Size definitely matters
I am by no means an expert on D&D. However, I am really enjoying running our campaign, episodes here. I'm part of another game as a player, which I'm also enjoying. The DM for that game, my friend John, has a different style to me but draws his inspiration from similar sources of fiction, e.g. Brent Weeks, Peter V Brett, Brandon Sanderson, etc. However, the most noticeable difference between our games is the size of the parties.
As our loyal listeners will know, I'm a first-time DM running a campaign for 3 of my closest friends. So, first of all, I already know all of the players well and share similar senses of humour with them. Secondly, with it being just the 4 of us, herding this particular group of cats isn't too painful. By comparison, my friend running the other game has to wrangle a group of 7 of us! 7 people, all of whom have varying levels of experience with D&D and all of whom have extensive knowledge of almost every source of fantastic geeky fiction that's out there. Thankfully, John has much more D&D experienced than I do and is much better equipped to deal with all of the challenges that a larger party entails.
When I got my hands on the DM guide, I read about the fact that the ideal party size should be 3-5 people. I read the various warnings about characters' niches overlapping, about too many people slowing down combat, about struggling to give each person their moment in the spotlight. However, it wasn't until I started playing in a larger party that I realised how true it is. A round of combat takes twice as long so there's naturally a lot more sitting around and waiting for your next turn to come around. John does a fantastic job corralling the players, nudging them towards decisions and guiding them through encounters. However, with twice as many players to manage, the number of potential obstacles seems to grow exponentially. Each additional player is another turn in combat, another round of conversation and another chance for rules to be discussed and dissected.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still loving both games but I definitely feel that the smaller group gives the players more of an opportunity to have fun and share their moments in the spotlight while progressing at pace.
What's the largest group you've played in? What do you think is the ideal party size? Let me know in the comments.