The short (and lengthy) campaign

This is a second part on some thoughts about running long and short campaigns. I enjoy longer campaigns, but sometimes it can be difficult to run. I’d like to continue with some things I like, and dislike, with DMing shorter campaigns.

The short campaign – I think the biggest advantage about this type of campaign is you can have a tight, focused, set of adventures that can tell a concise story. I think players can enjoy this as there is a definitive end to the arc. Also, there is less pressure for jumping into a game, as they know in 2-4 months it will be over (perfect for those folks off on summer holidays).

Another big advantage of having a short campaign is the ability to keep things fresh. Players have opportunities to play a myriad of different characters. DMs can experiment with wild settings and lessen the chance of running out of ideas. You can have a lot of variety, and even switch off playing other RPGs. I really think this diversity can keep the interest of players engaged and elevated.

I also think it can open up a lot of unique roleplaying situations. DMs can introduce elements of inter-party conflict, with players having secret agendas and possibly have alignment switches. With the right players, having a person suddenly turn on the group, can make for a memorable campaign. Since everything is short term, this allows players to go all out with these types of dilemmas. In a long campaign, with a great degree of continuity, something like this is nearly impossible to run (unless you have people dropping out of the group).

The counter to short campaigns is that players may not be personally invested in their character. They might have a more flippant attitude towards quests and adventures, as they know in a few weeks, things will effectively reboot. I also think that most players create a character that won’t change much throughout the campaign. Yes, they can gain equipment, treasure, and powers through advancement, but their drive and motivations will likely not change much. At the end of the campaign that one paragraph bio might get a sentence or two more added to it, but that is about it. There isn’t much room for development beyond that.

Also, the adventures you run might drift into mundane quests. Instead of having an epic tale where the very world is threatened, you might be typically running games through a series of dungeon delves. I think the possibility is there to run an engaging story in a short campaign, but the scale will likely pale on comparison to a longer campaign. Additionally, you are effectively on a deadline. You have to wrap things up in a few months, so players might feel they are running through hoops, traveling from one scene to another. It depends on the group, but some might want time to explore and wander a little more in the world, rather than head off to the ‘next quest’ of the campaign arc.

I’m torn a little about what I’ll do in a few months. I’m enjoying a longer campaign (as is my group), but I’m feeling the draw to running something more concise and shorter. I’d love to heard what most folks run and their experiences with past campaigns.


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