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There are benefits and drawbacks
to having fewer PCs.
A while back there was an article about
handling a solo party.
I've never run a solo party but I've played with a small amount of players.
I like smaller parties but I can imagine there are DMs that like larger parties because there are more player interactions and large scale battles.
There are several reasons I like having small parties:
- there is more focus on the background of characters
- character quests are easier
- managing encounters becomes simpler, as do pacing, moving things along, etc
- combat is faster, no one is waiting for something
- getting the entire party together (good for story-heavy D&D)
- getting everyone on the same page regarding style
- large parties draw out one or more leaders among the PCs.
A smaller party gives non-leaders a chance to lead.
It's best not to overwhelm them with choices.
When there are people interested in playing with our group,
I first run a session with a small party at low level to ease them into D&D.
Players that start of in the middle of a campaign at a higher level have more difficulty playing and less fun.
A bad start increases the chance that players aren't going to stay playing D&D for long.
For inexperienced DMs I think it's better.
A DM has to manage a lot of things, all which go easier with a smaller group.
Drawbacks of a small party
Combat Encounters and Skill Challenges can be difficult if there are few PCs, not all roles and skills are covered.
- Buddy NPCs: these are usually tanks or healers at a lower level than the PCs.
I've had a Troll Paladin that only attacks and cannot heal but regenerates.
I also had a pacifist cleric with amazing healing powers.
It's important that they don't draw too much attention to themselves.
- Encounters built to the PCs strength:
For example a team of a rogue and a wizard will get more stealth encounters.
A team of paladin and cleric will often tackle undead.
I like playing with smaller parties, 3-4 are optimal for me.
I've also run games with 2 to 7 players, all in 4E.
What amount of players do you like to play with?
What's the largest number of players you ever had in a session?