Over at the Tower of Zenopus, Blacksteel has been struggling with erratic game attendance, with players dropping in and out all over the place, and campaigns sputtering to a halt. I'm sure this isn't anything new and happens to all gaming groups at some point, but what I did find interesting was Blacksteel's solution.
You can go over and have a look, but I'll summarise. How it works is you put together a matrix of games and players, like so:
|Players Present||We Play|
|Alice, Bob, Charlie||Shadowrun|
|Alice, Charlie||Call of Cthulhu|
|Alice, Bob||Feng Shui|
The idea is that ongoing campaigns remain viable because the players most interested in that game will be there for that game; you shouldn't get games that conk out through a lack of interest.
On the other hand, what you've got here, more or less, is multiple campaigns running at once; that could be a problem if your game requires a lot of preparation, but it's alleviated somewhat if there are multiple gamemasters in the group. Another potential problem is that it may be difficult to keep track of progress in campaigns; were we hunting the slavers in Shadowrun or RuneQuest? Good notes and recaps would be more important than ever.
All that said, I like the idea. Although it is disruptive in the sense that you could be playing Shadowrun for two weeks, then Feng Shui for one, then Shadowrun again for a week, then RuneQuest, it's less disruptive in the sense that you won't get people dropping in and out of the campaign.
I don't think there's anything wrong with a West Marches style drop in and drop out game -- and I'd love to play in one some time -- but I do think it lends itself to more broad and shallow style play; with this sort of approach you can start to go into depth with plots and backgrounds and non-player-characters and tie them into the player-characters, because you know the players will be around to engage with them.
The other big advantage is that it offers up a bit of variety. You're not playing one game for big monolithic chunks of time, but rather playing lots of different things; it lets you try new games as they come out, and if they prove popular, perhaps put them into the regular rotation. My original gaming group sort of ran along these lines -- although it wasn't planned -- and so I played a lot of different games in my youth; I do miss that variety sometimes.
My current group is for the most part quite stable in terms of attendance and participation, and it's not a big group, so I don't know if this would work for us. We tend to play one or two hefty campaigns a year, with some shorter games in between; although there are regular absences they tend to be far apart enough that it probably wouldn't be practical to run alternate campaign or campaigns in those gaps. Instead, we tend to break out our ever expanding board game collections.
Even so, there's something about this model that I cannot help but find compelling. Perhaps there is a way to make it work with my group. We'll see.
Right! Delta Green next!