Cycling between campaigns

As I have mentioned a few times, my gaming group is currently playing through two homebrew campaigns with the occasional adventure path offshoot.  In the first video blog I produced, I asked a question about how, those of you who are playing multiple campaigns at the same time manage or cycle through those various campaigns.  I wanted to bring up that issue again and discuss it a bit further.

The initial idea behind the two campaigns we were running was to give the GM from our main campaign a chance to play as well as time to prep.  Since it is a homebrew campaign it takes longer to prep since they have to come up with everything.  We would play one for a bit and then move back to the other.  This worked fairly well for a while.  However, due to a relatively high kill count in the initial main campaign, and the secondary campaign’s GM letting us spitball it quite often, the secondary campaign quickly became an additional main campaign.

We were all thoroughly enjoying the second main campaign and we finally completed a major story arc (something about stopping a beefed up Glabrezu from destroying our country… you know, typical day’s work).  However, this meant we were playing the second main campaign for a year, without going back to the other one.  On top of that, one of the other players really wanted to run Mummy’s Mask, on the promise that we would only run it for a few weeks to get through the first book.

Image credit: http://paizo.com/products/btpy94vv?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-80-Empty-Graves
Image credit: http://paizo.com/products/btpy94vv?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-80-Empty-Graves

Those few weeks turned into a couple months.  While we all still had a lot of fun (well, some of us, two characters I made did die), we weren’t sure which main campaign we would be going back to once our Mummy’s Mask adventure was done.  We took a vote, and since the GM from the initial main campaign was really looking forward to running again, we went back to it.  This brings me to the main issue I had and am looking to get some suggestions or answers to; how long should you go between playing major campaigns?

We went a whole year without playing one of our main campaigns and I am now thinking that that is just too long.  Almost none of us remember what was going on before we broke for the other campaign.  I didn’t remember anything about my character.  We did ask for and the GM did put up a summary of what happened, which did help refresh our memories.  But, again, I am of the mind that a year and a half (we almost went two years we think) of a break from one campaign is just too much.

So, I am personally thinking, and will be bringing it up with my gaming group, that we try to aim for three to six months of sessions (factoring in that we play every week), or shorter, before jumping back to our other campaign.  I think this should allow us to get some stuff accomplished and move the story along, and allow us to keep our other characters and what they’ve done still within memory.  Granted, I am not a stickler that would demand we hop over to the other campaign once the six month limit has been reached.  I just don’t want to go another 18 months without playing one of our main campaigns.

What do you think?  Is this just par for the course when playing multiple campaigns?  Do you think three to six months in one campaign before switching is a good idea?  Do you have other ideas or suggestions on how to handle hopping from one campaign to another?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Becoming more social part 2

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I started dabbling in tabletop roleplaying in college.  It started freshman year with some Dungeons and Dragons and an attempted Vampire campaign.  This dabbling spanned the semesters from Fall 2000 to Spring 2001.  As is typical, these things fall apart over summer break when everyone goes back home and you eventually lose track of them when we all come back for the next semester.

My Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 source books
My Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 source books

This brings me to the next time I dabbled in Dungeons and Dragons, which lead to another crack in my shell.  Through a mutual friend, I heard about a one-off D&D session taking place at his house with his DM (Dungeon Master).  This friend has played in a handful of campaigns with said DM and has a lot of fun in them.  He asked if I would like to play and I said “yes.”  The one-off was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed playing the crazy Halfling Rogue I made.  In the process of playing, I met some of my friend’s D&D friends and I quickly made friends with them.

However, the great thing that occurred because of this one-off is that one of the other players was thinking about starting a campaign with a different group, he liked how I played my character, and he asked if I would be interested in joining his campaign.  I was a bit nervous about it because I wouldn’t really know anyone.  Sure, I had met who was going to be my new DM and one other player in the one-off I had played, but that was it, I had only just met them.  But, since I was really starting to get into D&D, and when you start getting into something like that you want to play constantly, I said “yes” again.

This experience helped me come out of my shell even more as now I was playing in a campaign with six other people, counting the DM, and I barely even knew two of them.  Since we were all there to play D&D, there wasn’t much in the way of awkwardness in getting to know each other; D&D was our icebreaker.  I quickly got to know everyone at the table and we all became friends, though I only really keep up with two of them from time to time.

This experience was also the first time roleplaying was actively encouraged and rewarded.  Before, I would try to get into character, which is difficult for those just starting out, but there was no reward or punishment for staying in character throughout a session.  However, this DM implemented a couple rules that really helped with my roleplaying: 1) extra experience points were rewarded to those that roleplayed well and stayed in character (this was handled by secretly providing everyone at the table their own experience for the night) and 2) you will be penalized for using incorrect terms like “dollars” or “bucks,” as the currency in D&D is gold.  This provided an incentive to remain in character, because we all want to level up as soon as possible, and to only use terms appropriate for the system.  To this day I correct people who talk in terms of dollars instead of gold when they should, much to the annoyance of my friends.

This was my first, real headfirst dive into the world of tabletop roleplaying.  It was my first full on campaign where we actively worked on a team towards to team’s goals while working for a larger organization.  It was the first time I was part of a regularly scheduled session.  It definitely built the foundation for my roleplaying.  My only regret was that it didn’t last past the first college break, cannot remember if it was winter or summer break, we encountered during the campaign as a key player switched to a different school and some others had different work schedules.  However, it was still a great experience and remains a very fond memory.

What was your very first tabletop roleplaying campaign like?  How long did it last?  Leave a comment below and/or share on Twitter.

Play what you like

When it comes to tabletop roleplaying, almost everyone gets excited when they hear “Let’s start a new campaign.”  The reason we all get excited is because now we get to create something completely new.  It doesn’t matter if the new campaign is just a temporary one while in between major story arcs of another campaign or another major campaign, we still approach our new characters the same; let’s create the most awesome, fun character we can.

However, party composition and dynamics does factor in.  It is not possible to have a four person party consisting entirely of fighters.  Actually, that’s not true.  It is possible, the party will just only be effective in combat and quite inept at most everything else.  So, some consideration is needed when it comes to deciding who is going to play what.  This does not, however, mean that everyone needs to pick from the very narrow list of iconic classes and roles.

A word picture of all he classes available in the Pathfinder Roleplaying game.  Not counting the numerous archetypes of course.
A word picture of all the classes available in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Not counting the numerous archetypes of course.

You do not want to feel you have to choose a specific class just because all other roles were already picked by other players.  This does happen.  Sometimes people feel compelled to pick a certain role or class because that’s what the party needs.  A lot of the time, when this happens, that person puts very little effort into creating their character, not really caring to fully flesh it out.  It’s not really their character at this point, it’s the party’s character.  This can lead to a lot of resentment within the party, especially if everyone else got to pick a class or role that they really like.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way, and I highly recommend against choosing to play something you don’t want to just because it will benefit the party the most.  The players will benefit the most, and you will benefit the most, by choosing to play something you want to play.  You do not have to be a cleric (the role of healer is often, in my experience, the last role chosen) just because the current party’s composition is lacking a healer.  So, again, play what you want to play.

It is not your responsibility to provide the entire party with something that seems to be lacking.  If the party is lacking healing, in this example, then the party, as a group, needs to find a workaround.  Most systems out there are very flexible, offering numerous ways to gain the ability to heal without needing to play a specific class or role.  These often come in the way of an archetype, magic items, and/or potions.  The party will find a way to make it work.  Remember, it is not your job to make sure every specific role is fulfilled.  This leads to tabletop roleplaying feeling like a job instead of a way to relax and enjoy oneself.

Playing what you want, in this case, can lead to improved party cohesion, tactics, and roleplaying.  This will increase the amount of fun and character investment everyone experiences around the table.  The party will not run into a difficult fight if they know they don’t have a steady healing source.  The party will also roleplay differently if they know they don’t have a specific “get out of jail free” skill.  And when it comes down to it, this is why we tabletop roleplay, to unwind, relax, and have fun with friends.

When it comes time to create new characters, how does your group choose roles?  Do you try to keep more with the iconic roles?  Or do you mix it up a bit?  Please feel free to leave a comment below and/or share on Twitter.

Image courtesy of http://www.wordle.net/create

I used wordle.net and entered in all the classes currently available from the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game source books.