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.
 

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Lewis Pulsipher

Lewis Pulsipher

Dragon, White Dwarf, Fiend Folio

AngryTiger

Explorer
Any rpg i end up buying i always play for at least 20+ sessions, but i only buy games i know i like.
First i read trough the rulebook couple times to get feel for the game. If i like the game i pitch it to my players, if they also want to play the game, then i will run 1-2 sessions to try it out. If after that everyone wants to keep playing, i buy the game and commit to running a campaign.
 

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aia_2

Custom title
Interesting topic... What is underlying is the fact that the success of a game is measured in nr of sessions rather than sales. It would be very interesting to see a comparison between the two rankings (games by sessions vs games by sales).

An overall comment: at first i didn't get the target of the poll... I had only one picture in my mind: once a product is close to be a commodity (if it is not already a commodity), the consumers are kind of bored by this good and trying to find it interesting by trying "different" uses. It is like TV in the '80s: everbody was so addict to it that instead of switching it off when what people wanted to see was finished, they keept on sitting on the coach and started zapping...
Having 1-2 sessions of other games is a close concept of TV zapping... You have already taken your "dose" but you want to explore and try other games as if you were looking to smtg that can provide you with "feelings" the old game is not able anymore...

Last comment: in order to have "mini-experiences" like zapping you need to have an enthusiast who pushes the others towards this experience: otherwise the party would stop for a while and do some other activities (keeping on playing the already existing game)...
 


practicalm

Explorer
I have a lot of RPGs that I've played only few times, and many that I've played 100s or more.
D&D, GURPS, Champions, Call of Cthulhu too many times to count.

Top Secret, James Bond, Runequest, Toon, Paranoia, Pendragon, Deadlands: Dozens of times

Ghostbusters, Bureau 13, Fringeworthy, Aftermath, Space Opera, Life with Master, so many other systems: Just a few times
 

aia_2

Custom title
I have a lot of RPGs that I've played only few times, and many that I've played 100s or more.
D&D, GURPS, Champions, Call of Cthulhu too many times to count.

Top Secret, James Bond, Runequest, Toon, Paranoia, Pendragon, Deadlands: Dozens of times

Ghostbusters, Bureau 13, Fringeworthy, Aftermath, Space Opera, Life with Master, so many other systems: Just a few times

Just wow! Lucky you and all the spare time you have! :oops:
 


aramis erak

Legend
It's mostly all the free time I had. Play time went down after the kids were born. Now that they are all out of high school, free time is coming back but there are more computer and board games competing for time.
For me, it was the boardgaming that got rolled back when the kinds came, not RPGing. Now, it's parents needing assistance.
 

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