Longest Campaign Played — #RPGaDay2015, Day 15
I’ve been eyeing this topic since the first, casting back in my memory for which particular game can claim this honor. The weird thing is, I can’t put my finger on it, explicitly. There are a couple of prime contenders for the spot, but they all fall roughly in the same zone, making it hard to pick out which campaign is going to actually hold the spot over all others. And in one case, there’s a weird question of hours spent compared to calendar length.
Longest Campaign Played
For me, the long game seems to have managed something in the three year range. This is assuming regular, weekly sessions with an optimistic estimate of six or eight hour normal session length. These are far more likely to fall back to four hour sessions (which seems to be a bit more usual), but optimally, I tend to hope for longer. There are occasioned dry spells, for holidays, cancellation and anything that would otherwise preempt a session in some way or another. If we assume the bottom limit of four hour sessions with approximately 40 sessions within a year, that comes around to close to 500 hours in a three year campaign.
“But I was told there would be no math…”
If we figure this for a lower threshold of a baseline, it will help my contention on the shorter calendar game that I referenced.
The first game that I can think of that might fall within this range would be the WEG Star Wars game I played in high school. This one ran, off and on for the better part of the three year mark that I seem to come back to. It was a small game, with only a couple of dedicated players and a couple of occasional guest stars. With a loose group of perhaps six people, we ran fairly regularly during this period, rotated GM’s here and there, and brought a couple of characters up to Jedi Master level. (This was defined as 7D in the three Force powers. It took a long damned time, and this was about the point when the game started to lack real challenge.)
This was followed by a couple of Star Wars games that ran on IRC in college. We had a diverse collection of people from across the US and Canada, with a single outlier in Australia. The main game made it into the three year range by the end, but most of the larger group had drifted off, save for the main GM and myself, with new people that I had recruited taking up needed slots within the game. Some great memories and a lot of interesting people, but the game and the medium for it had pretty much run its course by the time we shuttered that channel.
There was something of a dry spell after this, with games that lasted a year or more, but nothing that continued for any great amount of time. There was nothing that lasted that long when I was living abroad (in all truth, I spent most of my time reading RPG books, since the games were so few and far between), and by the time I got back to the States, I was in dire need of something to actually persist.
The next game to have any longevity was in a system that I direly hated, and the GM had modified so drastically that it only barely resembled its original form. This was a weird time travel game that used a fairly obscure game by the name of The Everlasting, a tedious and particularly weird knock-off of the classic World of Darkness games from White Wolf. One of the designers may have once worked for WW when they weren’t paying attention, but I can’t say for certain. Everlasting was determined to throw as much shit at the wall as it possibly could, which might have worked, had they had any form of original thought, but the end result was even more muddled than its inspiration. Which is saying something. To his credit, the GM saw how tangled the game line happened to be, and this was the rationale for the time travel aspect in the first place. If he dropped the game world back to its early genesis, there might be some way to make sense of it all. Either that, or he was bound and determined to see his Doctor Who fanfics played out. It’s hard to say. By the time the game wound out, another GM and I had taken over from the original, none of the original players were even involved, and the new players only saw edges of the weird brilliance that the campaign ended up being.
From there, we had a couple of Pathfinder Adventure Paths that we saw to the end.
It’s interesting. The AP’s come out on a monthly basis, which offers the misguided perspective that the individual modules themselves might be undertaken within a month’s time. This bears no relation to actual reality in the slightest. From what I can tell, a single module might last as long as six months, with careful prep and planning on the part of both the GM and players. I’m sure that it’s possible to finish in a shorter period, but that’s pushing the limits of both credibility and scheduling. If nothing else, there tends to be a fair chunk of player fatigue partway through.
The first AP we finished was Legacy of Fire, a path that I pushed in front of our Mideastern History buff GM. He loved all things about it, wrote extensively about his experiences with the path and the troubles that we gave him, and it took us a properly ridiculous amount of time to shuffle our way through the end parts, mostly because by that point, he had graduated and moved to the other side of the state. This necessitated careful planning and dedicated weekends for the final parts, which occasionally felt like we were pulling teeth, but we got through it all.
The second AP was Carrion Crown, which I myself ran and have detailed bits and pieces of on this blog.
We’ve tried and failed to finish Kingmaker (most of the way through the third module when it died; player attrition was a huge part of this, but it came down to a likely TPK situation in an upcoming encounter, so I called the game on that account), Rise of the Runelords (this one got to the penultimate module before the GM burned out, and one of the integral players bowed out) and Savage Tide. The last one managed to hit the 50% mark, more or less, but there was a huge player burnout on this one, so the game stalled on that basis.
Finally, there was the Exalted game that happened to be the most brutally dedicated group I’ve ever seen run. This was the reason for the maths part above.
When I started the game at the beginning of one summer, I had a broad idea of a game in mind. We’d run Dragonbloods up to that point, with the various failed attempts at other flavors of Exalts. On one hand, I was tired of the players being unable to grasp certain parts of the system, and on the other, I wanted to run an epic Solars game from the raw, mortal beginnings. In my mock disgust, I gave the players mortal characters, started them out as press-ganged convicts, and dropped them in the mud. From there, they had to earn their legend.
This game, by consensus, ran twice weekly from that point, with a usual play time of eight hours. By the time that game ended, close to fifteen months later, the characters had ascended to rule as Solar warlords and kings, having won out against implacable odds and unlikely origins. We had a couple of players drop out to be replaced near the end, but the core group managed to stick through to the end. All in all, the game ran for well over 1,000 hours, likely closer to 1,300 depending.
It’s also one of the games I am most proud of. It even had its own theme song, whose lyrics recounted pivotal moments in the early sessions.
I still hear that song on the radio, now and again.