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General How long do you like your campaigns?

Viking Bastard

Adventurer
I have been considering giving WOTC's adventures a closer look, but what I've seen just generally doesn't really fit me very much. I like a lot of different scenarios that then end up tying together in the long run, but don't set out as one big thematic quest from the go.

I own two of them, Storm King (because the first half of my 5-year campaign was all about giants and I thought I could mine it for ideas and encounters, which I did) and Dragon Heist (because I thought a D&D heist sounded cool but, uh, yeah). It's been a while since I read Storm King, but it came off as kind of one-note overall. For such a long thing, I'd like more variety, but I don't have a good idea of how long it actually plays. Dragon Heist (other than just feeling a bit miffed at it overall because of expectations) comes off as bothersome to run, which defeats the point of using it.
 

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Gilladian

Adventurer
We play 3 hour sessions about 3 times a month (theoretically every week, but...) in normal circs. I've played with essentially the same group for the last 25+ years. We usually play a given "campaign" for about 2 years. We then change characters and regions of the world, and start over. Seems to work for us. We'd been playing for about a year or year and a half, hitting 8th level, when Covid stopped us. When we finally get to start up again, we'll probably just start over a new game, simply because of continuity issues.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Ideally or what actually happens?

Normally they finish around level 8-12. Last one died at level 9 due to lockdown.
 


Ogre Mage

Adventurer
Level wise, I like to start at level 3 and finish around 12-13. How long this takes can vary widely depending on how often the campaign plays. Generally from one to two years. Perhaps 18 months on average.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I prefer to run as long as possible. I seek story driven games, and a good story driven game will introduce and resolve threads and have a major overarching storyline that can run a looooong time. Some of my favorite campaigns ran for over 10 years (all in prior editions of the game, but I could do the same with 5E given the chance).
 


TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
Ideally, open-ended and slow-advancing enough to, if interest holds and the rules system doesn't collapse, last for the rest of my life.

In practice the good ones always make it past ten years. <snip>
What system(s) have you used? What are you using now?
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
Mine last 2 to 3 years for D&D. I take short breaks with other game systems though (3 - 6 months).
 

I'm going to start by talking about the various types of play experiences I enjoy, the one I don't, and then explain how that one could be fixed (most readily through WotC doing a mega-adventure or two differently in the future), and I believe improve the gaming experience of lots of players (particularly new players are having formative experiences that are unnecessarily limiting how they see campaigns).

One thing that saddens me is that what a campaign means has changed so much that we don't even use the same words anymore. I can enjoy a variety of different D&D play experiences.

One Shots: A brief scenario that lasts a session or two.
Theme Adventures: A self-contained play experience lasting for about 8-16 sessions. These start at whatever level is appropriate for the theme of the adventure, so they are as likely (or more) to be high level than to be low-level. Generally there is either no level advancement, or one level is gained part way through.
Old School Campaign: An extended series of play with continuity of characters (even though characters might leave and join and it could end with a different set) lasting probably a minimum of close to a decade, and potentially multiple decades.

There is a fourth play experience which I don't think works very well in D&D, but at the same time is the most commonly found one in modern D&D.

Theme Campaign: A play experience with a party of characters that generally lasts several months to a few years and revolves around a specific mega-adventure (whether purchased or home-brewed).

I like running all of those. However, the Theme Campaign--as designed and run--is in my opinion a poor fit for D&D. It works much better in other game systems for the reasons I'll lay out below.
1) First and foremost, my suspension of disbelief cannot handle the rapid leveling. In the course of a few weeks you go from 1st level to high level characters, often without learning or using half of your class abilities since you have new ones every time you come back from a bathroom break. It just destroys the whole believability of the settings for me.
This is a problem limited to D&D and similar games with levels and fast leveling. It is entirely absent in many systems where the characters' power level increase and new ability gain is more moderate.
2) It's based around a single prescribed storyline, so you really need to make a character based on that, but a lot of people just want to play a certain character, and don't care whether that character is a good fit for the game the group is going to play for the next year. This problem is much less likely in any of my preferred styles, either because they are short enough that it's easy to get everyone on board with the theme, or it's long enough that it should have a wide variety of experiences suitable for any characters over the course of play.
This one isn't completely limited to D&D, but it's worse in D&D because there are so many character options to try, and an assumption that you should play the same character the whole campaign (rather than having alternates for example).
3) While not necessary, people often seem to want to play such that each theme campaign is its own instance of reality. Unlike the other issues, this one is just more of a missed opportunity issue. I find worlds where PCs from one party in one campaign might actually interact with the results of what happened in other campaigns due to a more persistent world to be one of the most desirable things in role-playing. I think part of the mindset of a theme campaign (we're the epic heroes of a movie trilogy) lends itself to reality instances more than the mindset of the other play types I listed, where either their brevity (or extensiveness) screams that there is so much more in that world you haven't yet seen, and invites you to want to set further play experiences in that same reality instance.

At this point, someone is probably thinking that I'm just behind the times and don't want to update to the new styles. Inasmuch as that is true, it is due to the value I derive from the various methods not an innate resistance to change (I'm never satisfied with things as they are and am constantly seeking to improve just about everything I have to deal with, from life circumstances and accomplishments to DMing skills.)

In the spirit of improvement, here is what I think could be done to make the ubiquitous Theme Campaign work better in D&D.
1) More episodic elements with baked in downtime. The issue with the unbelievability of fast leveling from an in-world perspective can be addressed simply by making sure it takes more in-game time to get those levels. If the scenarios are set up so there are multiple parts with months or years between them, that could improve substantially on that particular problem. But generally, the adventures WotC has published for 5e haven't had that, which is one big problem I have with them and why I can't use them as designed. This wouldn't solve the out of character issue of players not really becoming familiar with their characters, but I'm not sure there's an easy fix for that that could be implemented in adventure design.
2) This one can be addressed by loosening the expectation that you make a character, play a campaign, then when it's finished repeat. Published mega-adventures that encourage you to create two characters and choose which to play at each new section of the adventure (punctuated by downtime so it's easy to justify the switch), would help a lot. Dark Sun used to have something like this, and maybe WotC could implement the idea in a Dark Sun mega-adventure. People getting into a habit of alternating what campaigns they are playing in their weekly sessions might help also, but while you could create a mega-adventure that would teach people how to do that*, I don't have the ear of WotC so the likelihood of that idea getting to anyone who has the capacity to make it happen to even consider the concept it isn't anything I have power over.
3) This is one that is entirely a choice that the group or DM makes and it would be harder to publish something that would do much. Sure, the next book of miscelania like Xanathar's Guide to Everything could have a section on running a persistent world continuity, with a lot of guidelines and such, but that's not something most people are going to get much out of (we've already determined on ENWorld that a lot of DMs haven't even read the DMG!) I think it's possible that there is a way to do this, but I'm hungry now so I'm going to finish up this post rather than try to brainstorm something.

So the moral of the story apparently ended up being that WotC wields godlike power over the future of gaming and they need to be more responsible in publishing adventures that validate multiple playstyles rather than their current approach which primarily teaches new gamers that the way to play D&D is with the fast advancement Theme Campaign model.

*The adventure would basically need to have two separate but related adventures--maybe one on the Material Plane and one in the Shadowfell or Feywild, and you'd make a party of characters to play in each of them, with the subsections set up so that you switch between them ever few sessions. This would expose people to the experience, and then groups might be more likely to split their play experience in other ways.
 


ccs

40th lv DM
I own two of them, Storm King (because the first half of my 5-year campaign was all about giants and I thought I could mine it for ideas and encounters, which I did) and Dragon Heist (because I thought a D&D heist sounded cool but, uh, yeah). It's been a while since I read Storm King, but it came off as kind of one-note overall. For such a long thing, I'd like more variety, but I don't have a good idea of how long it actually plays.
I believe SKT took us about 4.5-5 months of weekly 4 hr sessions. We started it roughly mid-August & ended late Jan/early Feb. Of course there were the several obligatory missed sessions over the holidays. And some sessions we were just farting about, on top of already "wasting" roughly an hour of play time each session anyways. So we could've probably shaved off a month if we'd been more serious/focused (but that'd spoil what we enjoy about our sessions....)


Dragon Heist (other than just feeling a bit miffed at it overall because of expectations) comes off as bothersome to run, which defeats the point of using it.
I know that feeling as I'm prepping to run it myself this coming session.
DH.... Has potential.
But it's one of those things that 1st you need to read the entire thing (in this case read most of it 4 times), pull it all apart, throw out the garbage, & reassemble the remaining bits in some order that makes sense to you & would entertain your table. (fortunately I'm pretty good at that)
If you run it straight? As written? You'll have boring disjointed railroady crap.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Depends.

In Star Wars we have a sort of “the campaign never ends” attitude. If 5 years pass between sessions in our Tapani nobles in the Unknown Regions campaign, we just have an ambivalent time jump, and start the session with a hook as if it were a season premiere.

In D&D , for whatever reason, we want a clear story with an ending. Usually we have goals and conflicts that will need high levels to fully resolve, and so games go well into the teens. As for how long they last in real time...couldn’t tell ya. Some are built to be short, telling a specific story arc over 1-5 sessions, while others have lasted a decade, or close to it.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
A little over a year to two years, playing 8-hour sessions one and rarely twice a month.

I've done milestone leveling where each session or two the players start at a new level with the understanding that years may have gone by and the party is called together one more time to confront some evil or another, with some plot lines that weave across the entire campaign. Allows us to play every level without having to commit to many years of play.

Curse of Strahd was played with modified milestone leveling for staring at 3rd level and ending at 9th. That lasted a bit over year.

Currently I'm running Rappan Athuk (Frog God Games), which started with session 0 in November 2018. The characters are at 8th or 9th level after 20 months of play with about 8 hours play per month. So 160 hours, but probably closer to 180 because some months we played an extra session and some sessions run long. At this rate, it'll take another two years to finish the campaign. If the party gets board with Rappan Athuk we have the entire Lost Lands setting and wealth of associated adventures to choose from.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya!

Well, as an old curmudgeonly grognard here, I can honestly say that the concept of "when does a campaign end?" seems....odd. Probably because it's one of the things...top 5, maybe even top 3...that made me fall in love with RPG's back when I was a wee lad of 10 years old in 1980; "The game never ends..."

I mean, I have a character. Denakhan. He was 'born' in 1981, shortly after I started getting my footing in B/X D&D. I played/DM (we were kids and kinda took turns DM'ing for the first year...then I kinda just 'took the wheel' as DM)...anyway...6 years of constant 'play' later, moving into 1e AD&D, Denakhan is a 20th level Magic-User with a "God-Curse on him to not remember/use any of his Fighter stuff [F/MU]. About 5 or 6 years later, I made new friends and all that. Picked up Denakhan right where I left him (although only as a Player now). A decade or so after that, did a 'three-off' with him (same DM, couple different players)...picked up right where he left off). Right now, I guarantee I could go to my best bud's house and say "Hey, DM me for a few hours. Just wanna roll some dice and whatnot playing Denakhan", and my buddy would pull out the screen, and start with "Last time we played...I think you and Pic just exited the Bath House Dungeon in Birarwood, right? Oh, wait...no. It was a couple days later and that Brown Dragon with the disease-puke-breath showed up and you guys chased it off. Ok. Lets start...". Last time I played Denakhan? About 1997 or so I think?

So...it's the "same campaign", with the same characters, and the same timeline. It never "ends". We've made other PC's and played in that world and timeline. Different stories and whatnot...sometimes hearing of the exploits of our other PC's. It's what makes a "campaign" an actual "Campaign"....and not just s group of adventures that don't matter.

I guess the answer to "How long do you like your Campaigns to last?" would be: Forever. :)

HOWEVER...if we are just defining a "campaign" as nothing more than a series of adventures with the same 'story/PCs', as a self-contained "one-off campaign"...so a beginning, middle and definitive end... I'd say....two years. That's about right I think. Should be enough time to get a 1e PC from level 1 to about level 10 to 12.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
When it comes to a D&D campaign -- a series of connected adventures with a consistent cast of player characters -- how long do you prefer it go on for?
I like it to be between 50% and 200% of the time that the person who pitched it said it would last. If they say "it's a six-session game where you track down a group of murderers" and we're ten sessions in with no end in sight, I'm disappointed that the GM is unable to control the pacing.If I have spent the time and energy to design a character for a 2-3 year Great Pendragon Campaign, and the GM concludes it in 6 sessions I'm also going to be unhappy.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I like it to be between 50% and 200% of the time that the person who pitched it said it would last. If they say "it's a six-session game where you track down a group of murderers" and we're ten sessions in with no end in sight, I'm disappointed that the GM is unable to control the pacing.If I have spent the time and energy to design a character for a 2-3 year Great Pendragon Campaign, and the GM concludes it in 6 sessions I'm also going to be unhappy.
I do not mean to quibble here, but how do you feel if a GM doesn't pitch a campaign length?
 




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