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General How long do you like your campaigns?

Haffrung

Adventurer
Ideally or what actually happens?

Normally they finish around level 8-12. Last one died at level 9 due to lockdown.
That's the question, isn't it? When you get to my age, you realize the two things - what you'd ideally wish for an RPG campaign, and what's likely to actually happen - are entirely different. And you learn to prepare for the latter rather than the former.

I would ideally like D&D campaigns to last two years, or from level 1 to 14. In practice, they tend to last about 8 months, or until level 7 or so at the rate we play.
 
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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?

A note before the discussion really starts: it doesn't matter to me for the context of this discussion whether you ar eplaying an AP, pre written adventures, totally homebrew content, Westmarches style, an absolute railroad or any of those other details. they may matter to you, of course, so please include them if you desire. I am more interested what folks feel is a good length for a campaign to go on for before moving on to something new.

I have two answers and they are pretty close in my preferences: forever, and brief. To expound:

I have an ongoing campaign that started in AD&D 2E and moved through 3.x, then Mutants and Masterminds and now switching to the Hero System (although we have been stalled out at that last one for a few reasons, not lease coronavirus). Now this campaigns is actually 3 from the perspective of talking about player characters, my my players and I agree that because things are so intimately connected by both PCs (many are descendants of the original PCs) and setting (their actions build the next version of the setting, generationally speaking) it is one long campaign.

Aside from that game, though, I prefer shorter campaigns, ranging from a few months to maybe a year and a half. This is primarily as a GM. I like trying new things and I get GM ADD, etc... If I am running a prewritten adventure (I am currently running Avernus) I definitely want it to be complete in under a year. If I am running a homebrew game or one using smaller prewritten adventures, I have more patience since it is easier to change things up with a singular adventures.

What I don't particularly like is the 5 year campaign that just sort of drags on.

So, what length campaign do you prefer?
Ideally eternal and evolving.

I like new characters being the kids of previous characters, and so on, who can continue the legacies of previous characters. Over days and years, players weave complex relationships and worlds, organically, as a kind of collaborative artwork.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Trying to finish my inaugural campaign that’s lasted 4 years. We’ve got 1 session left but scheduling it has been a pain. This week, fingers crossed.

Finished up a different 1 year long campaign, but with scheduling issues and shortish sessions it never felt like there was enough time to get stuck in.

So 1 year is too short, 4 years too long. I’m guessing 2 years of weekly 4 hour sessions would suit me. :)
 

werecorpse

Adventurer
I think about 5 years. I’ve run a couple of 15 year games which were the open ended campaigns but the story element of those games was often weak. I’ve run multiple single theme (paizo adventure path style) games which lasted about 2 years but you ended up with a character who was 15th+ level but had just had one long adventure so felt shallow by the time they retired. I think my best have been 3-6 years long with a strong main theme but also with Some multi session side quests (maybe character background ones).
 

dave2008

Legend
So, what length campaign do you prefer?
We do 2 things:
  1. Long campaigns. We are 6 years into our first 5e campaign and we are at lvl 15. Before the current campaign the average was 2-3 years and lvl 10 or so. We had one 4e campaign for basically the whole run of 4e and that only reached level 10.
  2. We run small one or 2 session adventures completely separate from our main campaign. We also do at least one at max / epic level and usually a couple to try our some house rules or different style of play.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
In my mind, one to a few sessions is a short campaign. Somewhere between that and a dozen sessions is something average and over that turns into longer campaigns.

I've always been a fan of longer campaigns. But lately I've been appreciating a shorter campaign. It always me to explore newer ideas more often, it allows us to appreciate a story's ending more often and, most importantly, it allows me to try new systems.
 



GrahamWills

Adventurer
I do not mean to quibble here, but how do you feel if a GM doesn't pitch a campaign length?
No, good question. I was a bit short on time when I posted, so now have the time to answer it here. Our group has several GMs and we like playing in multiple campaigns at the same time, so if someone pitches a game, we usually ask them how long they expect to run for. For the current campaigns here were the examples:

(I am running)
Flash Gordon (Savage Worlds): Pitched time -- every Friday night on Discord until we can play F2F, then I'll finish in 2-3 sessions
Jack! (Fate): Pitched time: ~ 12 sessions (currently suspended as I want to play it only F2F)

(I am playing in)
A Time to Harvest (Call of Cthulhu): Pitched time: published campaign I think taking 4-6 sessions
Shards of the Broken Sky (13A): Pitched time: It's a 1-7ish module, so about 20-24 sessions
Icons: No pitched time

So one of the campaigns has just started and we don't have an expected length for that. I'm not sure why -- I think we were just trying out the system and it became a regular thing.

In general, it does make me less excited about the campaign not to have a campaign length. It often means that the GM hasn't got a plan in mind for how things might go, and so the campaign will feel more disconnected. I'd expect the play to be more episodic and less cohesive. In general it makes me less excited to start a campaign.

Now I'm OK with "we'll start with a an arc of about 12 sessions, and then see where we go from there" -- that's a good answer. Maybe we'll feel we have told the stories of our characters and want to tell other stories. Maybe we'll be hitting our stride and want to go longer. But having an indication of length is a good thing.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
No, good question. I was a bit short on time when I posted, so now have the time to answer it here. Our group has several GMs and we like playing in multiple campaigns at the same time, so if someone pitches a game, we usually ask them how long they expect to run for.

[snip]

Now I'm OK with "we'll start with a an arc of about 12 sessions, and then see where we go from there" -- that's a good answer. Maybe we'll feel we have told the stories of our characters and want to tell other stories. Maybe we'll be hitting our stride and want to go longer. But having an indication of length is a good thing.
Thanks for answering!

I agree, table expectations matter, and if your table expects the GM to have an idea of length, at least for the first arc, then it's a good thing if the GM has that idea. Having just looked at the two campaigns I have going, it looks as though the introductory arc--the one that starts with all the PCs in the same place and time when something hits the fan--wants to run about eight sessions, then we can get into characters' stories or other knock-on events. I hadn't realized that both introductory arcs lasted eight sessions; that's a good thing to know about my campaigns.
 

Gilladian

Adventurer
I mentioned in my first answer that we switch to “new areas and new characters” every few years. But we play in the same campaign world, and often go back to the same general places, a few years later. Right now I’m working on moving forward 5 years in my favorite kingdom, where a new ruler has just inherited after a war. Pcs in that world have established that kingdom, overthrown one ruler, placed another on the throne, fought in a war, saved a Pprince from doom, etc... Current plans on my side include the new Ruler being an ancient evil lich magic jarred into the true Prince’s body. Who knows if the PCs will want to mess with that, but it will put a darker, more evil tone into the power structure than in the past. We shall see!
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
The last three completed campaigns I ran were 4 years (D&D 3.0->3.5), 7 years (D&D 3.5) and 4.5 years (13th Age). I have multiple 5e campaigns going, none are over. Those are playing bi-weekly, and are all homebrew.

The last couple of completed campaigns I've run in have been <1 year for hardcover APs, 2 years for homebrew. All 5e. If you go back to 4e campaigns we had two that fell apart without completion at the >2 year mark and one at the <1 year mark.
 

I have two answers and they are pretty close in my preferences: forever, and brief.
Similar here. I prefer either campaigns which have a pretty well-defined start and end point (and in D&D, might cover a relatively short span of levels), or campaigns which aren't specific campaigns at all, but just sort of go on and on until people get bored of them but which we tend might come back to.

What I have some difficulty with, myself, is the common like, 1-15, or 1-20-type campaigns. My experience, and this is strictly personal observation, not something I am claiming as a fact, is that they're long enough that they often lose focus, or stop being as interesting as they could be, but not as free or possible to leave and come back to as "forever" campaigns.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
What I have some difficulty with, myself, is the common like, 1-15, or 1-20-type campaigns. My experience, and this is strictly personal observation, not something I am claiming as a fact, is that they're long enough that they often lose focus, or stop being as interesting as they could be, but not as free or possible to leave and come back to as "forever" campaigns.
What I've been running, effectively, is campaigns that are probably 1-to-20-ish, but are in principle "1-to-people-get-tired-of-or-otherwise-retire-the-characters" campaigns. I don't do published adventures, so they're centered around goals the characters have, either from backstory or previous in-campaign events. I don't know that they're as unfocused as you are talking about, but I'll concede that leaving and coming back would be ... difficult, if only as a narrative thing.
 

Coroc

Hero
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. This of course means loads of character turnover and also less-frequent but still significant player turnover as time goes by. Interweaving parties and stories and dramas - think Game of Thrones style - where each "chapter" (adventure or adventure-series) might focus on a different party than the one before.

My current campaign is approaching 11.5 years. There's been a total of 12 players, not including the person who lasted for exactly one session, of which two have been in all the way through from start to now. Something like 200+ PCs have seen action, quite a few of which died quickly, a number more of which "sailed into the sunset" when their players left the game, and about 30-ish of which are still out there either currently* active or available to become so.

* - or would be were it not for disease-caused hiatus.
Wow, what world do you use? Some official or homebrew, and did you switch editions ? I am absolutely curious, has there been one goal defined that 11,5 years ago which is still not met? Or is it more an open world simulation?
 

Wow, what world do you use? Some official or homebrew, and did you switch editions ? I am absolutely curious, has there been one goal defined that 11,5 years ago which is still not met? Or is it more an open world simulation?
Im going to guess the answer is the latter. See, that’s how a lot of campaigns used to be. You create adventures or drop in ones you buy, there isn’t a theme, goal, or plot defining the campaign overall.

I continue to find it tragic how the more recent publishing model has made this type of campaign seem so foreign to so many players.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Wow, what world do you use? Some official or homebrew, and did you switch editions ? I am absolutely curious, has there been one goal defined that 11,5 years ago which is still not met? Or is it more an open world simulation?
The setting is completely homebrew, the "edition" is modified 1e which is by now (almost 40 years into its 'development') also mostly homebrew, though the 1e underpinnings are still visible.

There's been several story lines come and go during that time, but underneath it all have been two parallel (but not really connected) plot arcs which parties brush against now and then without realizing it and sometimes intentionally delve right into; both of which have a fair amount of untapped material yet remaining. There's also been lots of standalone adventures and a few standalone adventure series (e.g. 1e's Slavers A-series, considerably modified so the players familiar with them wouldn't be).

Once we get back to regular play my guess is there's at least 2 to 5 years left in it yet; more if I then reboot from level 1 and run an adventure path in the same setting based on some other things they've brushed against over time.
 

Coroc

Hero
The setting is completely homebrew, the "edition" is modified 1e which is by now (almost 40 years into its 'development') also mostly homebrew, though the 1e underpinnings are still visible.

There's been several story lines come and go during that time, but underneath it all have been two parallel (but not really connected) plot arcs which parties brush against now and then without realizing it and sometimes intentionally delve right into; both of which have a fair amount of untapped material yet remaining. There's also been lots of standalone adventures and a few standalone adventure series (e.g. 1e's Slavers A-series, considerably modified so the players familiar with them wouldn't be).

Once we get back to regular play my guess is there's at least 2 to 5 years left in it yet; more if I then reboot from level 1 and run an adventure path in the same setting based on some other things they've brushed against over time.
Amazing, your amount and quality of book keeping hast to be tremendous.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Amazing, your amount and quality of book keeping hast to be tremendous.
Maybe it is and I'm just used to it, but I'm not sure it's any more than anyone else does.

To me the key is up-front prep, as in spending a lot of time on setting design and history etc. before the campaign even starts such that once the puck drops you only have to worry about the day-to-day stuff and the background will largely take care of itself. The only time I have to revisit this later is if-when some PCs go into a whole new region of the world (or worse, a whole new world) and stay there long enough to oblige me to provide local info e.g. maps, pantheons, cultures, etc.

After each session I type up the game log (takes half an hour maybe, largely done from memory) and put it online as the record of the game. My during-session bookkeeping is atrocious as I just can't talk and write at the same time and I don't want to stop every little while to make notes.
 


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