Monday, July 20, 2015

Long Term Goals

I was hoping after the move things would calm down a bit for me, but such has not been the case.

I have been working my butt off this week to get the place looking, and feeling like a real home, yet sadly I haven't gotten very far. I'm also working on a slightly different time schedule with my job due to travel distance, and the fact that it's been a relatively busy period (thankfully).

Each day it gets better though. A new, and happier normal is right around the corner.

Now then...

I get it. I do. Not everyone's life is like mine.

People have [even more] complex work schedules, kids, other family obligations, and all manner of reasons why they can't assemble for more than three, or four hours at a time, and probably no more than once a month.

What can I say? That sucks. Alright maybe that's a bit harsh, but it does seem to be something of a bummer. As noted by good ol' WQRobb in this response post, desire is one thing, reality quite another. He notes "[But] short-term gaming is better than no gaming, and can be good in its own right." I'm going to agree on the grounds I can't rightly disagree. At the same time, a lot of gaming is better than short-term gaming, and while I am able, I want to get in as much as I can.

As often happens when I am especially passionate about a subject so very personal to me, I'm not sure I explained why a session that is shorter, or happens less often, or both, doesn't work for me. My previous post conveyed by point of view, but not my reason for it.

*Why I Prefer Long Campaigns*
By Which I Mean
Long Sessions, Fairly Often, Over a Long Period of Time.

I generate a lot of material if I am interested in, and excited by, the campaign I am running. It bothers the heck out of me when I create all this stuff for a game, and the players/PCs don't see to see much of it.

Having less 'screen time' means I either have to stifle my creativity, or pick and choose what I'm going to use more often than I otherwise would.

I like layers, and depth, and I want them to build organically. I don't force deep characterization of the PCs, and NPCs, but over time it comes out. Often, especially with new players, or players new to gaming with me, it takes longer as they are less familiar with my approach, the other players, etc. Maybe they feel silly role-playing out certain aspects of the character, or story until they see others do it.

Less time to game means some of the slow building depth, and characterizations get short changed, or cut out entirely.

Combat takes time, and I like to give it time. Combat in my games is usually very fast paced, yet it can still take up a significant portion of a scenario. It is not unusual for my combats to involve multiple tough opponents (or a large number of lesser ones), difficult environmental, and terrain conditions (fighting in the snow, during a rainstorm on a hill side, or while leaping from floating platform to floating platform) , or occur concurrently with another sequence of events (during a chase scene, while one member of the group is trying to hack into the enemy's security system, or aboard an aircraft plummeting toward the Earth).

Although fights move fast in my games, that doesn't mean I want them to feel rushed. Combat, like everything else, needs the appropriate amount of time to develop it's feel, and pacing. Furthermore, I want sessions to be filled with more than just combat. When I here someone recapping their group's session, and the entire thing was just a big fight, it irks me so much I can't tell you. It shouldn't. There is no reason it should bother me, but it does. It's like a pet peeve. Largely because I know if I were a player in that game it would drive me nuts.

A longer session means you can get into an epic fight, and still get non-fighting things down (and vice versa).

The title of this post is Long Term Goals. So based on 'Why I Prefer Long Campaigns', what are my goals when it comes to GMing long term games?

Taking a look at my own preferences, I'd say:

  • Generate a lot of material, and get the chance to use it.
  • Allow time for the characters, the plot (and subplots), and setting to develop.
  • Allow time for action, be it cinematic, and rapid fire, or methodical, and tense.
  • Have the campaigns elements come forth, and develop organically.

Do I always achieve all of these elements? The answer, I am happy to say, is yes. Yes I do. With the following caveat...I do when I have the time to do so. When a campaign runs for dozens, and dozens of sessions, at 8 hours a session, yeah, I am able to do all of the things I love to do for my games.

In a three session story arc, lasting 4-5 hours a session? No, not always.

Barking Alien


  1. This is a nice follow-up to the first article, and as usual I agree with most of the points you are making. I've run many 3-4 hour sessions that were primarily a rushed set-up to the plot, three or four combat encounters, and then some kind of denouement. Just yesterday I was speaking with the one adult female in my gaming group about how poorly the group roleplays sometimes, and this is likely one of the big reasons.
    In the first of the two posts on this topic, you mentioned how much you enjoyed those moments where the players were just letting their characters *be* in the campaign: talking about people they know or hanging out getting work done on their starship. I never have those moments, and I had that twang of poignancy when I read that. So yes, there are solid reasons why I do short gaming sessions, but I also agree that there are some real consequences as a result.

  2. I also hadn't realized that I had earned by own post tag, which is cool

  3. I agree with your goals, but in my case I can find those with short sessions. My last two finished campaigns ran 5 year and 7 years. That was 3 - 3.5 hours a session after work, once every other week. Plenty of time to dive in, to spend time with characters, to explore and discover. One session that got raved about by the players was "conversations on watch", where the entire session ended up being three separate (simultaneous) conversations between the pair of characters on each watch. Absolutely not planned, just started and then ran away. Lots of fantastic RP.

    On the other hand, from a pacing point of view, detailing everything with RP (shopping, etc.) is good early on to help establish characters and dynamics between characters, but later in an established campaign there are oft-repeated things that can/should be glossed over to allow focus on the new.

    However, I find that with systems that promote "crunchy combat", that too much of a session became devoted to it. Plenty of sessions would have no combat, but then another session would be devoted to just one combat. That's why I now run games with faster (or more long-term interesting) combat.

    When you talk about 4-5 hours as a "short" session, I wish I had sessions that long. Or rather I don't because I'd be zombie-tired the next day at work. I just joined an online-only game a friend is running for several of us who have gamed together for a few decades but are now separated geographically. Without commute time we might hit 4-5 hours.

    But bi-weekly is about the longest delay for evening session for me. I played in a once a month weeknight game and it just couldn't keep state from session to session. Even with copious notes it was a hard break every session and characters ended up being archetypes or caricatures plus deep plots were forgotten.

    I'm with you about 3 session campaigns. I've never been able to run short "campaigns". I'd be willing to try for something like Apocalypse World but that's not my M.O.