Not long ago I came across the audio version of Jim Collins’ Good to Great. While the focus of the book is to understand the difference between truly great companies with great leadership and enduring growth from the merely good companies who’ve experienced brief periods of strength, many of its themes apply to any group of people assembled for a long term purpose. For example, great companies first assemble key leadership teams, then they decide what roles team members should hold and what the strategy of the company should be. This applies directly to gaming.
Games are often formed from a hodgepodge of available players. Perhaps someone posts an online ad, perhaps it’s an assembly of friends. Whatever the case, some attention should be paid to the type of player one invites to the table. In gaming it isn’t as crucial to assemble great people, after all, we’re all here to have fun. It is crucial, however, to assemble gamers of compatible temperament and style. One really bad player can spoil the entire group, just as two diametrically opposed players can. Ideally, the bad eggs and troublesome relationships should be identified before they’re allowed into the group. If someone already in the group consistently spoils the fun, it may be time to have that difficult conversation and disinvite them from the game.
The uncomfortable truth is that troubled players tend to hang around for too long because few people are willing to have that difficult conversation.
Once the right players are at the table, and the wrong players are away from the table, a group can decide what it wants to do a the table. While many dungeon masters do much of their campaign planning before they’ve gathered their players for the first time, there are hazards here. It’s better to adapt the campaign to the strengths and interests of the players. Similarly, it’s best to hold character creation until all the players are identified and can participate. Creating after the sharp minds have been assembled will lead to more interesting origins and sharper character builds. Most importantly, this should lead to increased fun of the entire group.