Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gamemaster's Guidepost: The Campaign Wheel



Man, I hate it when this happens to me. I used to change game settings and characters like a hypochondriac changed doctors. This was to say the least not very popular with my players and I even lost a few people over it. These were the times where I learned a few valuable lessons in world-building and even more valuable lessons on retaining players and keeping them happy. I also learned that no matter what you do, you can’t make every player at your table happy all the time. You would think this is obvious, but really, it’s not. Every GM wants to come to the table and make all of his players enjoy the time spent there, to make the hours of gaming worthwhile. But there is a flip-side to this as well, the players have to be having fun, but so does the GM. If a GM is finding that he is bored with the game he’s running things tend to peter out quickly, sometimes in a spectacular fashion (such as players leaving the group or the entire gaming group breaking up).

I like to think of myself as very creative at my best and as my girlfriend, LA, has said on more than one occasion “you’re like a ferret on caffeine that just cannot sit still”. Now the problem is that is a fairly accurate description of me at my worst. I’ve gotten better about it over time, and after I set up my ‘Campaign Wheel’ I’ve been running the same games for years now. What is this ‘Campaign Wheel’ you ask? Simply put it’s just a grouping of campaigns organized in such a way that you can at the drop of a hat switch from one to the other with minimal prep work. I tend to run a specific campaign for three to six months before switching to another one. Each campaign has a specific theme and I tend to only keep three games in the Wheel at a time, usually a Sci-Fi, Modern, and Fantasy one. This allows me to make use out of almost every single GURPS supplement out there at one time or another. Sometimes I’ll stick to a campaign at the request of a player(s) or change it. Sometimes I just need to swap my campaign out and go with something else, mostly because my ‘creative juices’ for that specific themed game is low while I have ideas for the others.

Looks like the Wheel is turning for me again…

2 comments:

  1. I think players and GMs can get bored of an ongoing campaign easily enough. In my group, two of us are currently running campaigns, and a third could easily enough, this out of 6. I now have three active campaigns, though I consider one of them to be "shared".

    One is my "straight" fantasy game, a mainstay that I'd be loathe to give up. I put it on hold for a bit out of a desire to run a MH game and received some enthusiasm about it. Due to some critical players not being able to make it for a time, I ran two sessions of the MH game, then realized that if it happened again, I wouldn't be willing to go forward until everyone was there (or at least the one absent player, who really should get a chance to see things from the introductory point, and as we're still in the midst of the first adventure, that's easy to do).

    Alas, more scheduling problems. So I came up with the idea of dredging up old DF characters, porting them into a different "shared" world, and going forward from there. This means that any of the potential GMs can, at least in principle, run a game with those characters. Drop the middle of an adventure? What the heck. It's a "pick-up" game, something to allow us to role-play, have fun, but not considered serious in any way.

    The fourth campaign, the one we're delayed on by having 2 PCs conscious (and a run of bad luck wherein only 1 of them could make it at a time), is Cliffhangers. And we ended on a real cliffhanger, with one character (mine) having shot himself to prevent mind control, others badly wounded, and still others finding -- much to their surprise -- that they suddenly wanted to fly their airplane into Canada (more mind control). Don't want to short-change that scenario!

    So my point? Er... Rotating through campaigns, in my opinion, is an excellent way to keep them fresh.

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    1. It does happen, though I'm loathe to call it boredom - it's more like...binging on a TV show, it's awesome at first, but if it's got a lot of seasons you need to have a break. I'll actually be introducing a new blog series soon enough on my specific campaign creation method and if it proves popular...I'll keep going. I put a lot of work and depth into my settings and I'm hoping that other folks might be able to use some of my shortcuts to their betterment.

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