GMs, how do you handle larger (9+) gaming groups?

I'll soon be hosting a rather large game, in which 9-12 people may be playing. I'm trying to determine how I can keep everyone busy and interested while not going insane myself.

Farming GMing duties off to "sub-GMs" may or may not be an option, depending on prep time. But anyway, tell me of your successes and failures, please.

ETA: The game will be fantasy-oriented high-magic one-shot using Savage Worlds for system. The playing environment is a house with a large living room and a couple of vacant upstairs rooms for possible smaller meetings.
 
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Lethe

Deserve's got nothing to do with it
Validated User
How do you handle a game of 9-12 people?

COMPLETE AND UTTER MAYHEM

With this many people you have no chance at running a serious game with complex themes, detailed npcs or storylines.

The good news is the genre your running seems about as well suited for a game of mayhem as anything.

Set up a loose story idea, then let the players drive the action. Try to keep everyone engaged, if you notice someone's been doing nothing for 10 or 15 minutes have a townsperson run up to them crying for help, have an ogre launch a boulder at them, etc.

Let players try anything. If you're going to allow character death, either have a handful of other characters rolled up so they can jump into another role or have a board game or video games or something set up for the dead people to do.
 

ADamiani

Will GM For Food
Validated User
I'll soon be hosting a rather large game, in which 9-12 people may be playing. I'm trying to determine how I can keep everyone busy and interested while not going insane myself.

Farming GMing duties off to "sub-GMs" may or may not be an option, depending on prep time. But anyway, tell me of your successes and failures, please.

ETA: The game will be fantasy-oriented high-magic one-shot using Savage Worlds for system. The playing environment is a house with a large living room and a couple of vacant upstairs rooms for possible smaller meetings.

I'm not sure it can actually be done well-- at least, without turning it into something resembling a LARP. You'd have to foist a lot of elements of gameplay into interaction between the players that doesn't require your direct involvement. You can't interact effectively with more than about 7 people at a time, tops, no matter how good a GM you are. Even if you could, combat would take forever-- I did a ten player game once, and people had fun, but the game was slow and linear, and the players didn't have a lot of control. The fun had to come from the social aspect of hanging out with that many friends at the same time, rather than the virtues of the game itself.
 

Baulderstone

Registered User
Validated User
With Savage Worlds it is fairly easy to farm out combat duties to players. Let them know the Parry and Toughness of their opponents so they can resolve hits and damage, and place shaken and wound tokens, themselves. That will take some strain off you.
 

Craig Oxbrow

Ah, y'know. This guy.
Validated User
If it's a one-shot, I'd recommend the TOON method - divide the group into two opposing groups and let them argue, plot against and eventually fight each other.

For an ongoing game, look at how many of them are really active and concentrate on them - or trust them to carry on and focus on the marginalised.
 

cczernia

Hail To The Thief
Validated User
Players who currently aren't in the action could play NPCs. Or try an get some sort of conflict between the players so they have to interact with each other. The less the players focus on you and the more they focus on each other the better. Also, avoid combat unless you one or two people helping you.
 

BluSponge

Texas Gamer
Validated User
Didn't OD&D games usually host upwards of 12-16 players? Isn't that why the game rules called for a caller? Where's Old Geezer when you need him?

Tom
who is dealing with this problem too
 

Halloween Jack

Equipped with Bubble Lead
Validated User
How do you handle a game of 9-12 people?

COMPLETE AND UTTER MAYHEM

With this many people you have no chance at running a serious game with complex themes, detailed npcs or storylines.
I concur. I've never seen a game swell past 5 players without really suffering for it. I was in one game that was utter mayhem because the GM started with 10 players and actually let it swell to, I think, 12. And my friend's Werewolf game, while he is doing a really good job of keeping a tight narrative focus, would be easier for him if he hadn't allowed an extra player or 2 to join in. And bear in mind that in both cases, there's still increased difficulty even though we still never have everyone there for any given session.
 

Robert A. Rodger

Aspiring Kermit
Validated User
Short, snarky answer: Don't!

I never liked running for more than four players. Five was a pretty solid limit. It wasn't until I took some classes on interpersonal communication that I realized there was a theoretical reason for it-- five people is a small group that can function and interact. Six becomes a "large group" which invariably breaks down into smaller group-- the players interacting with the GM and the other players kibitzing amongst themselves.

For a while in college I ran a Star Wars game with a pretty broad rotating group of players. There were four or so regulars there at almost every session, but a lot of other players came and went. For the last game of the year I got everyone who ever played to come back for the grand finalle, something like 20 players in all. We played in a large room and as characters separated into their tasks I had the players sit in their little groups. Then I ran from one group to another playing for a couple minutes, ending on a dramatic moment and then bolting to the next group.

It was really hard remember where I left off with each of the four subplots, but we had a lot of fun. One benefit was the subgroups would talk about their plans while I was elsewhere so when I got back to them it was no hesitation go go go. (All in all it wasn't that different from people playing multiple games of chess at once, except, you know, a lot less intellectual.)

But every group I've been in with more than 6 players has fallen apart pretty quickly for one reason or another. It's not something I would look for.
 
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