I am a firm believer that campaigns have finite lifespans, either because the characters have achieved max level, the players have no more stories to tell in that world or that things just start to feel flat. While there do exist long term, multi-generational campaigns my thought is always…why? There are so many games out there, so many genres, so many systems why restrict yourself to just one? Okay if it were a “you’re on a deserted island, pick one game to bring” situation then fine. It’s not, and depriving yourself of the buffet so you can eat the same thing every day is undoubtedly a layer of hell.
So of late I’ve decided to start running my games in a format similar to a mini-series or limited series. Focus in on the story I want to tell, work out how many sessions it’ll take (barring players of course) and then run it with everyone on board with the idea that it’s going to be a finite length campaign. Not only does this let us experience more of the buffet but my hope is that it will also push the players to make more dramatic and less safe choices since they don’t need to worry about keeping the character alive for the next five years.
Death and Renewal
My gaming group was several sessions in to Gloomhaven when the pandemic started really affecting our area. “No problem” I thought. I’ll put it on hold and we’ll do an RPG online for the few weeks we’ll be social distancing.
I was so very wrong.
However I put together a Shadowrun 6th Edition game very quickly and we played for a bit. Then a bit more. Then a bit more and I could feel it dragging at me. This was meant to be a few weeks, not long term. I didn’t put in the work I would normally have done (and honestly the 6E Shadowrun system is mediocre at best). Of the games I run, it’s the one I looked forward to the least. Nothing on the players who I enjoy immensely with their shenanigans, but the game itself. I put together some things to give a final story arc push but it was too little too late. Better to end it following a final mission than push on.
From the Ashes
During this time I really started questioning the idea of long term gaming. So now it’s time to put those ideas to the test. I’ve put together four elevator pitch ideas to my players, just the roughest of sketches and seeing which one(s) draw their attention. I’ll then rough those ideas out a bit more and see which one has the most potential. The goal here is to be able to provide about ten sessions worth of entertainment and then move on to something else. Probably one of the ideas from this list.
The very brief elevator pitch ideas I presented to my group are as follows.
- Decades after a war between the forces of light and dark, various adventuring guilds in a vast forest kingdom compete to reclaim lost artifacts and remnants from the war. – Fantasy Game using Fantasy AGE.
- 18 months ago an alien armada invaded, conquering and enslaving most of the planet. However, exposure to chemicals they used in the (brief) war altered some humans on a genetic level, giving them extraordinary power to resist with. – Low powered supers vs. aliens with the system to be determined, possibly Wild Talents.
- It’s a nice quiet little town. Or it used to be. Before that giant boar rampaged. Before Men in Black showed up asking questions. Before magic became real. Before the cold war between the Gods and the Titans became hot. – 2nd Edition Scion game focusing on the Origin and Hero tiers.
- Waking up in a hot desert, naked save for a bracelet attached to your wrist. Not alone, there’s a small group, but as you watch some of them work off the bracelet and immediately die you realize that you’re going to need to work together to survive, get answers and reclaim your lives. – Survival Style RPG using Conan with the Exiles sourcebook.
Their votes led to a tie between #2 and #3 so over the next few posts I’m going to roughing out both of those ideas a bit more to see which one holds more potential.