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D&D 5E What does "Campaign" mean to you?


So what was the game store owner's definition?

He wanted, though he didn't say it at first, to have another day on the schedule to advertise for AL play but instead of the 2-4 hour adventures it was running to have a day for one of the hardback adventures.

To me, running the hardback adventures doesn't make it a "campaign" if, like in AL, the players and characters can come and go as they please. And running the AL 2-4 hour adventures doesn't make it not-a-campaign simply by being 2-4 hour adventures.

So I started what I considered a "campaign" that currently has a too-large party of seven, though we've not actually had seven at any one session (hooray for the holidays!). Then I no longer was recruiting new players, because I already had too many. But the owner was still advertising the game as "open play" even if that wouldn't fit my idea of a campaign.

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Victoria Rules
A campaign is like a sports team: different players come and go (in D&D these are the characters), less often different front-office types come and go (in D&D these are the players), but the team or franchise keeps on trucking as an identifyable entity.

A one-off is like an exhibition game: you throw some players on the field and see what happens - once.

Lan-"and an adventure path with nothing else to it is somewhere between the two"-efan

I define a campaign as any number of D&D sessions or adventures connected together and sharing a common continuity, however tenuous that continuity might be.



I'm make my definition short and sweet: "A campaign is a DM's running of his/her 'world' in a generally chronological order with no definable end".

The players could play new PC's every weekend, with all new mini-dungeon bashes, with no easily discernible 'storyline'...and as long as each adventure takes place in the DM's "world setting" and he/she is keeping track of time in it consistently...that's a "campaign".

In my humble opinion, anytime the players and DM sit down at a table and decide "This is the story, this is where you start, and this is where you end/complete the story"... is not a 'campaign'. If it has an actual 'end'; as in after they defeat the final end bad guy behind the whole thing, the DM stops DM'ing that group of PC's and 'ends' that time line. So yes, this means that I do NOT consider any AP to be a 'campaign' because it isn't. An AP is simply a longer series of adventures strung together. Taken as a whole, it has a beginning, middle and END. If it has an end (to the PC's and the time line), it's not a campaign.

If the DM continues with the same PC's, or henchmen, hirelings, protoge's, or even all-new PC's...but keeps the timeline going...then he is playing a campaign.

Hope that makes some kind of sense. :)


Paul L. Ming


One item I haven't seen mentioned is having the characters set down roots in the game world. Whether it's taking over an abandoned keep, or protecting "their" town from marauders, or setting up a spy network, the PCs do more than just go on adventures. They take possession of some part of the world and make it theirs.

Not technically required for an RPG "campaign", this is a crucial element for me. If my character is just running around on adventures, I'm just not that invested in the campaign. If, however, my keep is under threat - oh yeah, I'm there. Just a matter of buy-in, commitment, whatever. Probably a holdover from the 1E days when PCs gained keeps and followers at name level.


I think that the definition of what is a campaign has to be at least a bit adaptable to the circumstances of play. If you're playing in a public forum then you have to allow for more turnover with players and their characters.


Lord of the Hidden Layer
I don't really have any quarrel with the serious analysis(es) above.

To me, a campaign involves mostly the same players, mostly the same characters, working towards a long-term goal that takes more than one session to complete. Goals like "Keep Tiamat out of the Natural World" or "Become the new Lords of the Land" or "Build mercantile empire and get mind-bogglingly rich" or "Fight off / destroy invading orc hordes" or "Throw the One Ring into Mount Doom".


Magic Wordsmith
My Saturday night game, The Delve, consists of a town, a dungeon, and a dark forest in between. Play consists of talking about downtime activities at the start of the session, then traveling through the forest, then delving the dungeon. Before the end of the session, the characters return to town. This cycle repeats every session. There are no "town adventures" - only what happens in the forest and in the dungeon.

There are 10 players and 20 characters. Only four players are permitted to play in any given session and each person has on average two characters, so the roster can change week to week depending on who plays and what characters they think are best to achieve their goals. Each session is 4 to 5 hours. We're on Week 15 of what is looking to be a 20-week game.

Is this a "campaign" by the definition put forth?


I'd assume persistent world, persistent PC group, and an intent to GM a double-figure or higher number of sessions - I call a 12 session campaign a 'mini-campaign', full campaigns are typically 30-100+ sessions but I wouldn't balk at a planned 15 session campaign. Below 10 sessions it might be a mini-campaign of linked short adventures, or a single adventure.

I wouldn't balk at someone using 'campaign' in the more Gygax/Arneson sense of a persistent world/setting with highly variable PCs and/or players, but it wouldn't be my default assumption when I heard the word. I think if it was intended to be something other than persistent setting + persistent PCs + 10 or more sessions then I'd appreciate clarification up front. Of course many campaigns don't go into double digit sessions but usually the intent is there.


A campaign is a continuity, be it a one-shot adventure, or a string of entwined adventures. For me, at least.

More specifically, it's a party's continuity. The world can change, characters can change, but as long as it's the same party, it's the same campaign. Sure the end party might not look like the starting one, but as long as the change was natural...

EDIT: Hmm, this is not getting my point across very well.

You have this organic thing I call "the party". It comprises of the characters, their goals, ambitions, quests and experiences. As long as we follow the same party, we're playing the same campaign. "The party" can change and evolve over time, as long as it's not outright replaced. Two players can't make it any more, that's fine, even if the party's only five big. The characters are less, but the rest is still their: the goals, ambitions, quests and experiences. Compare with a TPK. Everything is lost, there's no... culture, I guess you could call it.
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