• 'Failed' Campaigns

    From Justisaur@21:1/5 to All on Fri Jul 23 12:29:22 2021
    Saw this topic on DF, thought I'd share my thoughts on my 'failed campaigns.

    First 'failed' is hard to determine in most cases. I don't know that
    I had many I'd consider a complete failure - as in no fun was had, and
    on the other side of the spectrum, I can only think of a few that were
    complete successes.

    Well let's start with the complete failures.

    #1 Online - which generally has a lower success rate, and text chat,
    which lowers it even more. Then there was the short time slot. I was
    trying to run 5e and was doing a version of 'dungeon train' from
    Adventure Time. 5e doesn't work well with short time slots for one,
    and online and text chat lowers the throughput even more. The
    'adventure' was probably a big issue with it, as that quickly gets
    boring, even fully random dungeon is more interesting. I only had 3
    joiners (weird as in the past I had plenty for 5e text chat) at the
    end of the session they complained I was using XP instead of the
    optional milestone leveling and never returned ?!?! 8O :?
    :facepalm2: I had one guy return but he was totally clueless (way
    worse than any newbie with 5e than I've worked with on roll20, and
    I've done a lot) and didn't want to play by himself so that was it. 1
    couple hour session.

    #2 F2F - this was early 1e AD&D when I was a pre-teen. It was me
    DMing a girl I'd just met at a resort my mom was at for a week she'd
    brought me to. Just her, and I used B2 to start her in. She
    basically went in and got captured by orcs immediately. The end. We
    hung out the rest of the week, but no more D&D. That's actually the
    one I regret most, and probably why I really dislike running 1 player
    1 DM games. There's a lot I could've done better, for instance not
    using B2 as is for a single character, not having her alone, not
    starting at 1st level (But the DMG says to!) etc. But I was quite inexperienced as a DM at the time, and it was very much a learning

    #3 Not a complete failure but it failed more spectacularly than
    anything I've ever seen before, I've heard about things like this, and
    seen the fallout among people I knew, but never seen it firsthand.
    Roll20 text chat, short sessions again, but I was running 0e (Clone
    DD.) It started off pretty fun, and lasted a few sessions, but there
    was a playstyle difference. I had no thieves and some people kept
    complaining about how they would find traps without one. I said you
    describe how you look for them, and I'd give some hints for it. Well,
    I didn't really give any hints other than to take it slow and poke at
    things, use a 10' pole, etc. AFTER a couple traps. Low level thieves
    suck at traps anyway, so I don't see the difference and with everyone
    able to do so it should've gone better. It didn't, one of them got
    blown up by a fire trap on a spellbook. I didn't give any warning on
    that either, but they didn't take any precautions after the hint of
    poking at things, which would've saved him. The other playstyle issue
    was hirelings, I like using them and strongly encouraged them, a
    couple players took to it like a duck to water. One of the other
    players who didn't *told* him to get rid of the hirelings in not so
    nice words because it was slowing the game down and unfair to them not
    getting their turn, it turned really ugly and the whole group
    imploded. I was on the side of the hirelings people of course, but
    they quit over it not wanting to play with the person who started it,
    who ended up the only one left. Hindsight 20/20 a bunch of hirelings
    are a bad idea in a short timeslot online, it took a lot longer to
    resolve their turns than it would've in a live game. But I blame this
    on personalities more than anything, and I doubt these people would've
    gotten along no matter what else was happening.

    #4 My last F2F game of 1e AD&D with friends. For context we'd been
    playing 4e previously to this, and the 5e playtest had just begun,
    which looked way too easy/survivable even compared to current 5e
    (party took on a vampire and won easily at 1st~2nd level.) I was
    running AD&D a lot closer to BtB than I did back in the day. I did
    have a few HR - get some stuff from backgrounds, and an heirloom
    possibly a magic item, half hp at worst for 1st hd, M-Us got 2 or 3
    spells and could make scrolls, money must be spent on training to get
    xp from it, and more generous rolls for ability scores. The players
    had bad experiences with DMs with 1e, so they were already set to
    dislike it. They were also effectively newbies as they hadn't played
    it in 30+ years, and weren't used to being cautious as that's not
    really necessary with most in 3e+

    I was running Holmes sample dungeon in B2, I rolled up a CE lv 2 elf m-u/fighter in the tavern looking to be hired. He overslept the rats,
    and caught one of the party in it, and killed them too. The party
    attacked him and TPK as he had plate they couldn't hit and he
    destroyed them as they only had leather or worse. So that's a fail.
    Pure AD&D, but a bit rough on the 'newbies' though, which I wouldn't
    have done back in the day, as I always played 'kid gloves on' until
    3rd level. I could've started them at higher level too, but (IMHO
    bad) advice on not having new players start higher level from Gary
    swayed me. Perhaps I should've had the CE elf in the tavern still and
    allowed them to get their revenge - I was afraid he would TPK them
    again though and had him bugger off with the cash from their

    But they rolled new characters and continued on with the dungeon after
    I convinced them they should've interviewed the elf and been more
    suspicious. I suggested 2nd characters at this point as it was a
    small group and AD&D can be pretty rough on small groups. The problem
    was when they encountered the giant spider, they lit the webs on fire,
    and went back through the door, but the low hp elf f/m-u wanted to
    lure it out and waved his arms around to try to bring it to an ambush
    with the rest of the party. It came after him, hit with an 18 and he
    failed his poison save. The rest of the PCs managed to kill it
    thereafter. Perhaps I should've allowed the others to get their
    attack in an ambush first which would've kept him from dying. Perhaps
    I should've changed the Giant Spider out for something a little less
    deadly. Perhaps it's just AD&D again, and playstyles differ. *shrug*

    After this I don't remember exactly and I can find a play report from
    the sessions after to verify, but IIRC I was convinced to change
    poison to non-instant death to something else so the elf wasn't really
    dead. They finished out the Holmes sample dungeon, moving on to B2.
    I picked up some more players and the extra characters were starting
    to get a bit too much but the characters who had them held on to
    them. There were complaints about how useless M-Us were and that the
    clerics leveled up to 2nd before everyone else. They were used to 3e+
    everyone leveling with the same xp, I still consider that a feature of
    AD&D not a bug though. I restocked a bit of the dungeon where the
    ogre had been after they returned to the keep (possible mistake)
    beetles of some sort which were non-hostile. They went through that
    room to access beyond that, and for some reason the elf decided to
    attack them. Even with his high AC (-1 due to plate & dex) one of
    them got lucky and hit him for 19 points of damage and he was beyond
    -10. That's the final end and failure. I enjoyed running it, but
    they obviously didn't fully enjoy playing it, they refuse to play 1e
    ever again. I could've done a lot differently to ease them into it,
    but it was what AD&D is, and it's really just a playstyle they don't

    #5+ And successes.

    Most of my online games I'd put partially failed, they either fizzled,
    or I got frustrated with 5e when I ran it and quit myself. Where I
    didn't quit, it could've been playstyle differences, or real life, or
    perhaps I could've DMed better. 1 of my 5e games went really well up
    to about 5th level, and I wish I didn't get frustrated and quit it
    looking back. I tried to run the same dungeon (homebrew) again with
    different people, and in a different system and in PBP instead.

    I have a special difficulty with that with PBP though, all but one
    game I've ran eventually got the point where the players were
    (possibly) still there, but getting them to post anything actionable
    that would move the game along or even post at all got to be extremely difficult to the point I gave up on the game. This seems to be the
    general consensus of either DM quitting, players quitting, or this
    happening for the vast majority of PBP games. Somehow some manage to
    keep games going though, I managed to join one such AD&D 1e game which
    was very good (except for the lack of horses! j/k DM if you're
    reading.) However I had difficulty following what was going on as a
    player, partially due to my available time at that point, and decided
    it'd be best for everyone if I quit.

    There's one PBP I ran that was the exception to the rule as well, a
    Marvel Supers clone game where it was going swimmingly. I just
    couldn't come up with anything for them to do next, and couldn't get
    into reading/using the Marvel modules (probably because they expect
    you to use the Marvel Heroes instead of your own) - it's officially
    still just on hiatus and not dead even though it's been years, I think
    I checked in last year and players were still around and willing to

    Live most of my 3e and 4e campaigns were meh at best, and I consider
    both just system failure. I had 1 really good 3e campaign, my
    favorite campaign I've ever run, but it was heavily house ruled, and
    featured my favorite players only. Even that ended at 17th because
    the players playing non-casters didn't feel they were able to have any
    impact at that level, but it was about time anyway, kingdoms/world
    saved etc.

    Most of my 2e campaigns were successes. I remember one that 'failed'
    was just off the top of my head when not everyone showed up. I set
    them up in fairy land, it was fun, but it ended in a TPK that
    session. A couple I didn't really like how they turned out in the
    end, but they were still successful, one got to 20th level. Another
    one got to 20+ and was put on hiatus for the one I didn't really like,
    I combined players/characters from both and that got to about 27th. I
    probably shouldn't have done that, as the one I didn't really like
    kind of ruined the other one due to the rules lawyer. Or I should've
    just said "That was an alternate timeline" and reset the world to
    before that, but I hate when other DMs do stuff like that.

    1e I don't remember much in the way of campaigns. I didn't run it
    anywhere near as much as 2e. I played a lot more, and played a lot of
    Champions as that was more popular here than AD&D was after about 85
    even though I far preferred 1e. I ran a couple successful FR campaigns
    in 1e. However, the majority was a lot of unrelated adventures which I
    wouldn't classify as campaigns. People just showed up at lunch or
    someone's house and played the same character or picked one they had
    in their folder in the right level range, or made one on the spot,
    with whoever was there and whatever adventure the DM of the day was
    running, or on occasion random dungeons generated as we went.

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
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  • From Spalls Hurgenson@21:1/5 to justisaur@gmail.com on Tue Aug 10 14:18:30 2021
    On Fri, 23 Jul 2021 12:29:22 -0700 (PDT), Justisaur
    <justisaur@gmail.com> wrote:

    Saw this topic on DF, thought I'd share my thoughts on my 'failed campaigns.

    First 'failed' is hard to determine in most cases. I don't know that
    I had many I'd consider a complete failure - as in no fun was had, and
    on the other side of the spectrum, I can only think of a few that were >complete successes.

    I have a campaign in mind, and it's not really a failure, but its what
    springs to mind when I hear those words.

    This was a very early campaign for me. I had planned a fairly epic
    series - I think it was intended to run 8 adventures - where the PCs
    became involved in a war between an invading army of orcs and a small, beleaguered kingdom (epic it might have been, original not so much).
    The players would start as nobodies but, by uncovering various clues
    and bringing these to the notice of the authorities, increasingly gain
    in position and importance. Ultimately, the plan was for them to lead
    one of the armies riding to the defense of the king, help save the
    day, and earn some titles of minor nobility (all the while sprinkling
    in clues for the next campaign).

    The adventures got off to a good start; the players were having fun, I
    was having fun, everything was more or less going to plan. And then,
    barely a third of the way into the adventure... TPK: total party kill.
    I was devastated.

    I largely put the blame on that for myself. I pushed the characters
    further ahead into the campaign than they were ready for. Not that the
    players were completely blameless - they knew they were outmatched and
    kept going anyway, despite an obvious way of retreat - but they
    shouldn't have been there in the first place.

    This failure was so memorable for two reasons. Firstly, it was so
    unexpected; I had no plans for what to do if the players were put in
    this sort of position (it may be why, when I write adventures today, I
    tend to go overboard in options and avenues). At the time, I remember,
    I literally threw my hands up and announced "The adventure is over",
    to both my players and my own dismay (I still remember their shocked
    faces). We all felt terrible.

    But the other reason I remember this failure so clearly is because, in
    the end, it wasn't really a failure. After a good night's rest, I was
    able to concoct an escape... for the players at least. The campaign
    itself was lost, but I couldn't bring myself to kill the players.
    Instead - and through a method that to this day I've never bothered to
    explain - I simply had them "hibernate" through the entire course of
    the planned campaign, and wake up to the aftermath. Without the
    assistance of the players, of course, the war against the Orcs didn't
    go quite so well, but exploring the devastation of a kingdom they had
    grown to know and love was almost as good. It let the players feel as
    if their actions - and failures - had actual weight, and made the
    world feel more real. They were no longer murder-hobos rampaging
    through a world of faceless NPCs; they were characters whose
    activities - for good or ill - had actual impact.

    That failure made for a better game. So it was not, I suppose, really
    a failure... but it sure felt like one at the time. And I've taken
    lessons from it ever since on how to help players from screwing
    themselves over, to ensuring that they felt invested in the world. If
    only all our failures could be so productive.

    (I've had other campaigns which have ended worse, but those often were
    because of outside events; players dropping out, incompatible
    personalities or play-styles, or just changing tastes that make the
    current campaign less palatable. I suppose those could be seen as
    failures, but I don't see them that way.)

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