Are mini-campaigns the solution?

Recursive Gaming Back in the day, when we were still young and had too much time on our hands, we played in long campaigns, sometimes even spanning years. But in recent years I haven’t finished any campaign properly. Either we lost interest in the game or the group dissolved before the campaign has reached a satisfactory conclusion.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have a lot of fun, but as a GM I still feel I should try to bring a campaign to a proper end. But I am actually my own worst enemy here, because I love to try out new things. One of the reasons why we haven’t finished any campaign properly was because of me convincing my players to try something new while we haven’t finished the old campaign first.

So I finally sat down and pondered the whole situation. After some consideration, I think the best is to just quit all half-finished campaigns for good. After that I want to start something new. Instead of starting an epic campaign or just another one-shot, I’ll prepare a mini-campaign that should last for a couple of sessions. I am not sure how many sessions are actually needed, but perhaps some of you has some sound advice. This way, we can relatively easy try out new things but still get to finish a story arc.

I really hope this might be a way to make things even more enjoyable for me and my roleplaying buddies, but I am not sure if this really works. I think I’ll just have to give it a try.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

11 thoughts on “Are mini-campaigns the solution?”

  1. I am gonna try another approach to the same problem. The big campaign will be divided in distinct parts (about 3, 1-10/11-20/21-30 lvls) and at the end of ant part it can be just finished and feel like a wrap. But if we want to continiue – then the plot has some hooks for this.

    Hope it works. That's how I plan to start in October.

  2. In order to determine the proper length for a mini-campaign for your group, I'd suggest that you figure out what the average length of time (in sessions) that your group has spent on each individual campaign you've started over the last two to three years. That average length of time would reflect the expected level of attention your gamers can pay on any one gaming concept before Gamer ADD kicks in.

    With that average as a goal, you will be better equipped to set your expectations on what you can reasonably accomplish in terms of a complete gaming experience, and plan accordingly.

    Hope This Helps,


  3. I think this is something Chatty DM advocates so you can read back his blog posts on this.

    One ways how I see a mini-campaign is limiting the level range. Instead of aiming to hit epic level from level one, just go with a fixed range like Level 6-11 (Red Hand of Doom makes a good example of a mini-campaign).

    Or just stick with a certain campaign theme and keep on playing until everyone gets bored with it.

  4. I am in this boat as well. About 4 years ago, I ran my last epic campaign, which lasted 3 years. It was a ton of work, spent mostly in making sure that the game did not go under before the epic arc completed.

    Since then, I plan out my new campaigns with smaller arcs, that can link together. We play the arc, and if it goes well, I ask the players if they would like to continue. If yes, then I roll out a new arc, if no, the game neatly wraps up and we find a new game.

    So far it has worked great. I don't over prep, a game that is going to end too soon, and when we end a game, it ends with a clean wrap-up, at a point that makes sense to close the cover on the campaign.

  5. Planning a mini-campaign really depends on the story you want to tell, and what you consider mini.

    I recently wrapped what I felt was a pretty full story in about 10 sessions. The game ran every week on Monday from about 6:30-10:30, with the occasional shorter session thrown in. But 10 sessions in, and the game wrapped with the main story told.

    Is that mini for your group? I don't know. The thing is, you can tell a story in 2 sessions if you want, or 3. I think you ideally want to aim for about 7-10 though for short. This way, the players have time to get to know their characters and care about them.

    The biggest trick to a mini campaign though is pacing. much like with writing a short story, you need to really cut the fat out of the game. If you want the story done in 7 sessions, you need to be able to run through the plot in 7 sessions. This doesn't mean forcing the players either, just being prepared to hand wave the details from time to time. (Does there really need to be a random encounter check EVERY night?)

    Your players will of course slow this down, but they'll also speed it up. Just keep an eye to pacing and don't worry about ending a session or two early or late.

    Good luck!

  6. I use different methods.

    One D&D campaign is defined as ending, when the PC (who are all wizards) graduates from their school (they started at lv1 and you graduate at lv9), so that is when that campaign ends. This has however taken years by now.

    The other D&D campaign is an episodic campaign, where the PCs are traveling with a flying ship. It ends when they reach their destination, I can prolong or shorten the travel as I please. Each session represents one event for the travelers – just as a tv-episode of Star Trek – so I can add additional events or remove existing, if we need to end the campaign faster.

    A third campaign is based on playing the huge scenario Night's Dark Terror (B10 from 1986), and playing it have taken us a little more than a year.

    Sometimes the campaigns simply have a defined number of sessions. One small mouse guard campaign and a 3:16 campaign were both defined as having a certain number of sessions, and then it would end.

    I guess an important element is to have an end in sight, and let the players know what end we striving for, or simply announce how many sessions +/-1 a given campaign will last.

  7. My old group had three GMs, so we figured out a system that worked pretty well for a few years.

    One specific game got four sessions of game-time, with a fifth if needed (kind of like game over-time). After that, we moved on to a new game. It worked out quite well, and we didn't have to worry about epic campaigns running aground.

    Sadly, my new group likes epic campaigns.

  8. This is the general conclusion my groups have come up with as well. Short, 6 session campaigns allows you to tell an interesting story and actually get to the end without everyone wandering off.


  9. Yeah, I get very annoyed with campaigns going off the rails with no real conclusions, so I totally advocate smaller ones. Especially ones that, like Snarls-At-Fleas is planning, can be picked back up if you guys like, or left alone and feel "whole".

  10. Guess it depends.

    Short campaigns allow you to play but I like the development you have of characters in longer ones.

    That being said, life as we get older usually does not allow us to put as much time in these long ones anymore.

    i'm currently running one of over a year and from the original 5 players , 1 is left.

    A shorter one also keeps people motivated but personally I hate the way how they just stop, I always want to know what happens beyond our actions 🙂

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