Sep 28, 2010

Number of Players

I have been recently re-reading the entire original D&D books (the "LBB") for a little personal project that may be revealed someday. It has been enlightening to say the least. So many wonderful little gems of gaming wisdom, and surprisingly tight and excellent design work I hadn't notice before (like Cleric's continual light spells being "like full daylight", unlike Magic-User's version. And you realize why when reading through monsters and seeing the ones affected by full daylight...)

One thing that jumped out at me immediately:

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 ration should be about 1:20 or thereabouts.

-Men & Magic, page 5

That's FOUR to FIFTY players. And the recommended ratio is 1 to 20!

Can you imagine even finding 20 player's willing to play a campaign nowadays? Even for a one shot at a convention you'd be hard pressed to pull that many together. Wow, those were the days.


  1. It seems they played the game in existing wargaming clubs back then, and though only a few people might be at the table at one time, up to 20 total players could be involved in delving into a Dungeon Master's dungeon. At least, that's what I've gathered from various threads on Dragonsfoot.

  2. What Matt said. Twenty players having characters in the campaign; but not all of them showing up to play at the same time. Remember, when they wrote this there couldn't have been many DMs running campaigns.

  3. What Matt and GSV said, plus, I imagine if I really marketed, I could probably come up with 3 to 4 groups; no problem. The problem would be the divorce attorney because gaming that much would ruin my marriage. :)

  4. What Matt and GSV said plus what Jim said, especially about the divorce attorney!

  5. I regularly run groups of 10-12 players for events at GaryCon or North TX RPG Con. IIRC the most I've ever run in a single game session was 16, but that didn't go so well: some people got ignored/forgotten, as you'd expect. But the culture of gamers has changed a lot compared to how it was in the heyday of wargaming in the '60s and '70s---even our regular RPG crew of ~9 including the DM is a large one in these post-d20 days where D&D is defined as 4 players + 1 DM.


  6. well, I do live in California where people are more interested in going to the beach or hiking all year long rather than sitting inside gaming. Still, it struck me that the ratio of 1 referee to 20 players was recommended (yes, I get that it didn't mean 20 players at the same time - but in the entire course of the campaign, even though it is not at all clear in the text)