Sunday, March 28, 2010

The (Campaign's) End Is Near: Observations On My Personal Campaigning Style...

Good Afternoon, All:

I am currently running an Old School fantasy campaign using the "new school" rules system, Savage Worlds. The campaign started in the first week of December, 2007, and so has been running now almost weekly for two years and three months. I'd say I've probably run something like 105 to 110 sessions, and there's plenty of room left in the setting to run for another two years, at least. However, given the fact that my wife is pregnant and we are due in late May/early June, I am choosing to wrap up the campaign early. Our goal is to wrap up by the end of April, which gives me five more sessions to run.

Thinking about the end of the current campaign makes me think about my gaming style in general. It seems that many of the Old School gamers tend to run campaigns that last for decades, or at least so they describe. However, in practice, what I hear from the descriptions of these "ultimate campaigners" falls into what I would describe as a tendency to run different campaigns in the same setting, so the setting's history and evolution is decades long, but individual parties and campaign/major story arcs only run for a few years. There are exceptions, of course, but realistically, I doubt there's a gaming group that's been running the same characters for twenty-plus years in the same setting under the same rules on a consistent basis for the entire duration. And if there are, my hat is off to them.

I suspect that most long-term Referees run games much like I do. They gather a group together, create a party in a particular setting, and play them from their humble beginnings to a nice stopping place over the course of two to four years of regularly scheduled sessions. Unlike myself, though, most of these Referees stick with the same group of gamers and the same setting, and simply run consecutive campaigns that build on the same world, and occasionally on the actions of a previous campaign set in the same milieu.

Why am I not that way? Truth be told, I've never found a world that held my interests with a depth that continued to offer me opportunities to explore and adventure for more than one or two extended campaigns. My longest campaign ran for a little over seven years, and I have yet to return to that setting after wrapping up that campaign. I like to try out different gamers, as my old gamers sometimes grow apart over the years, and so each campaign is set in a new world with a new mix of gamers, some old and some new. If the game isn't working, we wrap it up early within the first year; otherwise, I take it until we find a nice place to stop, and the level of challenge for the players or for myself is gone.

As I get older, though, I find myself starting to settle into a setting that offers more opportunities for growth and adventure beyond the current campaign. In the span of the last few months, I accidentally laid the groundwork for an entire new campaign in the same world that I and some of my players would like to explore after the baby has come and life returns to a point where I can run games again. Could it be that perhaps, after some 23 years of gaming, I've finally found a setting that I can stick with for a while?

Maybe so. There are things that I would probably alter with the next game, some areas that grew organically and so are a little rough around the edges. Cleaning those up would be nice, so long as it didn't destroy the flavor of what I'd built. I would like to build a better map for the setting, one that is more properly detailed. I'd like to put in the same level of effort toward defining parts of it as I am for the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting I'm writing for Swords & Wizardry. I've grown enough as a Referee to know that I don't have to write the campaign for any given system, but I do think that I need to clean up my house rules if we decide to run the next campaign in Savage Worlds. (I'm still hoping for either MyD20 Lite or Swords & Wizardry, but such things are often a group decision.) It gives me something to work on, anyway, between the end of the current campaign and the beginning of the next one.

I realize that this isn't one of my usual game-mechanic heavy posts, but given my current frame of mind, I thought I would simply let the words flow and see where they take me. So, what kind of campaigning style do you follow? Do you have a single setting you enjoy, or do you change settings with each new campaign? Do you game for 4-6 months at a lick, as WOTC used to believe, or do you pursue a much longer adventuring career per campaign? I'm curious.

With Regards,


Harry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Harry said...

Hey Flynn, Harry here

I prefer modern settings, only because so many tabletop and RPG settings are set in fantasy, however fantasy is always still good.

Post-Apocalyptic would be interesting, a Fallout-type feel, I haven't played in one like that. Perhaps the Raganarok Savage Worlds setting?

I like to experiment with different settings, but I like to see a single campaign with a single group go on for a very long time (1-4 years) only for the fact that it builds a bond between the group and I like to see how characters progress over time.

Flynn said...

Hey, Harry!

Good to hear from you! I'm pretty open to multiple genres, although I have limited experience in running espionage, pulp and supers, but I like them nonetheless.

I find the level of character development and world development in a long term game to be the most rewarding reason for me in playing in these kind of campaigns. I can handle short-term games, but that's something that needs to be communicated up front. I like to set expectations near the beginning, both as a Referee and as a player.

I'm glad you're keeping tabs on me. When I'm ready to start the next game, I'll be sure to post something here, in case you might be interested in putting your hat in the ring, so to speak. :)

Hope All Is Well,