Three and a half years ago, I sat down with a group of friends and new acquaintances, having pitched them on a roleplaying campaign of 'surrealist magic'. Twelve players each made their indelible marks on our shared world; some only for a handful of sessions, some for the entire duration. Last month we said farewell to the world we had created, as their characters saw their universe literally end and begin again.
As a gamemaster, my interests are more broad than deep, and so while the concept of a long-term campaign is attractive due to how incredibly rich the story and characters can become, it's hard to maintain the level of focus and energy to sustain. As a business owner and parent running games for other adults who have their own commitments, I wasn't under any illusions about the likelihood of a campaign making it long enough to get to a satisfying ending. In my experience and from what I've witnessed, it's far more likely for things to end when people's life changes enough to make regular sessions impractical.
So back in 2019, I hedged my bets. I had designed some homebrew cosmology that implied a kind of apocalyptic event, but it was 'out there a ways'; something that might never even come up, or if it did, may not be something that the players have to deal with or interact with.
But deep in my heart, I held hope. The philosopher in me was excited to pose a deeply existential question to my players: faced with an existence that was bound to repeat precisely as it had, was it best to allow it to? Better to change it without knowing the outcomes? Or end it altogether?
Without spoiling my player's solution, suffice it to say that they surprised and delighted me with a breathtaking beautiful and clever answer that allowed each of them to say farewell in their own ways.
What happens next? For the players and I, we will continue to play games together in various combinations, even if there is no replacement campaign in the works. Even though many of us were strangers to each other when we've started, the friendships we have made are a testament to this time spent together.
As for this campaign: while it is not the sort of campaign that could be expected to be run twice remotely the same way, it does seem well positioned as a teaching tool for gamemasters that want to give more control to their players and to improvisational moments. Starting in 2021, my brother and I began writing the narrative of how the campaign actually played out, and we'll be releasing chapters in the new Beta Readers newsletter.