How long is your....?


campaign....How long is your campaign?
Sorry I dragged you to this post with false pretense, but a few mentions on this site made me think about this.

Are/were you playing in a campaign with a duration of years? decades? longer? (undead GMs notwithstading). Why? What made it worth sticking with? If in the past, what made it end?

How about short and sweet? Are there advantages to short campaigns (in world- and/or real-time)?

Do you prefer closed, story-arc campaigns or open, meandering ones? or a combination?

speak up, my friends.

The current campaign that I have been running goes back to 1987 or so. Although we certainly have been playing for a long time, I doubt we can boast the frequency of other groups. Typically we play every six to eight weeks. When I was away at University we played very little (I was in High School when we started playing and the rest of the group was finished/finishing University). We have even had a year hiatus at one point when a central character moved to the other side of the country. So, while the game has been going on almost twenty years -- I am not sure if I didn't log more "in-game" time with my High school gaming group during a four year campaign. We would play after-school, through weekends -- and during the summer a two-week long session was not unusual.

Zip -- Here is my list of pros/cons for protracted campaigns.


- you develop a level of trust with the players as psychological issues are explored
- the history of the world becomes visceral knowledge
- characters can develop strong prejudices which then become available to be challenged and confronted as a theme to a session
- the villains become more 3-dimensional
- allies become more complex (shades of gray)


- Players forget pivotal events in their character's history
- The death of a character becomes problematic in the real world
- Sometimes I feel that players lose their role-playing focus in long campaigns, but I don't think I have enough evidence to make the claim (which is probably one of the reasons Zip asked the question)
- players become so involved in the story and their part in it that they don't work from a fresh perspective (* see side note below)
- It is harder to avoid repetition as a GM. I have prepared an interesting/original episode with a set of challenges only to realize half way through it that they did something similar eight years ago. Hurredly, on the fly, the direction of the episode has to change
- story inconsistencies are harder to avoid in long campaigns -- although if used correctly this can be a good thing. **

As for meandering versus tight stories I like both. I tend towards an open a meandering campaign where the players will sometimes set off in a direction simply because they haven't been their before (advantage of big world). However, tension is created by reducing time, resources, and information. Certain episodes, quests, or events should be given a tight plot-line. My GMing style tends to have a problem with players who deliberately avoid opportunities. I started a brief campaign with a player who had obviously played in a GM adversarial campaign and I found it very taxing. Every time anything would happen the character would run off the road and hide. Hide from passing soldiers, hide from peasants, avoid a secret path that they find, avoid talking to people in the tavern -- by the end of the session I was drained from producing a myriad of opportunities for them to have adventure. In retrospect, I should have had a conversation about gaming style before jumping into a new game with someone (live and learn). In the end I want my players to be active participants in the story.

* Side note: to challenge players on this issue, about seven years ago I had the players - who were compelled on a holy quest -- work from two perspectives to solve the quest. Their consciousness was fractured across two vastly different times. Whenever they would fall asleep in one timeline they would wake up in the other. This gave them a second character to play - less experience, less powerful, but with a different perspective. Certain cross-over events meant that they had to achieve goals in each timeline to save their other personality. It worked well as a story -- having the fate of your 13th level character in the hands of your 5th level one. But it also got them into a different persona for a while to flex their role-playing muscles - so to speak.

** For example, you introduce a Shamden knight who tells the players that he follows an ancient code with 12 precepts -- after shuffling through papers from many years agon -- one of your detail oriented players pulls out a paper and goes "Rich, the prophet Shamael left 16 precepts for those who come after -- it is written on the gates of the city of Mendregin." At this point I do one of two things -- admit the mistake, or give an approving nod with a devious smile (if I think I can use my screw up to launch a story arc on the 4 lost precepts).

BTW- I am writing as Enkidu because I am having technical difficulties with my e-mail account (which is used somehow, I presume, to log into Gamegrene). I hope to post as Gilgamesh once the issue of my email is resolved (I guess it hasn't been working for eight days - but I just figured that out this morning).

The longest campaign that I've ever ran lasted three and a half years.

This is the way that I do it.

I start with three short preplanned adventures. I put the characters through them and by the end of the third adventure, at the latest, I know how each player is going to play thier character in various situations. Then I take a week or two off and, using the characters' background stories combined with how the players have been playing their characters, I can write up a bare bones outline for a campaign.

My campaigns are all told with a definitive story arc. I design the campaign with Joseph Campbell's Heroes Journey in mind for each of the PCs. Each campaign has a beginning, middle, and end to it.

While the campaign may end, the players may want to continue playing these characters. This starts a new campaign, it doesn't continue an existing campaign. A lot of the people responding to this article may not understand that. For clarification:

Dragonlance Chronicals (sp) is one campaign. The Dragonlance War of the Twins is a different, seperate campaign, even though it is set in the same world and uses most of the same characters.

Another example would be Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. There are two of these games. The original and the sequal. Both games take place in a linear timeline and incorporate many of the same story lines, antagonists, and main characters. However, they are two seperate stories and are two seperate campaigns.

Thank you.

"Who is worse, the fool or the fool who follows him?"

In brief:

Just coming up to ten years now. A four hour session once per week with the occasional longer sesh.

Players typically have about four characters on the go at once.

Meandering. Multiple storylines. Frequent party line-up changes. Slow build-up to a 'big story' is bubbling along. Not all adventures have anything to do with this however.

Avoidance of Deus Ex Machina. Avoidance of 'Mysterious Patrons' or undefined and indestructible adversaries. Multiple adventure leads are in the air at any time and characters decide for themselves which they are going to pursue and when (although some adventure leads have a 'sell-by' date according to their nature...). Adventures may be embarked on by characters of 'unsuitable' level - I do not tailor the adventure too closely to the party that is going on it, except sparingly when necessary for development of the 'big story'.

Characters are allowed to work against each other if they so choose.

The best thing about a lengthy, 'open' campaign of this nature is the level of immersion it engenders. It feels more realistic than a plot-device-loaded hollywood movie.

The biggest difficulty, as Gilgamesh mentions, is avoidance of plot repetition.

Howdy boys n girls.

Yeah, we got a 20-somthing year campaign over at our table too. I GM the thing, and the players have kept this beast alive just as much as I have. And I thank them on the reg.

I agree with everything said thus far in this thred. The pros n cons are without a doubt true and so powerfully seen over the years within my game. But theres one more con that cuases us to play side-games, less epic games, one shots, shorties, bang-n-runs etc etc.

That con being "stress" of the players when dealing with grand choices and actions that can and WILL result in world altering change for bad or good. The players seem to stress more when they have already seen so much change due to their success or failure. They have seen the old PC retire, become NPC and work towards the top of the bad-guy ladder by becomeing a Goddess or arch-devil through the parties failure to stop them. They have seen the good King die of old age and pass the crown to his son who is younger and more prone to making quick choices in a youthful haste. They have seen entire lands fall to armies that they have failed to stop over years of play, and have seen entire lands saved by the success of years worth of active-play.

The party begins to feel as if they have created the world themselvs (and there isnt much lie in that) and they tend to protect it with a carful touch. They tend to try to do EVERYTHING they can to protect the future due to the long long LONG past that they were there for every step of the way. This isnt a bad thing at all, it drives the players to care, to risk everything, to die trying if they must- just to keep the world the way they think it should be. The political ties, the mystical balance, the very God's themselvs, all seem to depend on what the players will do eventually...and they know this, and they stress over it at times.

When a player fails to defeat a demon that is trying to influence the good people of the town of Duck-port, the party jumps to protect it becuase thats the first town they ever adventured in together, and it has life and history that no one-shot adventure could ever hope to achieve...but if they fail, if its turned into demon worshipers, or worse-totally destroyed- they feel as if they let an old friend down...and this cuases this burning desire to save everything and everyone they once knew or helped create in the past. Like I said, this isn't bad, its just taxing on the mind and tends to cuase everyone to feel like they are not only "playing" but in a weird way "working" to.

Me and my friends also play in a few side worlds (best one being a world named Queer) that we play in when we want a rest from huge epic story and impossibly long plot. We travel there and play once n a while when we want the old school feel of meaningless adventure, simple story, basic dungeon crawls, etc. And both games have been helping each other stay fresh. They enjoy a rest of mind, and love the casual feel of the lower-stake adventures of my side realm.

But nothing can stand to make the fact wrong, that a long camp can and usually does take over the mind and hobby of the PC. Nothing beats playing in a world that is defined in structure, history and meaning due to years and years of on-table playing. I often think about what we have made, how we are the only few who share this magical place, and how grand its size has become. Its every bit as real as any work of fiction can be, and we continue to explore and adventure within it becuase its become more then just a sunday game, its become a world in itself that we are addicted to.

Thats why I say, build a realm and run it for years. Watch your players weave themselvs into its ever changing plots and archs. Its worth the work and stress...

Well, If thats the definition of "campaign", Id have to say the longest I ever ran was about 4 years (summers were not played, due to chicks, and fun)...

But I do not think your definition of a campaign fits what I still will call "my campaign", for 20-sum years we have been playing the same story, with the same long reaching plot (working towards the seventh turn of the wheel of God).

Now each instalment is what "you" would call a campaign, meaning it consists of the same PCs dealing with the same linear objectives (with some side-adventures to shake things up of course). The party works towards their last adventure, wins, loses, ties for whatever, or just dies....they live their adventuring life during this time.

But then, it is said in science of the world, that Lorrical entities (PCs in my realm...called Lorrics by scolars and wizards of high chapter) that they will be reborn into new bodies to continue the quest. For over 20 years of our real lives, they have been taught that the Lorrics will either make or break the "worlds" in the seventh turn of the wheel of god. A turn comes ever 25-thousand years, and in between these years the Lorrics (or lorrocks) will adventure towards their final moment. There is a huge science behind this in-game system of reincarnation, and the PCs are the only living things that actually DO get reincarnated (all other life goes to heavens, hells, or whatnot.

But the world has been going, chapter by chapter, (or campaign by campaign) learning more and more about the fate of the Lorrical ones. Every time they re-enter the game as new PCs, they go through the process of becoming huge forces of power that cuase world change and direct the out come of strife. This is a collection of chapters (each ranging from 1-4 years of play time) that add up to our grand campaign.

Now I leave you to decide if your definition is the only one possible for "campaign"...cus I really think thats just the normal way to consider one...and our chapter-by-chapter-leading-to-an-end is ALSO a campaign....even though the players have played doozens of PCs throughout the game at hand....

just saying.

One thing that I'd like to point out is that I've noticed that all of the long running campaigns, by which I mean all the campaigns that I've heard of which last ten years or more, have PCs who are little short of Gods. These PCs influence EVERYTHING, including the gods, kingdoms, and sometimes even geography.

Magic seems to be extremely powerful and accessable in these campaigns. Characters can get reincarnated or ressurected, Gods fear PCs, and PCs can take a trip to hell and back to improve their tan. PCs in these campaigns retire to become a God or to run a kingdom.

This is too much for me.

My players are estatic if their characters live to retirement. Especially if they can manage to do so in one piece. Retiring their characters to run an inn and raise a family is what most of them strive for.

I keep my campains hard and realistic, much like George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series or the Firefly TV show.

The characters start off at the bottom of the barrel and have to fight and claw their way up. Along the way they have to stop the vampire who is raising an army of lycanthropes (taking the place of Hitler and his "perfect race"), stop that same vampire from opening a portal to the seventh plane of hell to let in a demon army led by the Dark Lady, find a lost Elven Isle with a magical device which will stop the Demon Army (which works even though the Elves who built it were complete and total pacifists), fight their way through the Demon Army and other parties to get to the mysterious machine before anyone else does, figure out how to turn it on and hope it works.

Most GMs would have had the characters playing knights, nobles, mages, and priests of note. These characters would be extremely powerful by the end of the campaign and may have retired as dictators, after all, the Emporer did die...

The characters who did all of this never rose above middle class. One player retired as a scholar aged seventy five years by the elven machine, another as her peg-legged bodyguard, and a third to raise her half human/half dragon child which was conceived the night before the final battle. Two characters died in the final battle, one as an enemy. Two other characters were lost when the capital city of Cordoba fell to the demon army.

I guess that the difference is that I hate High Fantasy. Lots of magic, cinematic rules and playing, extremely powerful characters, and monty haul games just aren't my style. I like low powered characters, gritty realism, and over whelming odds.

What's your take on this?

"Open your mind... Open your mind..."

Me too, Cal. None of the PC's in my ten-year campaign are higher than 10th level. My players have several characters each, most of whom aren't much above 5th level. There are a few 7th levels. The 10th level ones are just starting to become influential on the political scene and are working hard to establish strongholds. None of them are overwhelmingly wealthy.

Personally I haven't played in or refereed a campaign where the gods were afraid of player characters since my munchkin days - about 25 years ago.

I enjoy low-powered, dirty, gritty fantasy. I also like the odd bit of 'epic' high fantasy but it needs to be used sparingly. The PCs shouldn't get to save the world or even their country or city every other day of the week - otherwise the immensity of such accomplishments becomes devalued.

In our campaign we don't grant xp for finding treasure or magical items. xp awards tend to be merit-based more than anything. We don't give out too much in the way of treasure or magic in any case.

One of the 10th level characters is bordering on insolvency.

So, to answer your question: it is possible to run a 10 or 20 year campaign that doesn't run to excess, but you need a steady hand on the tiller.

Bear in mind that I *have* run campaigns in the past that did go Monty Haul - which was a useful learning experience. In fact they were short-lived campaigns for precisely that reason. For a campaign to last 10+, you've got to be doing *something* right....

LG -- can I pick a fight over your use of the word Epic to be synonymous with High Fantasy? I think the common use of Epic would mean broad in scope and grand in theme. An Epic poem or Epic narrative being about important, but not necessarily super-human or supernatural, events. I do take your meaning and apologize about quibbling over word choice.

On another note...

Talking about playing styles, the current campaign that I am running has PC's of 15/16th level. They are far from the top of the food chain though. Sure, they are powerful leaders and are often pulled by political forces for their talents, but every now and then they discover another layer to the world around them. In the backwater town of the backwater kingdom where they started they can walk with confidence that few could entertain the thought of tangling with them. However, they have discovered that ancient creatures, angels, and demons exist and of the things that go "bump" they are only half way up the ladder. Furthermore, skill supremacy does not secure survival.

As for magic and magic stuff I think that they are pretty well equiped. They didn't find their first magic potions until they were around 6th level and didn't have a bona fide magical item in the party until they reached 9th. Now they have a decent collection -- with each person in the party having half a dozen items or so. Often with one or two signature items.

I agree with allowing items to grow with the players. There are lots of ways of doing this.

Anyhow, my rebuttal is this ... I think a campaign can still be "gritty" and "dirty" with high level characters. Finding an important item and staying under the radar of the real nasties works at any level. Choosing allies and living by those choices works regardless of level. I agree with LG -- saving the world would be a tiresome cliche. If your campaign is over and you want to put the final nail in the coffin .. go ahead .. let them save the world. Otherwise let them save themselves, learn, grow, and explore.

All the chapters in our epic 20-year campaign last as mini-campaigns where the PCs eventually reach 7-12th level (12 being very high for my realm). By then they almost always are a political figure of world-wide status, or a pope-esk figure of the churches, or great respected scolars that are on par with our Steven Hawken.

By 6th-to-8th level, they have their share of magic items, large vassles of land, world reputations etc. But in my realm levels above 3rd are seen to be gifted and Herculease-esk (Scions or Super-beings). The world is filled with a wide display of races, creatures, monsters etc- but the realm simply does not produce levels above 3rd often. This is not to say that no human NPC can not be 4th,5th,6th lv- its just very rare and often noticed quickly by kingdoms or empires that search for these gifted types. 99% of all NPCs have 1-3 hitpoints and that makes a 5th level warrior somthing no man can hide in battle.

We dont give out exp for gold or magic items, and we are very objective-based exp rewards (save princess earn 500-exp). As the GM I do strive to keep the PCs at a slow growth rate while I allow them freedom to become the famous scion that they all hope to become throughout their careers. By about the 11th-20th game they all retire and we start the next chapter- with its main plot and theam decleared before people create new PCs.

I don't like high-fantasy power-play, and I find that most "good games" I have ever seen were almost always run by a GM who felt the same. Struggle, growth, a good sense of direction and pace of story- all these things make our game a big success with its players.

But as for going to hell, saving the world, and all those things people say are "munchkiny" in their own right- I dont agree. I think that these things are like all things- if done right they can be somewhat realistic and not Monty-hualish at all.

Last- There was a PC who had every God in the realm fear him...and it wasn't becuase he was a super powerful freek-o mountain-moving 238746823745-level fighter/wizard/umber-hulk. He was the one who mentally joined with a dark devil who taught him the words to charm gods. The story never brought him close to a god (mortals hardly ever earn a meeting with a god in my realm, its happend less then 5 times in 20 years)-but the fact that he knew the acient chant to sway a god's choices- the gods of the realm feared him.
If your wondering why the gods didn't just smite him...yeah, great...that might have been possible over 500,000 years ago before the gods locked themselves away in their seperate heavens n hells...back when a god could actually reach out n touch the world personally. Now the god's powers are limited to what a cleric can do...and seeing as the highest cleric to exsist was a PC from over 1000 years ago and was only 9th level, thats not a very powerful church.

"LG -- can I pick a fight over your use of the word Epic to be synonymous with High Fantasy? I think the common use of Epic would mean broad in scope and grand in theme. An Epic poem or Epic narrative being about important, but not necessarily super-human or supernatural, events. I do take your meaning and apologize about quibbling over word choice."

S'Okay. No need to fight over definitions! (As long as they are clear and consistently used...). I think that 'High Fantasy' is the phrase that most people have different ideas about. Personally I don't think high fantasy = high level. High Fantasy tends to be about saving the world (Frodo wasn't high level) whereas Low Fantasy is about sneaking into the Caliph's harem....

I like your 'layers' metaphor. That's pretty much how I view it as well. No matter how big and bad the PC's think they are, there should always be someone around to remind them that they aren't all-powerful.

The biggest challenge with handling a powerful party is that it's the collective brains of maybe half a dozen players and the full range of capabilities their characters possess...vs lil' old you, the referee. It can be quite hard work to challenge them in a balanced way without just running to excess ('It's got a million hit points') or weilding DM's perogative as a weapon against them (eg coming out with the 'It just doesn't work' line without any clear justification for why it doesn't work other than you personally don't want it to!). Giving the bad guys powerful magic items to soup them up is dangerous because if the party ever defeat them, *they* then get those items.

From the perspective of confronting them with challenges, refereeing powerful parties who have been together for years and who know how to work as a team is definitely harder work than dealing with low-powered ones. But the roleplay can be great! Characters that have been developed and nurtured over ten years almost take on a life of their own. This does present problems with the potential that they might get killed which will be much more upsetting to the player than the death of a character who has been around for only a couple of years.

However players are also more careful with their higher level characters, so they are less likely to get killed. And they are less likely to accidently stumble into a situation that will prove lethal to them.

Because long-standing, high level characters tend to have more depth to them this offers other opportunities to make them break into a sweat besides the possibility of their own death. They tend to have strongholds, henchmen, loved ones....all things that matter to them which they must strive to protect.

Slightly OT, but......something that often strikes me when reading posts made on this board is how quick we are to draw conclusions about each other's campaigns based on sparse evidence.

When we read that so-and-so has 15th level characters stomping around in their campaign world, we tend to make all kinds of assumptions based on what a 15th level character would be capable of in our own game world. But the context is not necessarily the same! In Sifolis' world most ordinary people have 1-3 hp each. In someone else's world a typical innkeeper might be a 5th level fighter. But their life expectancy in a fight might actually be similar due to the scaling factors involved in each respective campaign! Everyone works a given rules system differently and after refereeing for ten years or more you are (probably) skilled at finding a balance that suits you and your players.

Most people posting on this board would seem to me to have quite a few years of gaming experience under their belt and I think we can safely give each other the benefit of the doubt. I am sure we are all running *great* campaigns!

LG- Nice point about the GM being out-gunned by experienced high level players. I have had some well laid out tough guys totally thumped in a couple of rounds. Disconcerting for me; not what I wanted; yet the players enjoy their moments. That has happened several times over the last few years. Something that I thought would be a challenge gets ripped apart by some interesting spell combinations or sheer power. I think both you and Sif would agree that balance is the key.
I have the advantage of planning though. A couple of surprises, force of numbers, and I have my group of relatively low level monsters (5th-7th level) trash their party of 6 15th level characters and send them running with their tail between their legs (dimensional fold). That particular encounter cost them some well loved followers, a crew of sailors, and their prized possession -- a boat that could fly!

Bing LG, thats how I tend to handle the big-bad-super-powered PCs of higher then high level. I have been heard saying many times to players in my game (and to other GMs that play within my game), that its "not my job to kill you"...and its even more evident that thats not my favored tactic once my PCs reach higher levels.

I have never used "death" to be my sharpest sword agaisnt PCs, I find death to be too quick, too final and too "easy on the PC"...Its kinda like when a murderer goes to jail, only to get the chair; The law says that killing the killer is a equal punishment for the crime, but often the victim's loved ones think the criminal got the easy way out.

LG points to this idealism when he speaks of taking their treasure, boats, loved ones, henchmen etc. In our last game, a cleric of 6th level was being hassled by a huge guild of theives that are not to be taken lightly (they are the types that kill first and ask questions never). The party laughed at them OOG, thinking that no guild that had not a single memeber above 3rd level, could beat 11 PCs of levels from 5-9th.
They figured if they got killed- they would use the ressurections they had claimed from the dragon's hoard they robbed 2 games ago. If they got hurt they would heal like there was no tommorow with the two clerics who are are being seen as very powerful to the world-wide-church now. If they got lost, they would teloport, etc etc...they have all the trixs n toys of a fully developed group of jerks who have escaped all my dangers for many games now, and they refused to think that a bunch of 1-3 level thugs could ever cuase "too much trouble"

A few of my players knew better, so they began saying things like

"the Karseerian Cartel is no fricken joke man, we better figure out a way to settle them down cus we dont want a fight with these guys."

Those players knew, these thugs were a very large guild and had ties to criminal activities across the known realm. The rest of the party, (including the cleric who had cuased this guild grief in the first place) still thought themselvs immune to danger...why? Cus they feared "death", and that sort of thing , like I said, Is not my main weapon...

The guild began kidnapping low level clerics of 0-1st level, cutting off there fingers and sending them to the party. They folllowed the party throughout two cities, making note of family, friends, etc etc...buring those houses, kidnapping those lovers, family, n friends...they ordered the party to show up at a guild-house un-armed and without magics...if there was any problems, they had enough hostages to make the party reconsider a double cross.

Needless to say, this next game starts with that meeting, and they are gunna see just how much trouble of guild of almost 1000 memebers can cuase for a party of 11 PCs who thought high-level ment safty.

PS- Good point on GMs who run 10-sumthin years worth of a single game. I give you all the benifit of a doubt that you have found balence and a way to hook the attention of your players...why else would we all be geeking-out online talking about our fictional worlds as if we live there?

I guess first to define what I think of as a campaign would be handy. I used to think a "campaign" is whatever would be one series of books were the thing to be published as a story. For example, the Belgariad was one campaign but the Mallorean was another (I hope there's no one out there that doesn't know what I'm refering to ;) In this case, the longest campaign I ever ran only lasted about a year and a half of real time.

Recently however, I've begun to think along different lines. When I retired my campaign setting recently so that I could work on something new ('cause in the words of Bob DeNiro, sometimes you have to go away to come back again), I started to look back on all the campaigns I had run there. They all seemed to link to one another in some way. Some were characters cleaning up the mess left by the last bunch of PCs, some were direct offshoots that involved NPCs that had "fallen of the radar" so to speak. There were so many, but they all carried a similar theme or connecting element. I've begun to think of the setting as the campaign; provided of course that the narrative involves the actions of the same group of people, whether those are the characters the group is currently playing or not. In this case, I've really only ran the one campaign for the last 13 years or so...preceded by a bunch of false starts while I found my pace as a GM.

Heh...less than concise as usual.

and thats what I define as a campaign myself...and most people we play with or talk to around here seem to think thats what a campaign is too.

I dunno, the first discription of a campaign being only one story from start to end, is a new one to me. Not to say that idea is wrong or right, but it leads me to think where the true definition of "campaign" is, and who wrote it.

I used the limited version of campaign as a result of lots of reading of multitudes of books, fantasy and otherwise. To illistrate why I'll take the Shannara series, written by Terry Brooks, which follows the lives of the Ohmsford (née Shannara) family.

The first three books, The Sword of Shannara. The Elfstones of Shannara, and The Wishsong of Shannara follow Shea and Flick Ohmsford and their immediate descendants. It can be argued that each of these novels are campaigns, i.e. a series of adventures linked together to form a story. An "adventure" in this case being a short encounter or an abostacle or series of short obstacles. This might be cutting things too fine however.

I would state that each of these novels is a stand alone adventure. One adventure for each generation of characters. Which is a pretty cool concept in and of itself.

The next four books, known as The Heritage of Shannara, are set 300 years after the first books. They are in order, The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, The Elf Queen of Shannara and The Talismans of Shannara. These follow three of Shea's descendants: Walker, Coll, and Par as well as a cousin named Wren.

These books are all connected and are all part of one story. There is a clear beginning, middle and end to the series, as well as to each of the books. I would say that each book is an adventure and that the five book series is a campaign.

When the entire cast of characters changes, or when the entire thrust of the plot changes, and when you have come to the end of one series of adventures and are embarking on a completely different set, then you are starting a new campaign.

In a personal example I had three characters who started as farmboys in a small town. They were chased and harassed by scouts of an enemy sorceror's army for most of the campaign. In the end they killed that sorceror, banished his god (whom the sorceror was in the process of summoning into the world), and caused his army to be destroyed. One character was blinded, another character took all the credit for slaying the sorceror, and the last was just happy to have made it out alive and in one piece. This was the end of my campaign and all that I had planned on running.

However, the players loved their characters so much that they insisted that I continue running this game. After dithering a bit I came up with a new campaign based on the old one. In the new campaign the dead sorceror was one of twelve sorcerors from various lands and cultures who worship that god and were striving to free him. Even though the other eleven mages hated the dead mage, especially for trying to free their god behind their backs, they decided that the PC's needed to be punished. This started the next campaign.

So even though it was the same characters in the same world, because there was a definate end to one storyline and a clear beginning to the next one, that started a new campaign for me.

This definition of campaigns helps me to keep things organized and distint in my mind and those of my players. I've only been running my world (one that I have created from scratch without ripping off ideas from other fantasy worlds) for about five years now. I have almost a dozen distinct campaigns within that world already. I can't imagine how someone like Sifolis or Scott keep track of everything that happens in a twenty year span. Especially if they consider it all one massive campaign.

Much like the chapters of a book, the short distinct campaign definition will help break up and organize the history and continuity of these extremely long running campaigns. Reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time would be impossible if it were all one giant book. Break it up into 10+ books though... You get my drift ;-)

"Spike: I am just going to go to the kitchen to get some food, then I'm gonna tell you a story to make your balls shrink to the size of raisins."

"A cruel story runs on wheels, and every hand oils the wheels as they run."

I have to say I'm humbled by all your collective experience.
I've not had the chance to participate in such long-running campaigns (whatever your definition of campaign is).

BTW, is it just me, or am I the only one on this forum who's not a GM?

- reading my signature is silly -

I dunno whos not a GM, but I will say I found this place while searching for a good, robust collection of DM thoughts and styles. I always enjoy looking at GM's notes, mechanics and ways they handle things.

As for wondering how a 20-sumthin year campaign is handled in "note form" or how one keeps track of things. I will admit there is always things mistaken and forgotten, things that come outta someone's mouth that reminds you how things really went down, and at times that screws things up a little. But after a long time of handling that sort of thing there is a bunch of ways to handle, hide or simply be forgiven for.

The notes on our campaign are almost completly intack. There are two bookshelvs (each 3-n-a-half-feet-long) containing every notebook I ever used to run an adventure. It also has plenty of PC written details about PCs they played at theww time, a complete book of PC backgrounds written for me by the players, all the maps ever used etc etc. The shelvs are filled with discolored pages loosly stuffed in protective vellum sheets in ringed binders, note-books that lost the battle against time, map books, printouts of scanned printouts that were printed and re-printed dozens of times, etc etc.

The shelvs are quite impressive and full of great info. Many times when I'm looking for a new story in the realm I simply randomly pull out a book of old game notes and read along until I see a lost-NPC or an unfinished story that can launch a new adventure .

Strangly enough (and I bet half you long-camp guys can agree) You dont need these notes as often as one might suspect. I find myself making whole games without ever needing to research the past of my realm. The players also have not much use for old notes, they seem to remember more then even I do (perhaps cus they were actually THERE and I was simply DM-ing). But needless to say, I am often amazed (and disgusted) at how much of my mind must be reserved to our realm alone...

But yes, Its a huge measure of information, all kept in two magic shelvs in only one place on earth; my room, and if you ever wanna know what too much time wasted looks like, your welcome to stop by any time (cept sundays...cus we be playing D&D that day baby!)

added note-

Sometimes things get changed over time, simply by mistake or forgetting what was once factual. Like the ditance between a few lands by sea. The distance between two major land massess (Brakken and Districk-Rhor) currently takes about a year's worth of sailing to travel between...but when an old player from over 6 years ago re-entered our realm recently, he pointed out that the world must have gotten bigger cus it used to take only 5 months to go from there to there...

This sort of thing is explained by scolors of the realm of course. Things that change without no one ever noticing, glitches in reality like land moving, changing, etc, or kingdoms that have changed slightly for no reason (like a king being forgotten or a princess'es name changing), or how there used to be 8 days in a week but now there is 10...there are scolars that say in this realm that reality is not fixed, insted its called "hinged" meaning it bends and folds in reality, cuasing things to change over time or perhaps instantly, cuasing old books to say things were diffrent back then...But people know this happens and its a popular theory that magic is the cuase of it, magic bleeding and smudging reality to change details etc.

Its a loose way to handle small loose ends and a few PCs have actually aquired "god sight" in a adventure from long ago, allowing them to notice and see these changes. For exsample, one monster made an attack agaisnt one of these PCs and hit them hard, delivering damage, only seconds later the player spoke up saying "wait I forgot my +1 armor ring I am wearing"
So the hit actually missed. But all the PCs at that time who had "god sight" saw both outcomes happen. They saw the hit, the blood, the damage, but then they also saw it miss...I explained that they felt as if reality was "deciding" and then only one reality came to be strong enough to become "real"...and that was the miss.

These "god sight" ones have all long since retired and moved away to distant places were people still quest today in hopes to have answers given on mystical subjects that they may be the only ones to see clearly on.

It could be seen as a fantasy-band-aid mechanic, and perhaps it is...but when delivered in a sureal way, with great story-shading and depth to the science of the realms magics, it works and its cool...for us.

I had two characters leave my campaign when the players moved out of state. I wrapped that campaign (finally) and my friends and I have moved on.

We all loved that campaign and look back on it fondly, but I haven't really GMed since we finished it. I guess that I need some closer first... ya, right! I loved running it, but it was such a huge pain in the butt to keep track of everything and to give the characters enough information to keep going without spoiling anything. Seriously, this was the most intense, longest running, hard to GM campaign in my life. We loved it.

I just found out last night that my two out of state players are moving back. They want to pick where they left off and finish that campaign.

Now I could have them play out the end as I did for my other players, but I hate redoing things twice. Especially something like this. I just don't feel that it is fair to my players, to my game world, or to myself.

I have been working on continuing those two characters in a different direction from the path that the other characters took. But I can't remember enough of what happened. My notetaker was one of the people who left.

I have until June to come up with an awesome branching storyline to that adventure and I have the memories of my wife (the only player to play the complete campaign from start to finish)and myself (not the most reliable memory, if I want to be generous) to go on.

Another problem is that I very rarely put things down on paper where my wife or other players can find it. I do have some notes somewhere, but it's been over a year now and my wife has "cleaned" since then, so now I'm clueless as to where I can find them.

If you can remember things that happened in game over a year later then you have a gift. If you have access to notes from those games then you are blessed. If you aren't gifted or blessed, wlecome to my world!!!

Well Cal, there was once or twice this sort of thing happend to us (who am I kidding? this sort of thing runs rampant at times...we are only half-human after all)...But when things were completly lost due to no notes, like in an adventure from years ago, I simply started the story with the PCs being brought back from being stone, appearntly a evil black dragon (one who collects high level people in statue form) released them from their curse and returned them to the land of warm skin. I placed the adventure 300 years in the future and allowed them to see the evolution of their past success, also noting that many NPCs from that time were now dead, or immortal and in hiding. It works as a mechanic to erase a slate thats too muddy to read correctly, but this sort of thing shouldnt been done often...but i always enjoy pushing the years forward a couple hundred years, it adds flavor and a sense of moving forward.

its a good place to allows you to re-new the realm, change what you want, wars, time and chaos could have removed much of the history cuasing a dark-age that may (or may not have) already passed. I dunno if this helps or sparks n ideas...alls I can say is return to that world you once ruled and rule it again, its a movie that needs a sequal and only you can write n direct it. You have hungry players, its your job to feed them, and you will love it.

I've had similar things happen, Sifolis. And I've handled it in a very similar way. I took the idea of Paradeox and Continuum from the Chronomancy book that Mongoose Publishing put out a while ago. Essentially, the Continuum is everything happening all at once in the same place at the same time. Paradox is what draws events from the is fed by the memories of everything from the gods down to the smallest creatures. Anything with a memory (a library, an ancient scholar, the tre that everyone carves their initials on) feeds the strength of Paradox and allows events to seem like they are happening in a chronological order. The more people remember an event, and the more powerful those people are, determines how it actually happened. This allows me to make mistakes in how things took place, or screw up a name or date from time to time.

I try not to use my "Paradox wand" to fix too many of these types of issues however. I have a very large hardcover book that contains the major timeline of the setting, and it's pretty extensive. Everything is written in point form, but it's pretty much all there. On top of all that, the people that I played all those sessions with are so avid that whenever we get together, it's one big reminiscence about who did what when, and how it affected everyone else. Sometimes the players will remember events from one character happening to a totally different character, but sorting through it all over a couple drinks is what getting back together with your old playing group is all about! These guys love it when I pull out "the Bible" and start getting all misty eyed over the actions of Asha Pembrose trying to clean up after the war started by Jaquelyn Winchatter. They can't get enough of the horrible things that their evil-so-evil characters had their mentally challenged cabin boy Dell do to the do-gooders that they captured along the way. Then, when Dell became the arch-villain several groups of characters later, they cringed at the monster they had created.

Ah, the memories. I'm gonna go dig out that book right now and make a coffee.

Hahahahahahahaha! God I love that "I gotta go read my notes" feeling you get when you discuss the past games of a well loved home-brew. Good stuff.

I like that continum thingy you talk about in your last post...very cool, and very simular to my worlds physics when dealing with long spans of time. In fact, my players call this "The Quantum", and this form of physics covers everything from normal everyday physics to deeper sciences. I'm thinking of writing a peice on this science, naming it "Quantum mechaincs" or somthing simular. But I like the way you discribed this law in this other book, its very close to what we use and do...this leads me to wonder how many mortal DMs playing god use rules like these to hide their mistakes and continuity problems. doubt, eh? When I got that book for xmas that year, I thumbed through it and realized that it was crap...all I took from it for incorporation into my world was the idea of Paradox and Continuum. Time travel factors into my setting a bit, so I needed a mechanic that would stop people from going back in time and changeing the present through actions taken in history. It simply doesn't work, because there are too many people that remember it the way it was, that you can't do anything about it. The only events that one can change in the past are events that no one remember anyways...and what would be the point of changeing something like that?

And had the added bonus of finally giving me the tool I had been looking for to consistently handle my inconsistencies ;)

This reminds me of the GURPS Timetravel sourcebook, in which one of the campaigns states that history can be changed, but only once. This means that once Agents From the Future view an event, it's a fact and can't be changed. However, they can try to change it (or cancel it) while still making the viewing possible. For example, if the bad guys blew up the pyramids, and the future people saw it, the PC's could go back further, prevent the bombing, but making a pyrotechnic show that LOOKS LIKE the pyramids were blown, thus not negating the viewing.

A bit off-topic, really.

- reading this signature is silly -


My current D&D campaign started about 10 years ago...sorta.

I started D&D in 1988 and *that* campaign died off in 1990...

I started a GURPS campaign in 1991...and *that* campaign died off in 1994.

In 1996, I went back to D&D...but, in 1999...I got the notion to combine all three campaigns under one, unified umbrella. PC's from the old campaigns became NPC's (kind of like yesterday's heroes...which was true in more than one way).

As others have mentioned, some of my players have more than one PC...but most of them stick to one, "core" PC. The current party average is 15th level...which means that the stakes have been raised higher and higher over the years.

My players have threatened to kill me if I somehow tie it all in to our Shadowrun games.