Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Does Ruleset Impact Expected Group Size?

As I think about group size for RPG sessions (and working on the assumption of one PC per player) the following question comes up for me:

Does the ruleset impact on the group size?

I ask this, because most D&D styled gaming is based on covering the four main classes grouping: fighter, cleric, magic user and thief. Therefore, you need four players (absent multi-classing) to cover the spread.

Crypts & Things is one of the few OSR games that I can think of that does away with the spread of "core four". Fighting classes, an universal caster (mixing magic user and cleric) and a thief. But the thief isn't "needed". He's better at thieving than the other clases, but all can attempt the skills and all get better with them. In Crypts & Things, you can cover the spread with two PCs.

RQ, Legend, Basic Roleplaying, Openquest - you don't have classes, you have skills that define the character. With rules like this (and Savage Worlds and the like) you can create characters that cover more of the spread, if you will. They might not be specialized, but they should be competent.

I'm by no means saying you can't play D&D or a class based system with less than four players / PCs (or whatever the number may be). I ran a game AD&D 2e game for a year with just three players, and a Space Master game for nearly just as long with just two. What I am saying is that certain rulesets default to different group sizes by their very nature. They have a minimum number that fits their "sweet zone".

How hard do you find it if you fall below that number (no cleric or no thief in the party, etc)?


  1. Back in the day we played for a time with just DM+2 players. So we each had two characters to cover the four classes (I had a Barbarian instead of fighter but whatever). At one point the MU character was going to make a magic item or something, so I had my Cleric do priestly service in the city's church for his god. That left us with My Barbarian and the other guy's Thief.

    The campaign changed from dungeon/wilderness crawling to an urban campaign. An inadvertent and unknowing homage to Fahfrd and The Grey Mouser. My character was the lookout and distraction. He would run screaming through the streets covered only in an array of body paint. "The Screaming Barbarian"

    Later, when they leveled up, he got enough hit points so that he added setting fire to himself to the act-thus was born "The Flaming Barbarian" (Yes, there is a joke there, and no, we didn't get it at the time-we were a little young.)

    My point (since I haven't made one yet) is that I think you make do with what you've got. Whether it's Henchmen, DM run Mary Sues, multiple characters or changing the style of the campaign. Although I've never really been a part of a polyamorous group that spread their affections among a number of different games at the same time. So never had the "We don't have enough people for XX, let's play YY."

  2. I don't think we've ever covered all the core classes. Even when we've had enough players to do so, we ended up with a wizard, barbarian, druid and monk.

  3. Back in College playing 0e weused to groups of 8-10 players mimimum was about 6 characters(but sometimes people would play more than one character). Playing 4e now 5 seems optimum, 4e slows noticebly with 6 players

  4. I've rarely, if ever, had groups that cover. I simply write accordingly. If it's all fighters, then we do things fighters would do. I don't make them suffer because the rules imply that you have to have your bases covered. That's silly. I always get a kick out of those folks that "need" to have one of all four classes in a party. If you have a DM that's worth the value of his dice, it won't even be an issue.

  5. Yeah, I've never had consistency in my groups. Clerics are the rarest class of all for my campaigns, and I spent 11 years with AD&D 2nd and almost never saw clerics in play. Conversely, these days I run a lot of Pathfinder and fighters seem to be anathema; caster-heavy groups that suffer a lot when combat gets ugly. I just tend to cater to scenario design that fits the group and that usually seems to work.


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