In any GM’s career there are those special campaigns that were so awesome that we carry a piece of them in our minds. At times, when our campaigns turn out to be more work than fun, or when we are between campaigns, we start to fantasize about what it would be like to play that campaign again. In most cases we only entertain that as a thought, fearful that a second trip into that campaign might not be as good as the first time; that it’s impossible to recapture that magic. Is that true? Is it possible to play in one of your great campaigns again? It just might be…
I had the chance to hang out the other night with the Happy Jacks crew, and there was a fan submitted question which asked about restarting an old campaign. We had a good discussion about the topic on the mic’s, and I mentioned that I was doing this myself with my Elhal campaign. The question got me thinking more about the idea of restarting old campaigns.
Raising The Dead
In Odyssey, Walt talks about ending campaigns, including suspending a campaign as well as formally ending a campaign. In both cases there may be the opportunity to bring the campaign back from the dead; to play in the campaign once again. Depending on how you ended the previous campaign and how you want to return, there are a few different techniques you can employ:
We’re Getting The Band Back Together
This is when you are getting the original players back together to reprise their characters from the previous campaign. You can re-start the campaign either right after the point where the campaign left off, or you can start the campaign some time period after the last campaign. You can even get fancy and play a prequel game, with events taking place before your previous campaign with a little work to maintain continuity.
This technique works best when all the players are able to return to the game, and when it makes sense for the characters to have new adventures. If some of the players cannot join in, or the previous campaign was left in a state that the characters cannot return to adventuring, then you will have to do additional work to get the new campaign off the ground. When you use this technique, you have the entire previous campaign from which to draw material.
Example: You revive your D&D adventuring party after a previous campaign where they vanquished the threat of Slavers. The new campaign is going to take place several years later and focus on a plot by Giants and Drow.
This is when you have decided to play in the same campaign world using the same continuity, but not playing some or all of the original characters. In this case, you re-start the campaign by coming up with new characters who are related in some way to the original story line, but who will be following their own story line which is likely to be divergent from the original campaign.
This technique works best when you have players who are interested in the campaign setting and plot, but are looking to experience new characters. This also works best if there is a reason that the previous characters would not or can’t continuing adventuring. In this case you have the original campaign material to use as a starting point, but will be developing a lot of new material for the new group.
Example: In my original Elhal game, the heroes rose up and vanquished the Demon King. In the second campaign, a new group of heroes now work to restore the Emperor a few years after the fall of the Demon King.
This technique is used when you want to play in the campaign setting but are not interested in playing with the same characters or following the previous story line. In this technique you are not really reviving the previous campaign, but rather going back to that world, because its enjoyable.
This technique works best with any group of players, new or original, as long as they have an interest in the setting and the style of play. In this case you will have familiarity with the setting, but the rest of the campaign you will create from scratch.
Example: Years ago you ran a great Vampire:The Masquerade campaign set in Chicago. Your new group wants to run Vampire again, but this time set it in your home town.
Can You Really Go Home Again?
A few years ago I wrote an article with this very topic. There are cases where you should not revive an old game, and you can check out the article for my opinions on that. In essence, campaigns where you discover elements of the setting are harder to return to than a less mysterious setting.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you revive any campaign is that it will not be the same as before. Time has passed and you and your players are in different places in your life. Your interest and passion for the rules of the game may have changed. Keep realistic expectations as you set up the new campaign and don’t be disappointed if it is not as magical as the first time.
Bringing back a previous campaign is a great way to return to a familiar world filled with characters. There are different ways to return to an old campaign that allow for the players to interact with the old campaign on different levels. The most important thing is to remember that its a new campaign, no matter how familiar it feels.
Have you ever gone back to an old campaign? What technique did you use to bring the game back? Was it a success or were you not able to go home again?