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The Douchey DM » General Gaming » Breaking Up

Breaking Up

I’m in the middle of a break up right now. No, my wife is NOT going to be on the market, so stay back!

It’s a gaming break up. I run a fantasy game that I laughably describe as biweekly. It’s started almost three years ago now, in 4th Edition DnD. I’m now running it in GURPS. The problem is, there have been too many players, anywhere from 8 or 9 regulars to 11 or 12 when everyone shows up.

Nearly everyone has mentioned to me that there are too many people in the game, but very few have willingly removed themselves from the game.

During our last session — about a month ago — we had a combat — in GURPS, mind you — that lasted three hours. That’s right, deadly GURPS and a 3-hour combat. That’s what happens when you have too many players and have to come up with a combat encounter that challenges them.

They fought a dozen or so demons, some with sickening powers, some with entangling powers and one big one with a sword. It was a good fight, a few characters went down, one was maimed (the orc lost an eye, a holy wound for an orc warrior) and victory was not certain.

The problem is, with 9 or 10 players and 15 or so demons, that’s a lot of turns to go through, and it took the better part of three hours.

After that, I FINALLY realized I had to do something about the game — I WANT to give the players that kind of desperate fight, where there really is a danger of dying and victory has real consequences to the story, and it is by no means guaranteed.

If I had five players, I could have those kinds of combat regularly, without them taking up half (or most) of a gaming session. Not to mention how little actual role-playing each player gets to do when sitting around a table of eleven people.

So I’m going to run two games: The Eldemy fantasy game and a Traveller game (which will be in either GURPS or Mongoose Traveller).

There were a couple newcomers to the game that I immediately invited to the Traveller game, then I put it to the players.

Char gen for the Traveller game is scheduled in one week, and I’m thinking the Eldemy game will start up the following Saturday.

Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

Filed under: General Gaming

11 Responses to "Breaking Up"

  1. Bradley HarveyNo Gravatar says:

    I can definitely understand having the breakup. Three hours for deadly combat is a bit much. When you moved the Eldemy game to GURPS what level were the characters in D&D and GURPS once the move was made?

    I vote GURPS for Traveller. Ah, the memories.

  2. StuNo Gravatar says:

    The PCs were right about level 10 in DnD4e. And I think the GURPS characters were 250 or 275 pts.

    I probably will run the Traveller game in GURPS as well, as I have most of the material I need, and I only one one or two Mongoose titles.

  3. tentagilNo Gravatar says:

    I’m running a 4e D&D Darksun game with six players and I’ve realized that is to many players, so it blows my mind that you lasted this long with 11 people around the table.

    Seriously thinking about trying to transition my group, though at least two of them are very much D&D crunch monkeys who I know are loath to play other systems. The other four I’ve already introduced to FATE and we’ve played around with Mongoose Traveller as an alternate game run by one of them.

  4. Kevin RNo Gravatar says:

    You really needed to cut that group in half a while ago. However if it was not so big to begin with you may never have moved the group out of DND 4e and into GURPS to begin with so maybe that was a good move.

    I would recommend running the GURPS fantasy and the Traveller Mongoose. I am currently playing in a Shadowrun 4e and running a DND 4e game on alternating Saturdays and it is nice to have the break up of the different systems. I know you know GURPS in and out but the change up really helps me from getting burned out.

    I am hoping to get my group into trying some other systems maybe start with Savage Worlds then move onto GURPS.

  5. BeldarNo Gravatar says:

    We just had to do this in our Savage Worlds game. We sometimes had 9 players. We now have two DM’s running. I’m one of them. We have each group do their adventure and them bring them together at the end of the session at their base of operations. That way we can always send a different group out the next week if we have to.

  6. JonMcNallyNo Gravatar says:

    Am I correct to infer that the expectation is that players will participate in one game or the other, not both, thereby reducing the number of players in a single game? Otherwise, I’m not understanding how having two games alleviates the issue. Clarification, please?

    1. Bradley HarveyNo Gravatar says:

      I believe that they will choose between the two games. His regulars like both systems so I do not think they will mind choosing.

  7. StuNo Gravatar says:

    Yes, the understanding is that no one can play in both games.

  8. ClockhorkNo Gravatar says:

    Groups that large are completely untenable over a long stretch. I know Taylor brought up long ago (season 1 or 2) huge games that we used to have back in the day with sometimes up to 15 players (in RIFTS no less). Even a well organized and on the ball GM could not keep up with that many ad still provide a fun immersive experience for all involved. I remember some folk dropped out just because they didn’t feel like they were able to participate in the story as much as they wanted.
    I am sure that the split will make for much better games all around, both for the players’ immersion and your own enjoyment.

  9. SilvesterNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve recently discovered the podcast and now blog and I have been wondering how you were handling that many players…

    I’m running a generic D&D4e game (in the Nentir Vale and other DDI free adventures) with 7 players and I’m having trouble keeping a lid on the spotlight hogging. It doesn’t help that two of my players are under 11 years old and neither really has an attention span worth mentioning.

    I’d like to fire up a second game on another night for just the younger players, but the day job wants 70 hours a week and I’d have to insist a parent be present at every game…

    I’m learning a lot from you guys, thanks!

  10. Pat CahalanNo Gravatar says:

    Your other option is to co-op GM and to regularly dice the party in half. The “away team” and the “still on the ship” team. The “scouting the new town” team and the “searching for the Wizard’s tower” team.

    This moves the complication bit from the “herding players” to “making sure the GMs are on close to the same page”, but it cuts down on your workload a ton if you’re running the thing without forcing anybody to fish or cut bait.

    Well, except for the other guy/gal who needs to join you in the GMing task.

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