Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Last Campaign

At the end of September, just a week or so after moving to the Atlanta area, somebody asked me to run a D&D campaign. Well, it didn't have to be D&D, just anything.

Before I knew it, I told the person "yes." Then the logic kicked in: "What the heck are you doing? You don't even have the utilities in your new place turned on yet!" I can't help it, DMing is in my blood. Still, it'll be awhile. The first session might take place in November. And then my conscience tickled: "You promised to hold off for a year, remember?!?"

Okay conscience part of my brain, you got me.

See: this year off thing is a big deal. I've been prepping and running campaigns since I was eleven or twelve, almost non-stop. That's over 20 years. The longest gap between campaigns was about three months. Even so, I was prepping. 

The last campaign ended on December 10 and 11, 2012, featuring two marathon sessions, a 60+ song soundtrack, where all but one PC died saving civilization. The War for the City of Peace Campaign, set in Domikka, finished a story arc that I conceived more than a decade ago. It was a long road getting there, a couple campaigns that died, one campaign that finished but didn't get far enough. Then, of course, is all that life stuff like getting older, going on to get my master's degree.

Somehow, with that campaign, I combined both linear and sandbox styles of play. It was a lot of work. The characters could explore as they saw fit, but they were racing against a timeline, kind of like in the adventure: The Red Hand of Doom. The old The Complete Book of Villains defines this as a "space/time matrix" campaign.

I know I spent a lot of time prepping the campaign, but it didn't seem that way. It was a labor of love, perhaps bordering on obsession. Like I said, I'd been living with the story arc for more than a decade--and I wanted my players to finish it so I could move on with my life! Yes, it was that bad. I hate leaving things unfinished and I hate it when campaigns just peter out, like they had done at least twice times before concerning this story arc.

The key: I had great players who stuck it out and showed up on time. One friend even flew from Washington D.C. to play his character from a previous campaign one last time. So I have to give my players the most credit.

I visited my friend in D.C. over the summer. As we sat in a bar on July 4th, we talked about those last sessions, just how epic they were. I mean, the first session began with this (yes, that's Tiamat):

And the last session ended aboard a massive airship "The Leviathan" where they encountered Lilith (yes, the Lilith) and her two massive hell hounds (borrowing inspiration from Wayne Douglas Barlowe):

After getting beyond her, they confronted their arch-nemesis Talmor (painted specifically for this campaign):

Talmor's master, who called himself "Elohim: The Lord of Hosts" at one point intervened, with all the powers that His name implies. He looks like King Baldwin IV from the movie Kingdom of Heaven:

I'm leaving out at lot, of course, including air battle over the city between the PCs aboard their airship and a dragon, and their fight with Talmor and his minions inside the city's Opera House.

When the last session ended, the inertia of what happened kept us spellbound for awhile. I dispelled the magic with the Volkerball version of Sonne. Then we all felt both happy and sad: the campaign was over. I felt a bit of relief, but it would take 5 emails summarizing and tying up loose ends to my players. I owed them that, a bunch of minor things didn't get resolved or explained. In the coming weeks I even filled up a legal pad with my thoughts and introspections.

"I've been running campaigns for years. How do I top that?" I asked my friend, as we walked around Mt. Vernon on July 4th (or was it later at the bar?).

"Don't even try," he said. "What happened cannot be repeated." 

So, it's almost a month and half shy of a year later. Right now I'm just testing the waters, to see if there's any more interest in me running a campaign. Already the first tentative date for November has been pushed back. And no doubt the holidays will mess with things. I still need to further establish myself in the area and that takes time. Who knows what my schedule will look like at this point.

It looks like I'll be keeping my promise to myself after all.

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