I love running long RPG campaigns, watch the characters and the story and the world develop in ways I would never have guessed. I commonly end up discussing with people how I manage, as an adult with family responsibilities, to run ongoing games for upwards of 50 sessions. So here’s a few thoughts on that.
- Choose a night which you can take for yourself. Be honest about how much you can play. It might only be two hours each week or four hours each month but if it is regular it will flow and build into something great.
- To keep it regular, run even when you don’t have a full table. As long as I have more than half of my players I run the game. This way players don’t feel obligated to show when they need to be elsewhere because they know they aren’t spoiling everyone else’s fun.
- All the rules for good adventures apply at the campaign scale too. Keep each player involved, give them agency in the direction of the campaign.
- Try not to have long running plot threads be too complicated, because details will be forgotten or confused over time. Resolve more complex situations in two or three sessions and let the emergent complexity of your game build as you play. Your players will remember their favourite moments and that will be more than enough to hold everyone’s interest and make your game seem amazing in hindsight.
- Take notes! You won’t remember what clue it was that NPC #3 gave the players last week. You especially won’t remember if the clue was a lie to misdirect the players. I note down who the NPC is, what is memorable about them, what they want and what they said. Usually. Sometimes I forget or don’t bother, but it certainly helps when I do.
- Check in with your players every six or twelve sessions. Make sure they are getting to explore the aspects of your game they like the most. Ask if they like their characters. Ask what one thing they would change if they could. Ask what their favourite bits were. Just make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
- Don’t be scared of a TPK. It can give you an opportunity to refocus the game with a new party. Or maybe the TPK was the natural end of this game and in time you with come back for the sequel.
- Wrap it up before people get bored. It’s better than the alternative and at some point you and your players will want to move on. Find one last thing for the group to do and tie it in to as much of the rest of the campaign as you can. You don’t have to be too clever here, your players are smart, they know what’s happening and they want a good ending as much as you do.