When playing a Tabletop Roleplaying Game, what is the perfect number of players? When you're starting out in this hobby, whether as a player or DM, you might think the more the merrier; after all, we’ve all had the thought of having all our friends over to sit round a table to roll dice together. That’s a nice thought and in a perfect world where time is infinite, then I expect that would be the norm. Unfortunately our world is not perfect and our time to play games is far too often in short supply, and the more players you have round the table the slower games tend to run. So, what is the perfect number of players?
Well, as with most things to do with TTRPG’s there is no right or wrong answer and it’s really up to you and how many people you feel comfortable with. That being said, if you are new to DMing then I suggest starting with a smaller group; 3-4 people being perfect, in my opinion, but again this is all subjective. The reason I say that smaller groups are a good starting point for new DMs is that smaller groups tend to be easier to get a feel for the flow of the game. You can work on roleplay, making sure that everyone has an opportunity to do something and be “in the spotlight." You can get a feel for combat and how that works without it dragging on for hours and becoming stale. And if the party splits up, you’ll only have few PCs to keep track of. Also, with small group sizes you have less people to try and organise a date to play, which as we all know is the hardest part of playing any TTRPG.
Now what if you’re an experienced DM? What’s a good group number to aim for? Well again it’s all subjective, coming down to how you like to run your table and how many players you are personally comfortable with. For me, the perfect group size is between 5-6. You can get nice party dynamics without it feeling crowded and you can spend time focusing on a player and their story for a session or two without leaving anyone out of the spotlight for too long. Combat can be interesting with the variety of abilities players can bring without dragging on for too long and getting boring. Another thing about having a group of 5-6 players is that when they inevitably split the party, like with the smaller group size, you'll only have two to three groups of players to keep track of. Along with everything above, I’ve found that groups of this size are more fun to play in as there are more people to bounce off of and create brilliant moments of roleplay. That’s not to say you can’t do that with smaller groups because you can, there are just more variety and opportunities.
There are, of course, cons to both sides as well as the pros. With smaller groups it can be hard to balance encounters with some of the higher level creatures being exponentially harder to deal with, and in situations where there are a lot of enemy combatants the party may feel ganged up on and start to feel overwhelmed and get annoyed, especially if it happens often. With bigger groups there can be increased tension between party members if someone is perhaps taking all the good loot or maybe interrupting someone else during a moment of roleplay and taking that away from them. Combat can also drag and become boring with bigger groups. But all of these issues can be solved through good communication between DM and players as well as player to player, and good planning on the DMs side.
So, in conclusion as I said at the start of this post, party size is really down to how you as a DM like to run your table. I’ve known people who, no matter how long they’ve been playing, like to have no more than 4 players in a game. I’ve also known people who like to play with 8-9 players. Both are fine so long as everyone who’s playing is happy and having fun and you as a DM are also having fun, because in the end whether you have 3 players or 10, so long as every is engaged with the story and having fun doing so, then that’s all that matters in the end.
How many players do you prefer and why? What do you like as a player? Tell us in the comments!