The Perfect Table
I have been GMing DCCRPG recently at our Friendly Local Gaming Store, and week in and week out the party make-up changes by whomever decides to show up that week. It has been a liberating experience in a lot of ways, and has led to tables with as few as one and as many as five players. This got me thinking about the size of gaming tables. The Skyland Games guys have had a lot of fun playing a lot of Pathfinder Society in the last few years, and with any kind of organized play there is a minimum table size (generally 4 PCs, but it can be 3PCs and the GM running a pre-gen in a pinch). I think that got us in a mindset of not even getting together unless we could get most, if not all of the party together.
This last week we had a table of three of the four players from the week before. The party consisted of a thief, a halfling, and a warrior, and I reprised my GM role as Izdren the Useless cleric. We were running through the second week of Doom of the Savage Kings, and had gotten to a section that was a pretty straight forward dungeon crawl. Having just 3 players at the table allowed for a lot of freedom to run little vignettes for each character if they had a specific goal in mind. Normally this kind of “splitting the party” is an RPG cardinal sin (Although that didn’t make our Gaming 10 Commandments). But with only 3 players, if the GM and the PC keep the scene moving it can be entertaining for the entire group.
We had a couple of prime examples this past week. For one, the thief wanted to break in to the temple in town and steal what he had heard was a magical artifact, one with which the priests of the temple were none-too-eager to part. We ran a quick scene of him scaling the walls at night to an open window, scaling back down and falling on his face, alerting some of the priests. As the thief’s character is somewhat of a crazy person (actually a con-man that just acts crazy) he was not met with hostility, but roughly escorted out of the temple. He eventually tried again, and succeeded. Leaving a skull behind in place of the artifact, in his words “Like Indiana Jones in the Raiders of the Lost Ark!” It ended up being a very fun scene. Near the end of the adventure, there is a little crawl space in which a halfling can maneuver fairly easily but it would be tough for just about anyone else. That crawlspace leads to two very important rooms, both with treasure, one with a super-deadly trap. Thanks to some excellent rolls, and the judicious use of halfling luck, he survived. In both of these cases, it gave the opportunity for a particular PC to shine, without grinding the game to a halt.
I’ve run this adventure for a much larger table, and again the PCs wanted to run off and do separate things in the town. With a table of six, it was a much different experience. It becomes much more difficult to get back to each player and make sure they’re engaged in the scene even if they may not be central, or may not even be present; with three it didn’t seem as difficult.
I think ideally, an RPG table should consist of four players and a GM. That being said, I’ve had a great time running for just one person, or a gang of seven. What’s your perfect table?