What is your "ideal" amount of party members in a standard RPG?

Meowsticks

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By standard RPG I mean series like Final Fantasy and Tales, and not single-character parties or tactical RPGs with tons of characters. I also don't mean the amount that partakes in battle, I'm strictly speaking of how many total party members you have (though feel free to discuss the amount in battle as well if you want).

I've always loved party-based RPG games, and enjoy seeing which characters I'm going to come across next that will join the group and add a whole new dynamic. I much prefer this to games like FF5 or Bravely Default where the party is basically set at the beginning and it is the classes that change. But when dealing with party members, it begs a question: What is a good amount of party members?

A fairly common amount is between 6-8. My favorite Tales game, Berseria, has only 6 members. my favorite RPG, FFX, has 7. And in my experience it's not often to come across a game with more than 8 total party members (but it happens).

In my personal opinion, I feel like 8 party members is the ideal amount. Six members to me has always felt like too little, even though it would allow them to be more unique with less chance of overlap between them. I also like 8 members because it's a decent amount that can allow the party to split up into different group dynamics, while still retaining a complete party feel.

But what about you all? What's your idea for a perfect amount of party members?
 

RachelTheSeeker

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Assuming the player always has one main character that is rarely (if ever) swapped out, I prefer enough party members to swap out evenly with the active team. So if three character allowed in battle, five total; if four in battle, seven total.

My personal opinions though? The less characters, the better -- if having more than one party, I'd prefer just five or six. More than six makes characters feel redundant both story-wise and gameplay-wise. Few games can make a whole slew of characters all feel relevant but hey, not every game can be FF6. In my mind, less is more.

For instance, my favorite main-series Final Fantasy, FF9? I think it would've been fine skipping Amarant. I've heard people swear by Quina gameplay wise, and their quirkiness makes up for how gimmicky they felt the first time through. Poor Garnet also felt a flat Summoner character, but she tried to be better than most Mary Sue healer-gals in JRPGs. Which is painful when she wasn't. In gameplay Eiko is the better White Mage, and even Eiko's summons are just plain better than most of Garnet's.

What's the point of having multiple classes if there's too much overlap, or lackluster choices? Try as I might to appreciate Archers and Oracles in FF Tactics, they just pale in comparison to other jobs. Don't even get me started on how gimmicky Rafa and Malak are, or how OP Cid is, or how Beowulf basically invalidates Oracles. And that's a game that prides itself on a boatload of options and combinations, let alone having my favorite FF story (and fave video game hero of all time).
 

kirbwarrior

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The rule of seven doesn't apply here, but I still think it works well. Seven seems to hit this exact point between having enough characters to breathe things out with yet not too many that the developer stops caring.

On the other hand, I feel like 2x+1 is also a great spot to shoot for, where X is the party size and assuming the protagonist can't be removed from the party. Then again, I far prefer FFX's ability to not have Tidus forced into the party (under normal circumstances).

But as a developer, I prefer to shoot for exactly the amount of people who will be in the party at once. From a flavor point having party systems always seems hard to actually explain in a meaningful way. I don't hold that against other game makers (and I don't think they should follow my view!) but I like to explain things out, even if only to myself. By having the whole party capable of fighting, there's no worries.

Of course, I also don't have an issue with a seven person party.
 

TheoAllen

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For party-based games, three at minimum (although two could work depends on the game), and six at maximum (with 2 at the reserve, or all of them are playable if it is a tactical battle) per party. Eight started to feel like it is too many. Except when it is broken down by a different point of view (4 on one side, and 4 on the other side). There is no exact number for "ideal" for me as that would give an impression that "if not this number, then it is no deal"

I like a small squad.
As a player, It is easier to track who is responding to what event and perceiving their relationship between each of them. I don't play many JRPGs (with turn-based battle), but Breath of Fire 4 is quite ideal for my own taste.

In Child of Light, there are over 11 playable characters and all of them joined your party. And I only remember some of them. I only remember the MC, the clown (that has the highest agility), a dwarf (that throws elemental spell), and a certain playable character that
left the party mid-game and become the last boss
I don't think I remember the rest of the party members, or if they even react to a certain situation.

Gameplay-wise, having fewer playable characters could make each of them unique.
 

Wavelength

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I feel like 7-8 party members tends to be a sweet spot more often than not for epic RPGs that are 30-100 hours in length (though smaller, shorter RPGs that you can run through in 10-20 hours often do better with 4-6), but I've seen really good dynamics with anywhere from 2 to 10, as long as the story and game feel like they have a good role for each character to "fit".

Honestly, I would never recommend starting with a number of characters and then trying to figure out "what kinds of characters can I make to fill those spots". That's a great way to introduce what I like to call "Star Ocean syndrome" (where your party members may have interesting personalities, but in every important scene they are basically all just agreeing with each other or with an NPC in different words, rather than actually driving the scene).

Instead, start with the characters whose story you want to tell and make sure that it is something about those characters that continues to drive the plot (even long after they are introduced to your party). This is way harder than it sounds! - but it makes for the best stories, by far. The more characters you have doing this, the harder it becomes to make sure that all of them are still frequently doing the driving, so you're likely to find the need to pare down (or at least stop adding) at some point. That's how you will come up with the right number of characters for your particular game.

While there are also gameplay factors (such as skill synergy and kit diversity) that also affect what the best number of playable characters is for a particular game, I've found this to be far more flexible than the story considerations. You can add or subtract tools from a kit (or even remove entire mechanics if necessary) based on the party size. So don't worry so much about this - just figure out what the right cast of characters is to make your story feel like it's a dynamic, living story, and then adjust mechanics as necessary to play well with that party size.
 

EmeraldSpecter

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In battles I loves me some 4 to 6 party members... for total characters, I like collecting as many as possible, but I can understand that there might be some people out there that see a need for a limit.

So, if I'm thinking about it, there should be as many characters as is necessary to tell the story (exactly what writers are told about writing novels). My second project has 8 characters (playable)... I have decided to move to a different project, which has more than 8 initially, it'll end up being less than what it starts out as. So, I'm going to go with 8 to 12 tops, with 12 being cooler in my head than 8. :)
 

Meowsticks

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@RachelTheSeeker
I get that complain with FF9's character. I love the game, but Amarant just feels like an add-on to reach 8 members, and Garnet and Eiko are just two halves of a whole. I get why they are story wise, but gameplay wise there's hardly a need for both of them.

@Wavelength
Very well said, especially the part about 'Star Ocean Syndrome' :LZSlol: That, uh, may or may not be something I need to consider when writing big scenes for my game. Like the Amarant example in FF9, he is hardly relevant in basically any scene (he doesn't even care about doing a victory pose for half the time he's in the party). It's nice to have party members, but it's nicer for them to have drive in the story as well.
 

estriole

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108 character (Suikoden) :D just kidding... it will be hard to make and develop story with 108 character... if done poorly then it will be copy paste templates with no uniqueness...

the ideal battle member in my opinion is from 3 - 6 member... less than that will reduce the strategy that can generated... more than that become to OP and easy to bully the enemies which later harder to balance the game...

for total member it would be better to have about double the battle member so 6-12 members...
so you at least have ability to swap almost your battle member and gain lots of combination... and since it's not massive number like 108... it would not be too hard to tailor your story to showcase each actors so they can shine...

hope this help :D.
 

SpicyBlizzard

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I feel like it depends on the type of story being told. For a story that revolves around every event happening to the entire party, I feel like 4 is probably the right amount of people. More characters being very closely related to the plot starts getting messy imo. For a story where people are travelling together but have different goals in mind, I think 6-8 members is good, so people have options.

One of my all time favorite RPGs is Octopath Traveler, which features 8 characters. The way the game allows you to individually explore their stories and quests, while still getting 4 person combat, is amazingly well done. Admittedly I don't much care for 2 of the characters, but they're still useful party members to switch into while doing questing in towns. Each one is designed to be a mirror of another character, mostly in the abilities they can use while interacting with NPCs. This, I think, lets you chose how you want to interact with a the story a lot, while having the flexibility to still have 8 different combat styles at your disposal.

As a side note, Pokémon. Ignoring the wildly diverse teams you can have and all that, only focusing on team size, 6 members feels like a satisfying amount in a game focused around a complicated weakness/advantage system. Octopath has such a system as well, but it's implemented very differently and does not effect the player charters, while in Pokémon it does. Since Octopath's mechanics are less complicated, I fell like it can get away with having a couple more characters, for variety.

If you're doing a specific skill system with mirrors, 8 members is great for player choice while still maintaining balance in 4-person battles. If you don't have a system like that 8 might be pushing that. Again, imo it all depends on the story you're trying to tell, and the way your mechanics work.
 

kirbwarrior

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not every game can be FF6
I feel like a game can have 2 digits of characters when the game isn't based around a central protagonist. The game is almost more about the antagonist than them. I feel like you could even succeed greatly at the Suikoden 100+ characters with that kind of mentality to making the game.
 

Milennin

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For a traditional RPG, I prefer having a set party of 2-4 characters that are all active while in the party, rather than having to select a few for battle and have the rest getting sidelined doing nothing at all except for when the story needs them to say their lines.
 

coucassi

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I like it best, if every actors who's part of the party is also active in battle. It just makes no sense for me storywise, if you fight the great evil that threatens to devour the world while having half of the heros who are able and willin to fight just watching from the side line.

I also like to have your party members follow the protagonist on the map, so it looks very awkward if they become to much.

That's why I normally go with 4.

However this is the maximum number of characters active at the same time.
In a whole there are a lot more, that are switching during the arcs.

Some might leave the protagonist, become evil or die when the story progresses, while others take their place, or former party members return.

In my current game I have 20 possible party members split in two parties.

However often inviting one to the party means rejecting another, so one would need multiple playthroughs to get familar with everyone.
 

PixeLockeT

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3-4 in battles. Maybe something up to 14 or so altogether at a time. Suikoden is a great game writing-wise for what's there, but they do be skimping on chara dev for literally everyone with their massive roster formula.
 

kirbwarrior

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I like it best, if every actors who's part of the party is also active in battle. It just makes no sense for me storywise, if you fight the great evil that threatens to devour the world while having half of the heros who are able and willin to fight just watching from the side line.
That is one thing I thought FF6 did fantastically. You really bring the whole party with you to fight not just the final boss but the last dungeon as a whole.

And I feel like games that have more members than party slots could at least work with the idea, even if it's not under player control. I remember one game where you have eight members but only four could be in the party at once. It explained the other four as fighting lesser enemies so the main party could focus on the actual threat.
 

SoftCloud

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I agree with the 'less is more' with party members view. Not only are the dangers of gameplay redundancies avoided when amounts are limited, but assuming one wishes to have these party members exist within the world and not as chess pieces acted upon by the player, then less allows for these party members to have their story archs and personas fully explored. Too many results in potentially bland characters. Not always obviously, but I would say it's better to aim for fewer party members. Especially early on if possible as you can explore them deeply as you progress with the story.
 

Redeye

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For standard RPGs, yeah, I'd go with 4 to 8. Some of my projects subvert that guideline, though.

The current game I have in the works has 6 party members, one for each element, since the gameplay has an elemental rock-paper-scissors system.

Another smaller project I have involves a singular jack-of-all-trades protagonist. I'm still debating on whether or not to make it like Shin Megami Tensei where you can capture and recruit the monsters you fight throughout the game, or a system where the protagonist is a "blue mage" who can bring up to 2 companions with her for dungeon crawling (You'd have ~8 companions to choose from).

Later down the line, a third project I have (with quite an ambitious story) breaks the rules for a standard RPG and contains around 10-12 party members.

Other than that, I have a very vague idea for a game with a massive roster of recruitable allies. The array of characters that you can recruit changes based on the story decisions you make. I'd like it to have a pretty ambitious, branching narrative, but that's an idea for the distant future.

I always tend to avoid odd-numbered parties because I'm one of those devs who is incredibly bothered by those sort of things for no good reason. If I have 7 playable characters, I always feel the need to make an 8th just to keep it even, despite the fact that I'd have to come up with a whole backstory, personality, and motivation for that new character. I'm also one of those devs who absolutely must have it so that there is a 1:1 ratio of male and female characters. So in a party of 6, 3 of them MUST be male and the other 3 MUST be female, or else I just don't feel right (and I get a similar feeling when playing RPGs with lopsided gender ratios. Don't ask why, it just feels odd to me).
 

Meowsticks

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It seems the overall opinion leans more on the side of less party members, which...is understandable? I think it's just easier in general when you have fewer characters to 1)write 2)balance 3)keep unique. I imagine it as a graph, where the amount of party members and the complexity increases exponentially (not that there can't be outliers on either end).

Another aspect of why I like a larger cast is that you're less likely to meet everyone right at the beginning. I'm sure this will have wildly different opinions, but I enjoy when I don't see every party member in the first 1/4 of the game. That's not to say I enjoy characters that join right at the end, but it's a nice surprise and welcome addition when you're grown accustomed to a group, only for the game to drop a whole new character on you.

@Redeye
I always tend to avoid odd-numbered parties because I'm one of those devs who is incredibly bothered by those sort of things for no good reason. If I have 7 playable characters, I always feel the need to make an 8th just to keep it even, despite the fact that I'd have to come up with a whole backstory, personality, and motivation for that new character. I'm also one of those devs who absolutely must have it so that there is a 1:1 ratio of male and female characters. So in a party of 6, 3 of them MUST be male and the other 3 MUST be female, or else I just don't feel right
I totally get this and feel the same about even number of party members.. I can't even say why it bothers me, it just does. :LZSlol: I always aim to have an equal amount of genders as well (or at the very least, not lopsided) just to be balanced. It helps the dynamic as well to be more balanced in my opinion as well. Imagine if in FFXV they never had a temporary female party member? It would just be the same old 4 guys on a road trip for the entire game, and the balance would be terrible.
 

h0tWalker

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I like different amounts, depending on the story. 5 or 6 for a smaller games, where they could be a support character that later joins the party or be a late introduction. The struggle I see a lot of games have is that most games introduce the entire party early in the game. The mechanics and story is established early on, so it's nice to introduce someone or something new along the way to mix it up a bit. Just don't add them too late into the game as it probably feels frustrating for the player to be given a new character, just to have a small amount of time with, especially if they love said character.

For larger projects you could use the above example, but if I were to increase it, I'd probably go for 9. That way you have two full parties for battle + one additional. This again plays heavily into late character introductions to refresh and create a new breathing room for the story.

That said, that requires more work as you want them to be interesting. And as someone else mentioned, they are 9 people. They will never agree on everything. Its important to not just make them blindly support every decision. Each character needs their own drive and motivation. Not every character will have the same as the protagonist, so you should explore why their in the party. Exploring and developing the characters is the key to a successful RPG with a larger cast. While you don't necessarily need to delve deep into each character, it's still important to have a good foundation, and let the player scratch the surface.
 

Nenen

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I like it best, if every actors who's part of the party is also active in battle. It just makes no sense for me storywise, if you fight the great evil that threatens to devour the world while having half of the heros who are able and willin to fight just watching from the side line.

That is one thing I thought FF6 did fantastically. You really bring the whole party with you to fight not just the final boss but the last dungeon as a whole.

And I feel like games that have more members than party slots could at least work with the idea, even if it's not under player control. I remember one game where you have eight members but only four could be in the party at once. It explained the other four as fighting lesser enemies so the main party could focus on the actual threat.

This is something I always felt. Why shouldn't all party members be fighting? I always felt that at least a reason otherwise would be helpful. Such as they're fighting others while you go in.
Then there's games that have events in certain locations that you'd only get if that one specific party member is with you... And it's fairly big for their character development, such as 'my son is there' and all that. That's when I feel a member should insist on going...


But that doesn't correlate to what is the ideal amount... I agree with not making it overly large, unless each one is still important and vital in their own way. So 4-8 sounds about right...
 

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