies are difficult terrain (making Shove a very useful thing). We've got a pretty ranged-heavy party, but I hope this mitigates some of the awfulness.
 

evilbob

Explorer
VTT? What's that?

Double the size of all "dungeon" rooms (any space for fighting). Just make the maps 10' on a square instead of 5. (And don't sweat the realism.)

I ran a game with about 8 players on average, in 3.5, for quite a while. Scheduling was the absolute biggest problem. I'd suggest setting up your world that it makes perfect sense that people teleport in and out for no reason, if you care about that sort of thing. (Establish something like "ethereal pockets" for Barovia that trap people for short whiles but then deposit them back with the rest of the group.)

In-game, getting time for everyone to participate was the main issue, just like any conversation with 9 people. Combat is tricky but you'll eventually figure out what works; obviously making it as fast as possible is the goal (any trick from this thread helps; rolling attack + damage together helps, or better yet just use static, average damage). But there are also gotchas you might not realize until you try them. For example, don't throw monsters that paralyze or otherwise incapacitate characters into the mix. So, for example, change the ghasts in Death House to something else, or change their powers. Waiting for 7 other people to have your turn is bad enough, but when that turn is also skipped? Wow, that sucks. Similarly, don't throw them against monsters that completely make one character useless (fire elementals against a fire sorc, for example) for the same reason.

The line for battle challenge is much trickier to hit. I've not tried it with 5.0's bounded accuracy but what we tended to find was that more enemies was better than too strong enemies. Still, be prepared for them to steamroll the crap out of everything. On the other hand, if you do have a big battle that is foreshadowed, this can suck too because they will try to plan for it and 8 people planning a battle strategy can last the whole session, easily. When it comes to Strahd, my advice is to ignore his HP total entirely. Just feel it out: how long has it been? Are they doing a good job and trying hard? Then have him retreat or mist or whatever the story calls for. Don't make fighting him anything other than dramatically appropriate. In general, I'd suggest trying to focus more on role-playing since the battles will be tricky.
 

Radaceus

Adventurer
My group is large, we started with 9, fortunately that was only a few sessions with all of us, now its usually 5 to 7 total on any given Sunday...we play on roll20, my single most important advice for running VTT is that it is very important your players avoid table talk, keep the OOC to a minimum. Otherwise it seems like ages between a persons turn, and even then it still can take a while. I suppose this still stands at the real table with large groups, but online its even worse, my players /whisper each other to avoid congesting the vocals with everybody talking at once.

I will also agree with ignoring the Encounter Multipliers and just go with straight CR totals. And definitely avoid solo fights unless you do it as a last wave BBEG type thing. It's amazing how much more power that one or two more PCs brings to the table to tip the balance, dont underestimate it.
 


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