Worlds of Design: Quality vs. Quantity of RPG Play

About how many times (sessions) do you typically play/GM a particular set of RPG rules?


I tend to evaluate games beginning with the assumption that most published games are played only one to three times before gamers move on to the next game. This is a consequence of the thousands of new tabletop games published every year - among other things.

dice.jpg

Picture courtesy of Unsplash.

A Lot of Games​

I tend to evaluate games starting from the assumption that most published games are played only one to three times before gamers move on to the next game. This is a consequence of the thousands of new board and card games published every year, and of the large segment of gamers who are “Explorers”, who want to explore (play) a game just enough to understand it and then move on to the next.

Forty years ago, with a small number of new hobby games each year, those who were explorers gave individual games more play, but most players weren’t explorers, they were interested in “mastery” as an objective in game playing. There are other motivations of course, such as people who play to help someone else win, people who play solely to participate in the social comradery around a table, and people who play to partake of a story to name a few.

Categories of Repeat Play​

I divide games into the 1-3 play category, the 10-25 play category, the 50ish play category, the 100 play category, the unlimited category, and others in between. Can RPGs be viewed the same way? Yes, though the GM plays a big part in enjoyment and continued play of a set of rules, so there’s not a direct comparison.

Number of times played depends so much on the length of the game. I know people who’ve played Britannia more than 500 times, but this is much more impressive for a four to five hour game than it would be for a 15 minute (or shorter) game like Love Letter. So maybe an “hour standard” should be used (where 500 x 4.5 hours = 2,000 hours, while 500 x 15 minutes is 125 hours). The hour standard is even more relevant for role-playing games.

Some RPG players like to play by the same rules year in and year out, while others (the explorers?) frequently try new rules. Most of you have played more RPG rule sets than I have, because in games I’m the opposite of an explorer.

Repeatability of Play​

Those RPGs that are devised to support a specific setting appear to be of the 1-3 or 10 play category. Dystopia Rising RPG, for example, has a very atmospheric (zombie apocalypse) setting but doesn’t have, in my opinion, a strong rules set. In general, when all the advertising and conversation is about the setting, I don’t expect much from the game’s rules, though of course there can be exceptions. (Like movies based on games, once in a while there will be a really good one . . .)

D&D is a peculiar case in RPGs, as it occupies a kind of “Monopoly”-like position, that people play it by habit, or it’s the only RPG many people have ever heard of. (Monopoly is by far the best-selling tabletop game, and one often played, but is regarded as a poor game by game designers.)

Hours of Play vs. Number of Sessions​

Once again, hours of play might be better than number of sessions, given the variety of average lengths in different campaigns. Yet some people play in a very leisurely way, while others play quite fast.

Unfortunately, collecting statistics for face-to-face play is challenging. Yet the online GM assistant programs such as Fantasy Grounds may be able to count hours just as they count the title being played.

Some will argue that quality and length of time are not related. I see the point, and one can conduct polls to try to determine quality, but is that practically going to give us an answer? Let's find out.

No evaluation method can be perfect. Let me know in the comments and in your response to the poll what you think.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Lewis Pulsipher

Lewis Pulsipher

Dragon, White Dwarf, Fiend Folio

Yora

Legend
At the very minimum, I expect a game to be played at least as long as it takes me to learn the rules. Otherwise it's been a clear failure.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Umm, no pattern?

We don't change systems very often. Sometimes someone has something new and offers a one-shot to test it out. So that's one time. At a later point do we go back? Maybe. Maybe not. Other times we'll leap into a campaign trusting the person who was offering to run that it is a good fit for us. Usually that's true, in which case it could be a six month campaign or a two year campaign - to pick out the last two times this happened - or something else. Or we could give it a good try and find we don't like the system. Plus the number of games that get pitched but don't ever get played - often just because there's something else more interesting, or people want to return to an old favorite. And if we do a superhero academy Fate Accelerated game, should I combine that count with sessions of the steampunk floating-island heist Fate Accelerated game since it's the same game rules, or is it a different game?

Really, the social dynamics of introducing a new roleplaying game to a group, combined with the one-shot vs. adventure vs. campaign levels of granularity that are very different, make this not something that really has a pattern in the groups I play with.
 

Celebrim

Legend
In terms of RPGs, Generally it's either 0-1 or else 50+.

If the system is worth running and lends itself to a story, I will run it a lot. If the system isn't worth running, that's usually discoverable by reading the rulebook or within the first session of play.

With board games it's a bit less extreme that that, but tends to also diverge into the "1-3 times" or else "20 or more times".
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I answered 11-25, but there wasn't a number high enough on the poll. My campaigns are usually about a year long, with probably 8 weeks where we don't play. So 44 sessions a year and it's usually at least 10 years before I change rule sets.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
. . . In general, when all the advertising and conversation is about the setting, I don’t expect much from the game’s rules, though of course there can be exceptions. (Like movies based on games, once in a while there will be a really good one . . .)
That doesn't bode well for Honor Among Thieves.
D&D is a peculiar case in RPGs, as it occupies a kind of “Monopoly”-like position, that people play it by habit, or it’s the only RPG many people have ever heard of. (Monopoly is by far the best-selling tabletop game, and one often played, but is regarded as a poor game by game designers.)
I see the extension of this logic goes unstated. That's okay, I get it.
Some will argue that quality and length of time are not related.
Some will definitely argue that. Maybe I shouldn't take it out of context...

I don't know that I'd depend on the results of the poll. It might be better phrased as: how many sessions do you typically spend trying out a new game?
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Generally, I only need one gaming session to decide if I like a game enough to play it again.
And if I do, I will play it dozens and dozens of times.
So for practically every game I've ever played, my vote would be either 1 or 25+
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I didn't respond to the poll because it just didn't capture my hobby habit. First, number of sessions is the wrong metric in my opinion. I'm more interested in the number of hours I get out it. Also, for D&D 5e, I've played many more than 25 sessions. All other systems I've run are one shots. I may play multiple one shots with other systems I own, but not consecutively. I only have the time to commit to a single campaign. But my one shots are generally 6-8 hour sessions. Other than at conventions, I don't think I've played a TTRPG sessions that lasted less than 6 hours.
 

The poll is terrible. I don't run a campaign of less than 40+ sessions, and I won't change systems in mid-campaign.

In addition, my players don't bother to buy the material, further diluting the poll data.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I tend to run for 8 to 30 sessions in any given campaign.
Like JD, my players generally don't buy the books. They do, however, buy snacks, lots of dice, and sodas.
 


Related Articles

Remove ads

Latest threads

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top