View Full Version : Campaign/game: what's the diff?

2010-12-24, 12:23 AM
Some DMs/GMs refer to play sessions with RPGs as games, and, others, campaigns. Is there really a difference between the two, or is this just a case of semantics?

2010-12-24, 12:28 AM
First of all, it depends on which RPG you're playing. As you pointed out in the beginning of your sentence, the role of the Guide/Referee to pnp RPGs are called DMs, GMs, Storytellers or other things based upon the RPG in question.


To me, a campaign is a long set of sessions which possess an overarching plot. Several smaller adventures may occur within a campaign as quests and missions are given, obtained or decided upon.

The word "game" could be used for many of these things, but I usually avoid it or use it to refer to the RPG as a whole.

2010-12-24, 12:30 AM
Most people use "campaign" to mean a whole series of interrelated stories, with each story taking up several sessions of play. One game session takes you from the city to the second level of the mines. One story has you taking total control of the mines, transporting the enslaved miners to freedom, and intervening between two nobles who want to put their own laborers into the now-disputed resource. One campaign levels you up from 8th to 14th as you deal with everything the illithids have done in the alliance your nation belongs to, of which the mine was just one small part.

2010-12-24, 12:32 AM
On the whole, I find the word 'campaign' waaay overused. Most of the games I've played in, as a player and a DM, were little more than 'games.' Few of them were true, arch-spanning, character-developing, plot-developing campaigns, but just about every time I've played a role playing game, it's been referred to as a campaign.

2010-12-24, 12:33 AM
Game seems more ambiguous to me, it can mean both The Game and a short set of runs within a setting in The Game. Campaign means to me that your dealing with an overarching theme/plot. So a campaign could be defeating Osiris, or it could be a sub-setting that has an overarching trope (desert world!).

2010-12-24, 08:19 AM
Session = one meeting.
Adventure = a few sessions which advance the same plot.
Campaign = the entire adventures passed on the same players.

2010-12-24, 11:32 AM
I've noticed that people often mix the usage of 'campaign' with 'campaign setting'. A campaign is the story of a group of characters, while a campaign setting might have several such stories of several groups of characters, often not even of the game players.

Of course, I've often seen where those two usages *are* identical, because there are quite a few people who run a campaign world solely for use in a single campaign, and at the end of that campaign the world is either destroyed or 'saved' and lives happily ever after. Either way, once the campaign is done, so is the setting.

Myself, I use the term campaign to represent a major story arc, and that doesn't necessarily mean the end of the story of the characters. For example, I just finished up the Tiatia campaign - so named because the entire storyline keeps within the boundaries (or nearly so) of the country of Tiatia. The BBEG has been put down, the threat of invasion has been stopped, the paperwork to a lasting peace will soon be signed... yep, the campaign's over. Nice years and several levels later, we're done.

Next up is the 'Nerevaln' campaign, which is still in the same world setting, and at least two of the Tiatia characters will be traveling to Nerevaln to take part in this new campaign. Their story continues, but in a new 'campaign'. We may also later re-visit the goings-on of the other Tiatian characters, but returning to Tiatia would not be considered part of any 'campaign' - but rather a quick visit. We might even do an 'adventure' or two, but not enough to call it a 'campaign.'

And it's all part of my overall campaign world - the same one that's been running since late 1980.


As for the term "game"... I think that might be more used to describe one's current style of gaming, or one's set of rules when gaming. If I were to say "I don't allow PvP (player vs player) in my game." - I don't mean the Tiatia campaign, or even the overall campaign setting. I mean, I don't allow PvP in my house, at my table, eating my cheetos. And maybe I used to. Maybe even in Tiatia. But not after that incident involving a bushel of pears, a cheese grater, and a 62' Chevy pickup's timing belt... no, I just don't allow PvP anymore in my 'game'.

And don't even ask me about the LaRP BoEF!!