In my life, I think it is fair to say that I have GMd far more than I have played in roelplaying campaigns. Therefore the instances where I actually finish a campaign as a player are few and far between. As a group, we finished Pendragon at a natural finishing point, but we didn't finish the campaign. We wanted to play the Great Pendragon Campaign but in the end we got to the crowning of Arthur. It was awesome, but fell short of our goal. This month, we finished our two year D&D 4e epic and I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that it left me a little speechless at the end.
The campaign itself has been documented here so I won't go into the detail of the story. Rather I want to discuss what I felt went on around the table and the way that this has changed the way I look at campaigns.
Regardless of how much you try to dress up the functions in new fangled terminology, the GM still informs much of the structure and the detail of a campaign. Andrew has done a superlative job here, conjuring a world with a deep mythology, engaging environment and stimulating characters in jaw dropping detail and morever consistency. Indeed it is that level of consitency that faces Ian and I, as the next two GMs (and Ian moreso that me, I admit) as the first hurdle. As a group, for ten years, I feel we have striven to raise our gaming barrier again and again. Andrew has really pushed it this time.
He doesn't get all of the credit however! I think everyone around the table contributed massively both on terms of creativity and also patience and willingness to stand back and let someone else have the spotlight when needed. The characters stories were told from humble beginnings to mythic endings because they were given space to breathe and grow. A willingness to find story level compromise when the obvious resolution could have caused undue conflict helped, as did a willingness to remember the themes of the story and the characters. Add to that a willingness to thrown some fuel onto Andrews bonfire through some brainstorming sessions and it all worked really well.
So how does this effect us? Well, for me at least, I get the feeling this may be the 'last great campaign'. As we grow older it's becoming increasingly difficult to get the timings right for regular games and committing a year or more to one game simply becomes more and more unlikely. I'm not for a moment suggesting that I won't play in any more campaign games, just that these long games may be a thing of the past.
I think it's also safe to say that we have firmly established our group style. I don't think this has come solely from this game but it has been crystalised. It would be useful for future GMs to reflect on this and see what worked so well.
I think one of the lessons that we can also learn, almost contradictory to that previous one is that we aren't as stuck in our ways as we thought! Figures? Maps? Battleboards? Two years ago we would have scoffed that they were worthless ephermra - now we love them. I don't care that my figure for Morn is some sort of uncommon bugbear, in my eyes he represents Morn, He Who Stood, the Unfettered God, Immortal Champion and Protector of Humanity. I wonder if we will be seeing figures and zone maps in FATEing Suns or Dresden?
Well, another page turns in the old roleplaying hobby - its an exciting period now, as we settle into a new game.