Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Long Game

So the current plan for my RPG Sundays is this: I alternate between D&D and Warhammer. The D&D campaign has six new players in it, while Warhammer is with my old group. The D&D campaign is expected to go all year, while the Warhammer game will go at least several months. I have settled into a pair of long-term campaigns.

I'm happy about that...for the most part. It's what I've wanted for awhile. I've never even seen what high-level D&D play looks like. I've never done a long-term campaign for any RPG, really, not beyond three or four sessions.

I'm also a little panicky at the thought of a long-term game, though. I'm constantly digging through RPGs, new and old. I'm constantly looking forward to exploring a new game. I like having games open to the public, to bring new people into the hobby. I've helped people meet other people. Whole groups of friends have formed from games that I ran. I'm proud of that. I'm happy It's an honor I can take with me beyond just the game itself.

So I'm conflicted. I do want to do some long-term play, but I also was in a really comfortable niche with all my public one-shot adventures. The original idea was to have only D&D be my long-term game. That way I could have my cake and eat it, too. But I know the other group is craving some long-term play, as well. And they've stuck with me through so much, I think they deserve a shot at what they want.

Another concern I have for these long-term games is whether a bi-weekly session will even cut it. I think of an RPG campaign like a TV show. Would I be able to follow a TV show that only aired every other week? Would I even want to bother? Obviously RPGs and TV shows aren't quite the same thing, but both things do tell stories, and the question becomes how much time can I put between episodes of a particular story before that time becomes a liability to the story? Now, to me, since I'm running two games on alternating weekends, I of course am unaffected. But what about my players?

When people ask me how to run a good RPG, I tell them to master the Three Knows: Know Your Game, Know Your Players, and Know Yourself. I guess the fundamental problem I'm having right now is I have a direct conflict between what I know about myself (I tend to run one-shot, short term games with new players), and what I know about my players (they want a long-term campaign where they can develop their characters and the story). It would be easy to tell my players "Hey, that's just not what I do," but I don't want to lose them! But if I give them what they want, how long will I be able to keep it up before I inevitably lose interest, or want to play something else?

Going into 2014, these are the big questions I want to answer. 2013 was all about getting back into the hobby, meeting new people, and playing a bunch of great games. Now I want to refine that experience, get right to the core of what it is about this hobby that drives me, and I want to really get to know the people who choose to go on this ride with me. So I guess the answer is right there, isn't it? Time to buckle down and play through a campaign!

Still, I'll just keep all these other games over here, and maybe flip through the pages every once and awhile...

1 comment:

  1. You should always try to step outside of your comfort zone from time to time and never let the fear of failure stop you from anything. Let me use a gaming analogy, like the geek I am, as I've gained a lot of life lessons from RPGs. In Burning Wheel and its variants you need to fail in order to gain new skills or improve your current skills. It's only by challenging ourselves, and yes sometimes through failing, that we truly learn. If it wasn't for stepping out of my comfort zone, I would have never met you and the other wonderful gamers you've introduced me to, as you said. Just know that you already have an impact on people's lives beyond the game table.

    Now, you have a good idea about treating game sessions from a campaign like episodes of a TV show. I did the same thing for a couple campaigns, biweekly games at that, and it worked really well. I would suggest thinking of them like interconnected one shots. You already know how to run a great one shot game, so you can't really fail. Also, don't let the idea of long term game fool you... It doesn't mean forever. It doesn't even mean for a year. The last "campaign" I ran was broken into three story arcs, each were only six sessions long each, and I used a different system for each, but the players used the same characters. Get creative with the idea of a campaign. Most gamers are... um, game for anything. You might be surprised.

    Lastly, let's say the impossible happens and your campaigns fail. You know plenty of us, if not all of us, will stick with you. If there are some who don't, well then you get to meet more new people and introduce them to new games. :-)

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