Long or Short: Long Campaigns

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As a counterpart to last week’s observations on short campaigns, this week we will have a look at long campaigns. We draw a dividing line between ‘short’ and ‘long’ as follows: short campaigns are designed with a preset or expecting ending, long campaigns are designed and started with the expectation that they remain ongoing for a long time to come.

Long campaigns work best when they have a cast of characters and a consistent setting to play in, instead of a single story or concept. Any single story will eventually come to an end and any single concept will eventually be fully “mapped”, but a cast of characters provides opportunity for numerous stories, stemming from their interactions with each other and the setting.

Like short campaigns, long campaigns are not exactly defined by their length and may last any amount of time, most often they will last longer than a few months, running for years. Though not all long campaigns are meant to last indefinitely, some are.

Designing a campaign to run indefinitely brings with it more initial effort, especially from the storyteller, but from the players as well. Both players and storyteller will have to invest in starting up a long campaign, players for their characters and storytellers to create a world. Part of this effort can be mitigated by using an existing ‘off the shelf’ setting from a setting book.

But long campaigns also offer an opportunity for the players and the storyteller to build the world together. The world needs to be internally consistent, but at the start of a long campaign, the world does not need to be deep. A lot of the depth comes from filling in the details of the world during play. What cultures do the character encounter on their travels? What kinds of plants do the characters discover? What local customs do they participate in?

On the other hand, it is harder for new players to join a long campaign since there is a lot of shared history between the current players and characters. Worse, long campaigns run the risk of having repetitive stories, or a lack of stories to draw players in. Some players might find that the setting — or their characters — is not to their liking, but with the effort put into it by the table, it might be difficult to discuss it.

On the upside, the large shared history also makes it really easy for current players to engage new players; there is so much to talk about, and the setting has a lot of setting depth to explore already. And even within long campaigns there is always the option of focussing on a different part of the setting for a while, as part of an expedition, or even a completely different group of characters in the same setting!

In future posts, we will look at some of the ways short and long campaigns can be set up, but for now we will let the topic rest for a while. As always, we have this week’s changelog ready for you. And we would love to hear from you whether you prefer short or long campaigns! Let us know in the community forums!