Thursday, June 4, 2009

Failed Campaign Recovery: The 4 Rs

[Zack Houghton of fame and I have swapped guest posts. It was tremendous fun. I suggest every blogger try it. I want to thank Zack both for suggesting guest posting to me and for writing the following excellent piece. Which, totally unprompted, covered a topic that I currently have great interest in.]

This is a post of solidarity. Like me, you’ve probably had a few campaign fizzle out or meet untimely ends. Players differences, scheduling hell, work/family obligations, angry prima donnas storming out after their Dwarven Nightblade Controller (or whatever the kids are doing nowadays) was killed by a Worg.

Look, it happens, to great and crappy GMs/DMs/CKs/Referees alike. I’m not here to diagnose the whys and wherefores — that’s for another time and another post, and frankly, I don’t know what happened in your case*. The biggest thing is to get back to quality gaming, right? After a campaign breakup (like the one I just went through), it’s time for the 4 Rs. Attend below, Please:


First off, take a break. I take a couple of days; other folks take a couple of weeks. Go watch some movies, go to a museum, get some non-gaming reading in. Get out of the trees so you can see the forest. You want time to recharge the batteries, and you don’t want future game planning soured by over-reactions to any problems the last campaign may have had. Remember how much you love gaming, and how much books, movies, music, shows, and art can inspire.


Feel better? Hopefully so, because it’s time to review your past game. Where do you feel it went off track? Was it simply scheduling, or were expectations too high for the type of regular gaming you wanted to do? Talk to the players — what did they like, and what did they see as a problem? I’ve found players usually are much more open after a game — as open and communicative as your group may be, most gamers are much more forthright when they are no longer in danger of having their PC fall into a convenient pit trap. Also look at the relationships in your group — sometimes, you’ll have someone who is harming your group’s teamwork and overall dynamic (and don’t count yourself out as the problem. It’s worth considering. Just sayin’).


Now that you’ve Reviewed, it’s time to do some research. Start looking at systems and settings. Look at adding or subtracting house rules that didn’t work. If you’re going to be trying a new genre or era, look up some source material on the subject. Take some time enjoying the planning and preparation. Get a couple of possible game ideas from what you’ve Reviewed and Researched, and get a pitch ready for your game.


This isn’t all just hanging out at your Friendly Local Gaming Store, hoping to find folks who want to play your game (though that certainly can be part of it). You can also substitute “Recruit” with “Retain”. The people from your old gaming group — sell them on your game. You’ve already solicited their feedback, now see what they think of your pitch. See if you can get them on board with your new game. Adjust if necessary. You’re selling them on your product, so to speak.

The biggest thing to take from this is that campaigns are sometimes going to end poorly. It’s all in how you bounce back and improve from there.

* - Just a guess, though: did you have a pet NPC that was like 20 levels higher than the characters and got 6 attacks a round and kept showing up, possibly to save their asses but more likely so you could show off how awesome your little pet character was? Thought so.

For more of Zack's work visit his RPG Blog II.

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