We did the Pickup Donut for just about every slot of Go Play NW 2010. But for one slot, we tried something even more experimental…
Unlike the Pickup Donut, which had been part of our plan to handle the large volume of pickup games for months, the Lottery was a last minute idea. Literally, the night before the event. I’m not sure anyone has done anything like it before in the history of role-playing game events. Someone holler if they know.
The idea is simple: instead of making an intelligent, careful, decision about what you play and who you play with, throw caution to the wind and let the fates decide for you.
The procedure is exactly what it sounds like. Everybody gets together and throws their event badges into a basket. We randomly draw four at a time, read the names (and return the badges) and those people go off and game. What they play is totally up to them.
You may play with people you would have never otherwise gamed with. All the normal social pressures that affect who you decide to play with go straight out the window. And you may try games you would never have otherwise tried, because you happen to be in a group with other people who know about and want to play that game. Or even if you play something familiar, maybe someone else in your group is being exposed to something they would never have considered playing. It’s all in the hands of fate.
We did the Lottery in a Saturday afternoon slot (rather than a Sunday slot) so that people would meet new people early enough in the weekend that they could play with them again if they wanted to. Making a bunch of new friends right when the con ends isn’t as jolly.
Because it’s totally up to chance, I suspect people are a lot less critical about the games they wind up in. Much like Run Club, everyone recognizes that it’s an experiment from the start, a lark. I think that puts people in a more receptive, open frame of mind. You certainly can’t kick yourself for picking the wrong group to play with, because you didn’t choose at all. You’re off the hook, so you can just relax and see what happens. Even disasters can be entertaining when you don’t feel like they’re your fault.
The Lottery is not without its risks. Because it’s completely random, you could wind up with a group where no one felt comfortable facilitating a game. You could adjust the system somehow to stack the deck and make sure there was a facilitator in each group, but personally I like it this way. There were cases at Go Play NW 2010 where people who wouldn’t have otherwise facilitated stepped up because there was no one else in the group who would. On the other hand, I know there was at least one group that didn’t: they all decided to play a board game instead. Which I think is a perfect snapshot of the entire Go Play NW “bring the fun” ethos.
Like I said, I’m not sure any other role-playing game event has done a Lottery, but I think every single one should, at least for one slot. It’s an excellent change of pace.
(and no, I’m not a Go Play NW organizer this year, but fear not, it’s in good hands. Come to think of it you should probably register soon if you want to go)