The thought I had on Sunday night can be summarized as: Provided the extra work is tolerated, some of Vinny’s concerns could be potentially solved with the enforcement of player-hour requirements for free GM badges.
So, when Kat emailed me that I was getting a free badge for Dreamation, I was honestly surprised. I was only running two games, and then only for four players per game. To me, this didn’t seem like enough to warrant a free badge, but hey, I won’t complain.
Vinny’s concerns of limited numbers of players and having to turn so many away are totally valid, and I was bummed to hear that people who wanted in Mythender didn’t get in. At the same time, I wanted to have fun playing in other games and I know my game breaks with six players. So, what am I to do?
Well, since I assumed that I wasn’t going to get a free badge, I felt the numbers were alright. Last year, I ran three games — two four-player slots of A Penny for my Thoughts and one of Don’t Rest Your Head. I felt I earned the badge then, but I also felt like I didn’t get to play enough other stuff (hence only two games this year).
Working back from that personal experience and towards what Vinny’s suggested of running six-player slots, here’s my thought: not every game works for six players, and fitting games that don’t into that format will only create sourness. But we clearly can’t do what we’re doing right now and just assume it’ll work. Thus, I’m brought to the idea of serving the same number of players in two different configurations: running two slots for six players (2×6 = 12) or running three slots for four players (3×4 = 12).
Now, you could leave this as player-slots or go to the GenCon standard of player-hours. At four hours per slot (with some exceptions, which will disincentivize those slots in this model), that comes to 48 player-hours.
If you want to encourage this behavior, you need to create an incentive for that, either carrot-style or stick-style. Carrot-style makes sense here; you get a free GM badge if you run at least that many player-slots or player-hours.
To concisely state my idea: Require people to run enough games to fit 12 player-slots (or 48 player-hours) to receive a free GM badge.
If you buy the idea that this is a potential solution, we can talk about how to hack it. I’m not saying I recommend any or all of these, but point them out to show how flexible a solution like this could be with some work.
Partial Credit. If you run, say, 1/2th or 2/3rds the number required, then perhaps you only get half off your badge. It could still be a nice, shiny pink GM badge, but it’s one you had to pay for.
Playtests Count Less. If you want to create a disincentive for the number of playtests on the schedule, you could count them as a fraction of player-slots, like 2/3rds or even 1/2th. I do think this could blow up, given the number of playtests that happen at Dreamation (and, frankly, part of why I fly out from the West Coast to go to this thing.)
Minimum Player-Slot Counts. You could deny putting people on the schedule at all if they didn’t hit a certain count, like only running one game on the schedule (I’m talking about you, Tony! *grin*). This might sound bad at first, but consider this in concern with a Games on Demand type place at the con, and it has a potentially positive spin on things.
In any case, that’s the idea in a nutshell. Hopefully it’ll help someone wiser than I (like Rob Donoghue) articulate an idea that works. It mainly came as a reason to Vinny’s comment on the playtests, saying that most of the people involved have pink badges anyway, and reacting with “Yes, but the fact that so many have pink badges is not exactly our fault.” (Bleh, that sounds like I’m being ungrateful for getting a free badge, which I’m not since I have to worry about layoffs and travel expenses.)