How many players can 4e handle?

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Hello!

Right now I'm between campaigns for Paizo's "Kingmaker" adventure path. With all I've read about 4e, I'm considering transferring the players and materials to it. The trick being, however, is I've got 8-12 players on a given night!

They're primarily used to using miniatures and use HERO system 5th edition (with a few house rules) for 95% of what we play. Other game systems we've used would be the *old* West End Star Wars, Iron Kingdoms (the new one, not the old d20), Pathfinder, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and goodness knows what else. They're an experienced gaming group for the most part, but some players are not mechanically inclined. A few are practically Dune Mentats, who eat rule books for breakfast.

I'm not worried about the mentats. I'm worried about the mechanically disinclined players. That includes, to a certain degree, myself.

Also, I'm worried about the size of our group. Will the encounter building hold up? Will I run the risk of a great, massive cascading failure? Or making too squishy an encounter? For the most part I narrate combat and use liberal doses of handwaving, fudging, and treating NPCs as living entities that would like to see another day rather than as XP pinatas.
4e can handle the size of the group, but I would not recommend it.

- Even with peoples turns taking minutes, that'll be a long time other players are not doing anything
 
- If you have to ask, than you yourself are not all that solidly grounded in the rules, which would make it very hard to do well, since the more players you have, the more funny/awkward situations, that you hadn't prepped the rules for, are likely to happen or come up. 


If everyone uses a character builder, 4e is very easy to learn, stats etc will be right there on the sheet in front of em. I find it a mechanically very simple system, provided you forget it is in any way related to 3.5, AD&D, Pathfinder. 
Minutes between turns is normal for us, with combat lasting an hour, two hours, each game. Novels, laptops, iPads, etc., are all pretty normal for us as are side conversations.

I have to ask because I don't have any of the books yet. I'm not married to Pathfinder, never played 3.5, sort of dislike AD&D (personal taste issues), and am not expecting it to be like HERO, either.

Where can I find a good character builder? Can I limit them to their options so they don't go nuts? I ended buying a book I wasn't interested in because a bunch of players went out and picked classes not in Pathfinder's core book - a mistake I don't intend to replicate. 
I would recommend getting a DDI membership, one is enough. It offers a compendium and a character builder. Not sure if this is still being offered, but try it out for one month, see if you like it.


Unlike 3.5, you do not have to limit players to core books. While there is a little power creep in the other publications (dragon, splatbooks), this is a natural result of widening the choices, allowing people to pick the best at every level. However, many classes where not as good as they could be in the core books, and need the dragon content / splatbooks to function well within the game math assumptions.

Buy PHB1 and perhaps DMG for basic rules and explanations, and I would think you're good to go.  
Yeah, 4E content doesn't have the variable internal balance of 3.x and Pathfinder; there's plenty of stuff that's weaker than it ought to be, but not much in the way of too strong. (If something renders an earlier option obsolete that's because the earlier option was one of the too-weak items - 4E policy was to supercede such things with new versions.)

As for group size, 8-12 players is an awkwardly large number in any edition, but if you're managing it under Pathfinder then it'll be about the same in 4E. (Allowing for the initial speed bump of people learning a new system, anyway.)
a group of 8 is what I'd call optimal, for any edition.
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A frequent complaint I hear about 4e is that encounters can take too long.  To which I always think, "Have you ever played Hero System?" ;)

I love Hero System, and I am pretty sure if you can handle a Hero System game with 8-12 players, you wont have any problem with 4e.  I usually run Champions games, but am currently running a D&D4 campaign for a change and I found my players coped with the change just fine.
I think 6 is the optimal number for 4E. Nearly all of the game's designed encounters assume an adventuring party of 5 and a DM.
The game system can handle it. Most groups cannot. The game will be slow. It would probably be better just to run two groups of four.
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The game system can handle it. Most groups cannot. The game will be slow. It would probably be better just to run two groups of four.



Or three, as he sometimes has up to 12 players ;)
The game system can handle it. Most groups cannot. The game will be slow. It would probably be better just to run two groups of four.



+1 to this.  I've run 4e groups as large as 8 and as small as 2. My preferred number is 4 mostly because it creates fast fun combats and it's easier for the DM to challenge the players. With 8 or more players you'll be looking at 15-20 minutes between turns for your players, maybe less if they are very attentive and have mastery of the system. To challenge a group of 8 players you either have to throw many more monsters at them which slows down play, or higher level monsters which also slows down play (harder to hit, more HP). Either way, playing with 8 players means looooooong combat sessions which means less time for exploration, story or RP.
I'll need to time it tomorrow when we play, but long wait times between turns is the norm for us. Especially since HERO allows people to go at different times (12 phases, and you speed determines which phases you go on, so slow characters will act less frequently than fast ones).

And also par for course is our small army of players having to face another small army. I can't figure out how to gauge difficulty in HERO games, since its point buy and free form. D&D's level based system means its a lot easier for me to gauge challenges, you know? I'm assured some minimums, and know all characters will be combat ready to a certain degree. In HERO? No such promise. Our group has had more than a few "I don't fight" characters, super munchkin'd characters, and characters that are simply terribly made for combat.

Very seriously, there are some definite upgrades here, at least for me.
Yeah it is actually activley difficult to make a character that is terrible at combat.  You really have to work at it (Dump your primary stat, take the worst options, ignore much of your character sheet).  I just don't see why anybody in a D&D game of any edition would even build for something other than combat seeing as so much of the rules are  written for combat in the first place.
Well, combat is the easiest thing to design for, relatively speaking. Its the most game-like part, there's stuff to actively attempt to model, very clear ways to win, lose, etc. Social interactions, investigating, crafting, etc., are far more open ended and harder to gauge. As such? Much harder to write rules for, nevermind a truly in depth system, and thus really falls on the GM.

Personally, combat can be fun, but it can be boring as well. In the IK and Champions games I've been playing?  Ive really been enjoying the non-combat stuff we've been doing (investigating and such) and both of those systems l-o-v-e combat.

Everyone plays for different reasons, enjoys different things. Some are easier to support with rules than others, and some require far more rules than others. 

 One thing about 4E your players may have issues with, given that your party has "non-combat" characters, is the near-complete lack of complex rules for non-combat stuff. If you have party members who enjoy dropping alll their character creation resources into maxing out things like crafting ability, diplomatic skills or esoteric knowledge, they may be a bit non-plussed by not having 35 different skills to spend their points on...

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 One thing about 4E your players may have issues with, given that your party has "non-combat" characters, is the near-complete lack of complex rules for non-combat stuff. If you have party members who enjoy dropping alll their character creation resources into maxing out things like crafting ability, diplomatic skills or esoteric knowledge, they may be a bit non-plussed by not having 35 different skills to spend their points on...

Well, in the D&D gamed we've played, they seem okay with it. They're relatively flexible, and we can improv, gm fiat, etc., as needed. Its the benefits of the combat that appeals to me.

For instance: I might take a turn on the group super-hero setting. My HERO 5th rev book can stop a bullet, but reading through? I see no advice, recommendations, anything, on how to design encounters or fights. I could make a total cakewalk, or make something that's an unintentional team wipe waiting to happen. Even some of the experienced GMs note that balance is a hard thing to pull off!
 
  
The game system can handle it. Most groups cannot. The game will be slow. It would probably be better just to run two groups of four.



Or three, as he sometimes has up to 12 players ;)


Naw, the extra 4 are all maybes. Two solid groups of 4 and push them each up to 6 if necessary. 6 isn't all that bad and it beats having a group of sometimes 4 and sometimes 1.
Owner and Proprietor of the House of Trolls. God of ownership and possession.
The game system can handle it. Most groups cannot. The game will be slow. It would probably be better just to run two groups of four.



Or three, as he sometimes has up to 12 players ;)


Naw, the extra 4 are all maybes. Two solid groups of 4 and push them each up to 6 if necessary. 6 isn't all that bad and it beats having a group of sometimes 4 and sometimes 1.

Well, the group generally does not enjoy being split up for combat, and that would exacerbate the issue of lengthy wait times.

Again, for pretty much EVERY game we've played, from HEEO to D&D to Iron Kingdoms to 7th Sea to whatever, its a mass combat, 8-12 players vs an equal or larger force. 

The game system can handle it. Most groups cannot. The game will be slow. It would probably be better just to run two groups of four.



Or three, as he sometimes has up to 12 players ;)


Naw, the extra 4 are all maybes. Two solid groups of 4 and push them each up to 6 if necessary. 6 isn't all that bad and it beats having a group of sometimes 4 and sometimes 1.

Well, the group generally does not enjoy being split up for combat, and that would exacerbate the issue of lengthy wait times.

Again, for pretty much EVERY game we've played, from HEEO to D&D to Iron Kingdoms to 7th Sea to whatever, its a mass combat, 8-12 players vs an equal or larger force. 



I meant separate groups as in have each group meet at separate times and have their own game sessions, not having one group sit and watch as you rotate through each one.
Owner and Proprietor of the House of Trolls. God of ownership and possession.

I meant separate groups as in have each group meet at separate times and have their own game sessions, not having one group sit and watch as you rotate through each one.


aaah, gotcha. Still, not going to happen. Its a once a week, everybody makes arrangements so we can all play together. Yesterday we started playing at 4pm, took a break for dinner about 7pm, and played basically until 11pm. The vast majority of that was a single combat!

We're weird :p 


Again, for pretty much EVERY game we've played, from HEEO to D&D to Iron Kingdoms to 7th Sea to whatever, its a mass combat, 8-12 players vs an equal or larger force. 




I see no reason why that can't work fine in D&D4.  I would recommend you balance by "number of enemies" rather than "beefing up enemies".  Larger numbers of enemies give you more flexibility to balance things during the actual combat.  If thes fight is too easy, the enemies can act smart, concentrate attacks on trouble makers, but if the fight is turning into a difficult one, you can always make "bad choice" and attack the hard to hit or unijured player.  I am sure you know the score. ;)

One thing I found my players took a while to get use to, was the differences between holding an action in Hero System and in D&D4.  In Hero System you could make your move and hold your attack.  In D&D4 you can do things in any order BUT you cannot hold part of your go.  Its all or nothing.  You also have to describe exactly when held action will trigger.  Which has lead to the odd "Faustian Pact" being created to handle turn order :
My 4E campaign was 8 players for a few years and we did just fine.  A large group like that can be tough to manage in any game, but it sounds like you and your players have it down just fine.  As long as everyone remembers to plan ahead with their turns and expects some time to adjust to a new system, it will be fine.  I also had a player or two help me out by tracking initiative, movie minis or tokens for me, or putting out our markers for status conditions.  It really helps me focus on what the monsters are doing without some extra work and it gives players something to do when it's not their turn.  My group was also really good about staying in character and role playing during combat.  So they all talked and reacted as combats went along anyway. 
How many players can 4e handle?

Six.

I've played with more, and balance wasn't an issue, but combat length (and reduced 'spotlight time') made it a sub-optimal experience.
Another minor concern is your encounter strategy. In 4e, Focus Fire is a pretty big tactic, but with increased party size, you're going to be having a lot of members of Team Monster taking actions. Wouldn't be surprising if Player 1 (probably an aggressive Defender) found himself being focused on by many more attacks than he's designed to handle.

Consider this advice: maintain role balance (at least two PCs in each combat role) and suggest fighting as individual squads during a combat, keeping Team Monster split into halves or thirds through area differences. You don't want the Defenders fighting in the same immediate proximity, because many of their abilities will overlap and cause failures in the strategy, as well as opening up the threat of a single Defender being focused on by a Team Monster designed for two-four times his usual load.

It'll definitely be time consuming, and I can't say I've ever run a game that big. Good luck with your choices! 
Wouldn't be surprising if Player 1 (probably an aggressive Defender) found himself being focused on by many more attacks than he's designed to handle.

fwiw: this actually helps optimize the party's healing resources due to the 'heal from zero' rule. Plus the defender won't even miss a turn if a healer goes before him (which can easily be arranged beforehand via delaying). But it certainly helps make the situation seem more perilous (and thus more fun).

Conversely: monsters definitely suffer from increased PC focus fire.

I'm loving all this feedback

BTW, which book handles monster creation? I need to get that.

On a side note: given some of my friends aren't impressed by 4e because they say its too "MMO-like," I'll running an odd sort of dual-layer game, where they have their characters/themselves, and their in-game character for "D&D: Nentir Vale the MMORPG."  Think they'll find that fun, and after a while? I'm sure they'll warm up to things, enabling a more standard campaign

I'd really like to see if I can transfer their Pathfinder characters to it for when I go onto the next Kingmaker adventure path  
 

BTW, which book handles monster creation? I need to get that.
 



I think its covered briefly in the DMG,Im not really sure, but I do know of a decent third party product.
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I've never run a group that large before. I did run a 1e/2e game over 20 years ago with 4 players but each had 2 characters. But anyway...

In my DM experience, I've found that it is often easier to simply take a monster that is at the level you want and then simply "reskin" it to fit what you'd like to see. Creating a monster from scratch is definitely possible, especially with some of the standardized number assumptions in 4E, but a lot of time the monster you make already exists somewhere. If you have access to the online compendium you can search by monster level and role, which will get you close to what you need, and go from there.

As was said, the 4E rule set doesn't have very much in the way of non-combat "things" in which players that love story can sink their resources. My campaign is very RP based and I've given the players a great amount of leeway. In fact, most of the time, outside of combat and skill-challenges, if a player does something that could call for a skill check, I often just look at whether or not they're trained in the skill to determine success or failure. It keeps the narrative flowing. And even if they are untrained, if they come up with something really clever or unorthodox I often will let them succeed, but not necessarily in the way they intended.

Good luck with the LONG combat times as they WILL happen. But, from what you've said, your group has dealt with it before.

> 
Will the encounter building hold up? Will I run the risk of a great, massive cascading failure? Or making too squishy an encounter? For the most part I narrate combat and use liberal doses of handwaving, fudging, and treating NPCs as living entities that would like to see another day rather than as XP pinatas.


Mostly you're at risk of a big group slowing down play.  If you're used to having such big groups, though, and used to using some amount of fudging to make it work, you should be able to latch onto 4e in a fairly short time.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
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Are there mass combat rules for 4e?
Are there mass combat rules for 4e?



No, but there was a third-party project by One Bad Egg called Hard Boiled Armiesthat introduced some mass combat rules. They worked kind of like daily powers, but for armies. You can still purchase the product at RPGNow and some other pdf sites. I think it costs about $3.

I've had up to 12 players in my group at one time. I don't think any edition of D&D can handle that many players at once without a second DM involved, and 4E's unique combat system just exasperates the issue.

Stop the H4TE

Hello!

Right now I'm between campaigns for Paizo's "Kingmaker" adventure path. With all I've read about 4e, I'm considering transferring the players and materials to it. The trick being, however, is I've got 8-12 players on a given night!

They're primarily used to using miniatures and use HERO system 5th edition (with a few house rules) for 95% of what we play. Other game systems we've used would be the *old* West End Star Wars, Iron Kingdoms (the new one, not the old d20), Pathfinder, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and goodness knows what else. They're an experienced gaming group for the most part, but some players are not mechanically inclined. A few are practically Dune Mentats, who eat rule books for breakfast.

I'm not worried about the mentats. I'm worried about the mechanically disinclined players. That includes, to a certain degree, myself.

Also, I'm worried about the size of our group. Will the encounter building hold up? Will I run the risk of a great, massive cascading failure? Or making too squishy an encounter? For the most part I narrate combat and use liberal doses of handwaving, fudging, and treating NPCs as living entities that would like to see another day rather than as XP pinatas.


There are three reasons really large group (9+ players) doesn't work in 4e:

1. Interrupt/Reactions powers magnify with the number of players/monsters.
2. Focus fire magnifies with the number of players/monsters.
3. Condition/effect tracking magnifies with the number of players/monsters.

Unless your group is very experienced with 4e and onboard about making streamlined PCs, these things will grind your game to a halt.

My recommendation is recruit a second DM, split the party into 2 groups, each of you takes one group, then game in parallel at two tables at the same time. Just come up with a cool story reason why the PCs need to operate in 2 groups for each quest and coordinate a bit with your co-DM and you should be good to go. 
Are there mass combat rules for 4e?



Are there mass combat rules for 4e?



No




There are now! Check out the 4e mass combat rules written by WOTC-published designer Will Doyle in my 4e fanzine!

frothsof4e.blogspot.com/2013/06/download...
There are now! Check out the 4e mass combat rules written by WOTC-published designer Will Doyle in my 4e fanzine!

frothsof4e.blogspot.com/2013/06/download...


I've read it over and it definitely looks pretty solid.
It really emphasizes the chaotic and often hard to command nature of low-tech mass combat.

Another relatively simple possibility:
stat up mass combat units with standard 4e monster making rules, maybe add in some appropriate depletion mechanics. (half damage when bloodied would be a good, basic, simple one.) Then play it out with standard 4e mechanics. (Healing would have to be practically unheard of, even by 4e monster standards, if for no other reason than that it conceptually would pretty much entire raising the dead, since damage to a unit consists of killing people. But if you had some kind of healer unit, it could grant temp HP. And some types of mass-monsters, like zombie hordes could justify regaining HP (or even going over max) from killing enemies or whatever.) 
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