Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Analyzing GM Merit Badges

Well, although I've been out of the loop of RPG related message boards for several months now, an unrelated Google search brought me back to ENWorld, and I ended up browsing the front page.  On a whim, I posted the merit badges, since I couldn't see any evidence that they'd been posted already.  In fact, I made it a poll so I could generate some data for discussion.  Two things:

1) The first reply (and several subsequent ones) confirmed quickly that I'd made the right call in distancing myself from places like this.  Pedantic nitpicking, and--to use the phrase from the thread I posted--the compulsive, nerdy need to over-analyze the whimsical--not to mention a moderator's (no less) self-righteous and sadly not at all ironic smug pontification on the folly of calling them "merit badges" when they didn't have enough correspondences to the actual Scouting program of the same name very quickly reminded me of why I abandoned such banal discussions long ago.  I doubt I'll be looking to increase my involvement again anytime soon, based on this disappointing experience.

2) I know that this isn't a scientific poll, but there shouldn't be too many self-selection biases or endogeneity problems other than those which possibly plague ENWorld as a whole.  In any case, I'm not going to be submitting the poll findings to The Quarterly Journal of Economics or anything, so I'm not going to be too concerned about a strictly rigorous scientific study.  I'll talk about the results that I have so far, and speculate on them, and they are what they are, warts and all.

First off, with 42 votes over the last... oh, about 20 hours... I've got enough responses to be interesting, but I might update this yet in a few days when I have more.  Here's the raw numbers.  This includes the original 24 badges from the post, as well as the two additional ones that were added to the Cafe Press store.  Italics are my own response, which you can see both on the side of the blog and in the last post.

I found it interesting that the Interesting Story badge got such high numbers.  Suck it, sandbox fundamentalists!  Although that number as a percentage went down a fair bit with more votes, it's still by far the strongest single response.  Rule 0 was fairly high and By the Book very low, as was Likely character death.  This didn't seem to jive with my totally unscientific impression of the results looking at OSR blogs, where posting of these badges seems to have been most prevalent.  Of course, a lot of gamers would say that their impression of the OSR is that it's got a strong vibe of fundamentalism and fetishization of what the OSR crowd perceives (arguably) as the "old school" way of gaming--so, if they're (we're, honestly) right, then that's to be expected.  I suspect that this being posted somewhere like Dragonsfoot, where OSR fans are a much larger percentage of the posters, might get a different pattern of responses.

I was also... well, not exactly surprised, but disappointed nonetheless to see that Scary, PvP and Gonzo were all fairly low--although frankly, the number of folks who picked Disturbing was higher than I expected.

Most of the other results were either not surprising, or didn't turn out particularly interesting, with kinda middling numbers.

Anyway, like I said, I thought the results were interesting.  I might post an update after I get 100 responses, assuming that I get that high.  Or maybe even more, depending on how fast responses come in.  At the least, I'll note if anything makes a dynamic change after more results come in.

Tactics are an important part of my games. 21 50.00%
My games will tell an interesting story. 36 85.71%
My games will be scary. 11 26.19%
My game focuses on exploration and mystery. 27 64.29%
There will be player vs player combat allowed in my game. 11 26.19%
My games are safe and you don't need to worry about content or character death. 4 9.52%
I will mirror back player ideas that I think are interesting in game. 31 73.81%
My games use a pre-made map and pre-scripted content. 15 35.71%
The GM is in charge in my games and rule zero is in effect. 28 66.67%
My games rely on improvisation rather than pre-scripted content. 16 38.10%
My games are gonzo and can include lots of strangeness. 5 11.90%
Characters in my game are destined for greatness, not random death. 19 45.24%
I roll dice in the open and don't fudge results. 18 42.86%
My games include disturbing content. 13 30.95%
My games focus on interesting characters and drama. 21 50.00%
Player character death is likely in my games. 16 38.10%
I play by the book and rule zero is not used to alter existing rules. 7 16.67%
My games are more of a social fun "beer and pretzels" style game. 9 21.43%
My game is primarily non-combat in nature. 5 11.90%
Players in my game should be prepared to run when odds are stacked against them. 29 69.05%
My game has shared GMing responsibilty with one or more of the other players. 3 7.14%
I frequently tinker with the rules of the game. 22 52.38%
My game focuses on player skill rather than character abilities. 5 11.90%
My game is more enjoyable when I keep my GMing style unknown. 2 4.76%
My game focuses on espionage and politics. 13 30.95%
My games contain sexy content. 10 23.81%

1 comment:

Joshua said...

Ah, well. I seem to be struggling to get out of the low fifties for response rate. It may not seem like it's been very long since I posted it, but frankly, the response rate tapers off really quickly unless it's a runaway topic that's getting lots of discussion. Which this one isn't.

Not only that, I'm getting really tired of going back and checking on it only to find yet another inane non-discussion response.