Monday, February 3, 2014

Surveying the Gaming Group

As I may have mentioned earlier (many recent posts just ended up in draft format, and then were deleted on the grounds that they didn't pass my Quotidian Acid Test) the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying campaign I've been running for almost a year appears to be wrapping up.  I say "appears" because it seems to me that the enthusiasm is either plateaued or on the wane, both among the players and myself.  We still have fun gaming, and hopefully always will, but I don't sense that fervor about it.  More on the "why" later.

At the last gaming session we discussed what might come next, and interestingly the conversation that I heard was at variance with what another player heard when I discussed it with him later.  To put it another way, I thought I heard the group say something, while he heard something different.  It is an interesting conundrum, and to resolve it I decided to bust out some business tools and survey the gaming group using Survey Monkey.

Now, for those who don't follow the minute details of my gaming group, I have eight players, ranging in age from mid-40's to pre-teen, with six adults, one teenager, and one child.  We game every other week and while initially I floated the idea of two group that would alternate weekly, that idea fell apart and instead we have one group whose attendance fluctuates wildly from three to the full eight without a pattern.  At the discussion, I thought I heard there being a lot of interest in a science-fiction game, but one of the players with whom I was chatting about this said he thought he heard people say they wanted to do fantasy again.  What is the answer?

So, here are the survey results for your consideration and input.  Of the eight players, seven responded (one of the adult members has not filled out the survey yet).

Question One: how would you rate your interest in a fantasy campaign, from 1-10 (1="not at all interested," 10="very interested").  Average answer: 7.43.  Five people answered between 8 and 10, one answered 3, another 4.

Question Two: how would you rate your itnerest in a science fiction campaign, from 1-10 (same scale).  Average answer: 7.86.  Six people answered 7-10, one person put down 3.

Question Three: which of the following licensed properties would you be interested in playing?

  • Star Wars 72%
  • Star Trek 72%
  • Firefly/Serenity 100%
  • Farscape 29%
  • Doctor Who 29%
  • Battlestar Galactica 57%
  • No interesting in licensed games 0%
Other games mentioned: Babylon 5, Amber

Question Four: How gritty and mature do you like RPG storylines to be, from 1-5  Average answer: 3.57.  All respondents were either 3 or 4.

Question Five: How "crunchy" do you like RPG rules to be, from 1-5.  ("Crunchy" was defined in the question as detail in gameplay and PC rules).  Average answer: 3.  Three people answered 2, one person answered 3, and three people said 4.

Question Six: What do you like best about the MHR campaign we have been playing? This was on open-ended question.  Several answered that they liked the "sandbox" feel of the camapaign, which is funny because I feel like it has been fairly directed.  Most people said they liked the relative balance between characters and the more narrative element to player actions (contrasted with the rather rigid D&D 4E player/PC actions).

Question Seven> Whad do you like least about the MHR campaign?  This was interesting because everyone said something different: poor roleplaying in the group, complicated die mechanics, the superhero genre, and the lack of PC growth.  It is interesting because I think I would have cited all of these myself.

So what to take away from all of this?  Well, for one thing, it's clear that most of the group is okay with either a fantasy for sci-fi game, except the one or two players who wouldn't be.  Most licensed products appear to be fine, should I go with them.  I think that it is interesting that Firefly got the big nod, given that it seems to me to be the most "gamey" of sci-fi shows, with its "tramp freighter" concept and picaresque characters (not to mention the whole Joss Whedon thing).  I don't half wonder if I could run a tramp freighter Star Wars or Traveller game and still hit the sweet spot there.  What's weird about Firefly for me was always the complete lack of aliens or alien culture, which seems a sci-fi staple.  I did have a follow-up conversation with several players who said they were unfamiliar with Farscape, which was interesting because I tend to think of it as being rather "gamey" too.

It's interesting that people are interested in more serious storylines, given how much clowning around seems to happen during gameplay.  I set that tenor as much as anyone, but it might be worth a conversation about how that might work.  The one result that made me really laugh is the one regarding "crunch" which averaged out in the middle but actually was composed of people either liking low-crunch or high-crunch.  "Crunchiness" is such a subjective concept, however, that I'm really not going to worry about this too much.  What I do conclude about rules from the comments is that my players like choices, or as many gaming bloggers would say, agency.  They want to be able to say "my PC tries to do X," and let the dice and me adjudicate that rather than say, "my PC is going to activate this particular moveset, which will mean I can only do the following."  Since the latter is largely a function of games like 4E and is not typical of RPG's, it shouldn't be hard to please the players with most rulesets.

But anyways, thoughts?  Conclusions?  Have you ever done a survey of your players, and how did that go? 

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