Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Ten Year Campaign

I've mentioned Alexis Smolensk and his blog more than a few times over here. He has one of the most detailed, thoughtful, and long-running D&D campaigns you'll find...he has made it his life's work, something he eats, sleeps, and breathes. I wouldn't say I stand in awe of the world he's created or the time and energy he's devoted to it...I've known, and known of, enough people like Alexis (dedicated, passionate artists) that I've seen what's possible. But I certainly admire, and am inspired by his work in an arena (gaming) to which I've given so much of my own time and effort.

This is not to blow flowers up Alexis's ass. Like everyone, I'm sure he likes to get compliments. But for an artist, it doesn't matter whether I compliment him or insult him. The Work continues. Internet opinions aren't going to stop that train from rolling.

SO, as I was saying, I can draw inspiration from the work he does. And the other day, he mentioned that he knew of no campaigns (besides his own) that have run for even as long as eight or nine years. Personally, I've heard of such long-lasting campaigns (and some that have lasted 15 years or more), but I haven't experienced them myself. Heck, the longest D&D campaign I've ever run only lasted 5-6 years...and that was in my youth. I've never played in another person's campaign that had existed even half that long.

And there's a lot of reasons for this lack of staying power...some good, some understandable (if lamentable), and some that are downright bad. Regardless, the responsibility for the campaign lies with the person running it (the DM) and so, if you appreciate and enjoy long-running campaigns...if you find it desirable to see a world develop over an extended length of time, with an on-going cast of characters...then there's only one person (the DM) that can make such a thing happen. 

How bad do you want it?

I worked at my last job from September of 1999 to January of 2014...certainly longer than any RPG campaign I've run. And while my job was mostly enjoyable, challenging, interesting, and satisfying (personally, if not particularly financially) it certainly wore on me after the first...oh, nine years or so. Certainly by a decade in I was ready for a change. However, I stuck with it for the usual reasons. Inertia. Familiarity. Fear of looking for something new. Etc. I'll say one thing for Paraguay...coming down here helped me break out of my rut.

[though it's always possible I'll go back to my old job when this Paraguay thing is finally over]

I enjoy or, rather, have enjoyed running long-term campaigns in the past, but I have a fear, a nagging suspicion, that I couldn't sustain the enjoyment of the thing over 20+ years. How could I? Even presuming new scenarios, new monsters, new treasures, new challenges dreamed up (or stolen from ideas on other blogs), wouldn't the thing, the adventuring, get old after a while? Even assuming I had a constant group of players (or at least new ones cycling in as old ones left), wouldn't *I* -- the guy running the game -- get tired of the thing eventually? 

To which my inner "Alexis voice" replies: How would you know when you've never yet tried.

Dammit, Smolensk.

So, now I'm considering creating something I've never really considered in the past...a campaign setting that doesn't simply have a nice premise and a few adventure ideas to last a handful of game sessions. No, now I'm thinking about something larger...something large, period. A world, a campaign, designed to last ten years.

That's ten years of "real time," by the way. 520 weekly game sessions. Long enough to take my boy into his teenage years. I'll still only be in my early fifties, of course...plenty of time left to find something else if I'm bored at the end of the decade.

Such a campaign would certainly be easier to run with a traditional level-XP based system like D&D (the constant carrot of advancement). And it seems like it wouldn't be all that hard to maintain at a decent level, so long as I'm moderate with the XP doled out to the players. I was crunching some numbers, and I found that with an average of 1500xp per session, characters would only obtain levels 12th to 14th (9th or 10th for an elven fighter-mage)...powerful, but certainly not "godlike." And this was an average, could certainly scale it over time. For example:

130 weeks @ 600xp
130 weeks @ 1200xp
130 weeks @ 1800xp
130 weeks @ 2400xp

Not that it would be (or should be) so "planned out;" the point is that a campaign can be structured on a ten year time period, to provide enough reward to allow advancement and player satisfaction without taking the game into the stratosphere with regard to power and overwhelming ability. With an eye towards which magical items might be found and in what numbers. With an idea of the factions that might be encountered, the "dungeons" that might be on the map, the challenges that would face characters with regard to training and character development, etc.

Not just a "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" campaign, in other words.

Anyway, that's something I've got into my head to work on developing (in my spare time). Of course, I have no players at the moment (and won't until I'm permanently back in the USA or my children are a little older), but at this point I have time. And I can use that time to plan, and develop, and incubate this that when I do have players, I'll be ready to unleash it.

Just thought I'd share.
; )

What does an adventurer look
like after ten years of play?


  1. My current "Dragon Slayers" game has been running with the same group of people and characters since 2005-2006. So there is 9-10 years.

    1. @ Tim:

      Oh, yeah...I know people can do it. It's only a new idea for ME.
      ; )