Effort and Payback

I had a friend enthuse at me lately, because her campaign secrets came together and the PCs sat down and worked out what was going on, and made a plan.

I don’t have that happen so often, because I build campaigns differently to her. If there’s a thing that I miss about games, it’s that. She’s put in a lot of effort to pre-making it, and the players got to the big plot point, and worked it all out, and killed the person that knew a lot and then worked out that person would have been useful, and they’re going to deal with it and she was just eating popcorn while smiling through most of the session…

And I don’t get that.

I tend to make things up by leaving out a lot of hooks, some of which I have already developed, and some of which look unexpectedly shiny to the PCs and get developed because they show interest. It means I can go on with a campaign almost indefinitely, as long as everyone is still invested in it, but it also means I can’t drop hints and leave the PCs to work things out. I have a tendency to try to finish off every thread, because very few have greater importance than others, and that can also lead to long campaigns. My median is 2 years, playing once a week. In all that time, I’ve never put in a lot of effort up front for a campaign that went nowhere, and I’ve had really great times, but I’ve also never had those moments where the players look at the juggernaut I’ve released, and go ‘oh’.

I don’t really have an answer to this – there’s no question, because there’s no right and no wrong. It’s just up to you to decide how much planning you want to put in up front, and whether it’s worth it for you.


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Hmmmm. I work on combination of visual scenes I have in my head I want to get out into play and doing enough prepping that I can run a kind of simulation of how the world around reacts to heroes. That means there is a pre-existing answer to things players might want to find out or do. I might not know it yet but running through that simulation I know what it will be. Now prepping for that gives me solid background to rely on during the game. Now that can be a weakness if players can not connect the dots or just plain ignore hints. And over the years quite a lot of that work has been wasted. Jotted down somewhere but never used.

I think it is possible to balance the two approaches, but then you don’t get the most of any of them. For example, I mostly plan, but then I always regret not following the PCs own interestes that much.
In the way you do it, how do you know when the end of the campaign is near?

The part that I’m worst at is sticking the landing. Generally, I decide that I’ve had enough of running, or my players say they need to have their lives back, or I decide that we’re running out of oomph, and I write a few set pieces. I take the most important strands for each PC and work out how to wind them up. There’s SOMETIMES a natural end, but I don’t plan one very often, right at the beginning. Occasionally I just want to run a certain story, but usually it’s me deciding that I’ll get fed up with a campaign if I keep on running it. So far, that hasn’t been the case for any of my Glorantha stories. One of them has a planned arc, but even that is 10 IC years long. At one session/season, that’ll come in as one of my shorter campaigns.

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