Large Group Gaming

by Lance Berg (emporer@success.net)

We've gotten a bit off the original topic, I think it might be interesting to know about actual cases of large group games, like I assume a school teacher would have to deal with. I've played in and run groups as large as 12 players, back when I owned a game store. I wouldn't do this just for fun, myself, on either end of the stick, but there were people involved that had no financial stake in the enterprise, so I guess there are people who would. Factors to consider:

Mass of players, one GM, one table
This is a big mess, and some order has to be imposed, most workable is the "work around the table in order" format, situation by situation asking each player what he is doing. This is actually a typical approach in many smaller games, and it does have some charms: everyone gets full GM attention in fairly equal measures. The down side: the more palyers there are, the more time each player spends waiting. Part of this trouble can be handled by giving the players something to do with their "down time," puzzle out riddles, roll combat results, so on and so forth, but is something to deal with, and in a group of 12 it is just plain ugly.

Multiple GMs
An obvious solution, don't run big games, run several small games all at once. Trouble here is, you need a number of GMs. If you have a number of experienced players in your class, you might split them up and have them GM for the others. You lose a lot of control over the learning process here, but perhaps you would not function as GM at all, but rather some kind of moderator, riding herd on your GMs and helping them to learn while they are helping their players to learn.

Sub GMs
Similar to Multiple GMs, but have the seperate GMs running their players in the same world at the same time as the others, and function yourself as the head GM who controls the world and interactions between groups. This will give you more control over what is going on, but (since you will be tied up more on gameworld related questions) less control over how things go on.

Party Leader
Rather than a GM solution, this plan has the group filter their actions thru a single "leader" player. THings tend to go a little more smoothly in terms of group success, but many players will feel slighted, their actions vetoed, and you are now relying on someone besides yourself to control the group dynamics.

Deputy GMs
Similar to Sub GMs; but all at one table, one group. You assign certain GMing duties ad hoc to players; allowing combat to be broken up into several sub groups with someone handling the "bad guys" and mechanics for each cluster of combatents, for example. You need not reveal hidden secrets to such deputies, and they need not be responsible for any plotting, just resolution of discrete situations to speed the game.

Opposition
In any of the above, a handy trick is to have some players handle the actions of the NPCs. This has several features to reccomend it: the GM workload is reduced, as he no longer has to handle the actions of the NPCs, NPCs generally become more interesting when played individually, the number of characters in the game is reduced, since there is not necesssarily one for every player plus a number of NPCs, alternately, players whose characters are not involved by virtue of being unconcious, or unable to speak a given language, or whatever, are given something to do to keep their interest up.

I'm sure there are a good many more, but this is a start.