Last night I did something that was very difficult as a Game Master; I ended a short campaign while the excitement was still high. There were some logistical reasons for this, but the main reason was that I’d pitched it as a mini-campaign and, in spite of a desire to continue, I stuck to my guns and ended it on a high note. Everyone involved knows we’ll be picking the game up in another month or two.
My inspiration for the ‘recurring series’ came from Dark Horse comics, who I remember (however accurately or inaccurately) making a point of putting out comic books of licensed properties as mini-series; rather than having one mini-series and/or an ongoing series, they would instead put out several mini-series of the same property. While this often meant that months would go by with no comics, each miniseries contained a strong story with no “filler issues.” You were always left wanting for more.
I generally take this approach with my campaigns. When I have a strong idea for a short campaign, I run it for my group; afterwards, we put the characters away until the next strong idea for that campaign world comes along. In between, we have breaks (missed sessions) or run other short campaigns.
There are a number of advantages to this approach:
Campaigns are tighter. I rarely feel the need to stretch material, as I know that when we’re done, the campaign is finished. If I’m not ready to start the next one, we just skip a week or two or let another GM run something for a few weeks.
I don’t need to write filler adventures. With a mini-campaign, every adventure counts; you’re less likely to waste sessions on side-quests or stretch out a scene just to fill an evening.
I get to strike when the iron is hot. I love GMing, and that often means that no sooner do I start something then something else catches my fancy. With a short campaign, I can ride out my current idea with the knowledge that I can spring my new campaign idea within a few weeks. On the flip side, I can make sure that I only return to a campaign world when I have strong ideas – I don’t need to ride a campaign into the ground.
I’m more likely to finish what I start. It’s a sad truth of my GMing and GMs I’ve played under that our long campaigns rarely finish properly. Most of them die such an early death that the mysteries were never solved or the ending was so pencil-whipped that it was unsatisfying. By running recurring mini-campaigns, I keep the campaign length manageable and, even if we don’t get back to that campaign world, there is a sense of completeness.
The session schedule is flexible. I’m 40 years old and my other regulars are about the same age. We have other commitments and issues that crop up all the time, forcing semi-regular absences. By running short campaigns, we can build in a lot of foreseeable breaks without losing momentum.
Players maintain a high level of interest. By running PCs through strong adventures and cutting the game after 6 weeks or thereabouts, the chance of “character fatigue” or loss of interest in the campaign is much less likely.Campaign themes also tend to be stronger. It’s easier for a player to remember the key points of three or four adventures; they don’t have to shake the cobwebs off to remember something that happened in January and how it affects the current adventure in June.
I can rotate in part-time players. Some players are only interested in certain RPGs or it’s not logistically feasible that they show up every week (rotating work schedule, long distance travel, etc). Short, rotating campaigns enables these players to commit to handfuls of sessions, rather than sit out altogether.
These are just some of the advantages I find when running a recurring series of short campaigns. How about you? Have you followed this model? What are some of the strengths and weaknesses you’ve uncovered? Is this something that you think would work with your group?