Parties Come in All Sizes

by Jessica "Allahweh" Brown, November 22 2011

The very nature of MMORPGs implies that they are social games that encourage at least some sort of interaction with others. While there are many games in which it is quite possible to reach the maximum level solely through soloing (or, if not the designer's original intention, through the use of powerful builds), most games in the genre contain content that makes it essentially impossible to complete without forming some sort of party. While the composition of these parties is equally important as how many people make them up, the perfect party size for all the different MMO activities that are available is certainly up for debate.

The concept of party-based combat sees its origins from the heyday of table-top RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. The idea was that each character class brought unique abilities to the table that made them valuable to the party in different situations, which was extremely important in set-ups where no one character or class could serve as a master of all trades. Even the concept of the Red Mage was essentially unheard of. Parties would encounter powerful creatures that there was no hope of any one character slaying on their own, and thus cooperation was the only means of survival (and even that was not guaranteed). Each character could also possess unique secondary skills such as lock-picking or knowledge of foreign tongues that would make them valuable in non-combat situations.

Much like in the digital setting of MMORPGs, parties in a table-top environment largely depended on how many people were available to play the game as well as how many people the Dungeon Master believed was ideal for playing the game without slowing up the process. Since each character was given a turn in a turn-based environment, having too many players would make a single round of play take an incredibly long time. Moreover, having too many players could also make combat far too easy to be enjoyable.

While the maximum allowed size for a party varies by game, and often by level or type of party within a game, certain commonalities exist. Here we will examine different situations and how parties factor in:


player vs environment

Player vs. Environment (or PvE) situations refer to the general format of most MMORPGs. In this set-up, players gather quests of various types from NPCs in the game world and embark out into the land in order to complete them. This could be something as simple as gathering resources in a forest for an NPC to use in crafting, saving an NPC from a dangerous environment, or killing various creatures for sundry reasons. This format also applies to those that don't worry about questing and instead prefer to simply 'grind' by killing monsters for experience and resources.

As a general rule, in most games these goals can be accomplished without the need of a party. However, this depends on the difficulty of any quests the player might be embarking upon, the types of monsters they might encounter, or the sheer number of monsters they may find. Whether a party is needed or not also depends on the nature of the game itself. In Final Fantasy XI, for example, very little experience is gained by killing enemies of the same or lower-level than your present character. In order to gain any sort of worthwhile experience, players need to defeat enemies of considerably greater strength than they are. This, by nature, facilitates the need to create parties of six people, each with well-rounded abilities.

While some games have restrictions in place against people that are too high-leveled joining a party in order to power-level or assist the other players, many games simply build-in penalties that give most of the experience to the higher-level players to discourage this. Nonetheless, however, high-level players can tag along outside the context of a party in order to provide powerful healing to party members or to kill unwanted monsters that get pulled by accident.



While raiding can be lumped into the PvE category, the fact of the matter is that they truly belong in their own unique section. Raids typically involve a large group of players storming a high-level area with particularly difficult (and plentiful) enemies in order to take down an exceptionally-powerful boss creature in order to get very rare items, armor, and other equipment. World of Warcraft has set the standard for raid systems in MMORPGs and in the game the allowed size of a raid party varies depending on the instance's difficulty, the amount of monsters present, and various other factors. The maximum size of raids in WoW consist of 40 players while others may be 25, 20, 15, or even 10. As a general rule, if you are unable to gather 40 people for the larger raids, it would be best to take part in a smaller one.

In other MMORPGs the concept of raiding translates into defeating powerful, but optional boss characters. However, the difference between these and the raids seen in a game like World of Warcraft is that these optional bosses can still only be defeated by parties of the usually-allowed maximum size for the PvE environment. Thus, in this case, the make up of the party is the key factor to success in battle.

The 2011 MMORPG Rift, as well as the game Warhammer Online, both make use of a slightly unique system. While not raids, per se, both games make use of public quests that can appear at random in the gaming world and allow for groups that consist of multiple parties. Yet, in both of these games partying up is completely optional, but participating in a party or group allows for far greater abilities to coordinate the take-down of the enemy groups.


player vs player

Almost every MMORPG on the market features some type of Player-vs-Player (or PvP) combat. More often than not, there are various types of PvP matches that players can indulge in and each of these styles has their own requirements for party make-up. Certainly it is possible to participate in such matches with less than a full party, but this is certainly not ideal and will generally cost those players the victory. Moreover, most MMOs have built-in rules in place that do not allow combat to begin unless the proposed party has the requisite number of participants.


Realm-vs-Realm (or RvR) combat is a unique feature that has cropped up in MMORPGs, particularly those of Asian origins, in the past few years. What makes this style of combat completely different from normal player-vs-player combat is the sheer size of the groups who are going to battle against each other. In games like ROHAN: Blood Feud that make use of this, the sizes of the competing factions could be quite enormous, potentially up to over a thousand players on each side. While victory is certainly dependent on the skill level of those participating (as well as their physical levels in the game), there is great truth to the idea that strength lies in numbers. Thus, while a group of 500 could potentially defeat a group of 1,000 players if they were far superior to the others in skill, chances are that the larger group will ultimately emerge victorious.


It would be remiss not to note at this juncture that not all parties are formed with the purpose of participating in PvE, PvP, RvR, or raid situations. Some players will create parties in order to have private, group-based conversations while others might create a party in order to facilitate role-play away from the griefers that like to cause problems for them. In situations such as this, the allowed size of the party has nothing to do with character make-up or levels, but instead is up to the personal preference of those participating in the aforementioned activities. Many who participate in role-playing keep to a certain party size (for example, parties not to exceed 4 players) in order to better allow for character interactions without some overshadowing the others or for the text to pass by so fast that no one can keep up with what is happening.


While the list above encompasses many of the situations in an MMORPG where a player will find the use of a party to be a benefit to their gameplay, this list is by no means an exhaustive one. Every player has his or her own thoughts, preferences, and unique experiences to base all of these on. As such, we at WhatMMORPG would love to know your thoughts about this. Please feel free to discuss this at length with us on the forums!