How Long is Your Campaign

Twenty Sided » Blog Archive » How Long is a Campaign? writes:

The games I’ve run last a few months. Ten to twenty sessions seems ideal. The last one I ran was fifteen sessions. I know some people have settings and characters that they play for years and years, their tale spooling ever onward as their rulebooks get dog-eared and their character sheets fade with age. As someone who loves inventing new settings and populating them with characters, I don’t want to be stuck in any one place for too long.

My reply was:

For us settings come in and out of rotation. We’ve got one setting I’ve been GMing off-and-on for about 15 years. That setting has seen about 5 different systems used to run it. My friend GMs one that she’s run since High School, about 25 years, using the same AD&D plus house rules she’s always used. On the other end of the scale, we’ll often do a one-shot in a setting that we’ll never revisit; usually those use one of the old stand-by systems, so the players don’t have to learn two things at once, but sometimes they’re a test run to see if we like some system we haven’t tried or a play test of a homebrew one of the players is working on.

Half the fun for me is making new settings and new systems. The other half of the fun is playing a setting long enough that the players really start to have a good understanding of the world and it really feels detailed and full of history. So there’s a definite tension there…

What about you?

4 thoughts on “How Long is Your Campaign

  1. I almost never ‘end’ a compaign. They tend to run for years, and we may take a break and come back to them.

    The oldest dates back 29 years and the newest is about three years old.

  2. Most of my time running games has been in a handful of campaign settings. In high school, I ran “dungeons”, not “campaigns.” My college D&D
    variant game ran for about 2 1/2 years, with two groups of players (college and home town). I didn’t really run a campaign after that for about 10 years. Re-enchantment (hero system modern fantasy/superhero) and Crystal Palace each ran for about 3 years, but games were far between, so there were maybe 20 sessions each. The hero cults D&D 3
    campaign has been running for almost six years, with San Diego and Haverford teams. The San Diego campaign ended last year, and the Haverford game may transition to a different system. I ran a couple of sessions of Mitgard, which I may try to get started again.

    Before Crystal Palace, settings were design-in-play, made up as I needed them. I put about a year each into Crystal Palace and Hero-cults before actually playing them, so I would have
    been disappointed if the campaigns hadn’t gone on for at least a couple of years. The work on Mitgard was mostly mood and system rather than setting design per se, but I haven’t gotten a good return on investment yet, and hope to get more Mitgard playing at some point.

    The usual ending for a campaign is that the players move away.

    Campaigns I’ve played in range from Josh’s games (where I may only be in town for one or two sessions due to his rotation between many games) to the 25+ year game he mentioned. But the game I’ve played most sessions in was a D&D Mystara campaign lasting 7 years, usually biweekly. I enjoy having a character evolve over time and getting a good sense of the setting more than the novelty of starting new games.

  3. My campaign arcs always go to a grand an epic scale. I don’t always get to finish them, but that’s always the plan.

    My current campaign has been running since 4e launched. It goes every other weekend. And we tend to hit about 2-3 combat encounters each of those sessions. So far they have gone from level 1 to level 8 (about half way to 9).

    I had previously been running a campaign which was planned to go from 4 to 18…but then I moved and thus the campaign ended.

    Previous to that I’ve never really run campaigns that went for that long. We’d run the same settings, same characters, etc, but use shorter story arcs and switch off DMs/characters as the situation deemed appropriate.

    Jeff Greiner’s last blog post..TSP: Second Darkness 4 of 6

  4. When I’m GMing for a group, I tend to alternate length. I’ll run something for about 2 years, aiming to wrap up the major plotlines by then. The following game is usually a much shorter plot and only run about 4-6 months. The one after that will typically be around 2 years again, then a short one after that, then long. And so on. I established this pattern by accident, but it grew on me and is now something I plan for.

    The short campaigns tend to have a very structured plot, whereas the longer campaigns tend to be more player-driven and sandboxy.

    On the side, I usually also have a one-player campaign going on with my wife to fill up spare evenings. Those typically run for years, but after one wraps, we’ll often try 2 or 3 different systems/settings in rapid succession trying to find one that grabs us both from the first session.

    At the moment, however, I’ve also got a third group I game with that does one-shots and short-shots, playing 2 to 4 systems in any given month. Most nights I’m a player with that group, but I GM for them a little less than once a month. That seems to fulfill my need for variety, so as long as that’s going on, I’ll probably only plan to run multiyear campaigns.

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