My wife and I were talking about our favorite campaigns the other day and I noticed something interesting. Out of all the campaigns I’d run for her, I hadn’t finished most of them. Still, she remembered them all fondly and had no regrets playing in them. I had a lot of fun running them too, and we laughed over some of our favorite moments. It got me thinking on a grander scale and I realized something.
I’d never finished most of my campaigns.
In baseball, batting .300 is considered doing well. One way of looking at it is that when a good baseball player steps up to the plate, he will only get a hit 30% of the time. And yet I’ve seen many Game Masters, myself included, beat ourselves up for our inability to finish campaigns when, in fact, “batting .300” is pretty good from behind the screen.
Just because you don’t finish most of your campaigns doesn’t mean that you’re a bad GM. There are many reasons why a campaign fails, and most of them don’t have anything to do with the quality of your GM-ing.
To list just a few:
- Real-life Inconvenience – sometimes real life gets in the way; changing schedules, players moving, a change in lifestyle, etc. can all tank an otherwise thriving campaign.
- Excitement for something new – sure the players have been enjoying that D&D game you’ve been running but many of them have been reading the Star Wars books and want to play Jedi for a while.
- Burn-out – maybe you had to put the campaign on hold and just never got back to it. In the meantime, the group has been having fun in other campaigns.
- Loss of interest – you had fun running the campaign when the PCs were relatively low-powered, but now that they’re demi-gods it just wasn’t as much fun for you any more.
- Derailment – the PCs’ ingenuity or just dumb luck altered the course of the campaign so much that it fell apart.
- Rules Nightmare – For whatever reason, the rules system that you were using was inhibiting the fun for all involved.
It’s important to remember that players show up for the journey, not the destination. Sure they’re interested in how the campaign ends (presuming you were running a closed campaign), but that’s not nearly as important as having fun along the way. The players gather to have fun, not just to push things along so that the campaign can reach the endpoint.
If there’s anything worse than not finishing a campaign, it’s wasting several sessions dragging the group through an unfun campaign just to end it properly. Remember that next time you step up to the plate.