[RPG] the ideal Numenera party size, and the practical min and max


I haven't been able to find any mentions on party size in the Numenera core book. What I want to know is the ideal size for a party and the practical maximum and minimum party sizes. Is it possible, for example, to play with 1 GM and 1 PC? Is it too unwieldy to play with more than 6 PC?

Please note my use of "ideal" and "practical" and "possible". I really want to know: can I GM for 2 people/1 people/7 people and still have it be fun?

ADDENDUM: After a couple of runs through the Beale of Boregal adventure, I can attest that the game is playable with only 1 PC. The biggest modification I had to make was to the intrusion system, because there was no other player with which to share the extra XP point. I houseruled that by giving 1 XP only.

Apart from that, I had very little combat happen, but the system was great fun to use 1 on 1.

Best Answer

Numenera is not more strongly tied to party size than any other trad style RPG. Like any trad style RPG, however, it's going to have trouble, or at least require special techniques, when dealing with, in this case, less than three or more than six characters.

Why Less Than Three?

There are three character classes - glaives, jacks, and nanos. In class based systems, unless the GM is specifically constructing adventures to avoid one of the primary concerns, you will often find yourself needing party members with those complementary skills.

Furthermore, in any game with much combat at all, especially when randomizers are in use, you have the "N+1 redundancy" problem. One party member being taken out by an unlucky roll - if there's one character, they're screwed; if there's two, it's still mighty hard for one person to haul another away especially if there's action going on (and what if no one else can heal...).

Of course, the Numenera book has a big chip on its shoulder in the GM advice section and strongly encourages you to tune challenges to the party you have (kinda) and to use fiat when necessary (unless you should be using the dice)... It's a little schizophrenic but the bottom line is "you can craft a campaign that is suited to fewer/non-balanced groups" but that takes a little extra zing on the part of the GM.

Why More Than Six?

Despite claims to the contrary, every tabletop RPG begins to break down with more than six players. Basic human group dynamics form a large portion of why (optimal team size is often cited at anywhere in that range, from 4.6 to "5-7" (which would include your GM).

Since Numenera combat is light, it can go up to six safely (something like Pathfinder or D&D 3.5e or 4e becomes a boring PITA the more people you have) but it still has an action economy, and the more PCs there are, the harder it is to make a meaningful challenge just because you have N "bites at the apple" for whatever challenge is at hand, and the higher N is the lower the chance of failure is, so you have to add larger and more diverse challenges which is doable but is more work.

So Numenera is more tolerant of fewer or more PCs than some games, but as a trad game with defined class roles and action-based combat, there is a natural sweet spot in the 3-6 range where better GMing and adaptation is required the farther outside that range you go.

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