Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sometimes you just need a little closure...

I will be the first to admit that I am what the 4th Edition Dungeon Master Guide would call a Storyteller.  When I play, I am more interested in a coherent narrative than any other element of the game.  I enjoy watching how the campaign unfolds, especially because the collaborative nature of D&D means there are always twists and turns I would not expect. 

There is only one problem: Most of the stories never get a proper ending!

When I think about it, I am amazed at how few D&D campaigns I have been in end in a satisfying manner.  Rather than building to to a natural climax, they tend to end abruptly.  This is probably because most campaigns I am a part of have been open-ended, meaning that they tend to end only when the DM can no longer run them.

When I was young, this usually wasn't a problem.  Unfortunately, as I get older, this tends to be happening much more frequently.  Why? Well, the old stereotype is that a gamer is an overgrown man-child who is unemployed and lives in his parents basement. 

In reality, most of the gamers in Lords of Tyr have a spouse, a child (or children), a full-time job (or jobs), and a house to maintain.  With all of that going on it is not surprising that few of them can find the time to DM.  Those that do often burn out quickly, since there is so much else going on in their lives.

Recently, I have been thinking of reviving some of these old campaigns to give them proper send-offs.  At first blush, it seems like a good idea.  After all, it will give everyone a chance to play beloved characters again and (hopefully) end the campaign with a proper sense of closure.

Unfortunately, I have found that returning to a dead campaign can be like attempting to hook back up with an ex-girlfriend.  It may seem like a good idea, but inevitably the issues that broke you up the first time will probably resurface.  To be a little less glib: Changes in group membership, changes in edition, lost character sheets, and a losing track of old plot points all work to spoil these attempts to resurrect the past.

So what is an aging gamer to do?  I think the only thing I can do is try to avoid adding to the pile when I DM.  One technique I am considering is running a series of mini-campaigns.  Instead of attempting a long-term campaign, I am going to focus on shorter campaigns that can be finished in 4-8 sessions.

This doesn't mean that there may not be continuity between the campaigns though.  I might start a campaign that brings a group of characters from level 1-3.  Then I will halt the game to let another DM take over for a bit.  Later, I will start my next campaign to take the characters from level 3-6.  Time will have passed "in game" from the last campaign.  While players will be allowed to bring their characters over, there will be no penalty for new players or old players who want to play something new.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

This should prevent the campaign from feeling like it ended mid-storyline regardless of when it ends.  After all, even if the game does have to end abruptly, it won't be as difficult to tie up the game's loose ends as it would in a longer running campaign.

Or I suppose I could try to convince all my friends to quit their jobs, leave their wives and children, and go live in their parent's basement.  Then we should all have plenty of time to game!


Anonymous said...

Have you considered something like a TV series story arc? Essentially you would be running episodes (perhaps your mini-campaigns) that would have conclusions and each episode could be loosely (or not so loosely) tied to a season arc (more like a traditional campaign).


Bronz said...

I am also there. I don't think I have EVER actually properly finished a game. At least on a high note. Some campaigns have simply ended from a TPK, that was irreversible short of a retcon or the like.

I am trying very hard to have a proper ending to my current campaign. I am planning for it as well. Hopefully it comes to fruition but only time will tell.

I also like the previous poster's idea of "seasons". It also fits in well with the short bursts idea.

Anonymous said...

When I started reading your post, I was taken back to the golden days of my youth (before all the anti-gaming obstacles, I mean responsibilities...). Having been a member of a long dead campaign, I would love to revisit a classic character. But as you point out there are many pitfalls in attempting to recreate the magic. Even those from the player's perspective. Years have past and experiences now factor in that never did 20 years ago. I think the best way to honor old campaigns is to play hard, play fair, and enjoy the time together. Having GMed myself, I respect anyone who takes on the mantle, there is so much that comes into play just to put a game on. To maintain it long term, is nearly impossible. So I'll buy into the "arcing" concept if that makes the GM's life easier and look forward to the next game...

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