New Beginnings… Or Campaign Reboot

RPG Blog CarnivalThis month’s RPG Blog Carnival to open the year 2013 is aptly themed “New Beginnings” hosted by Kobold Enterprise. Suggested topics to get folks thinking are,

  • Retcons/New Ages in home brewed or commercial settings.
  • Epiphanies about projects and their new directions.
  • New starts for characters, or even whole campaigns.
  • Insights on the hobby, or aspects of it.

It only seems fitting for me to post on new starts for campaigns with recent changes in my local group’s game.

How we got here

Regular readers of The Iron Tavern know I have been running a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG campaign for several months now online. Meanwhile I’ve been playing in a regular Pathfinder campaign in my local face-to-face group. My local group rotates dungeon masters with most of the duties falling to me or another individual in the group. To be fair, the other person runs much more than I do, but I’ve done my share of running.

I started a Kingmaker campaign in 2010 for the local group. From there we moved to Council of Thieves and then on to Serpent’s Skull – all played under the Pathfinder ruleset. The Serpent’s Skull campaign came to a close in December of 2012.

Adventure Paths

In actuality the Serpent’s Skull campaign sort of fizzled out. I think I group was burning out on Pathfinder to some degree. If not on Pathfinder, we were at least burning out on adventure path style campaigns. By that I mean in adventure paths your course as characters is laid out pretty clearly before you. There are side-treks the characters can take and other areas to explore and many GMs will encourage this. But in order to continue with an AP the GM has to get you back on track along the way at some point. So while there might be diversions along the way, ultimately you have to get back on track. Almost like traveling from waypoint to waypoint.

Over the course of time I think this nature of adventure paths wears on the GM. While nice to pick up the six adventure path installments and know you have nearly a years worth of gaming material at your fingertips, it takes some work from the GM to keep things on course. As a player there can be a sense of what you do doesn’t matter as at some point your characters have to be at a certain place for the next book to be applicable.

Now don’t get me wrong. The Pathfinder APs are great. I think they are well written and layout exciting stories and adventures to play. The NPCs are frequently interesting and some of the monsters within have unusual tweaks to make them stand out. The APs always include interesting material that is tangentially related to the campaign and can be used elsewhere too.

However, after playing several and running one Adventure Path, I think it comes down to feeling like you are playing someone else’s story. Someone else’s adventure. I think having played three of these in a row started to lead our group to a bit of burnout.

New Beginnings

This brings us to our group’s new beginnings. Several in my local group have heard me talk about Dungeon Crawl Classics and how much fun I was having with my online group. The other DM in the group found a copy of the Limited Edition DCC RPG book at the local Half-Price books (I hate him for that). He started reading and thought it might be a good change of pace for our group.

Add in that he is a tax accountant with a schedule that goes crazy from January through April and that my wife is amidst a bone marrow transplant procedure for the next several weeks and a lighter rule system starts to look even more attractive. DCC RPG is rules-light with a lot of the “work” being looking up critical hits, spell results, and such on tables for wild and crazy results. That “work” does not take a  lot of prep reducing the load on the GM.

The GM for our DCC RPG game is also planning for it to be more episodic in nature as well. I think that will lead to a less pre-determined path and our characters can once again take the story where we want it and not where a campaign arc planned out for multiple levels necessarily wants to take it. It also allows for some player misses with less impact on the story overall.

Our group’s new beginning for 2013 is the start of a new campaign with a new ruleset. I know I have felt re-energized by this change of systems and I think several others in our group are looking forward to the upcoming campaign. Time will tell how the change plays out for us!

7 thoughts on “New Beginnings… Or Campaign Reboot

  1. So I have to admit I’ve never played an adventure path so I’m not exactly sure what that implies (from my reading it means a “series of adventures that takes players from beginning to end of career (1st level through 20th or so). I’m not sure how I’d feel about that as well.

    The irony: I’m a big an of epic modules and modules series, but typically I would burn out after about 3 modules in a series as well. Interesting feedback to be sure.

    • The adventure paths are pretty much as you guessed. A set of modules to take you from 1st level up to mid-teens or higher. It sounds great as a tool for the GM, though I sometimes think they take just as much or more work to run successfully as building your own campaign arc. I think our mistake as a group was trying to run three APs back-to-back.

      Epic modules can be fun too, but maybe more designed in shorter series. Not necessarily an entire campaign, but more like from 3rd to 8th level or 10th to 15th level in length and design.

  2. “The other DM in the group found a copy of the Limited Edition DCC RPG book at the local Half-Price books (I hate him for that).”

    Rightly so!

    Got this book for Christmas and am looking forward to going through it. Can’t wait to hear of your campaign!

  3. I think that more modular episode design is a way that a lot of campaigns should look at. As group members gain responsibilities and have to miss sessions making people feel like they are no longer part of the group seems like a good way to lose group members. It sounds like you’ve got a great plan going forward. I hope it goes great!

  4. Pingback: January RPG Carnival Round Up | Kobold Enterprise

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