The last post brought up an issue I don’t think I’ve addressed before…what do you do when a campaign is over? I don’t mean that game you’ve played a few times and are done with, or even that longer one that’s gone a year or so…I mean the epic game campaigns. The ones where you’ve lived with the characters and the universe for four or five or more years until its as real as the time you spend at work or school or home. You know the characters, the NPC, the setting locations and you love them; you have adventures and moments that are as sharp and impactful as your last vacation. Maybe you’ve all made the journey, maybe you’ve lost and gained folks along the way, but in the end, like a good TV show, the final credits are rolling. The story is told.

Now what?

For groups that trade off GM responsibilities and/or games, this might not be as big a deal as those groups playing that one game for years on end. At the start of my Battlestar Galactica campaign, I had been running an earlier iteration on and off with other games for a few years. The current game started after my game group blew apart along with my first marriage, and for the first year or two, there was trading off of different games, but eventually this was the one folks wanted to play. For at least two years, this has been close to the only game on the table. Now the end is in sight…

A lot of groups I’ve seen have one GM. He’s the guy with the time, or the inventiveness, to crank out stuff week after week (or whatever your schedule is.) For these groups, it’s his/her world you are playing in. You might make the stories, but it this person’s sandbox; you’re putting on your play of the mind in his theater. For long campaigns, there’s as much investment for the GM as a producer of a television show or movie, or an author writing novels. When you’re done, there’s a sense of accomplishment, but there’s also a sense of loss. This thing you’ve lived with for years is gone now, and hopefully it hasn’t just petered out, as so many campaigns — that’s actually, I think easier to accept; no, this baby has grown up and moved off to college.

I’m in that place now. While the players have been surprising me for the last few sessions with some of their decisions, they are taking me — more rapidly than anticipated — toward the denouement of the game. It’s the summer before my baby leaves home.

Now what?

The best option is take a break. If you have someone else to run, have them do so, even if it’s just a few pick up games. Maybe there’s that rules set you’ve wanted to try, like Mouse Guard or a setting like Warhammer‘s RPG — have someone else take a crack at the GM seat. I have a player returning after more than a year’s absence who is hoping to run a Supernatural-ish campaign. Not normally my cuppa, but he’s good and familiar with horror, and it sounds like it could be fun.

But, if you’re the person that does the GM duties — and I’m sure I’m not the only one that hands the reigns off, only to wind up running the games when someone’s much less hectic than your own schedule is “overwhelmed” — here’s the two big ones:

Do something similar. You might find the idea of the sequel campaign appeals. (Here’s a post on sequel campaigns.) Do something new in the same universe — like Crusade to Babylon 5, or Deep Space Nine to The Next Generation… This is especially interesting, I think, if you also swap GM along with the tone. You can step away from the campaign slower. Maybe it fizzles out like Crusade, or maybe you turn a children’s novel into three 4 hour special effects extravaganzas. (Fuck you, Mr. Jackson.)

Do something different. I’ve been running space opera with heavily realistic politics, increasingly transhuman science fiction, loads of Greek myth mixed with Mormon cosmology (just to stick with the vision of Moore’s version.) The temptation was to run into Mindjammer, and do a full-blown transhuman space opera. Now I find myself being seduced toward something with a completely different tone.

An obvious choice would be a fantasy game. Go back to basics. But for me I’m finding an Agents of SHIELD-flavored Atomic Robo campaign that has a modern main story, and ties to a WWII/Cold War secondary story is calling. The version of FATE Evil Hat is using is pretty nicely done, I love the comic and the idea of having rules for brainstorming science in the middle of fight sequences, and since Fate’s worked its way into every other game, what the hell…

It’s not the only thing, either: I’m developing a real desire to do a campy, full-color DeLaurentis-style Flash Gordon pulp campaign. I was waiting on Revelations of Mars to hit from Exile Games and use Hollow Earth Expedition, but I’m thinking it’ll be at least another six months before that’s done. So now I’m thinking of combining this with my love of the Space: 1889 setting and tweaking them to do a  classic rocketship pulp game, but with the Martians and Venusians of the Space: 1889 setting — Nazies and Commies on Mars! but losing liftwood in favor of the John Carter Barsoomian ancient technology for skyships. It’ll be my own beast, but with a lot of borrowed crap from pulp through the ages. Kinda like Dungeons & Dragons files the numbers off the great fantasy epics and smashes them together. it also isn’t too like the very successful, but short lived Chinese-based Hollow Earth Expedition campaign that I ran in ’11, or the shorter but no less fun Gorilla Ace! game a few months before that. (GA may make a comeback in Atomic Robo…it seems apropos.)

The other thing likely to get to the table is playtesting of the retroclone of a certain spy game from teh 1980s I’ve been working on. It’s less and less a retroclone as a reimagining. The rules are getting some streamlining, character design is getting some polishing, and the general look of the product is starting to come together in my head. I’m glad my daughter put the project on hold, I have a much more matured view of it now. So modern espionage, or a series of short campaigns set in various eras from the early Cold War to today are likely to be happening soon.

I would love to go back to doing a superheroes campaign. It’s been 25 years since I’ve had more than a few connected adventures to do. I like the Marvel cinematic universe; it could be fun to play in. I know my daughter loves the DC cartoon universe…so maybe when she gets older.

All of these have a sharply different tone and flavor. All will require a shift in mindset, a bunch of work to bring to life — but it also allows you to look ahead, and not behind. After all, you still have the memories…