The Fun-to-Effort Ratio

Posted: 18 January 2013 in Reflections

I can see that this year will be much busier at work than the last, which I expect will cut into my gaming time. So for 2013 at least, I need to focus on things that offer a lot of fun for relatively little effort; maybe next year will be different, but I’m not really planning that far ahead.

The undisputed heavyweight champion of high fun and low effort is All Things Zombie. It’s a blast, and it has a setup time most boardgames can’t match. So Mike Blackman (solo) and the Dojo Gang (my regular face-to-face group) will stay active. However, while Don Savage’s adventures are as much fun, they are noticeably more effort because of the on-the-fly conversions between game systems, and I suspect they distract both myself and others from Mike; so Don goes into hibernation. I did think about a kind of farewell encounter where he tracks down the missing chopper crew and hitches a ride back to their carrier, but to misquote the Bard: "If ’twere done, ’twere best done quickly."

The Beasts & Barbarians campaign Shadows of Keron also has a high Fun-to-Effort ratio, partly because it’s now long-established and we’re all comfortable with the setting and the characters, and partly because I usually run published scenarios. I have noticed that One-Sheet adventures are less effort for the same fun, because there’s less to familiarise myself with before play begins; so I shall shift towards using those. Unleash the Beasts of the Dominions, then.

Irongrave and Talomir Nights are already dormant. For one thing, with an average two weeks between sessions, I need to avoid confusing the face-to-face group by switching settings or rules too much; they have day jobs and lives outside gaming, and don’t immerse themselves in RPGs to the extent that I do. For another, do I need more than one fantasy campaign? I think not.

As for the Arioniad, I think I’ve painted myself into a corner with that one, so I shall leave it to recharge for a while. It has bounced back from that before, and could easily do so again.

On a more general note, it’s become clear to me over the course of 2012 that I am never happy with any campaign map I create myself; that puts mapping squarely in the high effort, low fun quadrant, so I should stop doing it. Fortunately, there are any number of good maps out there that I can repurpose, and I am musing on how much I could do without a map; but that’s a longer topic for another post.

Also, it’s clear that I struggle to keep any game going for more than a year at a time – there are so many others I want to try that it’s hard to stay focused. That’s relevant here because it means I should limit the effort invested in a campaign based on the return I expect to get from it; if I start from the idea that I should spend more time actually playing than preparing a game, one four-hour session every fortnight suggests no more than two hours per week prepping. If the group lasts long enough, I expect that at some point I will drop into Campaign A in odd years, and Campaign B in even years, but it’s not clear which those campaigns would be yet.

That covers the solo, group, fantasy and survival horror bases. The one thing missing from my staple gaming diet there is science fiction, and so I intend to use 2013 to prepare a space opera campaign for 2014 – as any game master would recognise, preparing for adventures is in itself a kind of solo gaming. More of that later, when I explore the "emergent setting" approach to campaign generation.

  1. Umberto Pignatelli says:

    For space opera, can I suggest you the Daring Tales of the Space Lanes line? Causally, I wrote 5 of them 🙂

  2. raikenclw says:

    I was going to recommend DTSL as well, even though – for my purposes – I’ve had to change a few features. I’m in the beginning phases of adapting Adventure #1 “Waylaid On Wayland” for use in a Play-by-Post game and my most reliable player for that really didn’t like how the setting blatantly states that the GM can cheat in order to keep Important Villians alive until their scheduled time to die. So I took that bit out . . . although of course (if necessary) I’ll still “cheat.” It isn’t “cheating” when the GM does it, after all. 🙂

  3. andyslack says:

    Yes, gents, you may recommend DTSL, and thank you for doing so – I’ve been thinking about getting those for a year or two now, and the new campaign would be a fine excuse!

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