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Resurrecting a Campaign

eberronworldmap [1]

Yeah, every corner of that map. What was I thinking?

By popular demand, my gaming group has requested we start playing my Eberron campaign again. A while back, I talked about how to suspend a campaign [2], but what do you do if you didn’t end at a nice, neat point? How do you resurrect a campaign your players love, but you aren’t sure you remember where you parked [3]?

I started our Eberron campaign way back in 2011 when I wanted to try my hand at a ‘traditional’ fantasy, fully prepped campaign. Since we were in between D&D editions (sorta) we decided to use Pathfinder. I think I successfully achieved most of the goals I had for the campaign – guide the players into connecting their characters to the setting, the background, and each other, give it an epic scope and feel, bring the steam-punky goodness of Eberron to life, and get the players invested in the game. What I didn’t succeed at was creating a campaign we could complete in any reasonable amount of time. I basically dug myself a hole by giving them six (one for each character) prophesied quests that were designed to take them to every corner of the map. What was I thinking!?

Well, I know what I was thinking. I wanted epic, and I wanted an excuse to explore the many mysteries of Eberron, a setting I adore. When we had last played, they had only completed two of the six quests, but had begun traveling towards a third. The two they completed were quite successful and made for nice chapters in the game’s story, but the motions towards the third one hit some bumps in the road that suspended the campaign in a less than satisfying way.

That was over a year and a half ago. That length of time is embarrassing since I had every intention of picking the campaign back up, but the reasons it was suspended (we lost a player, I was unsatisfied with the last couple sessions, wasn’t feeling it, etc.) left me unsure how to get the game back on track. As a result, I never pushed the issue and let us be distracted by other games. After all, there are always new games to be played. Now they want it back and I have promised to bring it back to life.

Here’s what I’m doing to achieve that:

I should have just set it in Sharn. [4]

I should have just set it in Sharn.

Review the notes I do have. Towards the end, due to frustration and a little burn out, my notes are less than stellar. I have a vague recollection of where they were and what was going on, but notes don’t really give me much to go off of. Luckily, the earlier parts of the campaign have much better notes. I was more diligent and I have reviewed those to get a feel for where things were left off and what will need to be done to carry forward. I’ve also been trying to fill in some gaps with the notes I didn’t take. While they’ll be incomplete, the information I write down will help in the future since I highly doubt we’ll complete the four remaining quests before I want or need a break at GMing.

Start planning what’s to come. While I am very much an advocate of minimal prep, I still need to have an understanding of where the characters are headed and what they could run into. Pathfinder and D&D aren’t exactly games that I can run with just a piece of paper and my imagination. I’ve already decide that I’m going to skip past where we awkwardly left the game and will start at them arriving at Stormhome to book passage to Icewhite Island. There is some character background stuff related to Stormhome, so I’ll need to double check character backgrounds to make sure I have their hooks all properly seeded in the region. I can also start roughing out their destination. Maybe where they were is a little murky, but I can clear things up with where they’re headed.

Make sure the players have all the pertinent details. While I know they love the campaign, I also know some of my players have memories comparable to goldfish. I want to make sure we’re all on the same page about who their characters are and what their place was in this world. This will include reminding them of important NPCs and milestones of things they’ve accomplished. I’ll also check in and make sure they’re still okay with who and what their characters are. For example, the Gunslinger was accidentally turned into a Dragonborn during one of the last adventures. Is the player okay with this, or does he want to hand wave getting turned back into a human? Our newest player has volunteered to take on the abandoned character, so I’ll be working with her to make sure she’s okay with the character’s build and adjusting or tweaking her personality and background to meld what’s come before with someone she’s going to want to play.

As frustrated as I was with the way things ended, I’m looking forward to seeing these characters again. There’s a lot of history and personality in what’s come before and the players deserve a chance to see a real ending for the campaign. Have you ever worked to revive a campaign you left in an awkward place?

Oh look, I think it’s breathing again.

4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Resurrecting a Campaign"

#1 Comment By Silveressa On October 28, 2016 @ 11:13 am

I’ve had to revive a dead campaign a time or two over the years, and one technique I found was especially helpful was in having an NPC ally/patron/romantic interest (someone the group generally prefers to be amicable to) they haven’t seen for a long time ask them about their journey thus far.

The retelling of events by the group in character I found makes for a nice recap of past adventures, and helped clue me in as GM as to what specific scenes and adventures were most memorable to my players, and assuming there’s a NPC party member around, they can easily fill in the blanks and round out any gaps in the groups recollection.

I also found this technique is more fun than rereading campaign notes to the players since it’s more interactive and encourages roleplaying over simple recollection and gives everyone a chance to easily participate in the remembrance of where things were left.

As far as letting a player take over a different persons PC, I’ve had mixed results with the attempt, and often found it worked best to have the character suffer the somewhat cliched “amnesia event” (either from magic, illness, nano tech, or the typical crack to the brain pan) so any discrepancies between the new player and the old are more easily explained, and the new player is less railroaded in maintaining consistency between the old personality and their interpretation of it.

#2 Comment By Angela Murray On October 28, 2016 @ 1:20 pm

That’s a really good idea for prompting the players to recap and highlight the previous campaign. I’m still probably going to put together a timeline for them, because we have played it off and on over five years.

I’m not too worried about the PC swapping hands. She was created fora player who never really started playing with us, so the character alternated between being an NPC and being played by an intermittent player (he was attending college at the time and couldn’t always join us). When the intermittent player was able to join us full time, he created his own character and eventually the unplayed PC got picked up by another player’s wife who joined us for a time. She was the player that left us right as the campaign died. Honestly, if the character hadn’t been a fighter, she probably would have been written out of the game a long time ago, but the other players were adamant they still needed her. They enjoyed how badass she was, even if she didn’t really have much of a personality. 🙂

I’m pretty confident the player taking her on will be more consistent and able to bring her to life finally.

#3 Comment By Blackjack On October 28, 2016 @ 12:52 pm

My LT game nearly died years ago. The players had gotten too cocky in pursuing a powerful enemy. One PC was killed in battle and the rest were captured, separated, and imprisoned. It was a bad beat. The players lost interest and one, who had provided most of the momentum for the group, moved away.

After about 6 months of taking various excuses from the players about how they were too busy to play this week I put it to them bluntly: “You guys suffered a bad beat. I know that. But there are opportunities to get past it. Are you in?”

They all were!

With buy-in secured I crafted a set of interwoven story lines detailing life as prisoners– prisoners whom many of the guards wanted dead!– and offered them ways out. The ways out were not pretty, nor were they intended to be. But two of the players really rose to the occasion. One kept comparing it to the movie “The Great Escape” and the other… well, there is no movie I’m aware of where a good character kills a paladin to prove to the bad guys that she’s on their side now. That storyline involved scenes and recurring NPCs the players have remembered for more than a decade after.

#4 Comment By Angela Murray On October 28, 2016 @ 1:21 pm

That sounds epic. 🙂 I think sometimes having the GM confirm that they aren’t in a completely hopeless spot can be enough motivation for the players to dive back in and give it a try.

#5 Pingback By Gnomecast#3 – Resurrecting Your Campaign | Gnome Stew On December 1, 2016 @ 9:00 am

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