As you have no doubt heard the very popular film franchise Spiderman has opted not to continue with its next planed installment, Spiderman 4, but has opted instead to relaunch the franchise. Relaunches for comic book series are not new. Many franchises have been relaunched, and though results vary, the motivation behind these resets are largely the same; long term success. In that respect it is not so different from the recent relaunch of my group's Pathfinder game. The game was moving along, and did not require that we restart, but the group believed that for long term success it was in our best interest to restart.
The guy running this game is the group's other, "Regular GM." That is to say that typically one of the two of us is typically running the game at any given time. His talent in crafting an interesting game is considerable, Revil even discussed his opinion on the man's GMing talents a while back. His NPCs are top notch, and his artistic ability is a great boon to him when designing and running games. When I wrote about the GM's Classroom a while back I was specifically thinking of how much being a player in his games has taught me about GMing. Suffice to say, he is the best GM I have ever played under.
In my opinion his masterpiece game was the one he named, "The New Frontier." The game had sort of a Colonial America set up with people leaving the old world for various reasons to settle on a new continent in the west. It was still a fantasy game run with D&D 3.5 rules, though with a few house rules. Aside from the great set up and feel of the game that campaign boasted the greatest NPC I have ever seen, some of the most interesting and engaging adventure modules I've ever played, and a ton of great maps, player aids, and even some custom miniatures. It was great.
It was also played four separate times.
That's right, this setting that I just discussed, which was great and vibrant and fun failed three separate times before we were able to make it work long term. Reasons ranged from a TPK during New Frontier 1, to GM exhaustion in New Frontier 3. New Frontier 4 was successful, as I've said, but its lack of a satisfactory conclusion left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, mine especially. Why do I bring up these campaigns? To show that even when all signs initially point toward success things can still go very wrong.
All signs most definitely pointed toward success with the Pathfinder game, dubbed, "The Last Fortress." Great detail, a lot of great background info, a ton of really awesome custom art, phenomenal maps including a massive map of the character's home town printed on thick contact paper, all made me think that The Last Fortress was a sure slam dunk. But of course, it wasn't.
There were several contributing factors to the game's demise; the rules, dedication, and cancellation. Our problem with the rules were two fold. First, we didn't know them. Our Hackmaster Basic game, run by Revil, ended very abruptly in a TPK, after which we decided to move onto Pathfinder. Because we were not ready, in a sense, to switch systems, none of us had reviewed the rules and only one of us even owned a copy of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. This turned into a small disaster on the first game session, which the GM had set aside for character creation. Rather than progressing quickly and designing characters together as we had planned much of the night was spent, for me especially, looking up various character classes and finding out how each had changed. For me, even when I settled on Cleric I spent a long time choosing the deity since the GM's custom pantheon had a lot of pros and cons to worshiping them. By the end of the night I was frustrated and barley able to finish making my character. Revil and another member of the group had finished theirs and had an in depth discussion regarding their characters and their histories. The fourth player had, like me made his character separate from them and not finished until late in the night. Making characters somewhat separately meant we did not have a group of characters that necessarily got along all that well, which would end up causing problems fairly quickly.
Partially out of this early frustration were sown the seeds of our second problem, dedication (or lack there of). People were not happy with their characters, there was arguing and disagreement among the players, people were just joking around and having side conversations rather than focusing on the game. People just weren't on the same page.
The real catalyst for destruction was the final of the three problems, cancellation. As great a GM as this guy is his games are constantly killed by long layoffs. I don't mean like a week canceled once in a while, I mean a month canceled at least once during a campaign and many single weeks sprinkled in here and there. This serves to increase player frustration, and greatly diminish interest and momentum, something most people don't think about when discussing RPGs. One minute everyone is excited about next week's adventure, only to hear that they won't be playing for three weeks, by which time they have forgotten what their characters were doing and why. Just as this game got going, I think we played one full session after character creation, the GM canceled the next two weeks.
By the time we picked the game up a few weeks later much of the interest in the game was gone. The game continued, though with very little excitement for players or GM. Two weeks ago one of the characters died and the player honestly could not think of a single idea for a character that he would like to play, a sure sign that something is very wrong. We discussed it and it was decided that for long term success and to ensure that everyone enjoys the game we would start over, this time being more familiar with the rules, and without the cancellations.
So how did it go?
Really well actually, at least so far. Last Thursday we created characters together, and everyone seems very interested and excited about their characters. We ran a little peradventure after we finished making our characters last week, but the main meat of the adventure we don't get into this week. As it is my intention to relaunch this article along with the game you should hear all about next week. Right now I can tell you that I am very excited about this game again, and feel that it holds a lot of promise going forward.
As for the GM, I've invited him to come and write on this site, wanting you guys to get a sense of his experiences on the other side of the shield, but so far its a no go. Maybe once the campaign is over I can get him to write a retrospective and post it on here for your reading pleasure. I'll keep my fingers crossed.