I believe I’ve gone on record saying that I would never GM for more then 6 people. Well I lied. I went to one of the local game stores when I moved to Arkansas and met a great group of guys. They have a giant group and I ended up GMing it (they put me top in the queue for the GM rotation) and a few extra people joined in when I said I was doing Star Wars for my game. So here I am managing eleven players. I’ve learned a couple of things and I want to pass them on to anyone who is finding themselves in the same situation. It happens more often then I realized and while I think it is less then ideal there are some things you can do.
Find out who is good at the game you are playing and rely on them. It’s not a bad or good thing to say that some people are better at rules then others. Whoever they are rely on them to help pick up the slack when explaining rules. Trying to teach a new system to a group or start a group that is that large is going to be nearly impossible. You’ll have to look at and explain the rules to every person with a character sheet making you move around and getting away from the stats you need. Just discreetly ask your players that catch on quick to help or sit near where they can be useful. Trust me, that will help a lot.
Establish a clear sense of initiative on and off the battle field. Eleven people all trying to buy stuff, talk to different people, or even go to totally different places. Create an initiative for off of the battle field. I usually have my players names written down. I wait for the first person to speak after establishing the scene and then whoever is second or third gets numbered and I follow up on it at the conclusion of the first player. If the first player establishes a new scene that the players want to be involved in then initiative resets. Establish scenes by setting your own first. Describe the place and options for the characters and when they arrive. Then using the aforementioned initiative I would set new scenes or handle the actions. When setting the new scene establish before hand who is there for your new party size in the moment. If people just start jumping in and out of the scene it will cause chaos.
Let your players take care of themselves mostly. There is going to be a lot of buying, selling, leveling up, and other things all at once with eleven people. Let them come to you with questions and trust them not to cheat. I know that may be harder when you are playing with new people, but we all know that cheating makes the game less fun. Try and let the players know that and if you suspect cheating just ask for all the character sheets. You can handle the rest discreetly later.
Combat will be crazy long with a big party and you can do two different things to get everyone involved. The first thing you can do is send in a ton of baddies and move their initiative around so that everyone has a chance to put in their hits. Or you can set up situation where NPCs keep cutting into the initiative. What I mean by that is have groups of NPCs near the encounter to find the fight later. People hearing the fight in the next room over, a secondary group waiting to ambush, or even just a river of stormtroopers will help keep NPCs from slowing down the initiative, and at the same time present a continuous challenge for the players. If you have a third plan then experiment, because honestly saying “sorry, there’s eleven people here” is the perfect excuse to try out new ideas.
Whatever it is that you are trying to do with such a large group you will have to be creative. Combat encounters are hard to calculate with such a large group and loot will be hard to split. Play with it and do your best. Just remember that you are supposed to have fun with this too.