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October 31st, 2013, 12:54
There are two things that can be easily discerned:

1) The fewer party members you have, the more powerful each individual party member has to be.

IOW, the fewer members, the less realistic it gets.

2) The more party members you have, the less unique each character is.

You will very rarely find an RPG with 6 or more characters where each character serves a completely unique role and there is no overlap in design or use of each class/ character.

That's about as objective as I can get on the matter. There are some other objective factors (i.e. managing more characters always takes more time) but I'm not including that as I don't think that's valid (hypothetically speaking, there can never be too much of a good thing).

Personally I love 4, but am also satisfied with 5 or 6. In the classically designed RPG, 4 forces you to make a somewhat tough decision between including an auxiliary character, i.e. a skill monkey, or a buffer (like a Bard), or a hybrid, vs. packing another character that's 'pure' in orientation. More than 6 and my sense of attachment to each character gets somewhat lost. Also you need an extreme amount of items in a game where you want to have multiple choices for each item slot on each character for 8 characters.

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