My players have been increasingly bad at the RSVP thing as of late (again)—I guess it's time to start offering an incentive to those that do. I hold my games on Saturday. I send out an Invite e-mail for every game usually a week prior, sometimes earlier—as of Friday I had one RSVP, on Saturday I received another that was for two players, and Justin came over earlier in the day. This means that as of Game Time I was expecting four people. Game Time is seven, players are invited to show up as early as 6:30, however Justin and I had gone out to eat and were not back until a quarter to—P was sitting on my porch waiting. (up to Five)
By the time we got started (a very late start, which was okay) there were Eight players. After playing for a while one person had to go, but another had arrived, so in the aggregate I had Nine. This is by far the largest group I have ever Game Mastered.
One of the problems you get with large groups is Off topic/ Out of Game chatter—there was a lot of this. Despite that, I felt we did pretty good. Looking back at the session, this is what was accomplished: Three Combat Encounters, A Social Encounter, and an Environmental Encounter in a three and a half hour session. Have I mentioned how much I love Savage Worlds? One of the first Dungeons and Dragons games I ever played in had just as many players and after playing around six or seven hours I only remember two combat encounters and it didn't seem like we had gotten to do much.
The first combat encounter was my favorite. I was using something out of the Saddle Sore adventure book, and tweaking it to my own devices. Here's your peek behind the GM Screen for this weeks session. I threw one of the creatures from the encounter at them early, just for kicks. Something that I did when I started this Campaign, was to carry XP from the previous game—I should not have done this, because The Flood is written for novice characters. This has led to some combat encounters that just end too fast, and I've been trying to learn how to adjust.
Now the first encounter of the evening was something I just came up with on the fly. The first person to hit the creature, threw a lot of power points in and the damage roll was ridiculous. However, I wasn't ready for it to die, so I gave a creative description that the giant millipede-like creature was ripped in half; the back half skittered off into the forest, and the front half was angry. I continued to fudge it a little like that for the rest of the encounter—It still died before everyone had a chance to take a turn, which I wasn't too keen about, so I tried to be a little more careful about that in the combat that was to come.
Another issue with large groups is decision making. I think I stumbled upon a solution (or perhaps I've just absorbed it from all the Gaming Blogs and Podcasts I consume). Allow everyone to chat it out, but not for too long because, honestly, most have made their mind up pretty early on in the "discussion," and then just call for a vote by show of hands. The adventure I'm using has an abstract representation of the mine/cave system that they are exploring—after allowing a little bit of discussion I just called for a vote on the cardinal directions available. Things moved along nicely.
In conclusion, I felt I handled the large group fairly well—which surprised me, I anticipated a little more trouble. I should also point out that my 12–13 year old Scouts are easier to keep on-task than a rambunctious group of Gamers.