Saturday, October 27, 2012

Long-Term Campaign Overplanning

I'm barely on speaking terms with our 1-year old Lab, Pokey. That whole "Marley and Me" schtick is a bunch of malarkey. I have found zero benefit from this hellhound, save taking him for a walk.

Our walk, a mile's worth of laps around our development has been my gaming time. As I prepped to run The Pennywell Hangmen for the Cthulhu group, I used the walk to help memorize portions and run contingencies with numerous characters. It does help that the walks are usually after 9pm, so no one notices the man, with a dog, mumbling to himself.

Now that the scenario has united the different investigator factions, I've spent my walks filling in the blanks for the three months between scenarios, then prepping for the upcoming sessions. The next sessions appear to be less strenuous than Pennywell. It might be that we don't have a set play date or roster of attendees. It might also be that two of the experienced players who are wild cards probably won't be making the game (new dad syndrome). Of course the new group members could easily double my headaches, but I'm not laying that down as a challenge.

After those topics got stale, I've moved on to what I've been calling "Post-1924.". The published campaigns start coming out, bigger secrets are revealed, and they will sit back and look fondly on how easy the previous scenarios are.

As I expanded the raving fantasy of getting multiple campaigns done thorough 1930, I realized I committed a cardinal sin of GMing: I had assumed certain PCs would survive to completion.

While my subconscious has good justification for this (experienced players, experienced investigators, great character stories), there is absolutely no way I could/should guarantee this occurs.

During my college AD&D game, I had a three PCs set up as "the chosen ones" for the eventual finale. It fit the theme of the campaign, but things fell apart when the one player just stopped playing and the other two died. If I can't/won't keep PCs alive in a D&D game, how can I even imagine PC survival in a game where they are just normal men and women, with slowly shredding psyches, fighting unspeakable horrors. Eventually some of them will get surrounded by cultists or turn left into a Shoggoth's mouths when they should have turned right. I want to give the PCs a fighting chance, but sometimes imminent disaster occurs, even if it's a 1% chance.

So now I must turn my attention back to "1924" and drop some plot may or may not develop, thanks to that whole possibility of getting eaten by a Shoggoth.  Even then, I need to remember that this group has historically been good at creating amusing replacement characters.  I just need the campaign glue to put them into place.

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