Monday, November 03, 2008

This is how dumb I am.

In OD&D the section on the recommended number of players looks like this:
Number of Players: At least one referee and from four to fifty players can be handled in any single campaign, but the referee to player ratio should be about 1:20 or thereabouts.
When I blogged about this once before I posited that not every one of those 20 to 50 players was expected to show up for every session. The guys who were there back in the day supported this guess with firsthand accounts.

But then I got to thinking. Sure, in the normal course of business the whole effin' wargames club isn't going to all want to play D&D on the same night. We can all agree that coordinating schedules among gamers just doesn't work that way, right? But what if the stars were right and twenty eager gamers really did show up wanting to all play my game? Could I make that work?

Thus was born the idea for my next D&D con experiment. I call it "Jeff's Big Stupid Dungeon Party", a session of Labyrinth Lord for up to twenty players. Labyrinth Lord is my pick for system because it hews closely to the '81 Basic/Expert sets. I can run those rules in my sleep. When I submitted my event I asked for four tables. Here's the set-up I envision:

So anyway, if you're gonna be at the next Winter War look me up.


  1. I would love to come to Winter War!

    But I've got Con of the North and Marscon following immediately in the wake of it, and they're both local. So I guess I'm gonna have to stick with those.

    Me, personally, I put a cap of 12 players on a game. That's how many spaces there are on the old TSR internal DM's Reference sheet. But I am looking forward to seeing how your huge game works out.

  2. Years ago, my own weekly D&D game swelled to 10 players with one DM. There had been a period of player addition with none of the usual corresponding attrition. It got to the point where I felt sorry for the poor DM - everybody trying to get his attention at once.

    You're a braver GM than I am, Jeff.

  3. Wow.

    Let it never be said that you're not willing to go the extra mile, Jeff. This experiments either going to be the highlight of the con or explode in apocalyptic grandeur. Either way, I'm sure people will be talking about this event for years.

    I couldn't do it myself. Despite my own belief in my skills as a referee, I think this one would be so far outside of my comfort zone it'd be at least three states over.

    Any plans to have someone as back-up DM to help handle things just in case?

    In any case, I wish you sincere "good luck" in this endevour.

  4. Any plans to have someone as back-up DM to help handle things just in case?

    I hadn't even considered the possibility of seeking such help.

  5. The largest game I have every seen work, by work I mean more then 2 sessions, was 12 players and the rules for party spokesman were very strict. I can't even imagine DMing for more then the 6 players I have. I wish I could be there at Winter War to see your machinations come to fruition but I can't so I eagerly await reading about it. Best of Luck!

  6. ligedog1:20 PM

    I find the concept of more than one GM/DM intriguing. Has there ever been a game where this is the norm and not the (very rare) exception. It seems like it could work good with each DM taking different parts of the adventure and having time to to think out twists and results while the other DM takes the lead.

  7. When is Winter War? Where? God, now I have to find the winter war website and beg my wife to let me go. This looks like an event not to be missed.

  8. Jeff, you magnificent bastard!

    That's it! Talking to my wife about making the trip down there tonight!

  9. "So anyway, if you're gonna be at the next Winter War look me up."

    I will be there and I'll look you up. Heck, I might even sign up more than five minutes before it starts this time.

  10. Anonymous2:43 PM

    It would be insanely fun to Judge a session with 20 players. Imagine a big group of typical greedy and amoral PCs running amuck in the dungeon.

  11. I am very interested in how this works out. I myself have dabbled in thinking along these lines, but never really thought it feasible. If you can make it work I would want to know all of the details and lessons learned.

  12. Finally! A practical use for the Caller!

    I always thought that having a Caller was superfluous, adding an unnecessary level of negotiation to the game. But now I see its genius - for massive groups of players.

    Good luck!

  13. I ran a group of 10-14 for two years twice a month. luckily the majority of the games had 8-10 players. You have to have a way to keep the game flowing with pre-prepared combat and party leaders. I would also make the players at the table take on roles of the DM like initiative for monsters and tracking damage for monsters and saves. Everyone was involved which kept people engaged and the table talk to a minimum. Running a game with puzzle encounters you think would kill the fun, but with 10-14 heads thinking, they could really burn through puzzles quickly. Someone always new the answer and this was before google.

  14. Settembrini1:35 AM

    I did some SWD6 Stormtropper-Events several years ago.
    Every Dropship equalled a table, and every table had a seargeant, about 25 players total.
    A lot of player deaths, but they were allowed to raise the number-name of their character a digit and hop right back in.

    The sessions were scheduled for lasting not more than two hours, so I jam-packed them with non-stop action, blaster fire and explosions. I can totally see sucessfully doing this for a slo-mo thinking man´s game.

    The only problem could be the ad-hoc clique-building that immideately starts when people settle down at their respective tables. So instead of thiefy Mc Thief vs. all others, you might have table One hiding treasure from table Two or somesuch.
    Thinking of it, maybe one could even seperate the tables via class? Haven´t thought this to it´s end, but maybe worth a try.

    Also select the callers yourself! Don´t leave that to chance, heed my words.

  15. Anonymous8:19 AM

    Why run it with Labyrinth Lord? Why not just run the 1981 Basic/Expert rules?

  16. My guess is that it may be because Labyrinth Lord conveniently organises it all together and (supposedly) resolves conflict and issues between ambigious rules.

    I've been playing a few sessions with it myself (three so far) and all have gone well, so I'd recommend it. I have some notes for the basic adventure that's in the rulebook here, if anyone's interested in reusing them...

  17. Good luck with it. The use of the caller is a brilliant and necessary one. I always thought the role a little silly in smaller groups, but if you're running a party of that size, it should actually make things (hopefully) doable.

    This would actually be a cool way to do a classic military "campaign" game, where you're mixing a lot of open combat in with other situations.

  18. If Mr Chairman goes for this, I will DEFINITELY be on hand, despite my general aversion to D&D. The Maniac might cry, though.

  19. That sounds like crazy fun! I'm in.

    For those asking about Winter War, it's February 6 - 8, 2009 at the Hawthorn Suites in Champaign, Illinois. Always a good time.

  20. Why run it with Labyrinth Lord? Why not just run the 1981 Basic/Expert rules?

    Because I want anyone turned on by the game to be able to go buy a copy.

  21. Are you taking bids on the Throne of Skulls? I have grandad's garage handy.