Day 15 – Longest Campaign Played
I’m currently fighting a long-running bout of game entropy where it doesn’t seem like we can play the same campaign for more than six months, so this is an interesting one.
I’ve always liked the idea of the long-running campaign that gives ample time for character and plot growth, ranking up your abilities and becoming more and more powerful. The kind of campaign built on habit and nostalgia that you just kind of fall into week-after-week. It’s a nice ideal, but I’m also torn by the fact that my free time is much more limited, and there are sooooooo many games I’d like to play in and run…
Anyways, longest campaign would be a contest between two of the games I played in college.
The first would be the hoary Exalted campaign that began in the fall of 2006; we were dynasts exalted by the five terrestrial dragons, sent forth from the House of Bells (as per our custom) into the welcoming hands of our relatives’ intrigues. Mostly it was the perfect storm of building our first White Wolf characters, building our first Exalted characters, having no idea on what made a character balanced or not, and thinking points in breeding and artifact were for chumps but man having a patron and family sounded rad.
As our characters fucked up, ran away, and shuffled the pieces under the rug while one of our number ran giggling into the night—a vicious and oft-repeated cycle—we actually did have some character development, did grow in power, and went from ineffective fuckups to marginally effective replacement-level characters with interesting scars. With the good came the bad; there were the evocative horror sessions, the time one character punched a dude through a wall, and the under-arching plot of a stolen nuclear bomb. Then there were the sessions where a dude fucked a sheet, or the time he ran giggling into the night (“I was snickering”) and forced us to pay the noodle-cart man his noodle tab. Really, I can just blame that one player, and two more for their inability to stay awake after dark.
I can’t really say that it was the longest, though; it ended late in 2009 or early in 2010 due to a combination of entropy and a specific player’s stubbornness. But after the first six or eight sessions, the game stopped overnight and didn’t seem ready to progress—apparently the GM didn’t even think anyone liked the system until I picked up a few hundred dollars worth of Exalted books. It ran sporadically from thence, pre-empting my Dragon-Bloods game on occasion until it was itself replaced by a Solars campaign that ran twice a week and continued well after I’d graduated.
The other contender also ran sporadically, but it ran far longer. It was another campaign that started in 2006, where one of the GMs on campus ran a game about college students sucked into his own homebrew fantasy setting, set in a mishmash of classical mythology and a biblical pre-flood Mediterranean. The world had fascinating, if odd, levels of detail, and it was awesome to have our actions shape it when half the gaming group decided to say “fuck it” to the LARP-style intrigue plots and go on a swashbuckling tour of history. So, he did the natural thing and split the game into two campaigns, the D&D action game and the fuck-over-the-other-players intrigue game.
The game had its flaws, though. The rules system was another “I can’t believe it’s not White Wolf” example, the vaguely playable The Everlasting RPG; the rules—replacing White Wolf’s dice pools with card draws—were badly balanced, and the base setting (not used much, I should note) was too artsy and pretentious. The GM also had a very pre-OSR mindset and ran more as an antagonist; about 1.5-2 years into the two campaigns and we weren’t getting rewarded with any of the in-game currency (destiny points) we needed to survive against the various threats we faced. The game died, the GM moved away, so it goes.
So I tried again a year later, after one of the players convinced me to look at Torg as a viable alternative that could handle multi-genre setting weirdness. It could, and since it runs well and has a tight system on the playing end, it became a staple for another few years, and we indoctrinated a fresh batch of players into it. I had grand plans for more of a “wacky racers through time” thing, less using the other GM’s setting and more following on the many plot threads we’d established, chasing after one of the previous characters (now the primary antagonist). It didn’t quite pan out that way, since it ended shortly before the climax of the first alternate timestream the players would find themselves in.
Flash forward another few years, and when I’d stop by to visit I’d join yet a third version run by yet another GM. It took an interesting turn, hybridizing more of the time-travel as well as the original setting, but I’m not sure that the players really understood most of what was going on. (Those of us who had been around from the beginning were few and far between, but we picked up on more of the implications and history.) Despite the gaps in the middle, the campaign ran fairly consistently—as in, weekly—for almost six years.