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Author Topic: Campaign Length  (Read 3285 times)
bluegargantua
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Posts: 167


« on: January 01, 2003, 06:32:20 PM »

I did some searching, but I didn't see this particular topic mentioned before.  My apologies if I'm recovering old ground...

I'm taking an informal poll and asking people how long they play a particular campaign before it winds down and folds/ends.  I'm not terribly interested in whether or not the campaign was good or bad, I'm just concerned with the average length (although I'd be very interested in hearing about someone who played a bad campaign for a long time).  It counts as a campaign as long as characters get created and there's an intention to run multiple sessions, even if an actual session never takes place (this may tend to skew it down, but it's good to know how many games really take off).  If you regularly play a particular game, but change the characters involved, those will count as separate campaigns.  Session frequency is important too (a once-a-month game lasting two years isn't quite as impressive as a once-a-week game).  Obviously, one-offs or convention games don't count.

Why am I asking?  Well, most RPGs appear to have an unwritten assumption that people will make up some characters, jump into a game and then play a single campaign indefinately.  There's lots of stuff for starting campaigns and building up adventures within that campaign, but there's usually very little thought about how to tie up the whole thing when you're done.  And eventually, every game comes to an end.  More importantly, if we establish that the average game has runs for X amount of time with Y number of sessions, that information can be valuable in creating new games or adventures/supplements for games.

From my experience:

  I've had about 2-3 games that only had 1 session.
  I've been in 1-2 games that only lasted a month (under 4 sessions).
  I've been in 7 games that ran to 6 months (about a session a week usually).
  I've been in 2 games that ran over a year (one session a week)
  I've been in 1 game that's still on-going for about 2 years now (one session every other week)

Hmmm...I don't play that many campaigns...there's probably a few aborted campaigns that I'm just not remembering now.  Anyway, food for thought.

later
Tom
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DaR
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2003, 12:57:04 AM »

I've got three groups I play with regularly.

My Thursday evening group, with Clinton, James, and Matt  runs mostly fairly short games, in the scheme of things.  Most games so far have been between 4 and 12 sessions, plus the occasional one-shot.  We meet weekly, and the sessions tend to be between 3 and 4 hours.

My Sunday group tends to run longer lasting games.  Our previous Ars Magica game ran about 25 sessions, and our current World of Darkness game is up to about 15 or 20, with no sign of slowing down.  We also meet weekly, though the sessions tend to be about 5 to 6 hours.

My online group, which plays mostly Amber, is an entirely different story.  We play daily, though most nights only one or two people are actually involved in the action, with sessions lasting between 2 and 10 hours, depending on how intense they get.  In the past couple years we've had about 3 or 4 "short" games which were all in the 20-30 session range. However, the centerpiece is our main campaign, which is now in the third generation of characters. The first two generations both had a total number of sessions (adding together all the players, 5 in the first generation and 7 in the second) numbering into the high triple digits.  The third generation has 9 players and already has on the order of 500 sessions in (around 200 unique sessions), and will probably end somewhere around 2000 to 2500 total sessions.

-DaR
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Dan Root
Eric J.
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2003, 02:17:22 AM »

Either my sessions stop after 0, 1, 4, or uncountable.  Average:....1.68  Sorry if this throws off your average that you've been collecting.  That's why the median is so often, so better.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2003, 09:05:52 AM »

My recollections:

3 one session campaigns, these were complete games. (All Vincent's Cheap & Cheesy system, by the way. :)

5-6 incomplete or abortive games that lasted only one session, maybe with some I'm forgetting.  

2-3 that lasted about 2-4 sessions long. Most incomplete games.

1 complete game that lasted 12 sessions? Finished in a summer. Played once a week.

6-7 campaigns that have lasted from 6 mos to 3+ years.  Meeting once a week, or more.

All of the longer campaigns were primarily free-form, or home-brew of multiple systems.

Most of the abortive sessions were with single, published systems.

--Emily Care
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Matt Gwinn
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2003, 11:01:47 AM »

Tom,
I think it will be very difficult for you to lock down a specific number here.  There are so many variables to take into account when determining how long a campaign will go.  The system, the players, where you play...these things all factor in to how long a campaign might last.  

I've played in campaigns that have ended due to personal disagreements, someone moving, boredom, system frustration, wives, girlfriends, parents, summer vacation, class schedules, jobs, kids...the list goes on.   The answer to your question will vary from group to group and trying to extrapolate some kind of magic number may be fruitless or at best, not very useful to you.

Sometimes, a game may simply run its course and, as players, you simply know it's time to do something else.  I think this might be more what you're asking for, but I'm not sure if anyone's answer will be any more useful to you.  Sometimes shear stubornness will drive a group to extend a campaign far longer than its entertainment value has lasted.  Sometimes it will come down to not wanting to hurt someone's feelings.  I have suffered through many games longer than I should have simply because I didn't want to hurt the GM's feelings or "cause trouble" in the group.  

,Matt Gwinn
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bluegargantua
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Posts: 167


« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2003, 06:00:02 PM »

Quote from: Matt Gwinn

I think it will be very difficult for you to lock down a specific number here.  There are so many variables to take into account when determining how long a campaign will go.  The system, the players, where you play...these things all factor in to how long a campaign might last.  


  You never know until you try.  I think there's still some value to this because how long can your game go before outside concerns, or internal struggles finally bring things down?  How much time will people invest into a campaign?  Yeah, there are a lot of variables and this is hardly a scientific survey, but I would like to get a general idea of how long people will play a single campaign before moving on.

  This ties into my module question elsewhere.  Would people be interested in a prepackaged campaign?  How long would they be willing to play something like that?

later
Tom
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Uncle Dark
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2003, 10:24:22 AM »

Interesting.

For me, the limit to a game's length seems to be determined by how long I (as a GM) can maintian my interest.  The average seems to be about 10 months, though what I've been running over the past couple of years have been 4-8 session complete stories, rather than open-ended campaigns.

Now, as a player... I was in an Amber game that had run more than three years (with one "we destroyed the universe and had to reboot..."), and in a D&D game that had been running (with the occasionall hiatus) for 10 years.  The D&D game was the baby of a woman who was really into mythology, and played consistantly among her closest friends.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that the length of time a campaign lasts would seem to depend more on the GM and players invovled, and how much time they're willing/able to dedicate to it, than to the system involved.

Lon
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Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2003, 02:22:03 PM »

Quote
I'm taking an informal poll and asking people how long they play a particular campaign before it winds down and folds/ends. I'm not terribly interested in whether or not the campaign was good or bad, I'm just concerned with the average length (although I'd be very interested in hearing about someone who played a bad campaign for a long time).


I've played in quite a few games that were purposely short, that were planned to be short from the beginning. Otherwise I've played in two games in the last three or so years that were about a year long each. I ran one of them, and it was a premise that I supposed would take a year to resolve. In fact, all of them except one ended because a major conflict was resolved. At that point it was either move on or work on a sequel.
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Ardwen
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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2003, 04:30:45 PM »

Of the various games I have run, only twice have I had long drawn out campaigns.  Both were homebrew games at that.

The first lasted about 5 years, the second, about three years.  These were campaigns that followed the story of the same players and characters.

Both occured during my schooling days.  The first at high school, the second at university.  

Once people hit the work force, I think it is much harder to get in the same sort of gaming time to keep the campaigns going.  Gms have less spare time and players are harder to get together.
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2003, 04:20:41 PM »

I've played in a long list of 1-4 session games.

I've played in three campaigns that met irregularly (once a month-ish) and lasted 2 years.  One of which wasn't any fun at all after the first couple months.

One campaign that met every week and lasted about year.

Finally, our current campaign will hit the 6 year mark May of this year.  Session are once a week.  I'm currently plotting its most dramatic conclusion in 1-2 years...but everyone else throws rocks at me if I bring up ending the game.
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clehrich
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2003, 07:23:58 PM »

I wonder if we might make a distinction here between campaigns that are pre-designed to have a single dominant plot arc, and campaigns that are designed to be open-ended.  The former would of course include one-shots, but for example very few Call of Cthulhu campaigns can really run all that long --- everyone dies, sooner or later.

But it sounds like a lot of D&D-style games (I mean that in a general sense) have run for a very long time indeed, perhaps because they were not set up with a set plot arc.

Suppose we looked only at the open-ended things.  Barring some very extreme unplanned collapse (people have to move away or whatever), I do think we can include the cases when the players and GM just get bored.  For me, that's precisely when these things end --- you just work out some way to have a really slap-up conclusion, and end it.

I've personally been in several games that ran about 2 years; very few that ran more, and a great many that ran about 1 year.  Many of those were set up to run one school year, but not all.  That just seemed to be a comfortable arc, since many of us lived by academic calendars.
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Chris Lehrich
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