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Old 11-29-2023, 05:38 PM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Default GURPS for large groups

My son started a DFRPG group last year that has now swelled to nine players (plus me as the GM). For any given session, we haven't had more than seven players show up, but even that is pretty unwieldy. Everyone is obviously having fun or the group wouldn't be so big, but we only play for a few hours and it feels like the story progresses quite slowly, especially with DF's focus on combat and tactics.

After our last session, my son and I have been discussion possible solutions. We might break it up into two smaller groups. We may choose a lighter game system. Or we might see if we can tweak GURPS to work well for a large table. This thread supports that last option.

If any of you have run GURPS for a large group of players, please share your tricks and techniques. What types of challenges support this sort of play? Are some genres more suitable than others? Feel free to suggest minor tweaks or radical revisions.

For the purposes of this discussion, I'm open to any genre or subset of the GURPS system. I have just about everything published for 3e and 4e.
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Old 11-29-2023, 05:45 PM   #2
Christopher R. Rice
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Portsmouth, VA, USA
Default Re: GURPS for large groups

I have a few:
  • Overprepare like crazy before the campaign and then...don't. The overhead is huge on a GM in groups over 6 players.
  • Get an adversary and then USE them.
  • Say yes when it doesn't matter and no when it does. "Of course you drive there fine" vs. "make a Driving roll to avoid the yakuza."
  • Damn the rules and full speed ahead.
  • Impulse Buys are your friend and they will let your players feel cool and awesome.
  • Get anything and everything you can get done between sessions done between sessions. When you're gaming be there for the game, not stuck on if you should up Broadsword another level.
  • Take notes. Then get your adversary to take notes. Then ask a player to take notes. Have the notes take notes. Let Noteception rule. When there are a lot of players there is going to be a lot of stuff happening.
  • Get the players to roll 10-15 blind rolls ahead of time and consult those rolls when you need to determine something they couldn't know.
  • Get each player to write up 2-5 actions for combat they like to do and when they can't decide, just have them do one.
  • Assign someone to do VTT set-up if you can. If you can't, don't get hung up on perfect. Perfect is the enemy of good. And good is good enough when gaming.
  • Have 1-2 plotters to look over your game notes as the campaign progresses. Talk to them. Kibitz with them. It will help.
  • When you can read up on random things in the rules. Incremental knowledge acquisition leads to system mastery and system mastery leads to smoother games which lead to lots of fun.
  • It's okay to retcon things. It's even more okay to mess up and have to fix it.

I run 3-5 groups set in the same campaign setting where the players in other groups can interact with each other. All of this is hard won. No one can do it alone when the group size is large - at least not for long.

TL;DR Assemble a team to lead and then run your game with them.
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Last edited by Christopher R. Rice; 11-29-2023 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 11-30-2023, 02:10 AM   #3
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Portland, Oregon
Default Re: GURPS for large groups

I had a group back in the day that had 8 members, I think. I nominated one of the players as "Assistant GM", mostly during combats. I would give some basic overall tactics for the enemies he was running, and let him run that side of the battlefield. Seemed to keep things moving quickly, with effectively two GMs running the combats, each covering half the players.
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Old 11-30-2023, 04:57 PM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Default Re: GURPS for large groups

Originally Posted by Christopher R. Rice View Post
TL;DR Assemble a team to lead and then run your game with them.
Great ideas here. Thank you!

Originally Posted by StevenH View Post
I had a group back in the day that had 8 members, I think. I nominated one of the players as "Assistant GM", mostly during combats.
In the 1990s I ran a long campaign with a group that size, too, but that was at a time when we could typically run 6+ hour sessions. We also had a few players who explicitly preferred to have a background role with little spotlight time.

I like the idea of an assistant GM. I've been brainstorming about spreading it out even more than that.

It seems like in many situations, anyone can act as a GM for a small scene. For example, let's say we have a typical role-playing scene in a tavern. I could divide the group into three trios and have each one manage a different situation: belligerent patron, gambling table, poetry competition, etc. I could be the GM for one group, or could just float between the three, answering questions about rules or background lore as needed. After the scenes played out, the groups could come back to the table and share the highlights. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm hoping to experiment.
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Old 11-30-2023, 06:08 PM   #5
Join Date: Feb 2014
Default Re: GURPS for large groups

Large tables for that other game used to have assigned roles for the players (not the PCs). One was especially important for large tables: The Caller. Basically, pretend the GM is King, and the players are Parliament. The ministers/lords can make all the noise they want until a decision is made and the prime minister (Caller) announces the result to the king. It seems to slow things down, but speeds up in the long run because the GM isn't having to ask, re-ask, and listen over three conversations.
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Old 11-30-2023, 08:59 PM   #6
Join Date: Apr 2012
Default Re: GURPS for large groups

Look for opportunities to avoid combats, especially encounters that are 'just another combat' of no particular import.

Let them try sneaking past encounters. If they fail, the combat happens. If they succeed, a couple of minutes making sneak rolls saves a hour or more of combat.

If the opponent is intelligent, consider letting the party negotiate a solution. If not intelligent, let them try to intimidate it into retreating. Like a fire spell dropped in the hex in front of of a pack of wolves. Even dumb hungry monsters can do risk/reward calculations.

Don't let the players spend a long time deciding what their character is doing. Get a 3 minute(or however long you decide) hourglass. If the sand runs out before they decide, the character is "Stunned and amazed" for that round.

Whoever is running the initiative/order of play chart, don't just say, "Bob you are up" Say "Bob, you're up, Sam you're on deck, Ellie you're in the hole. That way, you have two players hopefully deciding ahead of time while Bob does his thing.
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Old 12-01-2023, 03:19 PM   #7
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: GURPS for large groups

*Get the players to do your work for you.

- The obvious one is the "assistant GM/adversary" role, where a player takes on additional GM duties.

- Reward players with character points if they: a) give you a complete character sheet with all calculated info (e.g., jumping distances, BL) filled out. b) give you a detailed character backstory which includes at least one good plot hook (if appropriate to the campaign). c) Do out of game research on game topics you don't have the time/interest in chasing (e.g., designing a power, presenting an idea and proposed game mechanics for a particular invention or spell). d) assist less-skilled players with character design or in-play game mechanics problems. e) Generally do anything to make the game more fun for everyone. Art, maps, bringing munchies, etc.

- Troupe style play where different players take turns acting as GM.

* Simplify combat as much as possible.

- Mook-level foes only attack or retreat (or AoA if appropriate).
- They're always out of the action after one good hit.
- Mooks act as a group.

- Players should have their combat actions ready to go within 10 seconds or so once their turn is called. Dithering means they "Do Nothing" for that turn. This will get a lot of push-back if players aren't used to it, but eventually works out well.

- Players should have their dice ready to go relatively quickly

- Having "cheat sheets" of various combat maneuver on the table for players to consult helps to speed things along. Not just combat maneuvers, but also common to-hit modifiers.

- Create pre-set "feat sheets" for each character which covers all calculated information. Everything from from HP increments for cumulative injury, to dice rolls required to perform various Techniques, metrics for how much their character can lift, how far they can jump, modifier to hit with a particular attack, etc.

- Magic users should have a Grimoire sheet ready to go, including info on energy cost reductions for high skill, "to hit" modifiers for ranged spells, etc.

- Handwave combat as needed. 9 250+ point characters vs. 6 50 point mooks = "Ok, you kill them within just a few seconds without any damage to yourselves. What's next?

- Combat must advance the plot. That means skipping random or otherwise meaningless encounters, especially against "boring" foes. Better to have one epic battle against truly scary foes rather than a bunch of fights against boring/non-challenging foes. Sure, victory by attrition is a valid tactic, but no need to game out every encounter.

- Reward play which quickly removes lots of foes from the action, especially if it rewards player creativity. You don't have to kill them all to get XP. An action as simple as locking a door to keep mooks from reinforcing the Big Bad should be worth just as much or more XP as taking them down in combat.

- Be prepared to adjust enemy force strengths on the fly to create meaningful encounters when drama requires it. While you should generously reward clever play, there's no reason why you should make ultimate victory easy. If a "meaningful" encounter is inappropriate or too difficult to arrange, skip it or invent some non-combat challenge to slow the party down.

* Create situations where the players have to cooperate to achieve a task. Invent a situation where every character gets at least one dice roll and the results of that roll meaningfully contribute to group success. E.g., combined ST to force open a door, averaged Climbing skill roll to climb a cliff.
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Old 12-02-2023, 12:18 PM   #8
Join Date: Mar 2006
Default Re: GURPS for large groups

I've always insisted upon using pages of 100+ pregenerated dice rolls, preferably digital. Not just for the GM either, for the players too - it dramatically improves turn times. The GM should have multiple sheets on hand, because of all the "silent" rolls you need to make in-game.
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Thanks for understanding & helping.
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Old 12-02-2023, 12:36 PM   #9
Donny Brook
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Join Date: Aug 2014
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Default Re: GURPS for large groups

If you're not currently using them, I recommend handing out the Combat Cards that are available free somewhere.

Early versions of that other game recommended that the players be represented at the table by a 'caller' who would convey the group's actions to the GM. I think it needs some tweaking and elaboration to work, but it might help at times when individual actions are not really happening. I would try a rotating 'callership' (say hourly maybe), with any player able to interject if they object to a caller's action.

(I would urge against trying to split the group, as it could disrupt what sounds like a really fun scene.)
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Old 12-05-2023, 09:19 AM   #10
Join Date: Apr 2005
Default Re: GURPS for large groups

Originally Posted by Donny Brook View Post
If you're not currently using them, I recommend handing out the Combat Cards that are available free somewhere.
The official version is here.

One unofficial player cheat-sheet is here.

There are also good DF-specific play aids here:

Last edited by Pursuivant; 12-05-2023 at 09:23 AM.
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