This weekend I took a trip home to clean my old room and found some things I hadn’t seen in many years: my old campaign notes, my campaign graveyard. While looking over my old notes and maps, I wondered why campaigns fail.
The major issue I’ve seen is that people simply stop having the time to play. I wrote before about keeping in touch with your group, but what happens when your group’s free time starts to change. Players will move, players’ jobs will change their hours, and life will just generally happen. This can be the death knell for most ongoing games. I remember this happened to my Goldfields campaign. We were students and after the end of the semester, we couldn’t play anymore. It’s rough how it works out sometimes. This is one of those problems that can’t always be solved. Sure, you can take a long break or play online. But when your game becomes the victim of life, it’ll never be the same after. You may as well be playing a different game as this point. The best effort you can take to avoid this is to plan ahead. No person can see the future, but planning a campaign that will fit what you’re sure you’ll be able to play will give you a much better chance of having a lasting game.
One thing that kills a lot of campaigns is a phenomenon known as DM burnout. DMing is a hard job. It can be unforgiving. Players take out their characters shortcomings on you, they break the game, they get in fights with each other, and they just generally make your life more difficult. Some days you just don’t want to do it anymore. This is another one of those unavoidable sort of problems. You can stack the deck in your favor against this by hand picking your group. This has worked magically for me. You can avoid doing too much work by having guest DMs or experimenting with other systems. There is no shame in one off games. But sometimes it just becomes too much, you get sick of chasing players, you grow tired of all the time you put into and you just won’t find a reason for it anymore. It’s even happened to me. My Gotheer campaign died because I just couldn’t do it anymore. It happens, you can’t stop it.
While we’d all like to end every campaign on our terms, sometimes we just can’t. The best thing you can do is the shortcomings and failures from your broken campaigns and use them to feed your next game. The only time you truly fail is when you don’t learn from it. Do this and you can look back at your campaign graveyard with nostalgia instead of regret.