Shadowrun: Denver – Campaign Conclusion

PREVIOUS: Mission 25 – Done Deal – Part 2
NEXT: Shadowrun: Denver – Home

Looking back on the last nearly two years we spent playing through this campaign, it has been a blast! This was my first time running a tabletop campaign and I certainly started with lofty goals (go big or go home, right?), but it all worked out well. Not only was I a virgin GM, but I also had very little experience even being a player in a tabletop game to draw on (one session, to be precise).

When I finally consented to GMing a campaign, I figured I was an anomaly, that most GMs only began running their own games after they had experienced a number of games as players and found they had that “bug” to run a game of their own. Since then I’ve discovered that’s probably not wholly true. Certainly many GMs come in as players first, but in the ’70s when D&D first landed, there were many who had to learn to GM by taking the dive with no real experience and there are just as many these days who are doing the same to explore a hobby that pulls their interest. In truth, most players are just happy to have someone to run a game regardless of how new you are to the role.

Getting to meet every few weeks to hang out and play was a considerable amount of fun, but it also gave me an in to what I really wanted (when I started at least), which was to get involved in other gaming groups as a player. Since then, I’ve gotten to partake in a few other groups as a player in several different systems. I’ve also discovered that while my initial interest in tabletop was because I wanted to be a player, I’ve found just as much fun in crafting stories, challenging scenarios and leading my friends through games as a GM. Being a GM has forced me to develop a multitude of skills and even changed my perspectives and practices as a player.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in tabletop gaming give it a whirl whether you’ve played years but never taken the plunge as a GM or if you’ve never even dabbled in the hobby at all but have some interested friends. Worse case scenario, you discover its not for you. Best case scenario, you find something you really enjoy that leads to weeks, months and years of enjoyment.

Speaking to this campaign, over the two years of playing we completed thirty one sessions. Twenty five of those were pre-written adventures while the other six were written by me and custom tailored to my players. As a starting GM, using pre-written adventures was a definite help. They prevented me from having to create and run plots while simultaneously learning the rules of the system and the methods of GMing. They also gave me ideas on how to balance encounters, provided examples of how to build open ended and interesting roleplaying encounters, to create “optional” scenes which could be used to control the pacing of the session and overall instructed as much as they picked up many of the time consuming burdens of being a GM (not that there weren’t still plenty left).

Still, after I got through the first ten sessions or so, I found more and more I wanted to get to telling my own stories, or telling stories that more closely involved my players. Getting to write and create my own adventures as fill in sessions was a great way to ease into the process without having to worry too much about overarching plots across the length of the campaign. As the campaign came to a close (and as I was writing more adventures), using the pre-written adventures allowed me to spend more time planning for how this campaign would end and lead into the next (which will be completely written and designed by me).

Starting with a campaign as long as this was a challenge. Many players and GMs want to take part in “that epic campaign” that runs for years with their heroes running the breadth of the kingdom and saving the world from many threats, but making it happen is a lot more difficult than that. Even with our small group, we’ve had to face changing schedules, all the duties and responsibilities of being adults and even my moving to another city two hours away from the group. There have been many difficulties but we’ve found ways to be flexible and work through them, which is the only way a game this long can work (outside of your teen years).

Of the problems we struggled with, communication between games was the biggest. My primary method of communicating group discussions was by email, though I quickly found that not everyone is as obsessive of an email checker as I am. I tried to alleviate this by communicating simple questions through text messaging or, in the case of longer discussions, let them know through text that an email had been sent for them to check out. Even then, getting timely feedback from many of my players proved challenging. Many of the players were either too busy or simply not interested in discussing or handling game matters outside of our “gaming evening” time.

Other aspects handled outside of game were also difficult. As part of the campaign, I asked for quick write-ups of the characters personalties and backgrounds, for the players to take turns writing session logs, and for the players to answer session reviews after each game. The character write ups eventually all came in, but around half weren’t there when we kicked off and the last didn’t come in until almost six months into the game. The logs were a little more consistent, but even then (and primarily amongst a few players) some either took beyond the average two to three weeks between sessions to be finished and sent to me. Some never got done by the player assigned the log and eventually other players filled in for them and wrote the log way after the fact. The session reviews were intended to be a quick and easy way to get feedback on the games to improve my GMing skills and were short forms on Google Docs asking the players to rate how they thought the session went and asked for three positive things I should continue doing and three negative things I could improve. Rarely did I have more than two players provide feedback on any one session.

Going forward, this is still something I’m going to be struggling with. Getting consistent responses from my group can be difficult, which impacts everything from scheduling to session planning. I’ll need to try a variety of tactics to improve that, but I’m not sure there’s one cure all. While I like having players write the logs (and its certainly more manageable than trying to do so myself) player participation in that portion of the activity might need to be adjusted either to encourage more involvement or to limit it only to those who are actually interested in writing them.

Besides the few issues the group had, I am very much looking forward to our next Shadowrun campaign. We took a short break to play the small D&D: The Eighth One campaign as an alternative for awhile. This was both to give me some time to prep things for the coming campaign and to build anticipation for it. For our “break” I offered the group the opportunity to choose what kind of game they wanted to play. We could have played a long running D&D campaign if they had wanted or even another system. As much as it offered a break for them, it also gave me the opportunity to try some other systems and learn from them. In the end, most players either wanted to go directly on to the next campaign or to make the “break campaign” a short one (so we could get back to Shadowrun sooner). I take that to mean they must have enjoyed Shadowrun: Denver!

Next up, Shadowrun: Seattle!

– Geoff

PREVIOUS: Mission 25 – Done Deal – Part 2
NEXT: Shadowrun: Denver – Home

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