The Seating of the Stuffy Dinner Party Guests

"Don't just laze about! Help with the seating arrangement! The guests will be here any minute, and the king said everything must be perfect tonight or heads will roll! Now remember, the King must sit at the head of the table with her majesty at his side. Lord and Lady Pemberton must sit next to each other but not next to either the Knight-Commander Gren or his wife.. The Priest Lenard mustn't sit next to any of the attractive Ladies, and the Matriarch will certainly cause a ruckus if not placed in a respectable seat, but don't put her near the wine fountain either. Also, the Ladies...."


First and foremost, a big thank you goes out to Dragonlordmax and his Stuffy Dinner Party Guests. Without his hard work and contributions (and permission), this sub would not be possible. An additional thanks goes out to:

This puzzle will take all of the characters listed in the Stuffy Dinner Party Guests submission and provide rules for seating, scoring, and guest satisfaction. Rules will also be provided for adding and removing guests.

Rules in a nutshell

  1. Create a list of guests with brief descriptions of each. The descriptions should include preferred and/or undesirable seating conditions for each guest. This list of guests and descriptions will be shared with the players.
  2. Each guest has a limited tolerance of being seating next to any other guest. This tolerance can be classified as: indifferent, annoying, insulting, or unnacceptable. Each stage of enjoyment/annoyance can be scored as: preferrable(+1), indifferent(0), annoying(-1), insulting(-2), and unnacceptable(-3).
  3. Guests may also have special requests such as being seating near the exit or seating someone else away from the wine fountain.
  4. After the seating has been determined by the players, a score is applied to each guest for both guests they are seated next to. This gives each guest an overall satisfaction rating between +2 and -6. Failure to meet a guest's special requests further reduces the satisfaction rating by 1.
  5. The scores of all guests are added together to determine the overall enjoyment of the dinner party.
  6. If any guest has an unnacceptable (-3) reaction with any other guest, this guest will cause a scene that will ruin the entire dinner party for everyone resulting in complete failure.
  7. If you score an overall positive result, you are likely to be rewarded for your hard work. If you score negatively, or if a guest causes a scene, you are likely to be denied a reward and possibly even punished.

Table Layout

2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22
1 24
3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23

  • Seat 1 is the head of the table
  • Seats 2-9 are considered prestigious
  • Seats 10-15 are within reach of the fancy wine fountain
  • Seats 16-24 are considered less respectable
  • Seats 22-24 have an easy access to leave the table without interrupting dinner
  • (Optional) As the table decorations are as numerous as they are gaudy, guests must struggle to see (let alone communicate with) guests seated across the table from them.

As you add or remove guests, you will need to add additional sections to the table. Each section provides seating for two guests. The smallest acceptable table size is two sections that seat 6 guests in total. The size of the king's hall is the only restriction to the max size.

Additional twists include: removing the gaudy table decorations so that guests may benefit or suffer from an additional adjacent guest, breaking the table into multiple smaller tables (this leaves only the king's table as a position of respect), adding scenery or theatrical performance to the hall which usually causes seating to be placed on only one side of the table (making more central seating more respectable), or any combination of these.

Building the Score Card

Do not try to plan for each seating arrangement! With 24 guests, there are 12926008369442488320000 possible seating arrangements (not counting the same arrangement rotated into different seats or mirror arrangements). Just don't bother. Instead, build rules for your guests and score the seating later.

You must first decide how each guest will react when seated next to each of the other guests. Additional rules may apply to each guest that can influence their evening for better or worse. Using additional rules (ie. "The king will be upset if he is within earshot of Prince Briar", "Lady Adara would like to sit across from Lady Adalia", etc.), a guest may have better that +2 or worse than -6 for their evening. The easiest way to build a score card is to use a spread sheet with the names of all guests for both the row headers and column headers. Next, fill in each cell with a score (+1 to -3) that shows how well the guest in that row would react to sitting next to the guest in that column. When you are finished, it should look something like this:

Guest 1 Guest 2 Guest 3 Guest 4 Guest 5 Guest 6
Guest 1 + -1 -2 = +
Guest 2 = = = + -3
Guest 3 -1 -1 = = -1
Guest 4 = -2 = + =
Guest 5 + = = + =
Guest 6 -3 + -2 -1 =

As you can see, this quickly shows how well any guest will react when seated next to any other guests. However, this still isn't even very easy to read yet because it looks like guest1 should sit next to guest2 and guest6 to fulfill his seating requests, however guest6 would cause a scene if seated next to guest1. After some looking, we'll see that guest1 might be better off sitting next to guest2 and guest5. While guest1 is indifferent to sitting next to guest5, guest5 would enjoy it.

To help make this even more readable, I color code my spreadsheet to quickly show me the summary result of two guests sitting together. red=-3 or lower, amber=-2, light yellow=-1, light green=0, green=+1, purple=+2. Note that while guest6 sitting next to guest3 would be red because -2 and -1 = -3, this is still acceptable because it would not cause a scene by itself.

Score Card for Stuffy Dinner Party Guests Scenario

Using the guest list for Stuffy Dinner Party Guests by Dragonlordmax (24 guests), I have created a score card using the above rules (and my best judgement). This score card is for the Game Master's eyes only.

Play it Out

Once the players have decided the seating arrangement, the guests should arrive with fanfare and be announced. One of the more social players should then escort the guest to his or her assigned seat. Some guests might whisper their annoyance about certain seating arrangements, and some other guests are likely to slip the players a bribe to place them in a more prestigious seat. The players can roll with these changes if they dare. If any guests cause a scene, it should be played out with a disagreement that escalates into yelling or accusations of incompetence. Some guests will decide to leave the dinner, but the dinner will still go on until it is concluded. However, the players will be considered failures if such a scene occurs.

After the dinner, any of the guests who had an enjoyable time are likely to thank the players for giving them the extra attention. These well treated guests are likely to offer friendship and additional opportunities to show their gratitude. For example, if you manage to please Count Hobran, the Reaver, he will likely invite you to his domain for some hunting games and possibly even an adventure. When you design the guests, you should also decide how each guest is likely to show their gratitude for a favorable evening. This turns the logic puzzle into an invaluable opportunity to network and become known among the high class citizens, nobility, and even royalty.

Try it Yourself

Using the guest list from Stuffy Dinner Party Guests (24 guests), I came up with a seating arrangement that resulted in an overall satisfaction rating of +10 with not even a single guest annoyed at another. If you think you can do better, post a scroll with your seating arrangement and I'll score it for you (unless you'd like to do it for yourself). I'll post my own seating arrangement soon.

1. King Alfric the 3rd (+1)

3. Lady Pemberton (+1)

5. Lord Pemberton (0)

7. Ambassador Sara Pemberton (0)

9. Comtessa Beatrix Beaufort (+2)

11. Widow McIntrye (+1)

13. Honest John (0)

15. Lady Catherine of Wesshire (0)

17. Valefor Wordenweyn (0)

19. Lady Adalia (+1)

21. Count Hobran, the Reaver (0)

23. Prince Briar (0)

24. The Fool (0)

22. Knight-Commander Gren (0)

20. Senias, the Mystic (0)

18. Lady Adara (+2)

16. Erasmus Clay (0)

14. Priest Lenard (0)

12. Old Man Henderson (0)

10. Duke Frothington (+1)

8. Ambassador Finkvskyl (0)

6. Silk (0)

4. Matriarch Follovya (+1)

2. Queen Yura (0)

Total dinner satisfaction: +10.

Guests enraged with my seating: 0 (these guests would have been likely to seek retribution against me)

Guests Insulted by my seating: 0 (these guests would have been likely to seek punishment for me)

Guests annoyed with my seating: 0 (these guests would have been likely to treat me with disdain)

Guests indifferent with my seating: 16

Guests pleased with my seating: 6 (these guests are likely to reward me personally)

Guests ecstatic with my seating: 2 (including Lady Adara and Comtessa. These guests are likely to give me a substantial reward)

? Hall of Honour (1 voters / 1 votes)

Hall of Honour


? Community Contributions (1)

? Responses (23)

Goto Author

So what was your seating arrangement? 5/5

Goto Author

I guess it depends on the group. It's a cool idea, but to me it looks like homework. It's a complicated optimization problem. Then again, I don't like sudoku, either.

Also, an extra guest could show up. Or a different guest from what was expected, and the players could have a short time limit (1 min IRL) to seat them.

Also also, I'm imagining a combat version of this. Count Hobron's hunting lodge is under attack, and you have to place the guests in front of various windows or chokepoints. ('Knight Commander Gren is incomparable at killing goblins, but he's terrified of harpies. They remind him too much of his wife.')

Goto Author

Terrified of harpies because they remind him of his wife is golden!! :)

It is exactly that! I complicated optimization problem. The benefit of it is that you can introduce all of the important royalty in your campaign in an elegant way, and you give the players a good chance to make friends with them.

The homework part of it (designing guests and writing up the score chart) takes a few hours, but you can make it take only a few minutes if you want to stick with 8 or 10 guests instead of the massive 24.

I really like the idea of an extra guest showing up! That would so complicate plans and terrify the seating arrangers.

As far as a combat version goes, great idea! I approve! I could see you positioning defenders inside the local tavern after a necromancer invaded the city. You have a four very intoxicated city guards who have armor, but aren't likely to be very coordinated in a fight. You have a small group of adventures composed of a wizard, a rogue, a fighter, and an archer. You have the barkeeper who carries a battleaxe for such an occasion. You have six villagers who can't fight, but they can be directed to barricade windows and doors using the chairs and tables. Lastly, you have five members of the local hunter's guild who know how to use a bow, but aren't combatants. The tavern consists of the main hall, the kitchen, and the storage room. All three rooms are connected by doors. Stairs under the kitchen lead to a wine cellar. The main hall two entry doors to the street and a back door to the storage room opens into an alley. Lastly, the main hall has 2 large windows, and the storage room has 2 windows. You must position the defenders to defend against zombie swarms (which can pour in through windows or doors), skeletal warriors (which only come in through doors and are immune to arrows), and hideous flesh monsters (which can only come in through doors and can break down barricades). The ultimate goal for now is to stockpile enough food from the storage room into the wine cellar, and then barricade the wine cellar door. The hunter's guild members hate the city guards, the city guards have a warrant for the rogue adventurer, the wizard just came out of a heated debate with the barkeeper about his brew, the archer and the hunter's guild have a deep seeded loathing towards each other, and the villagers are afraid to be near the adventuring warrior due to some scary rumors.

With this scenario, you could easily define the defensive positions, define how well people work together, and determine how well the entire fight plays out based on the defensive positions selected.

Goto Author

Well this is fun. I can see what forganthus means when he says 'homework' but I can't help but like the score chart!

Besides a headache (in a good way, I mean) for PCs, this also serves as a great canvas for PC/NPC interaction, aka, role-playing!

Also, way to build off another sub's idea! Kudos.

Goto Author

As an economist (we love optimization!), I think this is great, and I am tempted to give this a try. However, the pdf is a little confusing. In particular, the legend doesn't correspond to the labelling in the chart, and some of the colors change (such as = being sometimes dark green, light green or blue, and switching from + labelled with colors to +1 or +2 in different parts). And what's the difference between black and red names? Also, from a cursory read of the list of Stuff Dinner Party Guests, I feel like you left out some of the other special conditions, like that the Pembertons must be seated next to each other, and that the King wants Clay next to one of his female relatives. Also, how do you score these extra conditions, like the queen wanting the prince away from women, or the matriarch wanting to be in seats 7 or lower? Just some questions that might help you clean up the presentation, but otherwise, the idea of putting this into an adventure is awesome!

Goto Author

Thank you for pointing those things out. I improved PDF to better clarify things.

The color coding is only used to summarize the combined scores of two guests if seated together. For example, the color of two corresponding cells will be dark green if the combined score is 0 (this could be a +1 and a -1, OR a = and a =). I gave a few more examples of this in the PDF.

The black and red names were my mistakes. I was color coding the names after I had finalized my seating arrangement for that guest. I corrected this in the PDF.

The special conditions are on the far right side of the score chart. These should each impose a penalty if not followed. The penalty should be whatever you deem appropriate: annoyance (-1), insulting (-2), or unacceptable (-3 and causing a scene). I did seat all the guests according to their special requirements, but I had to update the PDF because I had left some out of the score chart.

Thanks for the help sverigesson. It's much appreciated.

Goto Author

I'm just detail oriented, that's all. But I was glad to help. I may even take a try at this myself! Seems like it could be fun. And now there's a score to beat! Obsession... to beat others... rising!

Goto Author

You know, I'm probably going to keep finding these:

The queen doesn't want her(I'm sure this is already covered by her massive amounts of X's) or the King to sit next to beautiful women.

I assume that the King must be in chair 1, and the queen must be next to him?

Perhaps married women shouldn't want the twins next to their husbands?

That's all I have for now, after a slightly more thorough read through. Hope it helps!

Goto Author

The queen has a negative reaction when seated next to any beautiful women. Because the king and queen sort of have opposing requests about the king sitting next to women, I opted to only listen to the king.

Also, I like the idea that the King will ignore wherever you ask him to sit; he will just walk to the head of the table and seat himself.

Goto Author

Haha, alright, so basically the king can handle his wife's wrath, eh? I like it. And yeah, that would be a funny twist; let the players think they can put the king somewhere else to maximize his effect, but have him always steal seat number 1. I love it!

Goto Author

Omega, one quick note:

InfesTED-Jerk is now just Ted. ;)

Goto Author

I definitely think you guys will be seeing this utilized by myself in a game if/when I do something in the medieval setting.

Great job Omega.

Goto Author

Thanks for the correction, Ted. I updated the sub.

Goto Author

I actually used a dinner party logic problem in game......6 years ago...damn...

anyway one player really loved it, two players didn't mind it, one player thought it was like homework. I love writing it and I have enjoyed Draco's write ups.

Goto Author

Pretty much what Muro said.

Job well done.


Goto Author

I like it, and forganthus's suggestion with battle optimisation is a great idea. I've had to solve these kind of problems before, and analyse the outcomes. It's interesting to note that if you carry out this exercise with nations prior to the breakout of the second world war, the lowest conflict states are almost identical to the Axis/Allies split (except for one country, IIRC.) It turns out this a remarkably complex problem (Combinatorial Optimization) and is NP-complete. It's an excellent problem to push onto your gamers! As a general rule, NP-complete and NP-Hard problems make for quite good games. Have a read of Ralph Koster's GDC 2009 talk for more.

Goto Author

Ahhh, good old combinatorial optimization. But in reality, this specific logic problem is more complex because you can have specific goals such as making specific guests happy (or intentionally ruining the day of a specific guest while making sure everyone else enjoys themselves). While the overall score is certainly a combination optimization problem, the actual results and benefits of the seating arrangement give you a choice of outcomes that can supersede the benefits of optimizing the score. In other words, you might want to make sure Count Hobran is happy regardless of who it insults because doing so will ensure that you can marry his daughter. So who cares if the king dislikes you for planning a poor seating arrangement.

Goto Author

5/5 - Quality!

Allow me to quote Murometz:

-'Besides a headache (in a good way, I mean) for PCs, this also serves as a great canvas for PC/NPC interaction, aka, role-playing'

You couldn't have said it any better. A problem many gamers have lies in their unwillingness or inability to work together to solve a problem, this forces them to pool their wits, and interact with the other PCs/NPCs.

Well done OmegaDraco!

Goto Author

Just brainstorming a scenarios where this might come up:

The party has infiltrated a nobleman's keep as servants, but were immediately pressed into service by the head cook (who took them for hired help from his lord's liege). They are set to work coming up with a seating arrangement. The cook loathes idle hands and will do everything in his power to keep them occupied during the feast, making it difficult for the party to achieve the objective for which they came to the keep in the first place. On the other hand, the seating arrangements may provide them with an unexpected opportunity to either create a distraction (through a scene) or to spy on the nobility attending.

I also like the idea of having them put in this position of trust, and then have others try to get info about the seating arrangements from the party ahead of an assassination attempt.

Not your usual scenario. It could be a breath of fresh air, if done well and made to fit the current adventure.

Goto Author

Seating guests to optimize an assassination attempt. This is good stuff! I particularly like the idea that some of the guests could be spies. Proper placement of the spies could gather valuable information.

Goto Author

It's 1:45 AM and I am considering trying to pull this off for Kingmakers tomorrow... but it will probably have to wait for later in the campaign when more NPCs are known to the players.

Should be fun.

Goto Author

This is clever. I'd love watching PCs - particularly a party with no real sense of decorum - try and play party planner.