Confession of a serial campaign prepper

Over the last years I have been trying to get a proper campaign up and running. Most I get to is session 1. I long looked for a reason and after some self reflection I had to realize a hard truth. I enjoy preparing a campaign, with custom or tweaked rules, some pages of background, handouts. Creating the major players and then creating characters in that world.

Another symptom of this is the tons of RPG things I have started but never finished. Take the ShadowOps thing (still not done, sorry). I put in tons of hours for a one shot that then never happened.

A realization that totally baffled me: I  do not enjoy running as much as creating. I had blamed everything, from difficult schedules to wrong rule sets or disengaged players. But never considered this. I wager the “problem” began when I had a dry spell of a few years without an actual game. And creating these campaigns that never went anywhere where my only way of kind of “living out” the hobby.

One reason for this problem I think is that in my head everything is awesome. The characters, the scenes, the dialogue. At the table I then face realities. I am not as good a GM as I thought I was, players are not as engrossed and engaged as I had thought. I need to look up stuff, break the pace and immersion. It is just not the game I wanted to run in the first place. And I am weirdly lazy as well. I regularly invest 30-60 hours on preparing a campaign, and then can’t be bothered to invest an hour for a second session.

I hate it and lose all interest and motivation.

This calls into question a lot of things. I do enjoy running one shot games and playing of course. But when it comes to campaigns I always dream bigger than the reality is and set myself up for disappointment. What to do? My players want campaign play instead of one shots but I seem to be unable to keep up interest and engagement for longer than the end of session one. And if I can’t keep at it, how can I expect my players to?

I feel I lack the resolve and stamina to stick with one thing. All those new RPG coming out all the time demanding my attention surely do not help. The quest for the “perfect system” is driving me from one to the next. I want to play them all! That I have a long commute and because of that regular games during the week are not really possible is an additional challenge. If I am lucky I get to play once a month, usually there are at least 4-6 weeks between session 0 and actual play. Like i said, I thought these where the primary issues, but must admit to myself they aren’t.

For example my friends and I spend already 3 “Session Zeroes” to set up an online game in the fallout universe. The usual restrictions for time and commute would not apply as much. And here I am again, not letting it die per se but not really pushing for a session 1 either. It has been over 2 month since the session zero… and did I really prep for session 1 yet? No! With the modern tools we all have available this should not be an issue anymore, and there are tons of no to low prep games around.

This problem is starting to burn me out. I just don´t grasp why this is happening. What I am doing is inefficient and wastes everyone’s time and if I continue I wont have any friends to play with soon. But I love this hobby and I need to get out of this cycle I am trapped in somehow.

Or I may just accept I rather hack rules and write rough settings instead of actually playing RPG and continue the mental masturbation of imagining the super duper campaign. Which is a lot of things , but has nothing to do with an RPG. Can you tell I am frustrated?

Does anyone else has/had to struggle with this? How did you solve it?

9 thoughts on “Confession of a serial campaign prepper

  1. Reblogged this on Gregorius21778 and commented:
    I hear you and I guess I am just the same. The name of my game was “Vampire”, starting with “the Masquerde”, in our modern times as well as in the “Dark Ages”, Especially the following line of you is something I could have said myself:

    # # # #
    One reason for this problem I think is that in my head everything is awesome. The characters, the scenes, the dialogue. At the table I then face realities. I am not as good a GM as I thought I was, players are not as engrossed and engaged as I had thought. I need to look up stuff, break the pace and immersion. It is just not the game I wanted to run in the first place. And I am weirdly lazy as well. I regularly invest 30-60 hours on preparing a campaign, and then can’t be bothered to invest an hour for a second session.
    # # # #

    To be honest, I never actually ran games with my group again. I played some DH2nd but that did not went well for other reason (mostly ingrained in the system itself). So, all you will read now is ADVISE, not a tried-and-true solution.

    Try to develope a small series instead of a campagin. Make it a triology or (at maximum) plan for something that is meant to last for five sessions. Only start to entice players when you have the “mission/adventure” groundwork laid out. And tell your players up front (they now about problem right now already!). That will feed you with the fun of developing something while the game itself will not bog down because you don´t want to invest any more time. To make sure that you have the ground work, grab three cheap OSR moduls (or similiar readily available source) and TWEAK them into your world. Don´t hesitate to grab something that has NOTHING to do with your game world. After you are through with it, you will have ripped out half of it (perhaps including the heart) and replaced it with your own creation so a lot of people will be hardly pressed to even recognize the individual body parts… they will just see your Frankstein =)

    Use one rules system and try to use it for your next mini series as well. If come up with a brand new idea of yours, your place will at least not have to chew through all of it starting with the basic mechanics. Those will be familiar already, and that is very important: your players might not enjoy reading rules

    Think about pre-generated characters. And I mean like “offer a cast that is half set, half ready for your players to flesh out”. The players might not like it, but it will keep their time investment (and their potential frustration about it being gone with the wind of change) a bit lower while it still allows them to INVEST something into their characters. Make sure they have enough options ready. so. The fact that they will run for them with three or five missions (which can take a YEAR to finish, depending on how frequent you meet) will give them three to five “level ups” and the “I-make-it-MINE” changes all players want to have.

    Last but not least: adress your players and say them that you are sorry for all waist of time that happened up to now. Even if that is not changing a thing, it is the rigt thing to do.

    …and by the by… what is it that makes session prep a pain to you? Is it just the fact that it will lead to a SESSION? Is their perhaps something a player is doing that annoys you? Something one should not adres sin a blog but towards the player? Or is it really just this “it-ain´t-not-my-thing”, thing?🙂

  2. My answer was to long for the comment function😦
    So I re-blogged it… I hope this works out, I have never done this before..

  3. Pingback: Confession of a serial campaign prepper – Gregorius21778

  4. Let´s confuse our readers, shall we? I will answer here as well as in my own blog😉

    @Session prep & the once-a-month problem
    As my players swore to keep their nose out of my blog I was able to post my own session-prep as well as a session-rep(ort). Obviously, that does not work for anyone as not eveyone is able and/or willing to “ban” once friends and fellows from reading a blog they osterwise might enjoy reading.

    …but… how about writing the session prep and session rep up as a blog post *without* postin them until the respective adventures are over? It is a good exercise in writing, putting something down keeps the memory vivid and one can always re-read the own notes. Plus, the fact that one will have blog-fodder for about a week or month (once the adventure is over) is an added motivitation to actually do the session prep and rep. The only disadvantage: doing it that way is that it is a rather ineffective way. Let´s face it what would otherwise be notes and stat blocks into a series of sentence somebody else would be able to follow is tricky. BUT inregard to not doing any session prep, it might still be the better option😉

    In regard to commerical modules: what are you currently running? Did I get it right that you are running some post-apocalypse stuff? I have an post-apocalyptic sandbox on my own wishlist at drivethrurpg.com. If you “green light” me to post a the link (and/or other links) here I will be happy to make suggestions for material that might be a source to be salvaged. As it is #NOT# “MutantFuture” it might be seriouse enough to be compatible with something based on the Fallout-series (which is your current game, isn´t it?) =)

    • Hi Gregorius, indeed, I am currently running, or rather TRY to run, a game set in the Fallout Universe. I am aiming for a 5-6 Session short campaign atm and want to see where it goes from there. I have enough material for a starting point and I will use some of the faction gameplay from Other Dust for background “flavour”.

      In general I prefer Sci Fi or Modern to Fantasy.

      • Hi Chaosmeister,

        good luck🙂 Five to six sounds food. If I only have a “starting point” fleshed out I try to already have the general concept for “the next mission” at the ready as well. At least, I tried to do it like that in my DarkHeresy2nd game. Keeping in mind what is next helps to create little tie-ins on the fly if an opportunity for such comes up. And players are wonderful to generate opportunities, especially as they never know what´s next (I guess one calls that “unbiased and involuntary brainstorming”😉 ). Having one or two things from game 1 still having a meaning in game 2 often does wonders for the atmo, at least in the players minds.

        My best wishes for your session prep

        Sincerely
        Gregorius21778

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