Poor DM/ Game Advice

Todd Roybark

Explorer
I have read multiple times on this board advice to the effect “ if a story line is completed it is ok to end the campaign”.
Which to my mind is liking stoping a play, after a great First Act.
The key to a Long Running campaign is the same as having a long relationship....don’t end it.😜

It is natural, and sometimes beneficial to flounder a bit. It gives time for tensions to unwind, and for serendipity and inspiration to happen, on both sides of the screen.

It is ok for the second act to have a slow start, or a sudden start from nowhere.

Good games die for so many reasons out of one’s control, moving away, being deployed, births, deaths etc,
it seems a shame to just surrender the chance to have a long run.

Setting aside game killers that are uncontrollable, what is it that stops games at 5th level?
What is causing groups to retire at 12th? etc

(Note: a planned one off, is not what I am referring to.)
 

Stormonu

Hero
Drinking soured milk doesn't save it from being thrown out.

There is nothing wrong with stopping a game when the players and/or GM feel it has reached a satisfying (or even unsatisfying end). I've got dozens of character ideas, game books and other things that are more worthy of my time than extending a campaign that has lost its freshness - or has become a chore.
 

Dausuul

Legend
"If a story line is completed it is ok to end the campaign."

This advice is perfectly sound and there is nothing wrong with it. It is okay to end the campaign. It is not required. But the DM has, at that point, delivered on the campaign's original promise. If they're not feeling excited to keep going, they should feel free to wrap it up and either try something new or hand the DM screen to someone else. The DM's fun is just as important as anyone else's*.

I've tried to keep a campaign going after the original idea was done. Without fail, every one of these efforts meandered around for a while, got nowhere, and petered out. Nothing burns me out like trying to keep a story going after it's reached its logical conclusion.

These days, I focus on bringing the campaign to a satisfying finish, and when it's done, it's done. Time to hang up my hat and let somebody else run a game. By the time they're done, I'll have a new idea I'm fired up to try.

*In fact, I would say it's more important, for two reasons. First, the DM puts in most of the work. And second, if the DM isn't having fun, the campaign usually suffers.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Not every campaign need be open-ended. I plan for a regular campaign to be 20 to 30 sessions of play, each about 4 hours long, then we move on to something new. My current Eberron campaign is on its 27th session and I figure it'll wrap in about 3 sessions (1st to about 12th level). That is sufficient in my view to create a lot of good stories and fun experiences together without the "floundering" that you think is okay (I don't).

I think DMs are well-advised to consider how long a campaign ought to take in real time given the constraints in the group. Sometimes shorter campaigns are a better fit for the group's preferences, schedule, or commitment. It's a good idea in my view to give this a hard look as a group and try to find the best fit.
 

Todd Roybark

Explorer
Folks if you are reading my post and thinking I am saying there is only one correct way to play, I’m not.
A long running campaign certainly does not have to be open ended.
A campaign is not like soured milk, it can be un-soured or it’s sourness used.

Those throwing shade have you played in a long game to know what you are missing if anything?

This board is so quick to be dismissive off a title post, ohh please.

Dausuul post makes clear that they have multiple people that can DM.
That is not true for some, perhaps most groups. His post also made it clear that when he DMs he has a firm idea in mind of the campaign, and when his idea has ran its course he is done DMing.

Cool, it is a great setup.

Dausuul I want to ask, have the players ever wanted to continue playing after the idea ran it’s course? It reads like it has from your post.

So for you, the game stopped because playing further was no longer fun?

I’m just trying to understand why games don’t go longer.

The answer of planned demolition for campaigns is how we prefer to play is fine

but is it the norm?

If you are not interested in the idea, don’t post.....I’m not interested in your shade
polite cough Charlaquin.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
There's some truth to what you are saying. Just because the original story arc of a campaign has been completed doesn't mean that there can't be subsequent arcs in the same campaign that are just as enjoyable. In a lot of ways, that general concept is what sets a campaign apart from an adventure.

That said, it's a decision for the group (in particular the DM). High level play is a different beast. Players often gain access to game breaking magic, for starters. I don't mind it myself. I generally create a new game world for each campaign I run, so it's intended for players to "wreck" it. I also don't mind powerful PCs. A DM can always challenge the PCs given that the DM is only limited by their imagination, but not every DM feels that way. Some don't want to have to deal with the shenanigans that a high level character brings to the table.

In any case, I get wanting to end a campaign when it seems completed. I used to run more story oriented games, and when the story was complete the campaign was finished. It made sense. I had run the story I was looking to run.

Nowadays I run a more sandbox style game. So "completed" takes on a different context, as there is no fixed end point.

Even so, a few years ago I was running a game where the characters had made it to 19th level. I mentioned to the players that we were almost at the end. However, I didn't want to deny them the chance to experience level 20, so I asked them if they wanted me to pad the game with an extra session or three. It would have involved hunting down the BBEG. Despite that they were enjoying the game, the vote was unanimous to skip any filler. The game had been going strong and they wanted to end it on a high note, even if that meant it ended at level 19 instead of 20. So that's what we did, the BBEG came for them, and the players loved the ending. They still talk about it as one of my best campaigns.

You're not wrong per se. However, it's fairly risky advice. Going out on a strong note is desirable. IMO, most groups (particularly the DMs) would rather end a campaign early with a strong finish than have the campaign die the death of a thousand cuts, dragged out beyond it's natural span with everyone just wishing it would end (been in a few of those games).

If you want a campaign that can last multiple "stories", my advice would be to use a sandbox. Rather than having a fixed plot, allow the story to emerge from play. That way when one "story" finishes, the players are free to pursue the next point of interest on their agenda. And if they're out of those, it's probably time to end it.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
To be honest, the OP sounds more like a player trying to argue DM's should run until the PCs hit 20 because they've never gotten to play high levels rather than a DM offering experienced advice on how to actually run long campaigns.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Folks if you are reading my post and thinking I am saying there is only one correct way to play, I’m not.
A long running campaign certainly does not have to be open ended.
A campaign is not like soured milk, it can be un-soured or it’s sourness used.
Sure... it can. But for many people, the answer is "Why?"

You get no bonus points for continuing to run a game after a chapter conclusion. Just like you don't get any point for ending a game after a chapter conclusion. In fact, there are no bonus points at all.

If the players and the DM want to keep playing in the current campaign with the current players, they will. If any of them wish to stop, they will. There's nothing gained or lost for doing either of those things.

So to answer your question as to why don't games run longer? The answer is "Some do, and some don't. And every group has a different reason why." And you're not going to glean anything useful from any of the answers.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
There's nothing magical here. If the "campaign" is "done," but the DM and players still have a lot of enthusiasm and ideas... keep going.

If your "campaign" is "done" and you (or the players) don't have a lot of enthusiasm or ideas, but just keep pushing through because, uh, something-- that's when the advise is to stop.

The key is enthusiasm. That's what makes great games, either long-running or short. A lot of DMs and players push past their enthusiasm and then games and groups die.
 

MarkB

Hero
Good games die for so many reasons out of one’s control, moving away, being deployed, births, deaths etc,
it seems a shame to just surrender the chance to have a long run.
Good games also die if they stop being good - whether it's because the players are looking for a change of pace, or the DM is having trouble finding inspiration for a new storyline set in the same campaign.

As with relationships, sometimes the desperate attempts to keep a campaign going after the magic has gone out of it can be a far worse experience than making a clean break.

But unlike relationships, ending a campaign doesn't have to mean splitting up. Often, it means just starting a new game with the same people, reinvigorated by the chance to try something different.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
But unlike relationships, ending a campaign doesn't have to mean splitting up. Often, it means just starting a new game with the same people, reinvigorated by the chance to try something different.
Um .... that's kind of the kinky version of campaigns. Other people prefer to be all like, "Dear Legolas .... it's not a problem with your campaign. It's a problem with my campaign. Really."

Anyway, my personal view is that the whole "AP" thing is one way (but only one way) to do a campaign. And if you are doing an AP, then the campaign tends to have a natural end point.

OTOH, if you just start characters in a world, then they tend to adventure until they have reached their goals (whatever they may be), or die, or become NPCs (retire). And that might be a different point for different individuals. I'm not sure that there is a necessarily "natural" end point to that- it's whatever works for the table.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
You know it is interesting how things come about. Our group fully intended to end our current campaign this last Saturday. But, things ended in such a way, and the other players changed their minds, deciding they wanted to move on to the end part.

So, the campaign ends where there is not enough interest in continuing or the DM flatly states (to the moans and groans of the players) that he has nothing else to do, in which case it is over or there is a break until new material is prepared.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
My two-teamed Eberron simultaneous campaigns end tonight, many many months (if not a year) before they originally were supposed to. I hadn't intended on ending them now, but the format of the two games-- both running alternate Mondays with the pool of players switching combinations every two months-- no longer became fun or useful for me. I just didn't want to run them anymore.

Had the game "soured" for me? Yes it did. The size and the scope of the campaign became unwieldy, plus I had fourteen players to accommodate-- several of whom I just didn't enjoy playing with anymore. Now could I have worked around it? Sure, I could have. I could have just continued unhappily, or I could have culled players to make it more manageable, or any number of things.

But what would have I gained from doing that? Moreseo than just ending it and starting anew with a format/style/group/story I was happier with? I don't see one. Other than the "honor"(?) of being able to say "Look how long my game ran for!"

But I've ran enough games at this point to know that the length of their runs means exactly two things-- jack and squat. And there's nothing worthwhile in doing so just for that alone.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Those throwing shade have you played in a long game to know what you are missing if anything?
Yep plenty of us have. Please do not get into the mode of "If you disagree, you must be ignorant". That's not going to end well.

This board is so quick to be dismissive off a title post, ohh please.
And you are so swift to dismiss their input, so it looks like you are even on that score.

I’m just trying to understand why games don’t go longer.
Well, then you probably should have led with a question - How long do your games run?

We have some indication that, overall, a great many games don't run terribly long. Chiding people for ending games when they feel it is appropriate, though, is not constructive. A game ending before everyone at the table is satisfied may be considered a problem, a game ending when everyone's good with it... isn't a problem to be solved.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So to answer your question as to why don't games run longer? The answer is "Some do, and some don't. And every group has a different reason why." And you're not going to glean anything useful from any of the answers.
It is probably good to note: Length is not, in and of itself, a virtue.
 
Campaigns run their natural course. Sometimes that's short of the mark, sometimes it's long. The point is not to play past the best before date. If the players or DM are tired of things, then end it. If everyone is good to go then a group decision can be made, and sometimes that decision is also to end it. If I had to guess I'd guess that more campaigns run short rather than long - it can be hard to find just the right mix of people to run a long game. That's mostly been my experience. Even a pretty good game might not look like a long term game.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Folks if you are reading my post and thinking I am saying there is only one correct way to play, I’m not.
A long running campaign certainly does not have to be open ended.
A campaign is not like soured milk, it can be un-soured or it’s sourness used.

Those throwing shade have you played in a long game to know what you are missing if anything?
Yes, I've played in years-long campaigns. Many of those campaigns just sort of petered out. Finding this to be a problem, some years ago I decided to start to think about what the end-game looked like when planning a campaign and approximately how long that should take given the group. This is one of the first things I now discuss during Session Zero so the players can decide if that's a commitment they can keep. Then I make sure we end on time and go out on a high note.

Now I don't have campaigns that go unfinished, nor do I encounter any of those time-wasting "sour" parts and no sessions are spent on mundane errands like shopping or interviewing cagey, quirky NPCs. It's got good pacing the whole way through and ends in a satisfying manner. And all it takes is a little foresight, planning, and discussing on the front end.
 
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Stormonu

Hero
Probably the longest single campaign I initially ran started in 1E, and was converted over to 2E. The primary campaign used A1-4 Slavelord series, I6/I10 Ravenloft/Griffon hill (simultaneously), and a heavily modified/homebrewed G1-3 Giants and D1-D3 series, culminating in Q1. The campaign lasted for over 3 years and had a few additional adventures after the Q1 wrap-up. The characters were around 14th level, and each of the PCs were coming into their destiny (An elvin king, a paladin Baron, a samurai Daimyo, a monk Master, a clerical Pope, a ranger Lord, a wizard Archmage and a halfing Syndicate boss). The players were ready to retire their characters and I was burned out.

Years later, we did try other adventures - and finished one, but that group was pretty much done. A couple of years ago, we started up another game, a mix of the original players and their actual children and we played a short campaign starring the character’s offspring.

That’s only one campaign of several I’ve run or played in over the years. I’ve been in short and long campaigns, but we have always tended to wrap the game up no later than somewhere in the teens, and I have not been in a campaign on either side of the screen that has made it past the levels of the first campaign I indicate, and I’m fine with that.

And just to note, the campaign I’m running right now (Saltmarsh) has ties back to a 3E campaign I ran in which the latter characters were pirates that ended shortly after the group completed their primary campaign-long objecting of recovering Bloody Jack Dascombe’s cursed treasure (and that campaign ended around 12th-13th level). So, while I don’t continue a single campaign forever and ever, I often tie in events, characters and places from prior campaigns for the players to interact with (“Hey, I remember those guys from the last campaign!”)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I've played in and run campaigns that were years long, although I generally try to end a campaign after a couple of years. My campaign world has been knocking around for decades now, enemies and threats are vanquished only for others to rise up.

I always have general story arcs in mind but not necessarily a pre-planned conclusion. For example in a recent campaign the party defeated one of the BBEGs for my world. This BBEG had been a major or minor nemesis for several campaigns, often working in the background to stir up troubles for her long term goals.

When she was finally defeated, it just changed the power structure in the world. There's now a huge power vacuum and someone or some thing is going to step in to fill it with team evil basically descending into civil war.

So defeating the big bad didn't end all threats, it just changed the nature of those threats. That story arc ended, we'll pick up a different arc if we want to continue. Maybe she was really a puppet all along or the group will find she was doing all those evil nasty things because someone had to protect the world from something even worse or it just gives team fiend a chance to step in.

In any case, I think campaigns can continue if you want even after you've achieved a goal. My intent with every party is to get them to 20th level unless they really want to go a different direction. Even then, those PCs are still generally waiting in the wings in case we ever want to go back to them.
 

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