Campaigns: do you prefer a set-length or open-ended play?
I really like the idea of open-ended play, but I can’t see it ever being feasible for me these days. I simply can’t commit to the consistency and regularity needed for a potentially never-ending story.
Set-length campaigns on the other hand are much more feasible option for me. I’m hedging my rookie-GM bets that you don’t need a pre-defined campaign story either to dictate the set length. A timeboxed sandbox campaign should still make for a rewarding series.
My upcoming Unknown Armies 3 campaign is taking this approach. It’s scheduled for around 8 sessions, or about 20 hours of scheduled play. That feels like it should give enough time to evolve a character and adventuring group, to explore and affect a campaign world, and to give the system a fairly extensive playthrough.
It should allow enough of a timeframe for an epic narrative arc (relative to whatever is the pace or scope of play). Along the way there’s room for several episodes to generate some fictional texture that can lead to a richer, more satisfying resolution. And with a deadline for the series to complete, we know that there is going to be an arc finale fairly soon.
As well as being logistically more practical, there are just too many settings and systems that would make a great playground for adventures to devote limited gaming hours to an ongoing open-ended campaign. Set-length campaigns afford me the space and time to experience more of them.
Ultimately, let a thousand flowers bloom, I say. And I will relish sampling the many ways and worlds that game designers craft for our adventuring pleasures.
This is an alternate #rpgaday question for Day 14. The default is ‘which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?’ I haven’t got enough open-ended campaign experience to answer that fairly. I have enjoyed WFRP in the past and am enjoying The One Ring presently for longer campaigns that have enough character development scope that they could sustain an open-ended narrative.
Header image by Duy Huynh.