Sunday, July 28, 2019

Long-term Campaigns and Growth

  In a very short period of time my AD&D campaign will be 40 years old. I want to take the time to discuss how a campaign can last that long.

  These are just my opinions!

Let the campaign world change
  Status quo = staleness, staleness = let's play something else.
  Here's a map of my campaign about now. This is player-facing.

  To explain what you're looking at, first a hex = 10 miles across. At the south edge are High Morath and Banath, nearby small nations. North edge is Khusdun and Argalen, nearby dwarven and elven nations. The western half are the Orcish City-states. middle-top are a group if very small demi-human nations. The cleared green area is the nation of Seaward, source of the campaign's name.
  Historically over 90% of all adventures are no more than 30 miles beyond the borders of Seaward.

  "Gee, Rick, thanks, but, uh... what does this have to do with growth?"

  Glad you asked!
  This map would shock players from about 1979 to about 1984 - to them the Briars and Wyvern Rock were mere rumors.
  In 1979 it was just Seaward. No, the city. Eastford ( a bitter rival of Seaward) was when a PC domained. Same with Adrain, Timberlake, and Ekull. The green area south of the city of Seward? Always the haunt of bandits, raiders, and outlaws - until yesterday when the player led a mighty force to attack the would-be Bandit King. I fully expect someone to domain there. Wyvern Keep was once Wyvern Rock, the nigh-unassailable fort of an Orc Baron, but way back when a band of PCs took it out and a paladin built a tower there and....
  Same with my Big Dungeon, called Skull Mountain. The current band of PCs knows of at least six areas in the dungeon that were added by adventurers or similar! The terrifying monster Ol' One Fang was formerly 'just' the chief of a Hill Giant tribe made bitter (and smarter!) by adventurers that wiped out everyone else in his tribe....

Closely related to above
Let Characters Win or Lose
  In the 40 years I've run Seaward 4 characters go to domain level and they became nobles of the kingdom (or bitter rivals to it!); heady stuff! Skull Mountain has everything from well-hidden hidey-holes to full-blown apartments made by adventurers to make exploring easier.
  But Skull Mountain is also strewn with the bones of dead adventurers. That Son of Kyuss on level 3a2? Marc's character who put on that magic ring without having it checked, first. The shields covered in human and halfling skin that were used by the trog chiefs? George and Dave's thieves that never came back from scouting. The bald hill granite knob near Dwarf Hill in the Stone Hills, the one with the blood stains? Where an entire party of 3rd level characters fought a last stand against an orc war band back in 1987.
  All there, all remembered, all great fun.
  The players know characters can (and will) die. Some of these deaths are ignominious, some are glorious. And it makes the wins sweeter.
  But you have to let the PCs actually impact the setting!
  I'm re-doing the encounter charts for the Briars. Why? On the Mapping Expedition they slaughtered or drove off so many kobolds there are effectively none left!

Make it different
  Seaward has its own mythology, its own languages, unique spells, unique magic items, and its own monsters. Beholders? Like a number of other monsters, they don't exist. Fell Guardians? Known and feared. Let the players feel in their bones that the campaign is unique and what they are doing is something others can't.

and that's it!


  1. This is great. What a great story. What great memories!

    Story is not something you put into a game. It’s what you get out.

  2. Great stuff and congratulations!

    My brother, Robert's campaign from the mid-80s is similar. Now, instead of playing with his brothers and friends, he plays with his wife & kids, and occasionally others from back in the day.

    Griswald, the namesake of Follow Me, And Die! originated in that campaign. I've played him a couple times with interruptions to resolve an old issue that was more than a decade past for the current characters. Robert needed to know how a character of another original player survived as he occasionally plays that character still.
    Characters changed the borders of nations and struck deep into the heart of monster controlled territory, and saved the world from an ancient evil, and several have achieved domain level.
    Best of all, after a bit of catching up on the timeline, I could play any of my old characters at the drop of a hat.

    Thanks for sharing about your campaign!

  3. What kind of levels have you gone to?

    And how do you manage character death? Start at 1st lvl or...?

  4. Amazing. Forty years is not small feat. Good advice.

  5. What kind of levels have you gone to?

  6. Thanks for summarizing this. I watch your blog for more inspiration in the long running campaign I'm running as well.

  7. Congratulations rick! This is an amazing achievement. Good luck for your next game

  8. Congratulations. Your blog inspire me.

  9. Wow, amazing stuff. I struggle to keep a campaign going for 10+ sessions.