The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

The Struggle for Campaign Contiuity

One of the common reasons for playing games is to find something that is missing in your real life, be that action, excitement, camaraderie, magic, monsters or romance. For me the thing that is missing most in my life has always been continuity. People, jobs, homes, and even hobbies seem to come and go like the wind in my life. (part of why I hold D&D so dear is that there has be no one and no thing that has been in my life so consistently)

That's how a game should go. Right?

And so the one thing I have always desperately wanted from gaming is a sense of continuity – and that is the one thing that gaming has never offered me. When I was in junior high I had an AD&D campaign that lasted close to 2 years, but since then I have not had a game last even one.

The odd thing is that this isn’t the universe playing some sick joke on me; this has largely been self inflicted. Just looking back at the past decade I have had:

  • A game I quit because I was frustrated with the DM.
  • A game I ended because I was feeling burnt out.
  • A game that ended because my co-DM and I were clashing
  • A game that ended with a TPK (and I wasn’t willing to hand wave)
  • A game that ended when I decided to move
  • A game that ended because I didn’t want to play with anything but the original group
  • A game that ended because I preferred to end it rather than remove the parts that were offending one player
  • A game that ended because of a lot of TPKs
  • A game that ended because I wanted a fresh campaign to try some rules experiments
  • A game that ended because those experiments weren’t working so well
  • A game that ended because the character turnover was insanely high

…and that’s just the longer lived games. Each of those lasted at lease a couple of months, there are probably a couple dozen other games that died in their first couple of sessions. (plus a some I didn’t include because they weren’t really my fault)

Or maybe more like this.

I used to think that I was a poor player because any time I was actively gaming I would be coming up with ideas for my next game to run, and I could be a real grouch if much time went by without getting a chance to show off my work. But I think it runs deeper than this. You see, not only am I thinking up new and exciting games when I am a part of someone else’s games, I am doing the same thing when I am running my own games. All too often instead of focusing on planning the next session, I am dreaming about a totally different campaign.

The really absurd thing is, when looking back at the corpses of games that just didn’t last, I am the one who gets most bothered by it. Much of my current group are social gamers who like a good game but aren’t worried if it isn’t one for the ages; they put up with my game hopping because as long as there is a game they are happy.

But I am not happy. I need to change my ways for my own sake. Perhaps I should resolve that the new game we are starting now will last through all of 2011, period. Or perhaps I need to find a better understanding of why I can’t just stick with one game for any length of time.

Have an opinion about this article? I love comments. Please feel welcome to leave your thoughts.

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December 3, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I have my share of unsatisfactory experiences that echo your post enough that I won’t bother to relate them. I also play with a fair number of players who are content to show up without too much regard for what we’re playing. So, I too am unsatisfied.

    I think some of it can be down to perfectionism. I’m trying to let go of that. Also, I’m looking for people in my gaming groups and online who share my intensity. This can be a double-edged sword though. The intensity often seems to go hand-in-hand with dissatisfaction. Go figure. Finding a small group of like-minded gamers can be energizing too, as long as you manage the intensity.

    Comment by Anarkeith | December 3, 2010 | Reply

  2. Eh, this stuff is supposed to be entertainment. If you’re not having fun with it then it’s time to find something else to do, as you have been doing.

    It’s just a matter of finding something you like and then just running with it. You’ll get it sooner or later. Like minded gamers make the task a lot easier, as mentioned above.

    Comment by Grey | December 6, 2010 | Reply

  3. I think sometimes it is difficult to manage expectations and not feel let down when you translate something from your imagination to the reality of playing the game. I think part of the trick is to focus on what is enjoyable and really fun and be aware of and challenge/reframe any nitpicking or slef-criticism that can lead to dissatisfaction.

    I also think that every campaign doesn’t need to be a multi-year all encompassing journey to be considered successful. shorter ones work too, and I think you can always set a campaign aside for a while and come back to it and continue the story even with new characters.

    Comment by middleagedm | December 7, 2010 | Reply


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