It’s that time of year again. In these parts, whether or not you celebrate Christmas there is a definite chill in the air when it comes to gaming. As an adult married parent with a job and other responsibilities, I’ve already made adjustments to the gaming schedule (short answer: weekly sessions have been gone for years!); December makes it even rougher, as holiday shopping and midwinter vacations disrupt the already precarious schedule.
I ran my last session on the first Friday of December. Thanks to scheduling conflicts (and my own aborted attempt to change campaign night) my group probably won’t meet again until the third Friday of January. Of course, January is well into winter and it’s definitely possible that a snowstorm or three could extend the already six-week hiatus.
Those of you who are regular readers have probably picked up on a recurring theme in my last few articles – my enthusiasm for my current D&D campaign is wavering, and the long break, combined not only with a new Star Wars movie but also the dozens of new inspirations I’m likely to get thanks to holiday binge-watching and certain gifts under the tree (and thanks to Chanukah being early this year some of those gifts already arrived!).
Even without external influences, the long break is giving me time for reflection. I realized that my current pace, while fun, is glacial, and I could easily see this campaign running for a few more years. At this point in my life that’s just too long. I’m feeling the pressure to cut bait and try something new. Except that I don’t want to do that.
As I said in an earlier article, this campaign is trucking along fine and everyone, including me, is enjoying it, even with the glacial pace. On reflection, I considered the following points.
The pace is glacial and the logistics involved include my laziness. Our game sessions tend to be short, often only 3-4 hours long. An exciting combat encounter or a deep roleplaying scene can easily burn an hour or more of that. Anything beyond a five-room dungeon takes multiple sessions. The end result is that adventures that I thought would take a couple of sessions stretch on to a dozen.
But you know what? Some of that is my fault. As a busy guy I sometimes can’t invest time in plotting and, rather than skip a session, I throw in something that I know will buy me time. This is actually great for immersive world-building, but not so much for keeping the plot moving.
I’m still standing at the crossroads. Again, as I pointed out in a February article, I’ve still yet to get to the meat of the campaign. If I don’t move things forward, then I really am going to have to abandon that plot and figure out a different way to tie things up. Fortunately I’ve already braced myself for that, but I’d still rather go with the original plan.
I want a satisfactory ending. I’ve put a lot into this campaign; it’s the first one my group has played using the newest D&D rules and I’ve woven a lot of interesting plot points to it. I’d hate to end prematurely or hand-wave it all for the final scene. My group has enjoyed the ride so far and I don’t want to end abruptly.
Ultimately, what I’ve decided to do is accelerate the pace. A large part of the problem is that, both in assumption and in fact, the sessions move day by day. I need to advance the plot by leaping ahead at certain points. I’m going to share this with my players so that they won’t be blindsided by phrases like “okay, after several months working at the manor,” or “okay, you’re now 7th level,” when they just reached 6th level 2 sessions ago and it’s been taking them much longer to level up (Having said that, I’m sure the “you’ll level up faster” will be a salve on the “we jumped ahead” aspects of the campaign).
Hopefully, this will work and keep the campaign exciting while driving towards a conclusion.
How about you? Have you ever made a big adjustment after a long break? How was it received? Looking back, do you think it was a mistake or did it improve the campaign?