The lengthy (and short) campaign

I’ve been running my campaign for a few months now. I’ve always been a big fan of the long, epic campaign. However the reality of life encroaches a lot in my group. Being in Korea, most people I know having some interest in D&D are here temporarily. Usually after a year, they are off somewhere else as they change jobs.

I’ve been lucky having a few people staying around for a while, but already I’ve had some attrition in my group due to people moving on. This makes running a lengthy campaign, even if just for 6-8 months, problematic. I’ve toyed with wrapping things up and trying to get smaller arcs run, but the group I currently have really is enjoying the longer storyline.

Still, I’m considering pushing for a conclusion in a few sessions, and might try to run future campaigns with a definitive end that can be reached in a few months. I recently also managed to play in a 3.5 campaign that was enjoyable, but it petered out after a few months and never wrapped up in any form of conclusion. I’m hoping I can avoid this. I guess time will tell depending on the group’s wishes.

With that conundrum, I think each type of campaign provides some advantages and solid points. However, I am still on the fence as to how I’ll keep my campaign running.

The long campaign – One big draw to this type of campaign is that it can be truly epic. You have the time and breadth to allow characters to grow and change. As a DM, you can craft a huge, involved storyline. Even with a string of shorter stories, taken together it leaves an intricate tale in its wake. I think many players look back on these experiences fondly, as they can say they were part of a huge story.

An interesting point with these types of campaigns is the shift away from the initial background defining a character, and more their experiences as they play the game which molds what they are. Sure you might have some central idea of your character’s past, but it eventually gets pushed to the backseat in a long campaign. It’s the actions and events of the game that becomes the largest influence on a character.

The downsides of a long campaign are many. I think the biggest problem is player/DM burnout. Keeping things fresh and exciting is a challenge. Folks may very well get a little bored and want to try something different. All of which makes for a campaign that never really ends, and just sort of crawls to a stop, leaving a lot of dangling plot lines.

Keeping the group together is also another major hurdle. Real life can intervene for some people and cause them to drop out. Sometimes this can work, as 1-2 people taking a break from the game with a decent sized group is not much of a loss. As the game is still running, they can always jump back in after a few months. However, getting players back into the groove of the current party lineup (and caught up with all the drama of past events) can be a problem within itself.

Still running an epic storyline can be enticing. I think players can have dynamic experiences allowing their characters to grow and flesh out organically. These types of campaigns allow for convoluted arcs and tons of interesting encounters, NPCs, and events that can make for memorable sessions.

I’ll be sure to post some good (and bad) points about shorter campaigns in a bit.

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