Having recently taken up an old HERO cyberpunk campaign once more – after an apparent gaming burnout on the GM’s part and a subsequent yearlong hiatus – I find myself thinking again of an argument I used to have with another gamer in the past:
We were debating the preferable duration of campaigns.
He observed that many campaigns tended to end somewhere after three to ten session, simply because one or more players would drop out by then, the scheduling would implode, the group as a whole would develop a taste for something different, or similar “administrative” reasons.
I could agree with that observation, and we both recognized the presence of exemptions from this pretty rough rule of thumb to “natural” campaign duration.
Where we disagreed, were the conclusions to be drawn from this observation.
His opinion was that this “natural” campaign duration should be acknowledged already during the initial planning step for new campaigns. I.e. a campaign should be designed to only last a maximum of ten sessions (and preferably only half that) from the get go. That way, a premature termination – without the campaign coming to a solid conclusion – would be avoided. Whereas, he reasoned, a campaign designed to run longer (or even one without a definite pre-planned duration) would always have a high risk of being ruined by such an ignominious end.
I couldn’t agree less. Not because I didn’t share his idea about natural durations, but rather because I didn’t feel that this natural duration should be seen as signifying the definite permanent end of a campaign. In my mind, the natural duration of campaigns rather tied into a cyclical pattern. Any campaign could be resurrected, rising once more from the depths like Great Cthulhu once the stars were right. This belief then also served to lessen the “shock” and dissatisfaction with a premature end – after all, it wouldn’t be an end at all, would it? So, there was no need and no incentive to limiting campaign scopes in my eyes. The only acknowledgement necessary would be to accept that a campaign planned for a longer duration probably wouldn’t play out in an uninterrupted string of sessions.
Well, coming back to the cyberpunk game mentioned above, it should be clear that I still feel pretty secure in this belief, and when I feel nostalgia for any “prematurely terminated” campaigns it is tinged with pleasant anticipation rather than regret.