Wednesday 9 August 2017

#RPGaDAY2017: Day 9 - Campaigns: do you prefer set length or open-ended play?

I looked at today's official question - what is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions - and didn't have an answer because that simply isn't the way I play, so I needed to look to the alternates list. I was sorely tempted to go back to 2014 again, because today was "favourite die/dice set" and I love talking about my dice.

So many pretty dice
But there on the alternate questions list is a really good question to explain why I'm hard pressed to answer the official question: do you prefer set length or open-ended play?

And my answer is kinda neither. To me, "set length" sounds like "you have 10 sessions to complete this in", and "open-ended" sounds like "this will meander forever with no real idea of where it's going".

I love the homebrew one-off sessions my uni friends run for us when we visit (such as the Cyber-Doggies game from New Year a few years back), and the Pathfinder one-off I created Kally Hopebringer for (that I intend to write up at some point maybe, because it was cool and gave us some answers about a Deck of Many Things Svetlana once handled...), but I prefer campaign play - I like to really get into the skin of a character, until I'm thinking as she is, and feeling her emotions (I love reaching a point where I'm crying in character with real world tears - as long as there's happy emotion too - too exhausting otherwise!), and that's easier to do if you're playing for a while.

I like to have as much time, as many sessions as it takes to follow the story - but I want the GM to have an idea of what that story is, where the major points are and where it's going to end: I love a satisfying conclusion (see previous discussion on the World of Darkness and Final Fantasy Noir games I played in at uni: these had a huge impact on me and both had these powerful, intended conclusions).

And that's great for the games I'm in at the moment. The Pathfinder campaign with Svetlana, Alexei et al has got an end point that Rich, as GM, has had in mind since the campaign started. Our actions in the campaign are shaping exactly how it's going to pan out, and I have sought (and been given) reassurance that Svetlana at least will get a "happily ever after" (one of the problems of becoming too attached, and something I started to expand on as a footnote until I realised I've really got enough to say for it to need a whole post), but we don't know the full details as yet.

Deadlands, we're running through The Flood, so we've got a pretty good idea where the campaign's leading us and what the ending will be, and similarly once we've done that we'll be genning new characters to run through the other campaigns in the series, with the idea being all our characters will be legendary by the end and we can pick which to use for the final confrontation.

Aberrant and Exalted I know even less about than Pathfinder, but again there's epic plot - and an intended ending in the recesses of Rich's mind. I think the Exalted one is due to be especially epic, as fitting the setting. I hope so anyway. I'm really enjoying playing Taji. And that's where I come back to wanting to have as much time as it takes to reach the ending: I don't want to rush things to fit a predetermined real world timescale: I want to be allowed to meander and take side routes and turn things on their head and get back to the main plot and slide away from it again and explore the world until I'm satisfied.

I've enjoyed open-ended play, such as in the ShadowRun campaign that was my first 'serious' roleplay. It worked well for what we had: a mixed group of people who couldn't all make every session, so Tom would give a Run to whoever was available and wanting to play, and there would be dribbles of larger plot feeding in, but it just ran as long as people were interested, and I've always felt a bit sad that there wasn't something more structured to that - especially when I wanted to retire my main character and he realised there was some plot he didn't want to miss out on that required her so he tried to thrust it on us and it all didn't work very well and that's when real life got in the way and I didn't have so much time to play and drifted away. I do regret that - she was a cool character, but I wasn't happy with where the game was heading.

It's like remembering someone who's died: whenever I think of my amazing Grandada, I remember that last time I saw him, when he was fading as the cancer ate him away. Give me a satisfying ending, and I'll only remember the love. (Sorry, overly dramatic; and especially sorry if that comes across as trivialising the death of a loved one. 2 decades on, I'm still cut up by the death of my Grandada, and the fading out is a lot of why. He was a fantastic storyteller and such a loving grandparent.)

I like to have a conclusive ending because life doesn't give these out often. I'm a big believer in Terry Pratchett's Pan narrans description of humanity: "the storytelling ape". We think in stories, tell our lives in stories - but as I get older, I realise more and more that isn't the way life works, and I find it depressing and frustrating. So let me have it in a game.


RPGaDAY was started by Dave Chapman and is currently curated by RPG Brigade. To join in yourself, follow the questions in the graphic and blog, vlog, tweet, or otherwise share your responses with the hashtag RPGaDAY2017.

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