Monday, March 3, 2014

Whither Wampus?

Warning: no game-able content, only rambling about campaigning.

The online Wampus Country campaign took a hiatus, there were winter holidays, and a month where my primary mental focus was quitting smoking (successfully so far).  In revving back up to "something resembling full speed", I find myself thinking about what's working and what isn't from a campaigning point of view.  I don't mean house rules, or the underlying system, or anything like that - I mean the campaign itself.

The online campaign has always been several things:

1) An Open Table.  Although I require folks to sign up for each session, it's otherwise open.  There's a good bit of drop-in drop-out depending on who's available on a given Friday night, although some PCs show up more often than others, or for several sessions in a row, so there's a semblance of continuity on occasion.

2) FLAILSNAILS-friendly.  Most of my regulars or semi-regulars have native Wampus characters, but there are always non-natives floating in and out of the game.  They don't usually turn up with weird stuff that "breaks" the game, but I do regret seeing a PC once at 3rd level and then again at 7th level sometimes.

3) Primarily GM-driven, because of the above.  What I mean by this is that for the most part, a given session is not "PCs have decided they want to go do this", it tends to be "GM puts out this theme or plot hook for the night".  I would love to see PCs self-organize and say "hey, we'd like to go do X pretty soon, please prep that area", but it doesn't happen much - probably in part because most players aren't sure if they're going to be available when that session finally happens (see #1).

4) Chiefly 'home-based' in the town of Thistlemarch, with short excursions up to ten hexes out or so.  This isn't a mandatory thing, it just kind of worked out that way, due to #1, #3, and some PCs homesteading in the area.

Another thing I've noticed is a reticence to return to certain areas, despite them being potentially lucrative for PCs.  Nobody's gone back to the expansive ruined city of Crumbledown to explore it.  Nobody's taken on the task of finishing the clearing of the Charnel Caves.  I'm not complaining about this one, I just think it's interesting.

I wouldn't say I'm unsatisfied with the campaign thus-far or as-run, but I am cognizant of some of the thing which we give up or preclude because of the above assumptions.  No steady group, so there's a loss there.  But if we transitioned to a steady group, we'd lose the open table - it's a trade-off, and one that several other "previously FLAILSNAILS" campaigns have done.  I've avoided it for precisely that reason - we've been running Wampus Country as fully-FS-friendly open table for over two years now.  Not many campaigns can say that, and I'm loathe to abandon that achievement without significant gains in trade.

The "best of both worlds" would likely be if I ran twice as much (or half as much, depending on how you look at it, and scheduling), leaving one slot for GM-directed pickup play for FLAILSNAILS open-tablers, and one slot for a regular (or semi-regular) group of native PCs who can have the time and space to pursue their own goals.  As you might imagine, this kind of scheduling isn't the easiest thing in the world, but I'd be open to pursuing it if I thought there were enough steady regulars to make it work (and frankly I'm not sure that's the case).  I would really like the opportunity to somehow alternate between lower-level and mid-level PCs without it being all artificial, as well.

Anyway, thinking aloud.

The chief innovations of the Burbank expedition were twofold: first, the use of bicycles to speed across the salt flats of Massacre Mesa; and secondly, bringing with them several dozen babies for use in the distraction of slavering beasts, giant predatory birds, and painted savages.  Given Eustace Burbank's successful collegiate career as a shotputter, one imagines the tactic was easily deployed at a significant range.


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