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The Rebound Game

Posted By Phil Vecchione On April 24, 2009 @ 4:00 am In GMing Advice | 10 Comments

Let me tell you a story. Late last year, I concluded a three-year long Iron Heroes game. It was a great campaign, but it was a lot of work, and not without its drama. We parted company on good terms, but I was kind of happy to be out of that long-term relationship. However, I am not the kind of GM to be without a game, so after a month, I was ready to get back into the GMing scene. I started trolling for a new game.

That’s when I met Witchcraft. She was a lot different from Iron Heroes. Her rules were looser, and far less complicated. I decided to hook up with her, but nothing serious, no complicated stories, no long running arcs. A simply casual game: a campaign with benefits. Things with Witchcraft were going fine. It was running smoothly, nice and simple. The players were happy, I was happy. Then Corporation came back into my life.

I met Corporation a year ago, back when I was running Iron Heroes. She was from the UK, and hadn’t made it to the US in hardcover form. I was curious about her, so I did the next best thing and checked out her PDF on the Internet. I definitely liked what I saw! She seemed nice, but I was committed at the time. I gave her a quick read. It was innocent; it never stole my focus from Iron Heroes.

This time, however, was different. She was a new version, and was finally available on this side of the ocean. We got to talking, and found out we had a lot in common. We were both into post-cyberpunk settings; we both loved simple but versatile rule sets; and we both craved high-octane action. it was a match made in Heaven. One night when I was not working on Witchcraft, I ran a small Corporation game for some friends. It went well. My friends liked her. I liked her. I could easily see myself running with her for a while.

Right now I am still running Witchcraft, but lately, I’ve begun to think about an end game, a way to end the campaign nicely. I have talked to a few players about it, but not to the whole group… yet. Then this morning, I couldn’t help myself. I went online and ordered Corporation’s supplement. I started jotting down some campaign notes. There’s something about her I just can’t shake.

So should I feel bad for Wichcraft? Naw, she was my Rebound Game.

Rules of the Rebound Game

The rebound game is a campaign that acts as a filler between your last serious campaign and your next one. If you are like me, and you can’t be without a game to GM, you are going to have a rebound game. It’s OK. Don’t feel bad. There are rules for this sort of thing. Follow these rules and you will have a good time.

  1. Keep it simple – No matter what kind of game you just ended, your rebound game should be simple to run and not cause you too much hassle. Pick either a familiar rule set, or one with a simple system.
  2. Play the short game – The rebound game is not likely to be one of your great campaigns. Keep the plot lines simple. No long term story arcs. Keep plots to 1-4 sessions.
  3. Don’t get your players’ hopes up – Be clear to your players that this is a rebound game. You don’t want your players thinking that this may be their next big game. Let them know that there is a good chance that this could be a short-term game.
  4. Take it seriously – Just because this is a rebound, that does not mean that you should slack off on running it. A good GM plays every game professionally. Don’t waste your players’ time by running a game you are not taking seriously.
  5. Learn something – Every time you run a campaign, you have a chance to learn something. Your rebound game is no different. Either during the game or at its end, make sure that you take the time to reflect. Think of what you did well, and what could be improved.
  6. Keep looking – This is a rebound game, so as you are working on it, and running it, you should be looking at other games. Keep your mind open and let it lead you to your next game.

Enjoy our rebound game, and let it be exactly what it is, the game before your next great game.

So have you had a rebound game before? What was her name, and how did it go?

About  Phil Vecchione

A gamer for 30 years, Phil cut his teeth on Moldvay D&D and has tried to run everything else since then. He has had the fortune to be gaming with the same group for almost 20 years. When not blogging or writing RPG books, Phil is a husband, father, and project manager. More about Phil.




10 Comments (Open | Close)

10 Comments To "The Rebound Game"

#1 Comment By John Arcadian On April 24, 2009 @ 7:41 am

Sigh. Story of my life. I seem to jump from rebound to rebound, just looking for the next 3 week long fling. I always think, I should give this a chance, but then I see something shinier and with better, ahem, “rules” and I just slip on out the door. I really want to settle down, and I keep finding myself drawn back to certain rebounds, but after a while I just feel the need to be getting on. Wait, are we still taking about role-playing games?

#2 Comment By Cole On April 24, 2009 @ 7:42 am

This sounds like a rebound girlfriend advice :)

I bet this WikiAnswer (Are you the rebound girlfriend?) could be easily adapted for the rebound campaign too ;)

#3 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On April 24, 2009 @ 9:05 am

Well, there was that one period in my life where I’d been running a good long-term campaign that abruptly shattered. I beat myself up over it for weeks; could I have done something to save it? Maybe I should’ve paid more attention to its needs. Maybe I should’ve treated it with more respect. I wanted it back, but it was gone.

For months, I would only commit to one-shot adventures. I didn’t want the risk of committing to a long campaign only for it to fall apart again. Still, after a succession of one-shots, I was feeling unfulfilled and wanted something more meaningful.

Thankfully, I decided to tread carefully into those dangerous waters again. I committed to a casual campaign, one with the understanding that I could walk away at any time. Of course, the campaign seduced me, and it’s been a constant companion ever since.

Wait…was I supposed to be talking about gaming?

#4 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On April 24, 2009 @ 9:19 am

“Campaign with benefits” – Beautiful.

#5 Comment By DarthKrzysztof On April 24, 2009 @ 10:00 am

Wow, I’m running a rebound game right now. I just didn’t know there was a word for it. :D

#6 Comment By LesInk On April 24, 2009 @ 10:18 am

Wouldn’t a rebound game be the game you keep going back to when there is no serious campaign game going on?

Seems like my gaming group just play around … little of this … little of that lately. No real commitment. Sigh.

#7 Comment By Scott Martin On April 24, 2009 @ 11:57 am

A good point in the article is that you need to be upfront about it being a rebound game. I know I’ve invested in distractions a few times, and have encouraged players to do the same.

#8 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 24, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

This article makes me giggle inappropriately, but it’s so true.

Except sometimes a short-term game surprises you by becoming a much deeper commitment than originally anticipated. Not necessarily a bad thing, but odd when you look back on it.

#9 Comment By Taellosse On April 25, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

I’m actually doing just this myself, right now. My last (and first, actually) big campaign ended somewhat abruptly after 18 months. I was inexperienced and had made a lot of mistakes with it. My players were getting frustrated, and I wasn’t having much fun anymore, either. Then gas prices skyrocketed, and since all but one of my players lived 2 hours away, and the two of us had to commute to the games, I decided to just end the thing. I took a break for a couple of months, then a co-worker got me interested in trying out D&D 4e. I decided to give it a shot, with the understanding from everyone (all but one of the players in this game is different from the last one, and all are local to me) that this was an experiment–it might turn into something long-term, it might not.

We’ve had 3 sessions now (one for character creation, and 2 for game), and things are going pretty well. The opening sessions were semi-original work I did to flesh out the starter adventure in the back of the DMG. Next time we begin on Kobold Hall, with KotS to follow.

Although things are going fairly well, I’m already starting to toy with some ideas for other campaigns, using other systems, that would be more serious. Not sure when any of them will gel enough to get involved in, but they’re in the back of my mind.

#10 Comment By Bercilac On April 25, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

Ha ha! Wonderful.

In gaming terms, I’m a serial monogamist with bad breakups.


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