Dungeons & Dragons Campaigns Can Last For Years Longer Than You Think They Would

As much as I love my big, ambitious Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, I have so many fun ideas that I want to try out that I’m confident I’ll never do them all. Even with a campaign for every day of the week, I’d probably die before I ran out of ideas. It can be a little frustrating to know I’ll never get to even a quarter of them, because so many of them just seem so interesting and fun to explore. As someone who has been running a weekly game at the same time for the better part of a decade (at least over five years, maybe six? Or seven? It is about six and a half years if I’m doing my math right), I can tell you that even a weekly game can take a long time to play out since very few weekly Tabletop Roleplaying Game campaign actually happen every week.

I ran exactly twenty-three sessions of my weekly game last year, which is less than half of the potential sessions it could have had. There were plenty of good reasons for not playing over the course of the year, but also plenty of reasons that filled me with frustration because it felt like some of my players weren’t respecting my time. Even though this campaign is almost two years old and I’ve been fairly generous with levels, they’re still only level seven and only just barely into level seven at that. Level progression isn’t exactly a good assessment for plot progress, especially given that the party is essentially on what will probably be a multi-level side-quest, but they’ve barely dipped their toes into the overarching plot of Arc 2 (the first time the plot has moved beyond their individual situations) and we’ve been on Arc 2 for almost as long as the entirety of Arc 1.

Most of the time, I’m fine with taking the game as it plays, letting them push the plot forward at their own pace and making sure there’s always something for them to do. But that makes it very difficult for me to implement new ideas I’ve had, add new elements to the plot, or try out entirely different ideas I’ve developed. After all, if this is my main source of Tabletop Roleplaying Game time, I should be putting in most of my effort and at-the-table experimentation here. Especially given that this is the group I’ve played with the most and that has the strongest degree of trust as a group. I know them well enough to know what they’ll generally be up for, about where I should start explicitly checking to ensure everyone is safe and their boundaries are respected, and they all know me well enough to understand that if they don’t like something, it won’t hurt my feelings if they say so.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to how long a campaign takes to play out, such as session-length, how much session time is devoted to the sort of peripheral admin work of leveling up, character customization, magic item research, etc. Even the amount of socialization that happens during session time can have a big impact on how long the campaign will run. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to my friends and catching up when we play, but I frequently find us thirty minutes in and we’re just settling down to playing or are still waiting on a player because they figured it would be fine to be late since we always talk for thirty-ish minutes before we start to play. I, of course, talk to my players when their behavior bothers me or breaks the rules we’ve all agreed upon, but it is still frustrating to feel ignored or delayed when I’ve spent so much time preparing for a session.

If I could have anything (specifically limited to the realm of TTRPGs), I think I’d ask for a group that meets weekly (or at least is full of people who put in the same degree of effort to schedule around our weekly D&D session) and that is interested in occasional change or a mixture of a big game played every other session and some other games played in-between. I’d love the chance to try some smaller campaigns, different world-building ideas, entirely new games, and so much more with a solid group like that. I love Dungeons and Dragons, but I’d really love the chance to try different things, to break the mold I’ve built over these past few years, and to try something different or new. Maybe a low-magic fantasy setting with a focus on roleplaying, or a geographically limited game with not a lot of global knowledge. Maybe some cool sci-fi stuff. Or explore horror games a bit more deeply. There’s so much I’d love to try but I just can’t seem to find a group to try it with.

I’m grateful for the groups and players I have. I love them all and every session is so much fun. I just wish I had a group that was as dedicated and open to new things as I am. But I think that’s part of the difficulty of being the main Dungeon Master for a bunch of different groups. People who tend to stick with just one group or one DM tend to be less interested in change or new things. I get it. Change is scary and playing make-believe with strangers can be enormously terrifying, but I want to push myself to grow and try new things. I just can’t do that in the TTRPG space without people who are along for the ride.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s