I’ll be attempting to DM a module with a group of roughly 7-8 players sometime next month and I’m looking for any advice to manage the player count.
First off: do it.
Some advise that you either turn some of the players away (at least temporarily), or run 2 groups. I disagree.
On the first score, think about it from the players’ perspective. You’re interested in a game, you know somebody who can show you the game, but he refuses to play with you because there are more players than he’s comfortable with? How discouraging for the prospective player! Not cool.
On running two groups: getting one group together is difficult enough these days. Trying to organize two groups is at least twice as hard, much harder than just running one session with a large group.
That said, there are some things you can do to make it easier.
Tell the players that the system’s designed for fewer players, and you’re totally going to play, but you will be looking for ways to mitigate that issue. Tell them it’s absolutely not a problem; just something the system’s not exactly designed for so you’ll all have to tweak the game a bit.
Then, minimize combat. Plan for one significant combat encounter each session. The players might skirmish with one or two monsters outside of that battle, but don’t plan on more than one battle. With that many players, combat will take so long that even one non-trivial fight will take up much of your session.
If you’re running a module, you’ll have more damage output on the players’ side, so scale the fights appropriately. Ignore less important fights, and add a few more monsters to the important ones. While this means you have more monsters to manage, that doesn’t introduce problems the way that increasing AC or damage output does.
With this many players, tell players when you’ll start, and start on time. You probably don’t start the game as soon as players arrive, so give them both times: When to arrive, and when you’re going to start playing. Then, stick to that schedule. If a couple of players haven’t arrived when play time rolls around, get started anyway. A few players are going to be late; don’t make that hurt the rest of the group.
Ask players for feedback after every session. Wth this many players, it’s easy for a few to slip through the cracks. You can do this both as a group, and you can communicate with any quiet players privately (some are uncomfortable providing feedback in a group).
I like to ask players for their favorite part of the session, their least favorite part of the session, and what they’d like to see happen in the future.
Then, after a few sessions, look for a natural division into two groups. Do a couple of players mesh well together? Suggest splitting the party so that they have their own campaign.
So, play with a large group! You can always split the group once you’ve got a feel for all of them, but for now, it’s always better to play.