Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens this weekend.
It is also very likely that many ongoing RPG campaigns will die this weekend.
It’s a problem I know well. Reflecting on campaigns past, I recall a lot of them moving forward with all of the creative energy and emotional investment one could hope for in a campaign, only to come to a crashing halt because most of the group saw Batman or Bloodsport one weekend and wanted to change campaigns.
I’m quite certain that it’s bound to happen again and, amongst my group, it already has. We alternate weeks and the Pathfinder campaign has already been lost to the Dark Side in anticipation of the film. In that case it was easier, as the campaign had reached an easy point to stop and shift gears. No one in that campaign, however, is under any illusions that they’ll return to the old campaign.
In my case, the D&D game I’m running is progressing well, but I’m feeling the pull of the Dark Side too. I’m sure that once I see the film I’m going to have the urge to tie up my campaign and run something involving lightsabers and stormtroopers in much the same way that seeing The Avengers gave me a hankering to run a superhero campaign. Do I give in?
There are many possibilities when confronted with the urge. Here are a few that I’ve used in the past.
Give In. If everybody wants to fire blasters and swing laser swords, then go for it. End or suspend the current campaign and let everyone ride the high that they’ve been on since seeing the film. Once it’s over, either pick up the old campaign or start something new.
Resist Temptation. Sure everybody’s excited about the new genre, but that’s no reason to kill a campaign that’s working, especially if everyone’s still enjoying it. There will be time to try the new setting after the current campaign is finished.
Assimilate. Take what people enjoyed about the new element and incorporate it into your campaign. Were they jazzed about unarmed combat but your current RPG system lacks in that department? Introduce some house rules to spice it up. Do they love the idea of the conflict between light and dark? Give the party paladin or priest a moral quandary where a “dark god” offers them a path that tempts them away from the one her “light god” demands.
Relieve the Pressure. Can the group get its fix elsewhere? If your group alternates campaigns (like mine does) then your campaign need not be affected. Similarly, it may be possible to slake the thirst with a one-off or mini-campaign, after which the old campaign can be picked up again.
Reflect. This one should be part of the process to get to the other choices, but I’m listing it here because so often I’ve skipped this step and later regretted it. Ask yourself why one choice is calling to you and what you are willing to do to get there. It’s very easy to convince yourself that the old campaign has run its course so that you can end it and move on, but is that really true? Are you going to be happy ending a campaign with months of life left in it for something that may not last more than a handful of sessions? Conversely, is it worth putting off a new campaign to give your old one closure, even if the new idea has taken such a firm hold on the group that they are only tolerating what you have left? Will spicing up your current campaign with some elements really be enough to slake the thirst?
In my current case, the pressure’s been relieved. With the other campaign moving to Star Wars, there is little need or desire for my campaign to follow suit – the only person I need to convince not to change is me. Sometimes even that can be a hard sell, but in this case I think I’ve dodged the bullet.
So how about you? Have you ever lost a good campaign to an event like a new movie in a different genre? If not, how did you navigate through the player’s enthusiasm for the new while maintaining the old? Have you ever regretted a decision that you made when faced with the crossroads?