Sunday, January 31, 2010

Doom & Tea Parties: Small, Focused Games

I think Trollsmyth has mentioned that the solo game didn't start out that way. Originally we had four players, then lost two, then the third, added another who only lasted one session, and so on, until the group finally settled down into me, and some NPCs who I pretty much treated as members of the party. Whether it was just schedule problems, or a side-effect of chat gaming, or Trollsmyth's peculiar campaign style I couldn't say, but lately the group game has been having similar trouble. We're down to just me and the boytoy, from a group of four players, and while there was an extended attempt to add a third player it doesn't look like the schedule is going to work out for a while.

Which, honestly, may be okay. I liked the other characters when they were around, and that potential third player would have been a lot of fun, but having just few players has some advantages. He and I have built a rapport, our characters don't get along in all kinds of fun ways, and it means the NPCs in the party get a lot more screen time. Since they interest me (and boytoy has amused himself by finding various ways to make their lives miserable) that's been working out well.

As a general rule, I'm coming to prefer solo and small-group gaming. One, two, and three people means the game can be more character driven, more interaction-focused, and more responsive to the specific things that I like, with fewer player agendas to juggle.

Which is a bit different than the freewheeling, "whoever shows up can play," megadungeon and wilderness crawl kind of play that I think of as quintessentially "old school." I suspect that those kinds of sprawling campaigns played a significant role in creating and anchoring communities of gamers, and I would like to run or play in such a campaign at some point, but mostly for the novelty of it, and to better understand how such things function. My real interest lies in smaller, more focused games.


  1. The sad thing is that there are really good things about both smaller and larger groups of players, but you simply get one or the other most of the time. Ideally, one could play in two games, a small (or solo) game, and one with more players for the fun chaos that usually results form such situations. Of course, my own game soemtimes see two players show up and sometimes six, so I suppose I get a taste of both styles on different weeks!

  2. I agree - I myself have experienced playing in what you term as 'small focused games'. With the right referee and player(s), this can be very absorbing indeed!

  3. Two or three player's been my ideal so far. I haven't actually tried a solo campaign yet though I'd like to sometime.

    I can see a large group doing pbp in between games getting the same vibes as smaller focused campaigns. Especially for game groups that meet just once a month or so.

  4. If you're ever in NYC, drop by for some old-school whoever shows up action; the maximum we've had in my game has been 14 players!

    I find this a refreshing change from the often three-player 3.5 group I was in for years, and an interesting exploration of one thing OD&D does well. It looks to me, though, like Gygax did both: famous sessions like Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure were played one-on-one with Rob Kuntz and other friends, while weekend sessions would have tons of players.
    - Tavis

  5. Welleran: I've been considering starting a big, megadungeon-focused campaign that would play maybe once every other week or once a month for roughly this reason, but I'm not sure how well I'd like playing with most of the people I know I show up. ;p Plus, I've got a very small-group focused RPG that needs testing, so if I run something soon it really ought to be that.

    spielmaster: Player/DM chemistry is key. Even more so in a small game than usual.

    Mike(aka kaeosdad): We've kinda done that in the D&TP group game. Small as it is to begin with, there's been a bit of solo play here and there, when the direction of the game demanded it.

    muleabides: Sounds fun. :)

    And yeah, I think you're right about Gygax -- that's actually one of the things that really interests me about large games like that, is their ability to split off into smaller ones when necessary.