New Year’s Day is usually seen as a time of resolutions, where we promise to do some things differently than we have in the past. As gamers, it’s also an opportunity for resolutions. Maybe we’ll finally try the FATE system for the first time, maybe we’ll play more and GM less (or vice versa), or maybe we’ll run and conclude that epic campaign that’s been in the back of our heads.
The New Year is also a time for reflection. What went really well in our sessions over the past year? What was lacking? What didn’t we get a chance to do? This year, I decided to share my reflections on what I’d consider my biggest gaming success and my biggest gaming regret at my own table.
My biggest success is Dungeons & Dragons bringing me back into the fold with its new edition. As an industry professional, I had little incentive to get on board with the last edition due to lack of third party support and my circles chose to migrate to Pathfinder rather than adopt D&D 4e. Pathfinder, like its spiritual predecessor, was a bit too crunchy for me but I was willing to stick with it as my go-to fantasy game if the new edition of D&D fell short. Not only did the new edition easily exceed my expectations but, for the first time in a long time, my circles are playing D&D. We’ve only been able to play a few sessions so far, but it’s easily the most fun I’ve had with a non-licensed fantasy game in a long time.
My biggest regret is the Star Wars campaign that never was (there’s a bit more on it here). Star Wars: Edge of the Empire got me running Star Wars again for the first time since the d20 revised version (I skipped the SAGA edition). I ran a group through some of the published materials and had a blast. I then came up with an epic campaign idea that I wanted to spring on them. The problem was that the elements of the current game were too piece-meal and slow in coming out to support my campaign. I also felt that SW:EotE was a bit too complex.
I found my sweet spot by rediscovering the West End Games version along with some websites that contained expanded material. I easily fleshed out my campaign and I was pumped to start. The problem? My group had grown to love SW:EotE and were loathe to change it, especially given that one of the main benefits to me (a simpler system) stripped away all the talents that made their characters unique and awesome. Sensing resistance, I quietly shelved the campaign rather than adapt it for SW;EotE. Six months later I still regret that decision and I hope to run that campaign in the future.
Those are my biggest successes and regrets of 2014. How about you? What was your biggest gaming success of 2014? Do you plan to build on it? What was your biggest gaming regret of the past year? Is there a way for you to rectify it?
Walt, nice article and thanks for the chance to reflect.
Biggest success: wrapping up a long B/X D&D campaign, and then starting anew with Basic Fantasy. Now, it was a little bittersweet, as one of my players isn’t coming along for the new campaign a he is pretty busy with other gaming. But we needed the breath of fresh air, and I really like the one-book aspect of Basic Fantasy.
Biggest regreats: Some of my games had too much of a gonzo element to them. Too much sci fi mixed in with the fantasy, or just too much over the top without a focus on the PC’s. Not sure that these were total failures, but trying to make a more grounded, character campaign out of this next one.
Rectifying things: I need to run something non-fantasy. That is a big regret from last year too. Gotta give that some more thought and MAKE some time to try to get that game together, even for a one-shot.
Thanks again Walt. Great article.
Thanks for the article and the suggestion to reflect. I’ll follow John’s lead.
Biggest success: I got up the gumption to leave a long-existing gaming group. We’d been playing PF with one GM for a while and I hated what he’d turned the game into (no story; all crunch; powergaming munchkining for grownups). Rather than playing a system I no longer enjoyed (too crunchy) with a GM I didn’t like, I stopped gaming for a period of time. When 5e came out I floated it to the folks in the group and was rebuked by some, while others – who’d grown tired, too – took me up on it. We’ve been playing 5e for four months now and love it. Perhaps I could be accused of splitting a group, but I disagree. That group is now made up of people who like PF for all its crunch and like planning their characters several levels in advance. And they’ve recruited replacement players who are the same way. Our group was initially made up of refugees, and then we took on new people, and we all really like what 5e is and enables us to do. I’d call that a big win all around.
Biggest regret: I, too, ran SW:EotE with a group for a few months, and we simply could not sustainably harness the right vibe for the game. We played it for a few months and although we had a few good sessions that felt like Star Wars, we all eventually agreed that something was missing. I think that Star Wars minus the fight against the Empire perhaps isn’t Star Wars, and thus the criminal life on the fringe just felt more like a scifi game than what we wanted. That, and the deeper we got into the system – the dice mechanic for which we liked a lot – the more complex we realized it is. And so what I was really excited about running for a long time ended up expiring far earlier than anticipated. On a sunny note, I did run an Age of Rebellion game at a local con in October, and it was great – perhaps SW works best in small doses.
2014 was a good year in gaming. It required some tough decisions, work, and sacrifices, but those are often the price of admission to a better place, which is where I’m leaving off. I anticipate that 2015 will pick up from there and keep heading in a good direction.
My biggest success for 2014 was to finally complete a campaign with a planned finale. This was very rewarding for myself and the Players. To end properly was a refreshing change after so many games that just petered out for one reason or another.
My biggest regret for the year was failing to find any more Players for the group. The two Players I have are superb, but we need more. One semi-regular new Player and a couple of one-time Players were all we had to show for our recruitment efforts in 2014. Must try harder.
Have a prosperous 2015
Same for me, Phil… I just closed out a year-long 20-session campaign and it’s the first time any of us can remember getting to the end of one. Now all the PCs have happy endings (or in one case, a noble death) and the sense of reward is enormous. I’m probably going to design my campaigns to be shorter in the future so we can get to this point more often.
It is clear that stories need endings and humans need closure. Yet, so few of our campaigns seem to reach a planned conclusion.
Designing short story arcs is a great solution.
Best of luck with your 2015 gaming
My biggest success was to convince three friends to play in my campaign and change from the D20 system which was our go to system, and switch to the Savage Worlds. They’ve been adapting to the new mindset needed for these rules sets and thus creating their own memorable moments.
My biggest failure is me failing to keep my interest in another friends campaign. He uses the PF system and since discovering SW system, I find PF to be too slow and cumbersome, as well as too limiting, when it comes to creating really epic moments.
Big fail: Just haven’t been able to recruit reliable players to replace those that moved away this year.
Big success: the BSG campaign has been spectacularly successful from terms of player satisfaction and engagement, and narrative quality. Probably the best campaign I’ve done since the ’90s.
Big Success: I got to play several new games (Lasers and Feelings, My Life with Master*, Dread, Dungeon World, D&D5e, Kingdom, and Microscope), and have a group scheduled to dust off more games that I’ve read but never played. Right now Patrick and I are both excited by the idea of Trollbabe.
Big Fail: I let outside commitments and apparent group apathy idle a game group for months. Coordinating schedules as an adult and fighting onto priority lists is tough. Hopefully we’ll find new fun in the coming year.
*: I actually played MLwM something like 8 years prior with a different group, but that’s close enough to “first” for this.