Friday, September 7, 2012

Running Campaigns Like a Cable TV Series - A Way to Address the Extended Campaign Grind?

Joe England over on G+ has an interesting thread about running RPG sessions over G+ Hangouts. In it,  the discussion touches on one- shots, short arcs and campaign play. The answers as to preferences are pretty much as varied as the posters. So, of course, a thought occurred to me -

Why not run RPG campaigns like the cable channels run their TV series - 8 to 12 episodes that come to a natural climax - take an extended break, then pick it up in a few months time. Some players will probably stick around, some may drop and get replaced, but the setting and theme have continuity built in.

You would probably need a set day for the return of the new season, just so players don't forget, but it could work. Campaign play without the extended grind.

Workable, or not worth the extra work?


  1. That would be a good way to do it, as long as it ends on a good enough climax/cliffhanger to satisfy players who might not be able to return "next season"-but also to maintain interest so others will want to return (and bug you to start it up sooner).

  2. I guess it would also depend on who you're dealing with. My group has varied a bit, but we have three who are more or less automatic to show. We've had about seven more over the last three years, but they were... unreliable. We had a splinter group form around one of the players (they were involved in some polyamourous love triangle, and were scenery-chewing hams as role players. Anyway, not to speak ill of those who have gone.

    My point: I'd be afraid to lose them if I go too long. We game about every two or three weeks, though, which makes it less of a grind.

    I do appreciate the notion, though, of treating it like you're making a quality TV series. In fact, I think you've inspired a way for me to drive the plot a little bit in my current campaign.

    It's Warhammer 40k Dark Heresy and takes place on a planet with and Imperial police training facility, and a bunch of feuding noble families. I need them to cross paths at some point, so where would we go if it was TV? A grand ball! Get lots of NPCs and PCs in a room where there's the expectation of interaction. Let it unfold, plant clues (true and false) and get things moving toward the action, climax, resolution, epilogue arc.

    It's a trope, sure, but just about everything is, at this point. The fact that it's been done points to the fact that it works, structurally, to bring together disparate plotlines and characters without necessarily turning it into a railroad. Depending on what factions they PCs meet, what they say, and so forth, makes for a pretty reliable way to send them somewhere, even if it wasn't what I expected.

    Frankly, I don't expect things at this point. I just set up the situation, give the NPCs their own motivations, and play it out.


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