Looking at the current player mix in 2 games that I’m running right now, I’ve realized that I’m running for what I consider to be the perfect party composition – 3 Slightly Overpowered/Dual Role Characters . Why is this the perfect sized party for me to run for?
- Having only 3 players lets them share the spotlight much more.
- 3 Players tend to work together more easily. If 2 players are in agreement, the 3rd usually goes along with the idea. Conversely, if one player has an idea or disagreement, it is easier to be heard and understood by 2 people with differing opinions rather than 4 people with differing opinions.
- This means there is less planning paralysis. If something is under major contention, they are able to take votes without getting tied.
- There are more chances for each character to be useful since there are less people to perform tasks. This makes the players feel more necessary to the group.
- If anyone plays a zookeeper character, it doesn’t feel like the PCs control an army – more like they have a regular sized group.
- Party roles are more easily defined. There is less room for 2 really talky type characters or 2 big tanks. If there is duplication of party roles (more on this later), then there is better definition of the roles.
- 3 players makes it easier to run systems where you have to do more individualized calculations for experience, loot, or party participation.
- Characters that are Gestalt, have extra build points, or extra free special powers give many more options to the characters.
- Characters in games that are class based or have very specific roles don’t feel as one-dimensional.
- If characters share common game-necessary roles (healer, tank, negotiator, hacker, etc.) and have extra powers or roles in the game, then there is something for them to do if another player is already filling that role in this situation or their “turn” is over.
- If roles overlap, the opportunities to assist make more sense. (Why would the soldier with no major hacking skills help the hacker and how would he be of use?)
- I can throw fewer enemies at the characters (because there are fewer of them) and have faster combats.
- I can throw bigger/tougher enemies at the characters and have faster combats that mean more.
- There is more reason to believe that the characters are actually big-shots in the world, since they are overpowered or multi-classed.
- You can create themed games without taking away character options. “I want to run an all thieves-guild game. You are all thieves alongside whatever else you do.”
- Wimpier, or generalized or utilitarian classes, like the stereotypical D&D bard can become very useful if they have other combat options to back up their utilitarian classes.
This works really well for the games I run and enables me to do much more with my players. I’m not saying I will cap all my games at 3 people, but if I’m looking at a group of 5 or 6 people for a game, I think I’d rather split it into 2 different groups and run two different games.
I realize that this fits my play style and I also understand that my style isn’t for everyone. So I’d love to hear what you consider the perfect party composition to run for? How many players are too many or too few? What games do you run and how do the power levels play out in the game: overpowered, underpowered, or just right?