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Stepping Out from the Shadows: Making a New Game Stand Out

Today’s guest article was written by reader Andrew Bell. He’s about to swap places with the GM of a long-running successful campaign, and he’s got some excellent ideas to share about making sure his game is every bit as good — but different, too. Thanks, Andrew!

In a few short weeks, the game in which I currently play is coming to an end after seven years. Loose threads are being tied up, plots are coming to fruition, and the universe needs saving thrice over. Seven years of epic battles and subtle intrigue are behind us. Seven years! How can our next game match that? How can any GM step into that breach without being swamped by the past? Who would be foolish enough to volunteer for such a thankless task?

Look, wisdom was my dump stat, okay?

The transition from one campaign to another is always going to be jarring, but when you are following a long-running, particularly successful campaign then it is that much harder to escape from the previous game’s shadow. What I’m going to talk about here are the ideas I’m hoping to use to make my campaign, Interregnum, stand out. They break down into three simple groups: similarities, differences, and additions.

If It Ain’t Broke…

If you’re picking up the reins after a long-running game -– or you were the long-running GM but are now starting over with a new game –- chances are there was something right about that game. Take the time to watch the GM at work in the closing stages and, perhaps more importantly, watch your fellow players too. (Obviously don’t get so involved in this that you TPK the party one session before the end of the campaign!) Know thy players and cater to their tastes. For me this means:

As Good as a Rest

Once you’ve worked out what’s important to your group, take everything else about the current campaign and think about how to do the opposite! Make sure you play to your strengths here. There’s no point in doing something you’re no good at just to be different, but there’s still a lot of room to manoeuvre here. For example, looking again at Interregnum, I’m going to be changing:

But Wait, There’s More!

Lastly, season well with whatever floats your boat (now there’s a mixed metaphor). Is there something you’ve never done in your current campaign but always fancied doing? Now’s the time! That amazing set-piece from the latest blockbuster? Throw it in! It’s your campaign, don’t be afraid to try new things. If they don’t work, you can always blame the previous game for casting a long shadow. For me, this is going to be:

It Slices AND Dices!

I’m in the situation where I’m taking over from a long-running game, but the ideas I’m suggesting can apply to any situation where you’ve got, or had, an established game. Running a backup game that you don’t want to be overshadowed by the main game, but don’t want to steal its thunder either? Flip the combat/social balance. Campaign crashed and burned? Rescue what worked and alter the rest.

Making a new campaign feel different might seem intimidating, but it’s not hard to do. Just remember to think “What do I need to keep, what can I flip, and what extras will I have?” Similarities, differences, and additions. Simple!

5 Comments (Open | Close)

5 Comments To "Stepping Out from the Shadows: Making a New Game Stand Out"

#1 Comment By Razjah On April 3, 2012 @ 7:28 am

Solid advice! Great job, Andrew Bell. I especially like the examples you used with your own group, it really helped to understand where you were coming from with the ideas.

#2 Comment By kirkdent On April 3, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

While you’ve posted this in the context of picking up a new campaign after another (successful) one has ended, I like that most of what I’ve read here can apply to any campaign of appropriate length.

#3 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 3, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

[1] – That was one of the things that grabbed me about the article when Andrew sent it my way. Multiple-use tools are awesome!

#4 Comment By Ben Scerri On April 3, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

Great article! Again, like the others, I am finding ways of even implementing this into a campaign that is already going… Story-line, to story-line, this could be used, to give multiple Acts of a long campaign individual meaning and significance. Great job!

As a side note, I would be very interested hearing more about this WFRP2 7 year campaign 🙂 I am currently starting my 3rd WFRP2 campaign, and I love hearing actual play stories of the game to get me inspired!


#5 Comment By Miri Daisuke ManyNamed On June 12, 2012 @ 11:26 am

My players and I need a break, badly, from our current main campaign, due to schedules and a settingw here everyone on the player side feels lost and/or frustrated, and I feel like banging my head against the wall for the actions of my players.

So, instead of a wide-open sandbox epic-feel game.

I’m going for old-school dungeon crawl.

I took your advice without even knowing it! All the same, thank you for this article, it makes a whole lot of sense!