I have run the same campaign since the release of 4e. We’ve been able to last together as a unit for this amount of time for a number of reasons, primarily because we all love gaming and as adults nearing the age of 40, playing with kids at the FLGS is not an option. Also, I think it’s due to the fact that we don’t play too often, our schedules simply don’t allow it. We manage to survive on a bi-weekly schedule, and for us it works just fine.
But what about those campaigns out there that implode after a few sessions. This can be either due to lack of DM interest, inter-party bickering that becomes so prevalent that the party can’t be a true team much longer, real life issues keeping players away from the table, or unhappiness with the game system after some sessions. I am sure there are many other things that can cause a campaign implosion, but these are the ones that come to mind.
So about the lack of DM interest, what can you as a DM do to tackle this? First, you need to ask yourself if you are playing too much and are getting bored. I know that I’m not sure if I’d be able to play weekly over a long period of time. Maybe I’d start off excited and gung-ho, but prepping week to week may get old after a bit. I’m speaking on purely personal terms here, but this may be your case as well. DM burnout we like to call it ’round these parts. Walk away for a bit. Take a break. Play a PC and have someone else DM. Play a different game. I recently picked up a copy of a book called “D&D Rules Cyclopedia”. It takes all the rules released under the 80’s boxed sets: Basic, Expert, Companion, Master and Immortal sets and combines them into a hardback rulebook. I’m really interested in playing this, although I know my players will never go for it. Back to the topic, take a look at what’s causing your DM burnout and keep it in check to keep your game from imploding.
Inter-party bickering can be a real difficult issue to deal with as a DM. Basically, you may need your leadership role to go past from behind the screen and into the real world to figure out the causes behind the conflict. Stop and ask yourself questions also. Are you placing the characters in situations where you are forcing these issues to crop up? That’s a real possibility. Be mindful of causing too much conflict between different character types. Players take their characters seriously, and you don’t want to instigate trouble as a DM. Your job is to bring the fun, not the drama. Help your players navigate the rough patches causing conflict, in order to avoid a campaign implosion.
Real life issues are something that unfortunately, you can’t have too much control over. At the end of the day, we are sitting around a table pretending to be elves and dwarfs running around with swords. Real life is more important. A guy can’t play due to work or school? Then so be it. The DM has to quit because he needs a second job? Oh well. Arguing about real life complications with the people involved isn’t going to help. If they could, they’d play. Think about that.
Game system issues are easier to resolve, if the entire party agrees with a change. I know in my campaign’s case, there are grumblings of “3.5 does this better”, but we find 4e enjoyable enough that we keep playing. Nobody has decided to quit based on a dislike of the system. It’s what we play and for no it suits us fine. But what if your players are looking for something else? You need to ask yourself if you are willing to change over to a new system. This involves money and learning a new rules set. Time and money. Are you willing to invest this in keeping your gaming group together? If so, great! Have fun. But there will be times when the player’s lack of interest in the system at hand will show, and this does nothing but create friction and lack of enjoyment–two sure-fire ways to cause an implosion if they aren’t addressed and nipped in the bud.
So have you DM’s out there faced a campaign implosion? What caused it? Were you able to salvage it? I look forward to reading your stories.