John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Trapped In the Neverending Story (more gaming ramble)

It's well-established that, as a gamer, I have a mercurial streak. Unless I apply the most assiduous self-restraint, my natural impulse is to start new campaigns (and drop old ones) at the slightest provocation -- and as a GM, this is probably my most annoying habit -- with the possible exception of constantly asking my players to fill out surveys. ;)

I'm fairly proud that my current D&D reboot has continued without a snag since it was ported over to Greyhawk, and has an arc that I'm actually eager to see played through to the end. So far, the players have been treated to three beginnings:

  • Exploration of the lost elvish city. This was set in a rather bland homebrew world, and was intended to be an "Against the Drow" campaign that would culminate in a huge battle against Lolth. All very well and good, but it was essentially a 20-level dungeon -- ye gods. When I realized what a nightmare that was, I started trying to add subplots in and around the campaign's base city, but even that couldn't get me away from the fact that I'd created a monster that was doomed to collapse under its own weight. Desperate for something small and reasonable, I started throwing in random scenarios from Dungeon magazine, which entailed sending the characters all over creation. Finally I just gave up and trashed the whole elvish city angle, having their would-be employer shooed off the scene by the elvish equivalent of the MIB. "There are secrets mortals are not meant to disturb there..."

  • Shadows Under Thessalaine. This was a largish module I bought, not quite Temple of Elemental Evil large, but essentially three scenarios tied together by an overarching plot, into which I injected my own sidequests. This went very well at first, and this segment of the game included the battle of the doorless tower, which is one of my favorite game sessions. Unfortunately, it unraveled rather suddenly, ending in a particularly grueling fight that burnt me out on GMing for some time. One of the characters was off doing his own thing, and I couldn't come up with a convincing way, given the opposition, how he could survive (and since he'd died twice already, I didn't want to kill him again), the opposition in the final dungeon all had to be retooled since the interim scenarios had leveled everybody more than the scenario was designed for, and I just wasn't interested.

  • The 3.5 Reboot. When 3.5 came out, I invited a new player to the group and had everybody make new characters. I had the idea of creating a game theme by establishing a kind of "national guard" type organization and decreeing that characters should be aspirants to join it. Then I made the blunder of having the group's "extra muscle" NPC also be their contact with the organization -- which made the group take their cues from him. Without a player-character leader, it ended up being something of a shapeless mass, as everyone kept waiting for somebody else (or the NPC) to be in charge. The situation wasn't helped by the fact that the new player had domestic problems and ended up dropping the game. I decided to try one more time to salvage the previous game, by moving it to an established world with which the group was fairly familiar with (Greyhawk) and working in a new structure. This time, instead of a single megamodule, I would tie together smaller scenarios by working in common thematic elements. So far, this has worked well.

From the point of view of a player, I'm much the same way. I am constantly coming up with new character ideas and itching to try them out, which is one reason I keep poking jamesbarrett about doing one-shots -- their short-story nature suits my short attention span (and my desire to try a new character every six months). He's more inclined towards the Big Story, tho, both as a GM and as a player, with lots of subplots and things going on in the background that take a long time to surface, if indeed they ever do.

Both approaches have their place, but it takes some effort for somebody who prefers one approach to cater to the tastes of somebody who prefers the other. My dream campaign -- both as a player and a GM -- is one where this scenario begins with the party tracking across the desert and coming upon a hidden shrine overrun with Lovecraftian horrors from beyond, and then the next scenario begins with the party being freebooters with a pirate sloop on the run from the King's navy. (How'd they get from the desert to the sea? How'd they get a ship? Who cares, as long as the adventure at hand is exciting?) His dream campaign, on the other hand, seems to be a single, continuous narrative. He builds his characters with an implicit "someday, I'll be X" (with X being an archmage or a master thief or whatever), and wants to follow the path from here to there.

(In the case of camstone and pholph, I haven't seen them in enough diverse situations to discern a dominant style, if indeed there is one. laurie_robey seems to be equally comfortable in either style.)

But, we are learning. jamesbarrett is working on a mini-campaign as a break from his long-running Rods of Dominion campaign, for instance, which sounds like a lot of fun … while I've been a good, stable GM and kept the Bissel game focused and on a fairly even keel. I occasionally consider running a side game myself to indulge my jump-all-over-the-place nature, but with two primary D&D games, two Star Wars side-games, and only playing 2-3 times per month, that's just asking for things to get hopelessly quagmired. So right now, my intention is to concentrate on running the Bissel game as steadily as possible and take it through from middle to epic conclusion. There are still plenty of high-level monsters the characters haven't had a chance to encounter yet!

-The Gneech
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