How Many Actual Sessions Do Your Campaigns Last?

uzirath

Adventurer
I ran a single ongoing D&D campaign in college for four years, probably averaging 15 sessions per year. Advancement was slow, so the original PCs were in the low teen levels by the end of the game.

After college, I ran a long lasting GURPS campaign for about 10 years (interspersed with lots of shorter games). Characters were quite powerful by the end of it, and I remember that many players weren't even spending all of their earned points anymore. They were focused on the plot and their PCs felt fully fleshed out. Character points were banked for things that made sense in the story, whether small things (spending a point on Seamanship after an ocean voyage) or big things (adding a major new power after completing a big quest).

I took a hiatus for some years after that (new job, starting a family, moving across the country, etc.). Recently I've picked things up again. Ran a few short 5e campaigns, and then launched an 18-session DFRPG game. We might go back to it at some point, but we completed a major arc in that time. I'm now in the midst of another DFRPG game that's run about six sessions.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
My current campaign will have at least 4 sessions more than I will have run... my eldest is sharing the GM seat. We're somewhere around 20 sessions in.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
My current GURPS campaign, "Infinite Cabal", has been running every fortnight since late 2010. There was one gap of about a year, but I think we've had about 190 sessions, back-calculating from character point totals. It probably has about another year to go.
 
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uzirath

Adventurer
My current GURPS campaign, "Infinite Cabal", has been running every fortnight since late 2010. There was one gap of about a year, but I think we've had about 190 sessions, back-calculating from character point totals. It probably has about another year to go.
I'm curious to learn a bit more about this. What point level did you start at? What are they at now? How have the challenges evolved over time?
 

John Dallman

Explorer
They started at 300 points, and are now a little over 800. There has never been much combat: it's mostly exploration and discovery, with diplomacy arising out of it. The characters work for a Cabal lodge based on a world in the 1720s, where Isaac Newton's occult researches went rather well. This let me have a Cabal campaign that is less about plotting against each other, and more about discovering how the universe works.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You are correct if we are playing D&D. But, a system with 10 levels, completely doable. But D&D would not offer time. I agree.

As for railroading, if you have five objectives that they need to accomplish
See below...
have a system that doesn't make ever piece of combat an hour, and are know your world - this gives them plenty of time to steer the ship and delve deeper into the setting. Once you make combat 60 minutes out of the 4 hours instead of 120 or 180 minutes, you can dig pretty deep into the realm.
Agreed with the second part of the above quote - speeding up combat can make a big difference.

But the first bit I'd take some issue with. Sure, at campaign start the players/PCs might be presented with five objectives...but is that all they're allowed? What happens if they find (or invent) a 6th and a 7th?

I'll try to dream up an example here - forgive me if it's not the best:

At campaign start, during some exposition phase, the PCs and players learn their aim is to accomplish these goals:

1. Put an end to the Orc raids from the hills to the north - with a few exceptions their loot will become yours as your reward if you finish them off
2. Find out what became of Harold the Wizard, who vanished two years ago today - rumour has it he may have been captured by Orcish raiders and his family have offered a nice reward for info
3. Determine if the northern Orcs are being secretly supported by the neighbouring realm of Westmarch - your own realm of Larenth would reward you handsomely for solid proof here
4. If yes to 3, go into Westmarch undercover to root out and expose the source of that support - again funded and rewarded by your own realm if successful
5. If successful at 4, find out if this goes any further - is there yet another player seeking to cause instability between Larenth and Westmarch or is this all 'homegrown'.

(the GM already knows how this all ties together: Harold's been a secret agent all along and is now operating undercover in Westmarch; but he's actually working for a cabal of foreign wizards who would like nothing better than a war between Larenth and Westmarch so they can swoop in and take over two weakened realms afterwards - the party just have to connect the dots from some clues they (with any luck!) find as they go along)

So there's your five goals - but why stop there? If everyone's still into it after this all plays out (say, 10-12 sessions in) why not leave it open-ended enough that they can, should they so desire:

6. Investigate and then go after the wizard cabal Harold had been working for
7. Run diplomatic missions between Larenth and Westmarch, to prevent the war that you might otherwise have just triggered (maybe with different PCs?)
8. Follow up on rumours of some Giants slowly encroaching from the southeast
9. <etc. etc. etc.; and before you know it 10-12 sessions might have become a few years or more...>
 

Aebir-Toril

Is lukewarm on the Forgotten Realms
I tend to run 24* sessions per year for each campaign (of which I'm currently doing only one). Bi-monthly meetings seem to work for my group, but we may be able to switch to weekly sessions soon.


*Minus sick days and vacations, usually 20 sessions or so are left for play time.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Other than D&D I run one-shots.

I'm on my third campaign since 5e came out.

First campaign. Homebrew setting. Twenty eight-hour sessions, one level per session.

Second campaign, Curse of Strahd, using a form of party-milestone leveling bases on locations explored, antagonists defeated, macguffins found, and quests accomplished. Were 9th level when they defeated Strahd. Ten 8-hour sessions.

Current campaign. Rappan Athuk. I have no idea. This could go for years. Leveling is based on training that requires XP, which is awarded on a 1 XP per 1 GP basis plus some milestone XP for particularly difficult encounters or accomplishments and the occasional level jump due to magic--this is an old-school gonzo setting. So far seven session, six 8 hours sessions and one 12-hour session, so a total of 60 hours played to date.

Note that for my homebrew campaign and for my current Rappan Athuk game, there is a lot of time playing downtime sub-system games between sessions. We take care of training and leveling between sessions. Downtime activities are played out by e-mail or the occasional one-on-one get together with a player. We are also using Matthew Coleville's Strongholds & Followers book and a significant amount of time is spent between sessions discussing the building, leveling, and other activities related to raising and supporting their strongholds.
 

Scottius

Explorer
I have two groups that meet each week, around 3-4 hour sessions. When I'm a player most games run around 1-2 months it seems. Usually that's the time it takes to complete what was planned. I'm the longer term GM, my games can run months or often years. My current Wednesday night DCC game is running on two years now.
 
My 5E campaign just concluded this past week. It began in September 2014. We played 77 sessions over that time taking several breaks for other games and then picking the campaign back up. Average session was about 3 hours so a little over 230 hours of play. At some point in the future I plan to run an extension to the campaign. The PCs are all 20th level and I want to play around with some epic level stuff.
 
See below... Agreed with the second part of the above quote - speeding up combat can make a big difference.

But the first bit I'd take some issue with. Sure, at campaign start the players/PCs might be presented with five objectives...but is that all they're allowed? What happens if they find (or invent) a 6th and a 7th?

I'll try to dream up an example here - forgive me if it's not the best:

At campaign start, during some exposition phase, the PCs and players learn their aim is to accomplish these goals:

1. Put an end to the Orc raids from the hills to the north - with a few exceptions their loot will become yours as your reward if you finish them off
2. Find out what became of Harold the Wizard, who vanished two years ago today - rumour has it he may have been captured by Orcish raiders and his family have offered a nice reward for info
3. Determine if the northern Orcs are being secretly supported by the neighbouring realm of Westmarch - your own realm of Larenth would reward you handsomely for solid proof here
4. If yes to 3, go into Westmarch undercover to root out and expose the source of that support - again funded and rewarded by your own realm if successful
5. If successful at 4, find out if this goes any further - is there yet another player seeking to cause instability between Larenth and Westmarch or is this all 'homegrown'.

(the GM already knows how this all ties together: Harold's been a secret agent all along and is now operating undercover in Westmarch; but he's actually working for a cabal of foreign wizards who would like nothing better than a war between Larenth and Westmarch so they can swoop in and take over two weakened realms afterwards - the party just have to connect the dots from some clues they (with any luck!) find as they go along)

So there's your five goals - but why stop there? If everyone's still into it after this all plays out (say, 10-12 sessions in) why not leave it open-ended enough that they can, should they so desire:

6. Investigate and then go after the wizard cabal Harold had been working for
7. Run diplomatic missions between Larenth and Westmarch, to prevent the war that you might otherwise have just triggered (maybe with different PCs?)
8. Follow up on rumours of some Giants slowly encroaching from the southeast
9. <etc. etc. etc.; and before you know it 10-12 sessions might have become a few years or more...>
I am with you, especially if the players start creating their own objectives. But, (and I wasn't clear, and apparently didn't edit very well either) I was talking about a system with strictly ten levels. I am all for a group continuing if they want. However, a system with only ten levels, to me, tightens things up. For some, it may feel like a straightjacket. But, all I have to do is look at authors or tv shows that can't wrap their stories up, and imho, it's a lot of wasted creative space. If Hemmingway can tell a fantastic story in one book, with complete story arcs and character development, then other authors should be able to do the same. Same with tv. Walking Dead should have ended after season two. Move on to new characters. Same world. Develop the world all you want. But, new setting and characters with new arcs. (Sorry for the tangent.)

But, I do understand this is my own taste. Others want Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. It just seems to me that D&D does not offer the brevity I think some want. It's built (if you want to see all character arcs) to be 20 levels. And after 8th level, almost all combat is over an hour, especially with six or more players. Don't get me wrong. System is great. And built perfectly for 20 levels. Plus it's diverse. The campaigns I've been a part of are so vastly different (fortress building, home building, etc.) or quest (travel from here to there) that I'm often amazed at what a great job the rules do to support this diversity. Yet, to wrap up a campaign takes an extraordinary amount of time. Look at most people who post here (hardcore gamers). Their campaigns take years. Years! I say good for them. Mine have too.

But, there should be something else. Campaign driven. Story. Exploration. Combat. etc. But, story arc and character arcs are completed in ten sessions. Who knows, sometimes restrictions breed creativity. Think of musicians renting out studio time, an author on a deadline, or a DM deciding the story needs to move forward. ;)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I am with you, especially if the players start creating their own objectives. But, (and I wasn't clear, and apparently didn't edit very well either) I was talking about a system with strictly ten levels. I am all for a group continuing if they want. However, a system with only ten levels, to me, tightens things up. For some, it may feel like a straightjacket.
Levels ain't no straightjacket, laddie! :)

My current campaign is well over ten years in now, and the highest-level PCs are 10th. There's a small chance one of 'em - maybe even two! - might make 11th by year's end. It'll hit 800 sessions early next month unless something goes very much adrift.

How's this possible? Running multiple parties side-along in game-world time but sequentially in real-world time, players running multiple characters and cycling them in and out, an open-ended series of available storylines, and my own expectation that the game will run until either a) nobody wants to play in it any more or b) I and the players run out of story ideas or c) I die.

But, all I have to do is look at authors or tv shows that can't wrap their stories up, and imho, it's a lot of wasted creative space. If Hemmingway can tell a fantastic story in one book, with complete story arcs and character development, then other authors should be able to do the same. Same with tv. Walking Dead should have ended after season two. Move on to new characters. Same world. Develop the world all you want. But, new setting and characters with new arcs. (Sorry for the tangent.)
What you see as wasted creative space others see as depth and breadth.

Any competent author can tell a good story in one book, and not even a long one at that. But that brevity comes at cost of fully exploring the author's setting and - to some extent - characters; and while further setting exploration is possible with new characters it's just as possible - but easier - with characters who are already familiar.

But, I do understand this is my own taste. Others want Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. It just seems to me that D&D does not offer the brevity I think some want. It's built (if you want to see all character arcs) to be 20 levels.
Personally, I see this as a design mistake - it should be open-ended, but with the higher levels increasingly hard to achieve.

And after 8th level, almost all combat is over an hour, especially with six or more players. Don't get me wrong. System is great. And built perfectly for 20 levels. Plus it's diverse. The campaigns I've been a part of are so vastly different (fortress building, home building, etc.) or quest (travel from here to there) that I'm often amazed at what a great job the rules do to support this diversity. Yet, to wrap up a campaign takes an extraordinary amount of time. Look at most people who post here (hardcore gamers). Their campaigns take years. Years! I say good for them. Mine have too.
And so they should, IMO! :)

But, there should be something else. Campaign driven. Story. Exploration. Combat. etc. But, story arc and character arcs are completed in ten sessions. Who knows, sometimes restrictions breed creativity. Think of musicians renting out studio time, an author on a deadline, or a DM deciding the story needs to move forward. ;)
Sounds like hard-line adventure paths are what you're after. Pathfinder has a bunch of these (of varying quality, from really good to don't bother) - you just have to either convert them to 5e or teach your crew PF; and then strip out anything non-essential.
 
Levels ain't no straightjacket, laddie! :)

My current campaign is well over ten years in now, and the highest-level PCs are 10th. There's a small chance one of 'em - maybe even two! - might make 11th by year's end. It'll hit 800 sessions early next month unless something goes very much adrift.

How's this possible? Running multiple parties side-along in game-world time but sequentially in real-world time, players running multiple characters and cycling them in and out, an open-ended series of available storylines, and my own expectation that the game will run until either a) nobody wants to play in it any more or b) I and the players run out of story ideas or c) I die.

What you see as wasted creative space others see as depth and breadth.

Any competent author can tell a good story in one book, and not even a long one at that. But that brevity comes at cost of fully exploring the author's setting and - to some extent - characters; and while further setting exploration is possible with new characters it's just as possible - but easier - with characters who are already familiar.

Sounds like hard-line adventure paths are what you're after. Pathfinder has a bunch of these (of varying quality, from really good to don't bother) - you just have to either convert them to 5e or teach your crew PF; and then strip out anything non-essential.
Sounds like your campaign is incredible! Must be a quite a few character arcs going on there, as well as world building. Leads me to think you do a fabulous job as GM.

I do have to say I disagree about depth and breadth. Maybe "wasted" was a little too strong of a word. But, I feel there are only so many memorable scenes. Obviously, people have different limits on the amount of memorable scenes they retain. But, a memorable scene is... a memorable scene, and keeping it with the same characters doesn't make it any more memorable. Whenever I hear anyone mention Jordan's characters or Asimov's or Salvator's or King's Dark Tower series, it's always the first few books. It is never what Drizzt did in book eight or Perin did in book ten. It is always the first few books. And these are people who read them all. Hence, why I feel if you stopped after the Icewind Dale trilogy, you could have focused that creativity on new characters. But, the world of publishing has to make money. Hence, why almost all fantasy books are series.

And thanks for the PF suggestion. I've run one, Skull and Shackles (great fun), and some of the D&D ones. Also have run some individual adventures. Just bought Ghost of Saltmarsh. Apart from nostalgia, the intro is great. Very sandbox. The adventures all look fun. Played one with Adventurers League. Was ok, but those situations seem a bit askew anyway.

As always, thanks for the conversation. Your replies are always insightful.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sounds like your campaign is incredible! Must be a quite a few character arcs going on there, as well as world building. Leads me to think you do a fabulous job as GM.
Thanks for that, though there's some as would [justifiably!] debate those claims. :)

I do have to say I disagree about depth and breadth. Maybe "wasted" was a little too strong of a word. But, I feel there are only so many memorable scenes. Obviously, people have different limits on the amount of memorable scenes they retain. But, a memorable scene is... a memorable scene, and keeping it with the same characters doesn't make it any more memorable. Whenever I hear anyone mention Jordan's characters or Asimov's or Salvator's or King's Dark Tower series, it's always the first few books. It is never what Drizzt did in book eight or Perin did in book ten. It is always the first few books. And these are people who read them all.
In part that's because the first bit of something you encounter is what tends to stick in the memory, no matter how much comes after or how good it may be.

I've read Wheel of Time from stem to stern and while I remember some specific scenes I mostly couldn't tell you whether they're from Book 1 or Book 9 or Book 6 - probably one from each, for all I know. (side note: the main game-design-related thing I took from WoT was the dreamworld Tel'haran'rhiod (or however it's spelled - sigh) and how it all worked by mental control. Still trying to figure out, years later, how to somehow port this into an off-plane game setting)

Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, however, goes on forever and is good all the way through...says he, currently most of the way through re-reading the novels yet again. :)

And thanks for the PF suggestion. I've run one, Skull and Shackles (great fun), and some of the D&D ones. Also have run some individual adventures. Just bought Ghost of Saltmarsh. Apart from nostalgia, the intro is great. Very sandbox. The adventures all look fun. Played one with Adventurers League. Was ok, but those situations seem a bit askew anyway.
From all I can tell, AL is its own breed of animal and not always representative of what a home campaign looks like.

I've heard good things about Ghosts of Saltmarsh but haven't looked it over yet.

As always, thanks for the conversation. Your replies are always insightful.
Thanks! :)
 

Johnny3D3D

Adventurer
I'd say somewhere between 30-60 sessions for the typical campaign involving the primary face-to-face group. We're currently on a break due to real life getting in the way, but our usual schedule is once per week, for about 5 hours of game time each session. Most of us are also friends outside of gaming, so it's not unusual for us to spend a lot of time together; the occasional game day might be cancelled in favor of playing frisbee or doing something else if the mood for gaming gives way to something else. But... all things considered? I suppose that puts us at somewhere between 150-300 hours in a year.

For online games, I'm not sure how exactly to quantify what constitutes a "session" in a play-by-post game. Many fizzle out after a few months. The most successful one in, in which I was a player, was (imo) an awesome and incredibly fun game on Rpol which lasted a few years. It was a game set in Greyhawk, but using GURPS 4E rules.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I tend to run character focused games that run in seasons of generally 10-12 sessions. Some games will get a 2nd or 3rd season usually with some changes in the fiction between seasons, but seldom back to back. When I run heavier games like 4e or Exalted it tends to be seasons of 25 or so. Basically HBO drama versus prime time series.

I'm generally not a fan of longer form games because I find the focus tends to be less on the characters being protagonists and becomes more like a serial.
 
general topic

I had a conversation with one of my friends lately about how long campaigns actually last in reality (as opposed to the lofty goals of Game Masters, the ideals of players, and the intent of designers). While both of us have had outlier experiences of year-long (or two years long) campaigns, we found that in practice, it's been much shorter for an average campaign.

Despite the actual player composition, most of our games meet biweekly (with the occasional skipped session due to real world situations). We've found that most games last between 8-12 sessions (or in real-world time, between 4-6 months.)
it lasts for 2-3months
 
With only one exception in the last 40 years, every campaign I have begun I have approached as if it will last forever. With the aforementioned exception, every campaign I began has ended more or less with a whimper. Players have drifted in and out with school, jobs, interest in playing RPG's in general, and eventually the campaign dies away when there isn't a quorum - or I myself burn out.

The "exception game" was a highly successful 3E campaign. I began it with the specific intent to have it definitively end one way or another when PC's reached 20th level, or thereabouts. I had something of a story arc to work with (though a huge amount was improvised as I went along), and wanted that arc and that campaign to END rather than fizzle away. It was a perfect storm of circumstances that allowed that to happen because I felt I could keep the game running with mostly the same players and PC's all the way. It was something like a year to a year and a half of real time, playing quite regularly once a week for about 6 hours.

I just don't forsee real life circumstances allowing that to happen again. Ever since that campaign it's been the usual: We play until the wheels fall off. Then there is typically a period of time without a game. Then we start again. Campaigns may last 8 sessions, 12 sessions, or 50 sessions. Won't ever know where the end is until we get there.

Most importantly - I'm okay with that.
 

DragonLancer

Visitor
I'd say for my group a campaign lasts 25-30 sessions, although the last few years we have been playing the various Pathfinder adventure paths which tend to cap out about 16th level. A full old style campaign going up to 20th, would probably take about 40 sessions for us.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya!

We do three types of campaigns.

NOTES:
Length of Session since about 2000: Typically about 5 hours, sometimes 6, occasionally only 4.
Length of Session before 2000: Typically 8 hours.
Length of Session before 1990: Typically 12 to 14 hours.
(...man...to be young again with no real life stuff to get in the way of what REALLY matters!... ;) ).

Almost all of those sessions were on a weekly basis. With the exception of pre-90's. Those were every Sat & Sun, & School Holidays, and pretty much every single day from June to Sept 1st. Yeah...we played a LOT in school/high-school days!

Anyway, three types...:

"Test Runs"
These campaigns are for when we want to try a new game or version. They can last anywhere from a single session, to about a half-dozen. Typically about 5 hours, sometimes 6, occasionally only 4.

"Mini-Campaigns"
These campaigns are for when we want to 'get into' a game. These are usually about 8 to 12 sessions (2 to 3 months). Sometimes these turn into regular campaigns.

"Regular Campaign"
No time limit. Hell, if I end up playing with a couple of high-school friends we just pick up where we left off a couple decades ago. I guess the longest running campaign I have 'going' started back in about 1981 when I picked up the World of Greyhawk Folio and we 'transferred' our B/X characters into the 1e game system. Been playing that ever since. Now, don't get too impressed...as I said, we never really 'stopped' it and when I do get to hang out with the old gang, we just pick up from the last 'session'. That last session was probably 1998? Maybe a bit latter? My character, Denakhan the Arch-Mage (20th level grey elf MU; 1e), along with another friends pixie faerry PC called Pik (annoying little pita!) just got out of the "Bath House Dungeon" under the streets of the Citystate of the Invincible Overlord and heading to Teeble Kegbetters tavern. Teeble is a halfling thief of another friend who, alas, died back in the early 2000's; still miss you Dave! :(

But if I'm limiting myself to "more or less continuous play", I'd say the average "regular campaign" lasts about 2 to 3 years. Alas, due to that pesky thing called "Life", we haven't done a true Regular Campaign in a decade. :( Nowadays? Lucky to have a Regular Campaign last more than half that.

Side Note: This is one of the reasons why I still don't consider all those "Adventure Paths" to be "campaigns". They aren't. They are just longer adventures. After an AP is done, it is expected that the Players will all roll up new PC's and do a completely different AP that has zero connection to the one they just did. It may be "fun as a game and pass time", but it sure as heck isn't what an actual Campaign was expected to be; a continuous timeline with the same PC's or new ones picking up at the same time the last ones retired/died. But, I'm an old and crotchety grognard with a serious case of Grognardis Curmudgeonitis. I've accepted my fate. ;)
 
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