Is there always room for one more?
Recently I began a new campaign with an established group. The RPG, Star Wars: Rise of the Empire, is one that I wasn’t familiar with and the mechanics were a hard read at first. The group consisted of four players, a size that I liked because it seemed to be the default assumption for the published adventures and allowed for the players to cover all the bases without stepping on each other. Also, I have little time to modify or write adventures so it was important to me to be able to run adventures as-written. Finally, I know the four players very well and I understand their chemistry with each other. In spite of my trepidation running a system no one knew and with little prep time, I felt fairly comfortable going into the first session.
When I pitched the game, I only had the Free RPG Day adventure in my hands. I asked another friend to borrow his copy until mine arrived in the mail. This friend, we’ll call him Red, played with the group on alternate Fridays (my group rotates campaigns every other week; I’m only involved with one of them). Red’s a big Star Wars fan and, as soon as he learned I was running a game, basically invited himself into the group. I now had 5 players.
In truth, I’d left the door ajar for him. He’d been on the other end of a closed campaign of mine (long story), and I didn’t want to shut him out again. I rationalized that one extra player wouldn’t unbalance things that much, and he could pick up the slack if someone missed a session. With 5 players ready, we spent a session making characters and then I went home. Due to a scheduling reshuffle I was going to start the adventure in a week’s time.
The day after the character creation session, Red sprang another surprise on me. He wanted Blue to join the game. Blue used to be a member of the group, but left over frustrations with the group. Red thought this would be a good time to mend fences, and canvassed the group to allow Blue to join.
I had three big issues. First, a six player group could be unwieldy for the published adventures, and the last time I tried to modify a four-PC published campaign for 6 PCs it was nothing but headaches. Second, Blue had a reputation for “munchkinism” and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with that, especially since I’d never played with Blue before. Finally, I didn’t relish the idea of old wounds being ripped open in front of me.
On the other hand, friends both inside and outside the group fell more in the “let Blue join” camp under the banner of “the more the merrier.” If I could accommodate 5, then 6 shouldn’t be a problem. If the game had to suffer for it, then it was more important to mend bridges and let a friend join the game. Also, one player mentioned that since Blue was part of the group, even though he walked away for a while, he should be able to return.
So what say you? Is it okay to have a ceiling on players or should it always be “the more the merrier?” Does it matter if the PCs aren’t challenged because the conflicts are more easily overcome? Would your opinion of Blue’s entry into the group change if he hadn’t previously been part of the group? Would your opinion change if you were crafting your own material rather than running published adventures?