No, but life can get busy. Sometimes so busy that you leave the gaming table for 15-years before you realize how much you love playing RPGs. Even then, once you return, there are inevitably issues of timing, scheduling, who is -in- the campaign and who is -out-, etc. Recently, something “clicked”, and I’m left wondering if I may have hooked into a solution: Episodic Adventures. This is a “draft idea” – its not fully formed so I would really love some feedback from you. Take a look and let me know what you think.
I propose that RPG publishers try a new model for developing engaging their fans by developing so-called “Episodic Adventures” and campaigns centered around these as the main story-driving element in the game.
Episodic Adventures are objective-based, one-shot scenarios (episodes) that are strung together to form a coherent adventure spanning multiple game sessions. The idea is largely inspired by thinking about gaming, and running an RPG campaign, like a network television series. Each adventure is akin to a show’s individual season , and as just as we watch multiple seasons of our favorite show this is similar to stringing together multiple adventures into a campaign.
Characters, and even the GM role, are shared among all the players in the group. The focus, i.e. the #1 priority, is on getting together on a regular basis for campaign continuity. Adventures are designed using a few common rules that keep things moving:
- Episodic Sessions. Each game session is designed to be relatively self contained and should last no more than 3 to 5 hours. This is similar to gaming ‘Con “tournament style” play, but it’s more cooperative than competitive. Players also leave their characters with GM when they go home, in case someone else fills in next time.
- Adventure Story Arc. While each adventure episode (read: session) is self-contained, there is a common story arc that spans multiple episodes, much like a traditional adventure. This story arc goes beyond simple continuations of a theme, and genuinely aims to provide the PCs with long-term objectives worth moving towards.
- Character Ownership. Who is playing which characters may change from session to session depending on who is able to play. Characters can be created in a typical way where each player essentially “owns” them (each character has a primary player), but players should know that the characters may be played by other players at some point during the campaign.
This approach can be applied to both strictly scripted campaigns (aka Adventure Paths) and to homebrew sandbox games (an approach I prefer), but avoids all the hassle of “Who’se gaming this week?” or “What happened last week?” If executed properly, taking this approach to RPG design could open up the game to a whole new group of people who might otherwise “not have the time to invest” in gaming in the first place. Players can drop in or drop out without affecting the general flow of the campaign overall. It also allows for some interesting flexibility in terms of game design: i.e. as a designer you are writing for the session, not for the adventure.
The important take home message here is that our typical adventures are broken up into granular, stand-alone episodes that help people jump in or drop out without disrupting the overall flow.
In the future I hope to expand on this idea a bit more and perhaps develop a test-bed adventure to see if this approach works. I expect it will, but first I’d love to get some feedback. What do you think?