There’s the kind that’s always in flux, perhaps with a core group of players who’ve been there since the beginning, perhaps not. This kind of group changes composition when campaigns begin or end, or when real life intervenes (people move, work hours change, etc.).
The other kind changes only occasionally — the composition of the group remains largely constant over time.
I see a fundamental difference between these two kinds of group. For the “stays the same” crowd, gaming with those specific people trumps other concerns, including (but not limited to) satisfaction with the games being played.
For flux-y groups, playing a game that everyone is really jazzed about is the primary concern. Players who aren’t into a specific game just sit that round out, gaming with other groups or taking a break.
(This distinction doesn’t mean that groups in flux don’t like their friends, or that more static groups don’t love the games they play, it just determines their top concern.)
So why do groups break down into these two general categories? In my experience, the biggest determining factor when it comes to the nature of your group is the environment you’re in at the time.
From my perspective (I don’t want to speak for my friends on this one, but I think they’d agree), my group is firmly in the second category. When we get together, it’s to game with each other — with this specific group of friends.
This is due partly to the scarcity, in our experience, of unattached players in our area — our environment, in other words. It’s also partly due to preference (at least for me): more often than not, I’ve gamed with close friends in stable groups, rather than casting a wider net.
My gaming group back in high school, by way of contrast, was solidly in the first category. It consisted of my entire extended circle of friends, plus whoever else we knew who might be interested in what was being played at the moment. There was a core that didn’t change much, but apart from that we were always in flux.
I’ve got choosing our next game (Doomsday approacheth…) on the brain, so I can easily see how falling into the first category affects that process for my group: it makes it tough. What other aspects of our hobby does this fundamental division into stable/fluctuating gaming groups influence?
What kind of group is yours? Why does it fall into that category? Am I right about there only being two basic categories?