In reverse order of the title, last night we played another session of J Evans' Mass Effect RPG (a home-grown affair using the Cortex+ rules. You should totally ask him about it!) We were missing no less than four players from the group, meaning we had a modest three players.
Which reminded me about how good it is to only have three players. Our group's large size has continually been a problem. Trying to occupy the attention of even six, much less seven people, poses a challenge. It's compounded by where we have currently been playing, because the table layout is pretty spread out. So having three players meant that all three were pretty engaged; the smart phones stayed in pockets and everyone contributed.
Even before this, I had considered the possibility of trying to find some way of limiting the size of the gaming group without offending people. One thing I considered was running a game more frequently than I normally do (say, weekly) and offering slots for people to sign up. You could, for example, sign up for two slots a month with five slots per session. That way a potential player could sign up around his schedule, but there would still be enough slots for everyone hopefully to get a game in once a month. You could theoretically manage ten players that way. The downside would be if a player's personal life ran up against a full schedule, in which case I would hope people could negotiate. If the group was fluid enough you would also be able to play at least once with everyone in the group once a month.
That would mean, almost by necessity, that I would have to do a sandbox game, which lends itself to two of my favorite genres: fantasy and superheroes. I could see a sort of "adventurer's club" format where a group continues to explore a large megadungeon or wilderness, or alternatively for supers a sort of "Arkham City" where people wander around resolving different quests. Time to think...
And as always, opinions welcome.