Campaign Completed – Achievement Unlocked
Last night we completed a long running campaign made up of a clan of dwarves, who, we all know, are the best race. Looking back over my role-playing games experience, I can’t recall a campaign that the party actually COMPLETED. It seems like most campaigns fizzle out due to scheduling conflicts, fading interest, or the dreaded Dungeon Master Burnout. It felt awesome to bring the storyline to a close and feel like we really told a story together over the past year and a half or so. Here are some insights on what made this campaign a success, and what we took away from it.
Once you have a group of people who want to game, brainstorm about campaign ideas and concepts, and be sure to involve everybody in making the final decision. If you are DMing, make sure its a game your players want to play. Dread Gazebo learned a painful lesson that we should all try to avoid experiencing first hand.
Most of us met at our Friendly Local Gaming Store for the first season of D&D Encounters: Undermountain. We played through that and even tried a session or two of Season 2: Dark Sun before deciding to do our own thing. We agreed that we wanted to start a campaign that had a cool theme and kicked around a few ideas before landing on an all-dwarf party. This allowed us to create dwarves that were outside the prototypical gruff, axe and shield dwarven fighter we all know and love.
Communication and Scheduling
Getting everyone’s schedule in line for a game night can be a brutal campaign-killer. Varying work schedules, kids, and other competing activities or commitments can make it hard to set aside time to game. Google groups has worked wonders for keeping the entire party on the same page when it comes time to roll. We’ve also used it to write and share segues and background information between sessions. Other groups have used Obsidian Portal or started a Wiki, but Google groups has worked the best for us.
Being the Dungeon Master generally takes a lot more preparation and commitment than just showing up with your character, ready to roll. In order to reduce prep time, the dwarves ran through a lot of Living Forgotten Realms adventures at first. Once we started developing our characters a bit more, we transitioned to more home-brew adventures that catered more to advancing our own character hooks rather than whatever LFR was. We did end up reusing some NPCs from those adventures which made for a lot of great moments later in the campaign. In order to combat DM-burnout, we’ve been rotating weeks, giving everybody a chance behind the screen, (or behind the box). We all had our own PCs, and figured out a somewhat plausible reason for that PC to be absent while their player DMed. This became particularly cool once
we took over rightfully acquired a bar (The Bearded Gnome) in the town of Westgate. The DM that week introduced the idea of a diplomacy roll to judge how well the bar did that week under the management of the PC who had to tend to the clan’s investment. Based on the diplomacy roll, the bar could either make or lose money, depending on if the outgoing and entertaining bard was running it, or if it was left in the hands of the dour, bookish wizard.
In time, it became difficult to form a cohesive narrative with everybody in the driver’s seat, so to speak. Before and after gaming sessions, the group started kicking around ideas for other campaigns and other game systems. We didn’t want to just abandon the dwarves without a satisfying conclusion, so we agreed on a goal. We chose to move on to something else once the dwarves got to level 10. Setting an end goal can help you form the narrative arc and build to a dramatic conclusion. The DMs for the last few sessions got together and agreed on a few main plot points. Much to the surprise of those DM/PCs who thought they had “inside” information, there were plenty of twists in the story that no one in the party saw coming. DMing in this fashion is a bit like playing the old kids game telephone: by the time it gets back to you, the story is probably in a way different place than you would have imagined. It worked out great for us! I hope you all have awesome *complete* campaigns!