After eight sessions, we decided (through various means) that the campaign wasn’t quite blowing anyone’s skirt up, and therefore, to end it. But that doesn’t mean it was a failure—it really wasn’t, overall. Lots of lessons-learned; some “the hard way.”
- Communication is vital—I really can’t stress this enough. If I had to sum up the campaign’s failure in one word, it would be “miscommunication.” Some of the terminology I used in the setup process resulted in wrong expectations, which resulted in characters that didn’t quite work for the type of campaign it was supposed to be, and in-game behaviors that were counter to the intended theme.
- My first true “sandbox”: neverminding the ending, it proved to be a viable concept. Google Earth removed the need to improvise “what’s over that hill” (sadly, only works for a modern campaign). Use of the tarot was fun for me, and I’m getting more comfortable and proficient with it, though the results did force me into some situations I didn’t want (prime example: Harveyville—I really wanted to put off any “community involvement” until the group had time to acclimate to the environment a bit more). The other random helpers did their job well enough, though the results could be a little underwhelming at times—never quite achieved the “feel” I was looking for. My improvisation skills are still less than optimal, and “processing time” still needs to be reduced; need to find a way to make it more “seamless.” When it all worked, it worked well, but when it didn’t, it was ugly
- True “Player Agency” is an acquired taste for the Players—you wouldn’t think so, but it is. It requires a different mindset from the usual A-to-B flow, and some folks just don’t grasp it well. Sometimes you just have to experiment a bit, to find out what they’ll enjoy or not, and accept that it won’t always work out. Might help to ease them into it, somehow, a little at a time
- The crunchiness level of the campaign appeared to be a bit of a turn-off for the current Players, and they didn’t even experience the full weight of what I had in mind (though it would have been mostly under-the-hood, by design). Like the above, it takes some experimentation to find the right balance. In this case, a little preparation might have helped (where possible—being a sandbox game, it isn’t always possible); spending half a session sorting out gun-cache stats isn’t good
- The above said, I found the low-prep situation “sustainable.” Had we not painted ourselves into a corner through miscommunications, I feel like I could have continued indefinitely—not the case for any of my previous campaigns (which normally leave me exhausted). I also found myself without the usual pregame “dread”
- My decision to go ahead with zombies turned out to be a bad one. I did so because it was easier to work with, and everyone knows what to expect from them. As it turned out (and wasn’t well communicated at the beginning), zombies were disliked enough by the Players in-general that it cast the campaign in a bad light
- My old nemesis, Attendance, was back, in force. Fewer than half the sessions were played with a full table, and multiple sessions were delayed for too few players being available. As usual, the absences were for understandable, legitimate reasons, but gone is gone—still frustrating
We could easily reboot this campaign, or pick up where we left off with some new characters (and expectations), but I think it more likely that this one won’t return.