2020-06-21 Campaign End Talk

Last Wednesday my Razor Coast campaign arc reached it’s boss fight finale: the kraken Harthagoa rises and threatens Port Shaw with destruction. We already started with the ships fighting their way into the harbour last session, we had some mass combat, it was exciting. Session 60! So the kraken rises... the players split up, some of them taking their loyal dragoons and their pirate crews to fight their way into Fort Stormshield, other’s taking the temple militia to hold back the fish-people in the city, and others climb onto red dragon (a player character who had found a scroll of magic jar and had pulled it off against a red dragon) and their flying carpet, and flew into storm, facing the demon. One player pulls out their medusa monocle and looks at the kraken from up close – and I roll a 1. Failed saved vs. petrification!

In short, it was epic, it brought closure, it was cool... And then it was time to say the words I dread saying. I told them that I was feeling uninspired, that I had no further plans for the campaign. I had been thinking about ending it a few times now, in fact.

It still makes me sad when I think of all the “alpha players” I had over the years. You know the ones: they have endless energy, they are full of silly ideas, the jump up and down as they talk, they inspire everybody at the table with their energy. You can have at most two of these at a table, I know. It’s hard when have them but I also miss them when they move away or have to take care of their kids or whatever. One or two of these and some more chilled players is great for a trad. campaign. I’ve had them clash, and it’s true that they are tiresome, but at the same time, if have just casual players, or players pressed for time, then that’s also not great. And so I was feeling the campaign blues.

I was surprised when the players then all said they liked the campaign, when they listing unexplored corners and roads not taken, suggesting a summer break, one of them volunteering to run a campaign (German goth steampunk, skill based) for a bit and another for offering to set up a board-game-via-video-conferencing. Feeling better already. 😅

This is something I feel is important when talking to a group of people. Somebody mentioned this online somewhere: you are bound to have shy people; you are bound to have very enthusiastic talkers; how do you make sure everybody is heard?

This works really well. I’ve started doing this at work, too. I mean, if you’re doing daily stand-up meetings, then it’s basically the same thing: everybody gets the time to say what they want, everybody is there to listen. That’s how we avoid the conversation getting bogged down by the two or three most vocal people at the table because that’s not good.

OK. So, in two weeks it’s going to be a board game, and then in four or six weeks it’s going to be a campaign of goth steampunk run by one of my players. We’ll see whether I get my enthusiasm back. And if I don’t, then sixty sessions is a good campaign. Magic items like a petrifying medusa monocle, or characters that have taken a red dragon, are basically a sign that perhaps the campaign is out of control, haha.

I wonder, though. Why did I loose my enthusiasm? Specially since the game has been doing better these last few sessions. I think the problem is that the players I have enjoy being entertained, they come to talk and roll dice and see what’s up, and that’s OK, but it’s also not very exciting. Or perhaps I did the sandbox wrong, since I basically wanted to run a sandbox with an overarching plot of two demon coming and threatening the town: first the shark demon Dajobas and then the kraken Harthagoa. Perhaps this put a lot of pressure on players. Whenever they came back to Port Shaw, something was on fire. Maybe players started to put aside their own agendas, started feeling that here was the plot, the magic rails of adventure. It’s definitely not what I intended to happen, but here I was. It’s only when players started listing all the things we hadn’t explored that I realised that they had kept track of all the lose ends.

Anyway, food for thought. I’m thinking something about snake people, Set worship, Svartalfheim, elves of the netherworld, nagas, the plane of shadows? I should read that that Drow War trilogy by Adrian Bott: The Gathering Storm, The Dying of the Light, and The Darkest Hour. 🤔



Sounds like a good campaign end to me. If you’ve still got enthusiasm for the same sandbox world, why not restart with new level 1 characters in an unexplored area of the map. Make the existing characters retire as heroes and become back story for the world.

Giles Roberts 2020-06-21 06:52 UTC

Yeah, good point! I’ve been doing this for a few years, now. I ran the first campaign in this setting in 2008, using D&D 3.5 at the time. In 2012 I wrote a blog post about the persistent campaign setting where I refer to Rob Conley’s Sandbox Fantasy blog post in the same year:

So for me the most important points in running a Sandbox Fantasy are

  1. Players should be allowed to have a meaningful impact on the setting both large and small.
  2. The results of past campaigns serve as background for the current campaign.
  3. The focus on establishing their legacy solves many of the problems of high level play.

– Rob Conley, 2012

Good stuff. We’ll see.

– Alex Schroeder, 2020-06-21

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