Rebooting the Madness


Ever have the situation where you have stepped away from a campaign for a while for whatever reason and now when you want to get back into it, you are scratching your head wondering how to get people interested? I have had this problem numerous times. I am experiencing this now while rebooting the madness of my End of Madness Campaign and I figured I’d share with you a little bit of what I am going through.

This problem is game system agnostic. It’s an age old problem that has been occurring for as long as we have been playing games. In my case, the End of Madness campaign I am running is a spinoff/continuation of a previous campaign that is tying together the loose threads. The setting is far into the future, but not so far that the waves of the players previous actions cannot be felt. I grabbed familiar locations, familiar NPCs (yes some of them are still alive), added some lore about the old characters, shuffled around the story a bit, and the recipe was complete. Life has thrown some curve balls lately; some we have hit out of the park; some we tried to dodge; in all cases, our much anticipated and well-loved campaign was forced into at least three “pauses.” If my memory serves me correctly, each of these three pauses has allowed for a new Act in the greater story.

When life gives you lemons…

Making lemonade out of lemons isn’t an easy thing, but that shouldn’t make you discouraged. It just takes effort. Here I will show you how I am approaching making this “pause” into an asset. The first thing that I had to do was evaluate how I was feeling about rebooting the madness. After the years of playing the previous campaign and all the work I put into the new one, I knew I didn’t want to throw it away. I had a complex plot. I knew the beginning and the end. I knew the paths the players could take and even what could happen if they failed. I had characters wrapped up in intrigue everywhere and pages of approved and discarded notes. I also knew that I wanted to simplify things for myself. I wanted to be able to throw something together in a few moments notice and begin to play in a one-off universe. Evaluating my feelings on the subject made me begin to realize that rebooting the madness wasn’t entirely my choice to make. I had to get input from the players as well.

Time to ask the hard questions…

Getting input from anyone is not an easy task. When you want input from friends and family, the task is even harder. I needed to approach the subject with my players multiple times to try to get a fragment of input. I would figure out in slivers where they were leaning. First thing I needed to do was get a feel for how they felt about their characters. The response was positive, which leads me to believe they were neutral to positive in practice. That was good. I could work with that. If it was negative, I would try to figure out why. Did it seem like character fatigue, game system fatigue, or something else? Then I needed to get a feel for how they envisioned the campaign was moving along. I also received a positive response, which again was good because that was something I could use. A negative response would cause a knee jerk response to scrap the campaign, but it is wise to find out why before you do that. I would ask about good campaign stories, bad campaign stories, and weigh the results. In the end, I couldn’t scrap it no matter what, I would just have to end the campaign soon, if negative, and on schedule, if positive.

Evaluate the answers…

I then began to think about what the very positive aspects of the End of Madness and the great stories, focusing on what they remembered the most. I could tweak those things and provide them more of what they like and then improve upon it. I then fashioned a mental list of the things I needed to accomplish in the form of my campaign bucket list. Before it ends I felt I needed to accomplish a number of things to make this campaign as memorable as the last, some of those things included: hit all my plot points and expand, bring in a change of scenery, find a new way to narrate the plot, build new relationships, enhance old ones, and finally bring the antagonists to the forefront of it all.

Bringing it to the present…

Recapping so far, I evaluated my emotional investment and feelings about rebooting the madness, I queried my players on their feelings about their characters and the campaign, and then I worked on the high points to take the campaign in a new direction. Now with those things in mind, I needed to do the most important part of all, motivate myself to jump back into the mix. I had vested interest in keeping the campaign going. I had players who were behind their characters and interested in the story. I also had some goals set out for myself when working through the next chapter in the campaign. It was time to get myself interested, strengthen the story, and give it a twist.

As any runner will tell you, it isn’t so hard to start when the finish line is in front of you. When you can see it, the motivation is there. The hardest part is getting through the middle when you can’t see the end around the bend. There I was at the middle. To know where I wanted to go, I needed to recap where I had been. The End of Madness Campaign tells a story even with its name. When Roslin Devonshire, Grumsten, and Raveena ended the reign of the Jack of Tears within Devonshire, they did not end his presence on this plane. To do so, another of the Devonshire line would need to complete this task. It was prophesied.

This campaign was going to end the Jack of Tears or they would die trying. The players had eliminated a foothold the Jack had in the lower levels of the Obsidian City, they learned of their charge (to protect Genevieve Devonshire) at the same time she was being taken from their grasp, and they thwarted the attempts by the body snatching Raveena to end their existence within the dangerous prison level, aptly named Gehenna. On exit from Gehenna they were being carried by dragon across the Great Ocean to the Dragon Kingdom to meet the Dragon Queen, Tiamat. That was where they ended, so that is where I needed to pick them up.

Moving it into the Future…

I knew where I went. I knew where I was. Now I needed to know where I would go. I also needed to get the players to experience the same sort of journey, but on a smaller scale. So I decided on a few things. I would attempt an informal recap of the story in the days preceding game day. We would talk about it, reminisce about it, and it would whet our appetites to play. I would have the players advance their characters in levels, riches, and equipment. This would get them looking at their character sheet and be ready to play. I meant to prep a short story from an outside perspective as a baseline  to draw upon and I would make an NPC list for them. This was to get us all on the same page. After priming the pump, I would spring on them latest chapter in the ever evolving and growing campaign “The End of Madness.” In practice, I did everything but the prep work, but the story came out where I wanted it to and the ball is rolling again.

There is the short version of my attempt at rebooting the madness of the End of Madness Campaign.

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