I don't know whether I've mentioned it here before, but I'm a big proponent of my friend Joshua's idea of a fair cost of "pay for play." In short, I expect to be reasonably entertained for an hour for $5. (If I go to a 2-hour movie, I'll spend around $10, for example; a novel that costs $20 but is an enjoyable read for about 4 hours feels fair.) If a game or activity costs less than $5 per hour per participant, then it's a good "pay for play" ratio.

In this line of thinking, board games and RPGs are fantastic investments. If a single $10 adventure entertains a GM and 5 players for 5 hours, that's "worth" $300 ($5 per person per hour). Even expensive board games can be good investments, too; I've played Eldritch Horror at least six times, with an average of 4 people each time, and that game takes 3 to 4 hours to play. The fair cost of Eldritch Horror for pay-to-play would be at least $1,290 ($5 times 4 people times 3 hours times 6 games), but of course it's MUCH less than that, even with expansions.  The fair cost for Dominion in my household would've paid for a college degree.

I was thinking this last night when I was playing a game--with Joshua, actually--called Exit: The Game. That game costs $15, and contains a series of puzzles you and your friends are racing to solve collectively. The three of us finished in 75 minutes and 20 seconds--with ZERO hint cards used, thankyouverymuch--and had a great time. Although another friend of ours was remarking how bad a deal "games you destroy" are--specifically, she was talking about Seafall--it struck me that Exit: The Game is actually a fair deal, from a "play for play" perspective.

And so much fun, I'm likely to pick up the other two games in the series as well.

I've also taken another look at my game shelf and thought about which games I've gotten my "pay for play" out of, and which ones I haven't. Now, some of the RPGs I own are clearly what I call "bookshelf" games; I bought them perhaps with the best intentions to play them, but I'm aware they'll never be anything more than something I read (maybe multiple times) and put back on my bookshelf. Continuum and Dogs in the Vineyard are good examples of these, as is most of the Call of Cthulhu I own. But some deserve a spin, if only to give them a fair amount of pay for play.