Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe this is the first time we’ve ever shown the full Heroes party on a single panel. And as you may have surmised from today’s alt text, there’s a very good reason why. Oddly enough, it’s the same reason familiars and porters tend to disappear from games.

Working the extended party into your game is straight up hard. It’s tough enough to hold your own PC in your mind’s eye, allowing them to react to situations naturally and in-character. Start tacking on all the squires and animal companions and escort quests you’ve picked up along the way and your attention fractures. There are of course logistics issues with a big party, but the real bugger lies in spotlight distribution.

You see, there’s only so much time in a session. Everyone wants their moment at center stage, but those moments get smaller and smaller when “the party” becomes “the party + the help.” And while a big group can make for a rich living world, it also risks taking attention away from the real stars of the show. Someone is going to get slighted, and that’s a great big feels-bad.

For example, I remember one long-running game where our GM asked everyone to invent a free cohort. It was late in the campaign, and by that time we were very important people. It only made sense that hangers-on would seek us out. The intent was to provide more of a manager than a battle buddy, allowing us to make progress on our various side hustles while we were out adventuring. But wouldn’t you know it, the I-want-to-write-your-biography bard needed to witness our exploits first-hand. The aasimar’s long-lost angelic sibling needed to smite evil alongside the rest of us. That left the various craft-potion helpers and kindly old spymaster grandmas idling away back in town, consigned to the background while narrative attention focused on the actually-present members of the party.

You know how DMPCs are universally abhorred? If you’re not careful, a large party can become the same kind of distraction, shoving some PC / NPC relationships to the fore while others are left to languish. For that reason, I tend to favor a “one NPC per party” model. It allows a GM to provide a little in-character commentary, but doesn’t detract too much attention from the campaign’s headliners.

What about the rest of you guys though? What’s the largest party you’ve ever traveled with, NPCs included? Did you find that the extra bodies got in the way of the PCs, or did you enjoy the rich cast of characters? Tell us all about your convoluted party dynamics down in the comments!


GET YOUR SCHWAG ON! Want a piece of Handbook-World to hang on you wall? Then you’ll want to check out the “Hero” reward tier on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Each monthly treasure haul will bring you prints, decals, buttons, bookmarks and more! There’s even talk of a few Handbook-themed mini-dungeons on the horizon. So hit the link, open up that treasure chest, and see what loot awaits!