Saturday, November 14, 2015

Give Up?

I was asked yesterday if I knew of any campaigns, other than mine, that have run continuously for as long as eight or nine years.  That is, campaigns with the same line of characters, more or less the same players, run regularly at least twice a month.

To be honest, I don't.

But then, I've always separated myself from other gamers.  That's something I began in the 80s as I saw people getting more interested in the metagame than in the game itself.  For those not wanting to wade through the link's comments, I'm referring to the fetish for talking about the game, buying the game, debating the game's merits, attending events that celebrate the game and so on, rather than actually working on one's campaign.  I must admit, I grew annoyed at the fetish and year by year began to isolate myself until the only gamers I saw were my own players.

Okay, so I'm unusual.  I'm sure there are others who run singular campaigns that have run as long as mine.  I'm sure someone out there must have a game setting they have been running for 31 years (since 1984, for me).  Suppose that there isn't, however?  What should I think about that?

Should I stop advocating the creation of that game world?  Should I suppose all my readers just can't make that world?  That my world only exists as it does is because I'm crazy?  Should I decide that the only benefits that my world's design offers are in my imagination, that it is all delusion?

If I am so alone in the world that it is pointless to direct others down my path, presumably because my readers are . . . hell, I don't know, sane . . . then what?  Let everyone off the hook?  Cease to astound?  Pack up the blog and return to perfect isolation?

What a waste that would be.

Last question.  Is the reader really that certain they will never make a world as deep as mine?


  1. Does Ed Greenwood count?

    One of the DMs I played with in high school has been running the same campaign setting since circa 1982. He is a bit of a munchkin, though, and has trouble getting players. I gave up on him two years ago.

    I think most of us who cut our teeth on first edition AD&D are inveterate tinkerers of one sort or another, if only because that system was in need of repair from the beginning. That tinkering can take different forms, but the common thread is an obsessive desire to make our games better.

    After undergrad and grad school, my group took a long hiatus from playing while people moved to different centers, and worked on their careers and marriages. During that entire period of nongaming I was constantly poking and prodding my campaign setting, and trying to torture AD&D into doing what I wanted.

    Now I play on-line and in person with many of the same people I have played with since circa 1983. One of those campaigns is a reboot of a campaign someone else DMed in the late 80s and early 90s, with some of the same players (including the DM, who is running his favourite NPC from that campaign as a PC).

    Unfortunately, I only get to play about once a month, due in part to my own perfectionism and refusal to DM unprepared. This is because, while I have resigned myself to never truly completing the map (if I don't allow there to be white space I will never get to play), I am determined to always know everything that is going on in the space immediately around the PCs, and won't run a session until I have figured most of it out.

    This doesn't mean I don't still have my obsessions in terms of setting building. The latest is the construction of a searchable database of places, people, factions, and the links among them for the largest metropolis in the setting.

    So while my experience is not identical to yours, I get where you are coming from.

  2. I know of a setting that has been running for about 15 years, but no campaigns that have neared the duration of yours. My personal experience has been with DMs who prefer to call the campaign to a halt and start a new one if any hiccups interfere (though they do maintain the same worlds across campaigns).

    I don't want to generalize from this experience or speculate on why it might be a trend among DMs; I do want to say that I personally aspire to DM a game unlike those I have player experience with and more like yours (or what I imagine yours to be, based on reading your blog and books).

    Reading your blog has been incredibly inspiring for me personally. It points to the possibilities. I think your blog is very aptly named, because you focus on a "way" of approaching the game. The rest of the D&D blogosphere has, in my opinion, more or less a single way, which is "the content approach." You, on the other hand, not only offer a thoughtful and critical philosophy of the game which constantly forces me to check my assumptions or think about my next steps as a DM; you also offer content (such as your maps, trade tables, rules, etc.) presented in such a way that it encourages one to turn and look at one's own content with a new eye, as opposed to the many blogs where the sharing of content is offered as a lure to buy some campaign setting or bestiary available on RGPNow.

    I think it will take a long time for my campaign setting to reach even half the depth of yours. But I want it to. And I couldn't have imagined it reaching that depth without your inspiration and instruction. If there are no other campaigns in the world that have been running as long as yours, that should be all the more reason to continue your work. I for one look forward to more blog posts and books that knock me off balance, slacken my jaw and remind myself how far I have to go. I read religiously but I don't much comment, so even though I don't think you would seriously consider giving up just because you are in a class of your own, let this lurker say a most sincere thank you for the work you do, and thank you for sharing it. Give up? Never!

  3. Thank you Ben,

    And thanks to everyone who continues to read. I do think I have to keep going because I am standing for an ideal. Games where the players are entitled to expect more and where DMs are entitled to receive satisfaction for their efforts.

  4. @ Alexis:

    And we thank you for it!
    : )

  5. I know of one DM who had a very developed game world when I played with him in 1988. He was part of the science fiction fandom scene in Chicago, and had developed his world much earlier than that.

    By "developed" I mean "where everything was." I know he didn't do things like your trade routes, but I managed to play in his world for six years with the same character, and the game continued without me for at least three more years.

    Will I ever make my world as deep as yours? I should have a long time left to game, and although I'm starting late I have the advantage of the internet to get information rather than rely on old encyclopedias. But does that matter? My interest in how my world fits together led me to an article on domesticated animals (and why we ride horses instead of zebras). I learned something, and that, I contend, is a good thing. I can't see why I'd stop.

  6. Your efforts here have led me to creating my own weather system, begin the massive trade table creation that will take years, put together a mass combat system that from tests looks like it will be half way decent once the players help me work out the kinks and, many, many other things. My game world is vibrant and slowly evolving to what I want it to be and my players are enjoying the depth I am trying to add to the world.

    And to my advantage I am still only 21 and thoroughly love world design, so hopefully my campaign will last a few decades. So there is still hope out there for the new generation to defetishize the meta game.

  7. Bracketing the turn of the century, I ran the same setting with the same players every week for four years, and nearly every week with slight changes to the player line-up for another three years. Campaign time? Under five months.

    I got much of the original group back together last year, but real-life has knocked us down to biweekly at most, with lots of weeks where we can't get together.

    Regarding your "path," Alexis, I'm sure you don't need us to butter you up. That you're even asking the question means, to me, you're tired and feeling under-appreciated. You'll be fine.

    Last question's answer: for certain definitions of "as deep" of course not. But is the level of detail available to the players "satisfying" to me? Surely.

  8. I'm really not feeling tired or unappreciated, I assure you Mujadaddy.

    Every once in awhile I feel this need to take the pulse of the Community; I need to know if I'm a voice screaming into the void or if there are others out there, exactly like me.

    See, they may not write blogs, but they have worlds and they are crazy too. I look for evidence that they are out there.

  9. That's good that you're just taking a Sanity check ;)

    For me, at least, your work is a near-Platonic ideal; your dedication is an inspiration; the output, a monument to what is possible. Keep on truckin'...

  10. Pulse of the Community? Is that a request for comments from the Silent Astounded Lurkers?

    I'd love to have a world lasting several years. I'd love to have a group of friends that would sit down and play the same game for three sessions in a row. Real life, unfortunately, interferes. Interferes as in "I've been creating a RPG system" for 16 years now. Not very dedicated, most of it could have been done by half a year of your kind of concentrated effort. But I still keep going. Sometimes. When time allows. Of course "time" means "priorities".

    A world as deep as yours? Not in my entire life. You're the Raul Capablanca or the Gary Kasparov to my amateur club chess playing. I just won't live long enough to get done as much as you already have. It's just not high enough on my list of priorities. But trying to? You bet. Keep going, I'll keep watching. And I'll follow, at an ever-increasing distance. You've made "work" an oh-so-inspiring sport to watch, cheer and buy books for... Hope you take it as the compliment it's meant to be.

  11. Alexis,

    I don't think you're alone in giving up on the "community" or "public" D&D-esque events. I think the problem is that they become dominated by those with the meta-fetish, which totally turns off the rest of us who actually want a good game, with players who want a DM who isn't a dick or a "next bandwagon" type.

    However, as dedicated DM's go, you're probably one of the few who's had the drive to keep going... even when you don't have players! That's usually when my DM'ing efforts stop - no players & no campaign = no world development. Maybe that's when "gaming" becomes "work", and other, easier leisure-time pursuits look more attractive?

    Also agree with the other posters above who state that your presence helps other move towards an ideal, and inspires us to do more, work more, and offer more in our campaigns.

  12. I don't have the desire to do what you do with the (from what I've seen; clearly I don't have access to all your process) methods you employ, but I'd like a similar result. I'm sure there are others who think the same.

    I.e, I meet a great and idiosyncratic baker who sources local grains, runs a private mill in which he stone grinds his flour, and bakes bread in his own wood-fire oven.

    I like the loaf. It's great, so I approximate it with mass-market flours I purchase at my local grocery store and a gas oven. Not quite the same, here, and the devil is in the details, but I think that's where I'll stop: today. One day, I might very well build a wood-fired oven.

    I'm not sure why anyone would give up, other than a lack of interest. If I look at my craft a year ago and don't see anything I'd want to improve this year, then I'm an idiot.

    An ideal is a useful rabbit to chase, and catching the rabbit is not the point.


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