When it comes to running role-playing games, I always prepare for the long haul. A Dungeons and Dragons campaign I ran that wrapped up some time ago closed on its fourth anniversary, and in the coming months my weekly Legend of the Five Rings game will finish, well into its fifth year. I suppose for me there’s not enough character development, enough story, in shorter campaigns, and the story is why I play (and run) games in the first place.
It always feels weird for me to sunset a campaign, even though I always try to end things on a note of finality. This time around the characters started off as disparate samurai helping an aging daimyo and have, over many trials and tribulations, come to unearth and nearly end a centuries-old conspiracy against the empire, moving to prevent a vile plot to strike at the Emperor himself. The characters are nearing world-renown, and their exploits are truly the stuff of legend. It is my hope that when the campaign ends, all of the players will be satisfied not only with the overarching story but also the journey their particular characters took along the way.
Never considering myself to be very good at planning, I yet laugh when I think about the large-scale plans I designed for this game, the overall meta-plot kicking in as early as the third session, with teasers and hints spread liberally throughout the campaign. The characters absolutely had agency over what they did and where they went, but I’ve made sure that the “great evil” they’re chasing had plans for each of the places they visited, even if just tangentially. I really hope that the players will find the campaign rewarding and a story worth retelling long into the future.
Though there were weeks we weren’t able to meet, over the past five years we’ve had 140 sessions, making nearly 600 hours of gaming in total, with a little more left to go. My biggest hope is that everyone will look back on that time and smile, my biggest fear is that they won’t. I will never claim to be the hardest-working storyteller out there, far from it, but honestly the hours and hours I’ve put into planning this game have been all about their enjoyment – helping them experience a world very unlike our own, with characters very much not themselves, for a break from the average work week. I suppose I can consider myself successful in this whole endeavor if they’re still looking back fondly on this campaign some years from now.
I’ve been running games fairly constantly since 2003, usually at least two or three campaigns at a time. For the first time in a very long while there is only this one, and it feels odd to realize it’s nearing its conclusion, though I’ve been building up to that for months now. I suppose the big question I don’t want to think about is “what happens next?”
Maybe I’ll start with sleeping in on Sundays and go from there.