Treasury of Games: How to decide what to play?

You may be a GM with too many game ideas to run, or part of a gaming group with multiple GMs vying for people’s limited free time. If you are lucky enough to have multiple games to choose from, it sucks to have to choose, but with a fair method everyone can game happy.  Have a pitch night with your gamers to decide what games will be played!

The Pitch: Each person who wants to GM will have up to 15 minutes to sell the game idea. Take your audience into account when doing this, and make sure to sell the game you’ll be running, not simply the system you’ll be using for it or yourself as a GM. The essential rule of the pitch, however, is that you must build up the game on its own merits; comparisons with what others plan to run, or appeals to particular players based on their tastes or habits or your relationship with them are not allowed in the Pitch. Those things may play a role in who votes for what in the end, but the idea of making a Pitch is to overcome those tendencies, not strengthen them.

The Sign-Up Sheet: On this sheet, there will be a paragraph or so describing the game, reminding people what they’re signing up for. It will list the GM’s name. It ought to list the expected running length of the game, as this will be a key selling point, indicating a strong story-arc plan on the GM’s part. Everybody except for the GM will sign in one of three spots:

“I would play this” – marked PLAY, these are up-votes, plain and simple. Voting for a game means you commit to show up for as long as it runs, if it is the game chosen by the majority.

“I’d give it a shot” – marked TRY, this is an abstention. By signing here, your vote will be counted only for tie-breaking purposes. This vote means that if this game is chosen, you will at least show up to try it for the first two or three sessions, because while the game doesn’t push your buttons specifically, you enjoy socializing with us on Tuesday nights, and the game doesn’t push you away too much for that.

“I would not play this” – marked BOW OUT, this is also an abstention. By signing here, your vote will be counted only for tie-breaking purposes as well! However, this vote commits to not showing up on Tuesday nights for the duration of the game in question if it is chosen. In other words, this game is so uninteresting or sounds actively un-fun that you would rather stay home and/or seek other entertainment than hang out with your friends here while playing it.

Tallying Votes: The game with the most names in the PLAY column will be chosen, no matter the names in the TRY and BOW OUT columns. If one game gets 3 PLAY votes, and the most another game gets is 2 PLAY votes, then the game with 3 PLAY will run even if it got 5 BOW OUT votes and one of the games with 2 PLAY votes got 6 TRY votes. In other words, players enthusiastic enough to commit to the game will be given more weight than those who would merely try, or those who do not wish to play.

Breaking Ties: In the case of tied PLAY votes for the most popular game, the game with the better TRY/BOW OUT ratio will be chosen. So if two games each received 4 PLAY votes, but one received 2 TRY and 2 BOW OUT, while the other received 4 TRY votes, then the latter game would be chosen.

The advantage to this method, similar to this “Approval Voting” method explained by CGP Grey, is that you end up with the most enthusiastic players in your game. Adding the option to drop out and do something else with the free time ensures you won’t have any grudging/whining players cluttering up your gaming table as well. And there’s no reason you can’t invite them to the next pitch night – your friendship with them will probably be all the better for not making them play a game they don’t like.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.