Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Deciding On A New Campaign

Last week the Blue Rose campaign officially wilted.

I just couldn't carry on. True 20 was a nicely slimmed-down version of d20, but was still a little too close to "pure" d20 for my taste. I probably would have been able to put up with that except for the fact that the Blue Rose setting, despite my best efforts, proved just too damn dull.

I'm a recovering GADD (Gamer Attention Deficit Disorder) sufferer, and nowadays I'm very cautious of abandoning a campaign for the wrong reasons. So I'd been wrestling with this decision for a while. A couple fortuitous cancellations bought me some extra time (we only meet twice a month under normal circumstances as it is), but on the eve of our scheduled get-together, as I sat down to go over my adventure notes for the next day, I snapped.

I sent out an email to my group and was rather relieved to receive kudos from the players, who were pretty much in the same boat I was. Seems everyone kind of felt the same way I did regarding both system and setting, but we were all sort of waiting to see if things got better. They never did, and my email put everyone out of their misery.

That, of course, left us all contemplating what to do next.

This got me thinking about how groups choose a new campaign. My old high school/college group was a model of Athenian democracy. Every member had a say in the process, and everyone was entitled to put out campaign ideas, even if it was for a game they didn't plan on running. If even a single person disliked the campaign concept, it usually died then and there. The few times we managed to cajole a recalcitrant member into going along with the group, things usually died within the first couple sessions thanks to said member's apathy sort of killing the buzz.

At the time, however, I was aware, thanks to Dragon Magazine and (later) the Internet, of other groups that had a much more, shall we say, authoritarian approach. Sort of along the lines of, "I'm the GM, I have final say in what we're playing since I'm going to do the most work here. And we're playing Game X. Deal with it."

I admit that at the time I felt a definite pang of jealousy towards those sorts of groups; our "democratic" approach tended to result in a sort of least-common-denominator style of gaming that ensured everyone was equally unsatisfied most of the time.

Fortunately things aren't quite as dire these days. My most common approach when it comes time to run something new is to make a short list of campaigns I'd like to run, then go through it with the players. It's a nice balance between the two extremes mentioned above.

This time around, it was a very short list. It was a choice of either a classic D&D sandbox (using my houseruled Castles & Crusades and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy) or Call of Cthulhu (set in 1928 Berlin--a fantastically underused setting for interwar horror!). D&D won out, but barely. So it looks like classic D&D for now, but Cthulhu goodness is next in the queue. Doesn't get much better than that!

I suspect most groups follow a similar integrated approach, but I'd be interested to hear of other methods of deciding on a new campaign that I haven't touched on.

As a side note, both the Wilderlands and Berlin Cthulhu campaigns give me plenty of grist to dump in my proverbial mill, so I expect I'll be posting content of interest as I generate it in the coming weeks...
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