Today’s #RPGaDAY2015 topic is Longest Campaign Played, which threatens to fall into the horrible space that Let Me Tell You About My Character does.1 When someone tells you about their character, it’s a bit like someone trying to describe an awesome movie in about three minutes, which means leaving out a lot of the context and all the other things that makes what you’re describing awesome. Plus, the life of an adventurer kind of meanders around a lot when you think of it. It’s not as straightforward and concise as a novel or movie and just kind of wanders all over the place, narratively, and seems to go on just a little bit to long, just like most of the sentences in this paragraph.
Now, imagine that with four other characters, told in the same amount of time.
I don’t really play long campaigns any more. There’s just too much to throw together, too much cruft to craft. And there are too many good games out there I’d love to play. Back in my high school and college days, it was absolutely fine to run a game from level 1 on up to 20, or have a game that lasted two years. But as a GM, trying to get that done now that I have a family, work, and the remnants of my gaming group spread across the continent, it’s too much of an effort to maintain a long-running roleplaying game campaign.2
Playing in a campaign is easier: you really just have to show up and play. During this time of running short campaigns, my wife and I were in a Pathfinder game that ran every other weekend for two years, but that was nothing like the weekly games of our undergraduate years. That Pathfinder game was from one of the Adventure Paths which meant all the heavy lifting was done for the GM: he just needed to add his own flavor to the mixed metaphor. Back in the days of AD&D2 or WEG Star Wars, we created our own stuff, maybe playing the occasional published adventure. I don’t think I could run a long game in a complex game like Pathfinder without the aid of an Adventure Path to guide me along. Prep time is just a killer.
So, longest campaign. I simply have to go back to the days of college when we played each weekend for a few hours, marching our way through a pseudo-medieval magical fantasy realm for a year or two or the big magically-infused cyberpunk game that had seven players and I made The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. canonical to the campaign. But in the past fifteen years? A Dresden Files game that ran for eight months. A Blue Planet game that ran for about five. The Pathfinder game that only met every two weeks. Nine game sessions of Primetime Adventures. Lady Blackbird with six or seven sessions. Six sessions of Apocalypse World. The Lacuna one-shot. The time for the grand, long campaign was back then. Gotta prep for now.
- My first time at Gen Con, I was chatting with Adam Jury and Paul Tevis came up and we were talking about things, like humans do, and I mentioned a steampunk costuming booth up the aisle and Paul said he was looking for a good vest for his character in a LARP but he’s kind of picky because the character does this type of thing and then Paul just stops and says, “Oh god, I was just ‘Let Me Tell You About My Character’, wasn’t I?” We all laughed and Paul never returned to Gen Con. [↩]
- I’ll eventually put the Low Prep, No Prep talk I gave at the first GM Conference online, where I went into trying to manage time outside the game. [↩]