I have a group of seven players in our game. That’s a lot of hungry adventurers, and so rather than leave dinner to fate, I have always prepared food for my group.
As well as all the intricacies of encounter balance, and building in character development, I also buy food for everyone and cook a meal we share before the game starts (I know, im awesome). I ask everyone to chip in £4 which combined allows me to cook a big pasta meal, and supply crisps, sweets, chocolate, and free-flowing fizzy drinks. I dont take any of this money for myself, but instead think this way everyone pays their fair share and we dont have to worry with deciding what to eat/waiting for the pizza delivery guy to show up.
When a group orders food for delivery, there is the inevitable person that brought a £20 note, or forgot their wallet, or some other reason to make paying a nightmare, and usually there is one person (hello!) that ends up paying more than everyone else, for the same amount of food. I also noticed that in a group, there is usually only a small percentage that bring along snacks, and hardly anyone ever brings something to drink, because no one wants to haul big bottles of soda around.
With me doing all the leg-work, and a set amount to pay each week, it all seems fair and square. Food is ready when they arrive, so we can eat before the game, and snack throughout. Less time faffing, more time killing goblins.
Even with this little system there are sticking points. The first one is getting people to pay. It astounds me how someone can forget to pay, the same amount they do every week, on the same day of every week, for the food they eat every week. Yet it happens regularly, and I have to remind everyone at the beginning of the game to please pay for the food they are eating, and again I have to check through my bank account on a monthly basis and give out the figures for who has still not paid.
The second issue with this system, is last minute cancellations. As I buy all the food in advance (after having players confirm attendance), a same day cancellation means I have over spent that week. I could ask the missing player to cough up the £4, but this seems petty. I could also increase the amount everyone else pays that week to cover the lost amount, but why punish others for someone elses problem. So I soak up the cost. It may not seem like much, whats £4? but multiply that a few times a month, and pretty soon that a tidy sum that im losing, all because I want the game to run smoothly, and my players to be well fed.
To try to mitigate this issue, I have reduced the number of ‘spaces’ at the table from seven (to allow all players) to five (two people will not play each week). I would love to have seven people turn up every week and pay for the food they eat, but after a year of dealing with this issue, I thought it was time to try something new.
This week is the first session with the new smaller group of five, only time will tell if we have any last minute drop-outs.