Damage Per Second

I was playing Sentinels with the usual crew, and my buddy was playing a character that could play a card to let them play a card to let them play a card, etc. Each turn took… forever. We might still be playing. I’m not sure.

The character wasn’t exactly overpowered, because each of those cards didn’t do a ton, but it took a long while to resolve even a moderately good hit.

I joked that, unlike video games, in tabletop games Damage Per Second (DPS) isn’t just a measure of how effective you are but whether the stuff you did was worth the playtime it took away from everyone else. Yeah you did a big hit that landed a lot of damage on the bad guy, but if we all had to wait ten minutes for that combo to finish, maybe everyone else would have rather you just played one card that did moderate damage and moved on.

Within the fiction and the raw math of the game, it is objectively better to do more damage on your turn, because the game is cooperative and we’re working together to try to beat the bad guy. But to the players, how much real time you take to play out your turn matters. The game does not measure or care how long it takes you to finish your turn, but the players really, really do.

“How are you enjoying my paladin?”

I think this points to a broader issue in games, which is that instead of just evaluating the mechanical effectiveness of a character/class/build/whatever, or how fun that character is to the person playing it, you should absolutely be keeping an eye on how fun that character is for the other players at the table.

Yeah maybe your Witchcross Hunter is reasonably effective and helps the team without overshadowing everyone else, but if your turn is slow, complicated, or boring for the rest of us to sit though, are we really excited to have them on the team?

Dead giveaways are multiple steps to resolve something that really could be resolved with one roll (“okay first I roll to see if my hex mark locks onto them, then I roll to see if I can invoke the Spirits of Wrath to boost my attack, then I roll to attack, and uh now I roll damage… oh wait and now I roll to see if the hex mark gives me bonus damage”) or a lot of moving resources around on your character sheet that no one else understands or cares about.

Even if something is theoretically happening in the fiction and could be interesting it fails if it gets hidden away so no one else at the table is involved (“you just talked to the ghost of your great grandfather to get a +1 to hit? Are you doing that every round???”). Navel-gazing action that does not invite other players in. It also fails if it’s something you have to do over and over again. Overcharging the flux capacitors of your megazord and putting the reactor in the red once is cool, but if you do it every round everyone’s eyes glaze over.

I’m talking about cooperative games like D&D etc but the same thing is true in competitive games. Beat your opponents with cool moves, don’t bore them to death.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: time is the most precious resource. Play-time doubly so. Waste it at your peril.

    Ben Robbins | September 4th, 2023 | , | show comments