A bunch of us, if we are fortunate enough, have embarked on a campaign that has gone on for a long time. In some cases, this is a simple case of a group of players and their characters embarking on multiple adventures and quests throughout the years in a setting. Like a good series, there could be many stories told with various characters and circumstances providing the highlights when we look back upon them. However, like the mega dungeon, their can be adventures which will span a great deal of time. We have seen various mega dungeons published and we have seen entire campaign series published as well. The Dragonlance Saga (chronicling the Heroes of the Lance though a series of adventures modules DL1 though DL14) is one such example.
Now, much like Mega Dungeons, I tend to avoid doing campaigns with a long and involved story arc. I prefer smaller morsels of adventure but the call for something epic is a hard one to resist. The problem with these LONG campaigns where everything is tied to some sort of conclusion has been maintaining interest and focus for the players. Unfortunately, I have never been blessed with players that all want the same sort of thing in their game. I quickly learned a few years ago that the instant that a dungeon spans into multiple sessions, that a couple players tend to lose their motivation for the adventure quickly. These players prefer a lot more interaction with characters I populate the campaign with as well as politics and a game of intrigue. Of course, other players prefer to kill, kill, kill. They love the possibility of strategy and tactics and are genuinely interested in circumventing puzzles and traps. I have had to learn to balance the interest of my players as well as deliver smaller doses of 'story advancement' if I do decide to do something on a larger scale.
By giving pieces of 'critical' game of information slowly in a series of seemingly unrelated and unconnected adventures, I can bring all of these pieces together when I decide to focus on the larger story arc when the time is right. This way, I can do a small dungeon centric adventure one session and follow through with a wilderness adventure or city/political intrigue based one the next. The pieces I deliberately provide are seemingly not relevant or they are purposely highlighted and left vague. I know... it's kind of like hitting someone on the head with a sledge but, if playing for months (and years), it can actually work quite well. Ultimately, it is still up to the players if they choose to pursue a particular course of action or not. If they do, I also know that they are genuinely interested. If not, I can always file it away for later use.
With this method, I have been able to do a whole campaign based on Hommlet and the Temple of Elemental Evil but the campaign looked nothing recognizable with the material beyond the excursion to the moat house. The adventure was adapted to suit the needs and wants of the players. In fact, I merged portions of another campaign with it to give it a completely different spin. This was done in the course of a couple of years but now is on hold due to obligations and real life commitments of some of the players.
A year ago, I had also begun the Umbrage saga by Troll Lord Games but I took the axe to chunks of each module. The start of the campaign was also a complete success but that too has been on hold for a few months. I hope to start it up again soon or, adjust the campaign accordingly to move on without one of the players who is frequently called out of the country.
With Ballista in development and playtesting being needed, I'm thinking of starting up something anew just for the sake of gaming but I still don't know how to go about it. I am probably going to try something simple and do something to stitch these stories together but I really am in need of running a campaign again -- if only to provide a break from the work on Ballista.
Getting a game together is never too difficult but sustaining for something a bit longer term does take some effort.