I have been running a 7-8 man group for a year now, although it has recently leveled off to 7 players being the norm, with usually 1 missing a session here or there. Some players came in later, and I had the bad idea (although well intentioned) of starting them a few levels behind the rest of the party. Because of that, I hit a situation where my players were not all of the same level, causing issues in the encounters and the way they were being designed.
Last night finally, all that changed, and I am happy to report that the game ran better, a lot better than I was hoping for. I decided to level up everyone equally, and even if you miss a session, you’ll be at the same level as everyone else. It just makes life easier for me in the end as a DM, to know that the encounter I am throwing is appropriate for all players at the table, and not just 5 of the guys.
For the past year, my group has been carelessly cutting through my encounters because I was gimping the monsters to accommodate the lower level guys. Yesterday though, they finally felt the force of a full blown hard encounter for their party level, and one of the PC’s even fell in battle. The party is at level 8, they faced a level 9 brute solo Bloodkiss Beholder from Open Grave. The fight was nasty, but they were challenged the way they should have been challenged. A hard fight for their level.
So here is a lesson for newbie DM’s out there: I’ve blogged before about level discrepancies, but now I put it to the test. Do yourself a favor; you are not doing anyone a favor by having lower level guys mixed in with higher level players. It does a party no good to have a less effective striker in the party for example. Plus, your encounters will become easier to design, and the result will be more rewarding and enjoyable to your players. Trust me on this. My player’s complained about no-show players being awarded XP, but you know what? Too bad. We DM’s have enough to worry about, to also have to be adjusting treasure parcels and encounters for mixed level parties.
I’ll never worry about that again, and neither should you.
Random plot hook of the day: A group of kids went to play in an abandoned crypt, and one of them ran out saying the others had their blood sucked out by a beast. This kid barely made it out alive, but his description is terrifying. What happened? Well. A bloodkiss beholder happened, duh.