Large Parties

The Warlord

Hey all,
I may be running a game soon involving 5 PCs (2 more than I usually prefer). I'm curious as how I could start this game off, while allowing everyone to choose their individual races and class (ie not all Aquilonian warriors, Cimmerian barbarians, etc). I'm having a hard time picturing a group this large roaming the countryside and going on adventures in the sword and sorcery genre. With so much weight placed on the individual character in these stories, I can't seem to think of an 'adventuring party' in the classic sense working.

So, how can I justify 5 different PC types sticking together and going on adventures?

The Conan game I have been playing in for the past couple of months was just 2 of us and a GM but we just recently added 2 more players. He did a pretty good job of just making our two groups have a chance encounter and see where it goes from there. Helps explain how we now have people that cant talk to each other as they dont know the same language. Luckily one of us can translate but its in a second language so its gonna be fun.

Noob B
Some simple ways to get your party together, that follow the Conan style:

1. They are all slaves or captives of some bad guy, and their first task is to escape.
2. They area all broke and in need of food and/or equipment in the same place at the same time. The patron calls for people to aid him/her with (insert mission), and the characters snap up the chance to get food and some cash.
3. They are the only survivors of a raid of barbarians/nomads/pirates on a town.
4. They are among the only survivors of an attack on a caravan they were travelling with, and one of the other survivors hires them to get his stuff back.
5. Character A and B grew up together, and they meet Characters C and D while travelling to (insert town/country). On the way they are attacked by brigands, and Character E, whi is is local to the area, comes to their aid to drive off the bandits, but not before they make off with (insert valuable item) from (insert wealthy other member of Caravan). As valiant defenders of the caravan, but not actual caravan guards and therefore somewhat expendable, they are sent out by the rich guy to get his stuff back.

See? Nothing to it. Just start (semi) mid-stride, like many Conan stories do. They are all captured, survivors, or otherwise all together for some reason. Plot hook happens, then they're off!
I'm running a game with 6 players:

A Zingaran Pirate
A Cornithian Soldier
A Hyrkanian Archer (Borderer/Thief).
An Arcadian* Assassin (Thief).
A Brythunian Noble/Scholar
A Vanir Barbarian

*Arcadia is an extinct Hyborian tribe we made up for this campaign. Think of the Akkadians in Scorpion King.

Here's how I got them started:

The Corinthian Soldier is a mercenary travelling to Messantia looking for work. He finds the Zingaran pirate on the beach in the wreckage of a ship after a storm and helps him out. They get involved in a dispute with some other merchants over salvage of the wreckage. Chicanery ensues. They bond. They hook up with some other pirates led by Apollonia, the Pirate Princess.

The Arcadian Thief and Hyrkanian Archer were hired by the King of Kusan to find and kill the thief of the holy tablets of Wu and return the thief's head and the tablets to the king. They track the thief, who is the former guardian of the tablets named Xim, all the way to Messantia. Xim takes shelter in the Lazuli Tower of the Stygian Merchant Prince Amen. The pair make a deal with the priestess of Bel, Silesia. In exchange for delivering a message to Apollonia, Silesia will give them a map to the secret entrance into the tower.

They deliver the message, and the entire entourage returns to Messantia. Apollonia rides off on a mysterious mission by herself. The Arcadian, Hyrkanian, Zingaran, and Corinthian decide to join forces to infiltrate tower through the secret tunnels.

On the way, they meet the Brythunian, who is looking for a secret way into the tower so he can confront Amen about the fued between their two merchant families. He has hired the Vanir as a bodyguard and sword-arm. All six decide to join forces to infiltrate the tower. Two for Xim, Two for Amen, and Two for gold and loot.

They enter the tower and confront Xim. Xim reveals that the King of Kusan's son has betrayed and killed his father the king and that their mission to return the tablets is now moot. He offers to hire all six for the rest of his journey: to take the tablets to the lost Atlantean colony of Nyog far in the Western Ocean to perform a ritual to avert a coming cataclysm.

The team decide to band together to form a formal mercenary company and work for Xim.


It took three-and-a-half sessions and lots of story twisting to get them together, but now they're together with no outstanding obligations. They can do whatever they want and go wherever they want. As soon as their first misson is complete, and they survive, that is.
Always and whenever possible make your players do your work for you :wink: . Have a session just for character creation (also helps having everybody ask character creation questions at the same time since Conan rules are a bit different) and tell them that you don't particularly care what their backgrounds are but that you require that each character know at least 1 other character and trust them at least to the extent of being willing to do a job with them. They don't have to have been hanging out with each other prior to the game if they don't want to, you just don't want them to be unknown to each other when the reunion comes. Presto, you now have a party of aquiantances and "friends of friends" rather than total strangers. Now just drop them in any of the typical "starting adventures" (shipwrecked, captured, hired for the same job, etc) and you should be good to go.
Coming up with a reason that different character types are together is one of the biggest problems that any GM has to face.
When I started my group the characters were; A Zingara pirate, Zamorian theif, Vanir barbarian, and a Stygian noble.
Since my first session was to have them shipwrecked on the Pictish coast, I needed a concept that would allow all of them to be on the same ship.
What I came up with was this; the story started with all players on a Zingaran trading vessel coming back from Vanaheim. The barbarian was on board to ensure that he could get the best prices for his family's stock of ivory, taken from walrus tusks. The pirate was there as a sailor. His regular pirating on hold because his captain was laying low, and the character needed to earn a living. The Stygian was following the trade route to figure a way to avoid paying the taxes. He was trying to figure a way to smuggle the ivory into Stygia by cutting out the middlemen and create a new market. all other ivory coming up from the Black Kingdoms in the form of elephant tusks. The Zamorian was a slave on the ship. The ship ran a ground during a storm. The player characters were the only ones to survive. Since they were in the middle of hostile lands, they needed to work together to stay alive.

If one of your players is running a magic user, you may want to have your first session dealing with that character trying to hire the others. He needs them to help find an ancient ruin that contains the materials he needs for a spell, or he belives that the ruins may contain writtings about forgotten spells.
Six players: five regular PCs plus a shifting PC spot for me and another dude that hotseat as GM. We just finished the second storyline and it looks like it's gonna be one storyline/level (storyline 3 = PC level 3) with each storyline lasting between three and six sessions. Here're the PCs:

Stygian Noble/Scholar
Cimmerian Barbarian
South Islands Pirate
Hyborian Borderer
Zingaran Thief/Pirate/Other?

GM1 PC: Cimmerian Barbarian/Soldier (brother of Cimmerian Barbarian)
GM2 PC: Zingaran Pirate/Soldier

All PCs are basically employees of the Stygian Noble/Scholar. With the Stygian as the point-man everyone else pretty much falls in line from there.