You love science, right? Well, you all should, anyhow. There’s a guy called Brian Uzzi. What he did was kind of interesting (actually, apparently he’s done more than this, but this is the one I’m interested in right now) and I feel it could be transferrable to RPGs.
So, he took all Broadway musicals from mid-40s to late 80s and listed all the people who had worked on them. Then, he made a database of all the connections between those people based on had they worked together previously. He then calculated a value for each musical, he called Q, which was from 1-5, where at 1 no-one had worked with any other member of the production before and at 5 everyone had worked with everyone before.
So, why? He compared this value to the success of those musicals. You know what he found out? The musicals where the Q was very low didn’t do very well. Sure. Its a lot of people, who don’t know each other and can’t work together optimally, because of that. So, after Q started to rise, the musicals would do better, because now the people were more familiar and comfortable with each other. However, after a time, things went the other way. When people were too comfortable with each other, the quality began to suffer and thus those productions weren’t as successful anymore. People fell into habits and began to repeat themselves.
Is this analogous to playing groups? I bet it is. Sure, if your primary purpose in RPGing is jsut to meet your friends and the RPGs themselves are pretty much coincidental, you shouldn’t be thinking about this, but if you feel try to push your experience and come up with new things, you should see to it that your gaming group has an influx of people and people leave it.
Yes, this is not easy. How do you decide? I don’t know, but if people are aware of this, they should be willing to move on on their own. There is a multitude of problems with this approach. There might just not be enough players in the area, who are willing to work this way. I bet this would be true for most areas. There’s plenty of groups that are proud of the lenghty history of their campaigns, who are just basically trying to relive some years old idea they once had, but can’t really reach the potential they have as individuals.
What’s the optimal Q? 2.6. So out of all the possible previous shared experiences, under half should be there. I can’t say the optimum is the same for this purpose as its for theatre, but its still a lot lower than one might think. So, form new groups often. Do play with people you know, but also with people you haven’t played with previously.