Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Benefits of Small D&D Parties

people joining hands
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I prefer playing with smaller parties.
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.

Benefits of a small party

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?


  1. I think a big plus of having smaller groups is you can get a lot of 'me' time directed to each player. You can really weave the story to incorporate everyone. The bigger the party, the harder it is to do. If some are perfectly willing to sit back and play a supporting role in the story it's not an issue, but if everyone wants some story face-time it can be a bit of a problem with a huge group.

    1. Ken, thanks for commenting.
      And you're right, I want to give everyone face-time which is sometimes challenging.


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