Gaming Groups: What Works

I’ve played in at least a hundred games over the years, most of them were one-shots that the DM promised would “really last THIS time.” Only a hand full of those games ever made it to session 3 and even fewer were memorable campaigns. I have often thought about what made the good games last and the one-shots collapse and I came up with three components to the campaign and group that were the most significant in its success or failure.

1. Group Size: The best games I have played in had a group of 3 plus the DM. The worst had 6 or more players. I find that in the smaller group it is easier to get into character and each player gets a chance to shine in most encounters. It is also easier in a small group to keep on task as conversations don’t have such a chance to run rampant.

2. Campaign Level: I have only played in two campaigns that made it much past 6th level. Most campaigns lost steam at around the 6th level mark; a fact that made the E6 concept really appeal to me. The most memorable campaigns I have played in were low level affairs though the most memorable campaign did make it to 11th or 12th level.

3. Presence of Power Gamers: When everyone is focused on playing interesting characters and not seeking every mechanical advantage available games tend to run a lot more smoothly. When one player maximizes every aspect of their character then it can hurt the fun of others who want to play more interesting although not as mechanically “perfect” characters and end up being overshadowed by the power gamer’s character. When there is more than one power gamer in the group they often compete with each other and the problem compounds.

Now a game can usually stand having one of these three factors working against it, though power gamers is certainly the most damaging and depending on the severity of the power gamer problem can kill a game by itself. When two of these factors are favorable and one is not quite unfavorable a game is most likely going to go very well.

The best game is a party of 3 in a low level game with no power gamers. This is just my observations from years of gaming experience, your mileage may vary.

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~ by katallos on May 29, 2010.

One Response to “Gaming Groups: What Works”

  1. 1. This is ironic since past versions of the game were intended to handle 20-30 people, according to old school folks including Mr. Gygax. Today, though I’ve found that bigger groups make for lower availability which leads to #4 below.

    2. I’ve personally run AD&D games to about 8th-9th level. I’m one of those weird GMs that likes to start at 1st level. I also prefer slow advancement.

    3. This is the way I remember playing and it seems rare these days.

    4. Frequency of Play: nothing kills the momentum of a game like weeks and weeks or even months passing by without play.

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