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Any Advicefor playing a game with large groups?
I had an overwhellming response for the night I was going to Run Shadowrun.
8 players showed up and i was like wow, I'm not prepped for this but my experience as a GM helped but to make combat go faster any suggestions?
A way to make combat go faster? Yeah, avoid it if you can. Eight player combat is messy, and it takes forever.
I wouldn't think combat would be your big problem... having to do legwork for that many people sounds worse wink.gif

Tips for making combat go better include designating someone to keep track of initiative for you and keep the people informed of who declares next, etc.
TinkerGnome: Accually I did have the Other GM help me keep track of it. He offered and it was starting to run smooth.

I think we should all pass that advice.

Thanks Chummer.
* Try to get some Co-GMs for the legwork
* Pre-rolled dice. Show up with a piece of paper *filled* with numbers, these numbers being dice rolls, placed in the order you rolled them. Whenever you need to roll dice, refer to your paper, cross out the number you take, and check for resuslts. Saves time in a big way. Alternatively, use an online dice roller (i have a link on my home computer i can post when I get home if you need one) to generate successes.
* Use a timer for combat. Players have X amount of seconds to declare their actions, or they are considered to be analysing the situation and thus do not act. Leave enough time for them to ask questions about their environnement, because, after all, they are not really there and need you to tell them whats going on to make a good decision
* Unfortunatly, you can't go into long downtime detail. Ask a genral "what do you do during this day/week/month". Use large time chunks.
Yeah, I have an eight player group and combat sucks. I often try to do combat actions that occur simultaneously or nearly so at the same time. So, if there are actions at phases 3, 4, and 7, I'll just have all three of those people resolve their actions simultaneously OOC and then describe the results IC.

The other option, is to house rule your combat system to do this:

1) Everyone declares actions and performs necessary rolls.
2) Actions are resolved as declared (no changing) in the order of initiative. Requires some record keeping but it can be very quick.

For example, we'll use three players and two bad guys. PCs are Jack, Jill, and Jane, the bad guys are Fred and Wilma.


Jack = 24
Jill = 23
Fred = 17
Jane = 13
Wilma = 8


Jack = shoot Fred twice on SA fire
Jill = move toward Wilma to engage in melee
Fred = shoot at Jane twice of BF fire
Jane = cast Confusrion on Fred
Wilma = cast Manabolt at Jack

Now, at this point, the GM gives out TNs and everyone would do a lot of dice rolling, writing down their resulting rolls (not just the number of successes), drain, etc. The players must write down the roll in order to alter TNs based on damage. Then, in order of initiative, the GM simply resolves the actions. Here are the results:

Jack = hits fred twice for a serious wound
Jill = running
Fred = hits Jane once for a serious wound, misses on the second shot
Jane = rolls for the spell and receives no drain
Wilma = rolls for the spell and recieves light drain

To resolve the actions, Jack goes first and deals his serious wound to Fred. Then Jill begins running towards Wilma. Fred is rocked by Jack's hits, his TN's go up by 3 for the wounds which actually results in him missing with both shots. Therefore, Jane's spell takes effect on Fred giving him another TN modification in addition to his new wound modifier. Last Wilma's spell happens and Jack suffers a Moderate wound due to the Manabolt.

I've wanted to use this method but haven't because it involves a lot of record keeping by all participants. Plus, it can get a little confusing when a lot of damage is dealt to different people. Lastly, there is the chance that someone, usually the GM, ends up rolling for an action for a person who might end up dead prior to the resolution of their action. This isn't really a problem, but it can waste valuable time.

Also, if you really trust your players, you can give out the rolls for the NPCs as well. With an 8 person group, I often have 8+ enemies engaging them in combat at any one time. As a result, I would have to roll a lot more dice for those guys than any one player would have to roll for thier character. So, give each character one of the NPCs to roll for as well. Or have a co-GM that can help you by rolling half of them.

Works really well if you have a laptop because you can use dice rollers (like mcmackie's) to roll the dice and the copy & paste the results into notepad or something similar. Makes it easy to record the information -- especially because it sorts the rolls for you.

-- Dash --
QUOTE (Backgammon)
* Unfortunatly, you can't go into long downtime detail. Ask a genral "what do you do during this day/week/month". Use large time chunks.

What I've done to try and fix this problem is perform most of the downtime stuff via email or in private sessions when possible. Kinda nice, because that way players can work on stuff independently of the rest of the group if they so desire.

-- Dash --
Generalize enemies...

The more enemies you have, the worse it gets to have individualized stats. Though a bit unreallistic, I usually chunk guys together...IE all the gun toting peons have the same stats, their Lts all have te same stats, and etc etc...Saves a lot of time referencing die numbers and damage to have a standard.
I've never ran a large Shadowrun game, but I have run a game with as many as 14 people for another game which shall remain unnamed because I friggin' HATE level based advancement. Anyway, here's a few things I've learned.

1) This is the MOST IMPORTANT suggestion I can give you. If you ignore everything else I say here, fine. Just remember this. USE MINIATURES. I don't care where you get them, I don't care if it's just quarters or paper markers or if you have the entire Ral Partha line of figures hand-painted with varients. Whatever. You'll find combat takes half as long if everyone knows where all the other characters are at all the time. I personally believe that every DM or GM of any game that involves combat even once a game should own one of the large vinyl mats you can write on and wash off. They're invaluable to sketch out buildings, cover, etc.

I'm going to repeat this because it's that damn important. USE MINIATURES. In these days dominated by clicky games and other cheap minis, there's no real reason not to have some. Buy a couple of boxes of MageKnight figures, the D&D minis, or even just print out some paper tokens and glue them to posterboard to make little stand-ups. Just use SOMETHING. If you've ever had the problem of every person in turn asking "Okay, where are all the bad guys at?", you'll know how invaluable minis are.

Also, everyone will drift during combat. They take their turn, then they pay attention to the next person's turn, then they TRY to pay attention to the next turn, then they think of some spell they need to look up or someone mentions some movie or something and they're gone until you call out their name and say "Okay, roll your body." If you use minis, you make it that much easier on everyone as they can take a quick glance at the board and get at least a basic idea of what's going on.

2) Limit it to 8 people at MOST. If more people want to play, have a sign-up list on a first-come first-serve basis. If you really want to accomodate more people, run two games. You can run a larger game, but you will bog down FAST. Also, challenges that you thought were hard become laughably simple the larger the group gets.

3) If you ignore suggestion #1, make sure to have an assistant. Even with only 8 people, an assistant is a great help. This person can also play a character, but make sure they have a firm grasp on the rules and can help you adjudicate in combat situations. Your assistant is best for playing the decker, as they are less likely to be involved in combat and generally, if they want to play a decker after reading the rules, they'll probably know the rest of the rules pretty well. An assistant is INVALUABLE. If you have someone else keeping track of intiative and where everyone is, then that's less you have to deal with and it speeds everything up.

4) Groups of identical enemies make a bigger threat than a single very strong opponent. This isn't as big of a deal in a game where most combat is ranged, but if you have even two melee fighters in a group, they're going to run up to the NPC and everyone else is going to have a hell of a time hitting him/her. It's also easiest if the NPCs are identical because you don't have to remember which one is which other than which NPCs have taken damage of some kind.

5) Regardless of what others say, I find that combat-based games run better with a large group. People will tend to have more fun in a large game if it's combat based rather than roleplay based because inevitably, one or two characters will dominate any particular social situation, leaving the other 6+ people sitting around trying to get a word in. Imagine trying to carry on 8 conversations at the same time. That's what it's like trying to roleplay a social situation with 8 players. Combat may run slower with more people, but at least you're going to be assured that each person is going to get a turn.

6) Make sure your players are there to play. The larger the group gets, the more likely it is to degrade fast. Someone makes a smart-ass comment, the entire group laughs. Someone else makes a funny movie reference, everyone laughs. And then you suddenly look up and find that half the table is talking about the movie while you're trying to run the game. The easiest way to deal with this is to make sure no one gets bored. If they aren't bored, they're less likely to stray from the game.

7) Do NOT do decking or astral survalience unless you have an assistant GM. The times when I lost more players to other conversations at the table playing D&D is when the rogue(s) scout(s) ahead. The rogue is off doing the recon mission, and your attention is solely focused on him/her. Everyone else gets bored since their character isn't involved, and they go out for food or call their girl/boyfriends or start trading Magic: The Gathering cards or something else. It's one thing when you have 4 or 5 people and one of them is doing something on their own. It's another completely when you have 7+ people sitting around waiting for the mage to wake up.

cool.gif Do NOT split up the group if you can help it. Of course it's hard to do, and someone's going to say "Okay, the four of us are going left while the rest of them are going to go right." If this is unavoidable, just call a break for the other players. They're going to take one anyway, but if you give them a set time (try not to take more than half an hour and NEVER more than an hour), they're more likely to stay in the mindset of the game when it's time to start their turn. And make sure to give the first group a break as well while you deal with the second group. This can also work for astral recon/decking/whatever if you have to.

The Abstruse One
Things that stretch out combat for small groups get out of control for large groups. If NPC's and PC's are trying to fire back and forth from +4 cover and +2 Fog while the characters are firing from moving vehicles (+2), combat takes ..... a.... long .... time.

Resist the temptation to "challenge" the large groups and keep the combat modifiers relatively simple.

Second, our slowest sessions are when the players are "uncertain". Uncertainty about the security layout, who their enemies are, when they will be attacked, etc. slows the players down to a crawl. If you want to speed up the large groups, let them get a "find out" a little more info than normal.
You can do 8+ in the Other Game fairly easily, by yourself if you plan well. (Or are good on your feet, eg me).

But in Shadowrun, you'll really need another GM. But that can open a whole can of worms that I don't feel like typing right now.
With 8 or 10 players everybody only gets 1/2 the roleplaying and 1/2 the attention of the GM per hour as when you've only got 4 or 5. Keeping players interested and involved is key, and the GM has to maintain control over the table. The following are techniques I concentrate on when handling a table of 8 to 10:

I tell them ahead of time we can't spend time with rules discussion. Whatever I say goes, but if you think a rule is handled differently let me know. I'll make sure you don't die just because you interpret a rule differently. Write it down and talk to me after the game.

I make the clues that lead to the next planned scene pretty obvious. Yes, they lose roleplaying possibilities, and the "Investigator" character doesn't get a chance to do-his-thing, but it keeps the game on track.

I control the pacing of the game by how I ask questions. Big time blocks take very little table time when I ask each player in turn around the table "What do you want to accomplish by 6AM". I write it down and then go back around the table describing how well they accomplished what they wanted. If I ask them "What do you want to do in the next minute in this basement" the pacing is very different.

I make the Astral surveillance take very little table time. This may mean super-powerful wards, or no magical opposition to the surveillance.

You do not want to handle 8 players on a regular basis, but by skimping on the places where an individual character would normally get a lot of individual attention it can be easily done. You don't want to do this skimping all the time, or some characters would never get a chance to "shine".
Dim Sum
Abstruse has, IMHO, pretty much hit the nail dead on where advice on large groups is concerned. The largest group I GMed for was 28 players in London - was GREAT for I would say military rather than combat games like MechWarrior, Aliens, and Twilight 2000, etc. 'cos there is hierarchy in-game which facilitates running the game for a GM but it was an absolute nightmare for games like Shadowrun, where I just had to put my foot down and break them up into smaller groups and run games for them on different days.

As for the Other Game, large groups of players are not necessarily easier to manage but certainly easier than Shadowrun. My group of 28 did generate a lot of hilarity with the Other Game because in that setting, 28 PCs do not constitute a party - that's an ARMY! biggrin.gif

Over the years, I've found the ideal size of a group to be 4-6 players and one GM, MAX! Even 8 is pushing it as it starts eating into other players' time and share of the limelight.
All I can really say is... a 10-player L5R game was the single worst game I ever ran.

...okay, excluding the time I forgot my ADD medication, there were two newbie players out of three, and they didn't tell me there were mushrooms (allergy) on the pizza.
Fully agreed that 4-5 people is best number of people for game.
I have run game for 8 people. but it drains GM too much, and what fun is GMing if you are totally drained?

And yes, assistant is a must.
Oh, and DO NOT LET them do shopping.
It takes whole session and everyone is bored.
You can let them buy one or two things necessary for mission or give them via Johnson, though.
I run a regular 8-man game, and the key, IMHO, is storytelling. There are 2 main aspects to large-group RPing, the story and the 'planning'. The players will listen and chip in as a story is told (never ever let them get out of character, like saying 'my character does this...', this forces them to not waste time talking OOC stuff). Then walk away when it's time for them to make their plans. I go get a drink, talk to the wife, and wait until they're ready to talk, I don't even answer questions, they are given as much info as I'm willing for them to have, and the 'johnson' disappears, so they plan, call me in, I run them through their 'footwork', leave for them to plan some more, and repeat.

Combat is easy because I'm at my PC and run programs I wrote to handle everything. You tell me your initiative, I put it in, and just hit [Next] after every action to know who goes when. Have your dice and action ready because if you don't roll wen I hit [next] you forfeit your action.

Crusher Bob
One of the things we've had success with is to have members of the group from semi-permanent partnerships, so that really you are mostly dealing with 4 groups of 2 rather than 8 people randomly doing stuff. So you have this pair follow up this lead, and that pair follow up that other lead.
Crusher Bob, I like that suggestion. I'll try that the next time I'm faced with a large random group.
I like the seperation Idea. You could always just make two teams of four. Doing the same job. Now thats a desperate Johnson. With a Lot of Money. That would mean a dangerouse run if he needed 8 guys.

Whats really great..... make one team hired to do the opposite as the other. Team A is hired to bodyguard some exec. Team B is there to grab him. Makes for a bit of interesting play. Chaotic, but if you pull it off just right its great. Just put the teams in seperate rooms if possible. This also gives time to think. You keep them appart and say "Im going to the other room for a minute." make sure each team hase something to do to pass the time. Video games work well, but they should be planning, and thus there should be a little less delay when you get back to them. If you need a break. Hide in the bathroom with some booze and um...... A note pad and a pen.... yes thats it.

This is not a recomendation to make it go by faster i know. but it makes for great fun when all of a sudden you come into the room of team a and say, roll your reactions, oh you fail a group of shadowrunners has just busted in.......why yes there are four of them........ yes I'll describe them.......errr you dont know his name!!! I dont care if you saw chris's character sheet!!

this can lead to fun or alchoholism..... or both.

sigh....ahh my good friend Jack Daniels.......sob frown.gif
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