Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Challenges to Campaigning

Thank you to all the people that commented on my last post about campaigning. when I wrote that one it was much, much longer, so I decided to cut it into two posts. I probably put the cart before the horse on this one, since now I want to write about the challenges of running a campaign.

I've been a part of two 40k campaigns(one of which I "ran"). I've run a map-based Necromunda campaign. I've also watched some campaigns from afar (notably Brian's Ahon Project).

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make a good campaign that adds another dimension to people's games.

These are what I see as the challenges to a good campaign:

Time commitment - It seems to me that campaigns fall apart because most people have real lives that interrupt their gaming lives. This is natural. Still, a campaign system must be robust enough that it doesn't fall apart when people drop out.

Consistency of Attendance - There are some people who can play every week. Some, like me, can only two every-other week. Some people will play three weeks in a row and then disappear for a month and a half. No matter how much people play, it should disrupt the flow of the campaign.

Simplicity/ Complexity - There is a very tenuous balance between making rules simple enough that it doesn't bog down the actually playing of games but complex enough to make it worth doing in the first place.

Amount of work for the organizer - If all the work for doing everything falls on one person, that person is going to get burned out really fast. I think the trick for an organizer is to make a system that runs itself.

Commitment to the story - The way I look at it, campaign is just a way to bring role playing into war gaming. It's more fun to say, "My chaos sorcerer, Rhum Dutt, is going to slay your warboss, Snagal Teef!" than, "I'm totally going to win tonight's game, dude." However, not everyone "gets into character" with their army. That's fine, but how do you make it fun for those of us that do?

I have solutions for some of these and some I do not. I'll go into those in greater detail in future posts.

Before I get to those, I ask you, what do you see as the challenges to running a good campaign?


John@Plastic Legions said...

I think you nailed it there scott..I have faced identical challenges.
Here are some comparions.

Time commitment - we've got this pretty well handled. heavily vetting everyone before hand to make sure they can make the time commitment is a must. fortunately our player pool is a GW shop so we basically have a waiting list to get in. Finding people who can make the commitment isnt a problem.

Consistency of Attendance - Despite #1, this still a problem people just have RL stuff that just comes up or they get scheduled
multiple games in one campaign round and have a hard time getting games we end up with concessions which suck. we are working on less games per round and a more disciplined schedule but its still hard.

Simplicity/ Complexity - This we have handled after a year of you saw from my notes to you...We are finally at the point with our campaign where it can run itself. anyone can run the turn you just follow the guidelines.

Amount of work for the organizer - Again despite the above you still need a stat keeper, while I might go above and beyond with color updated weekly maps and online logs..some kind of record keeping is necessary. It still takes me or someone an hour a week to keep things updated. If I only kept logs and recorded scores..I guess you get away with 20 mins a round of stat keeping

Commitment to the story - We fail miserably with this, no one being that into RPG'ing..for us its just a colorful way to string a series
of battles together and keep track of points. Despite the cool narrative I came up with for the premise I had to struggle to get all our guys to even name their 'generals"!! LOL..we continue to work to improve this..I am thinking about incorporating more scenarios in the map with specific locations etc...We aren't starting up a new campaign again until January so hopefully it will make a big difference

RonSaikowski said...

I think you've hit all the big ones, at least for me.
I've only run one campaign and your thoughts echo what I went through almost exactly.

I've had more luck running a one-day narrative gaming event at my FLGS due to time commitments of players.

xNickBaranx said...

I've run all sorts of campaigns for all sorts of systems and the one thing that gets reinforced in my head with each campaign that we try to run is that nothing beats the 2-3 player narrative campaign. My greatest gaming experiences always involved 1 or 2 other people who were on the exact same wavelength and after each battle we determined what was going to happen next.

All the campaigns we've tried to run are nothing more than leagues. You can make them as complex as you like and have all sorts of ways to determine "who's in the lead" but at the end of the day we're just rating who's in first place.

Personally I think we need to strip it down rather than make it bigger. I think we should stick to a section of the galaxy, name some worlds and planets, and stage our battles there. We should only link the battles for as long as its fun, and when an army gets tired we should determine we're pulling out of a system or that we're digging in and laying low (like what I wanted to do in the Alpheca campaign since I'm completely segmented off from everyone except Brian's Orks).

Maps should reinforce the narrative instead of dictate a mechanic. Maybe its my role-playing roots calling out to me, but everything we've tried feels so disconnected and I think the reliance on mechanics encourages that disconnection.

xNickBaranx said...

PS. I personally think we can use all the background you've created as well as the map and the staked out territories to flip Alpheca on its head and finish it out as a kick ass narrative campaign even with the army changes etc. Scrap the mechanics and think about the story.

Who are the major players?

Who's staying on world?

Who's being pulled off or digging in and why?

Who are the psychers we have found and what impact can they have?

Think of it from a GM standpoint. Its no different than when I get sick of my elven mage and want to switch to a fighter. Write one thing in and write the other out.

Mechanics be damned!

Scott said...

"Mechanics be damned!" - Wow, Nick that really is the answer I've been looking for.

Thanks to John and Ron for their input as well. I really appriciate everyone taking the time to weigh in on this.

Capt. Liam Shaw said...

It's more fun to say, "My chaos sorcerer, Rhum Dutt, is going to slay your warboss, Snagal Teef!"
Ha that'll be the day... anytime buddy, anytime.. ha..
on the campaign side of things, I think its a tough call as how to proceed. I originally tried to carry the narrative aspect of the games forward in the Highland Lions blog, and did thoroughly enjoying doing that part of it, so ya maybe more emphasis on that aspect and a little less on the mechanics of how to capture a tile or how to spend your points from your factories (although I feel you did a great job in creating those things). I also still really like the idea of using the ME tiles as the map to base the whole campaign on.... (although again with what nick said about being stuck behind brian, its a issue that could be solved by just saying my forces were sent here to eradicate chaos, so Im sending most of my army over here to this tile)
looking forward to whatever way the campaign progresses I truly enjoy playing with you all.