Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 1: Gamemastery Basics / Special Circumstances

Unusual Group Sizes

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 33
The standard group size for Pathfinder assumes four players and a GM. Page 489 of the Core Rulebook gives instructions for how to adjust for other group sizes, but additional changes may be helpful.

Small Groups

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 33
Small-group games focus more intently on the interests of the players and their characters, allowing for an experience that can be more customizable for each individual. However, they can also run into trouble when the PCs have gaps in their abilities. In many cases, the easiest way to adjust for a small group is to add additional characters. This could come in the form of allowing each player to play two characters or adding hirelings and support NPCs to the party to shore up roles that the PCs don’t fill. When adding GM-controlled NPCs to the party, it’s important to be sure that the PCs remain the stars of the show. In general, GM-controlled characters shouldn’t make major decisions, and they shouldn’t outshine PCs at their primary skills or roles (for more information, see GM-controlled NPCs). You can also use variant rules like dual-class characters, free archetypes, or even just a few extra trained skills to help improve the PCs’ overall flexibility.

If you don’t add additional characters to the party or modify the PCs, it’s a good idea to tailor challenges and storylines to their abilities as well as player interest. For example, if you have two players, a rogue and a bard, a heist could be a good fit. In combats, carefully consider how the PCs will fare against each opponent. Some monsters are particularly likely to incapacitate a single PC; in small groups, use such creatures carefully and consider raising the encounter difficulty and XP awards beyond what a creature of that level is normally worth. Meanwhile, creatures that depend on affecting or damaging large numbers of PCs at once might be less effective.

Large Groups

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 33
Large-group games bring together the creativity and enthusiasm of many players, and they lend themselves to combat at a grand scale. However, they also divide the GM’s attention. Large groups also need to set ground rules for how many players need to be present for the game to run when some players are missing. Recaps at the beginning of each session are crucial to keep everyone on the same page. Delegation is one of your most powerful tools to keep the session running smoothly. For example, you can put the players in charge of recapping the events from the previous session, handling initiative, managing the party’s treasury, looking up rules, or helping with accessories like props and music. (For information on even greater degrees of player delegation, check out Narrative Collaboration) Also consider which tasks really need to be taken care of while everyone is there. For example, you could ask your players to handle selling items, deciding which common items they want to buy, and leveling up between sessions instead of at the table.

Each additional player adds to the length of combat twice: once for their own turn, and once for the additional foes on the field. By encouraging players to pay attention to the battle when it isn’t their turn and to plan their actions as their turn approaches, you can shorten each player’s turn and keep the battle moving swiftly.

Inevitably, there will be situations and circumstances that don’t involve the whole group. In a sufficiently large group, splitting the party is not necessarily dangerous. If the party splits up for more than a short stint, you can call for separate sessions to determine what happens to the two halves of the group, allowing them to reunite and share their findings afterward. Whether or not the party splits, having more players means less active time for each character. Look for opportunities to highlight each PC by providing challenges that play to their strengths or tie in story elements to which they are particularly connected.