View Full Version : Sessions design: Episodical sessions within long continuous campaigns

Kol Korran
2014-10-15, 02:01 AM
I play in two groups, one of PF, one of SR, but I think this goes beyond systems. Both groups, though we love to play, have a great hardship coordinating. RL at our ages (30's and 40's) will do that to gaming. One group maanges to meet every 4-5 weeks, the other every 4-5 months (!!). We've had some problems due to that:
- The players lose track about what happened, they lose the continuity of it all- NPCs, current goals, not to mention small nuances and subtle things.
- Once people come to a session, they seek to have the blast there and then! There is less patience for a build up for several sessions, as that build up is lost, and what you get is an "on the way" adventure, which feels disjointed and lost.

My thoughts of a solution? Something on the following lines: I'm thinking to sort of change the structure of the session to feel more like self contained episodes in a long running series. Think of Buffy, Babylon, Deadwood, Firefly, and lots of other shows- each chapter posed a problem, a few different kind of scenes, mostly dealing with the problem, but 1-2 with hints to the bigger story, and usually some sort of an end scene/ climax to seal up the chapter and current problem.

Using these mind frame- providing an "inside the session" problem, with it's own dealing and climax, will help the players focus their minds and attention more, and will give them their "roleplay dose", which they've come to get this month. The climax is especially important for that!

This is opposed to the general way I'm used to seeing- just continuing with the adventure till you run out of time. With multiple sessions usually needed to deal with one big problem.

There needs to be an "ending/ wrapping up" to the session. Otherwise there is no outlet of tension, no conclusion, no finalizing the session, and so it feels incomplete, unsatisfying... Not everything needs to be clarified, and some mysteries and future hooks can and should remain, but there needs to be a feeling of accomplishment right there and then.

Climaxes are IMPORTANT!

Now this may be problematic, since players will do what players are won't to do, and won't prescribe to any preplanned time frame or plan. But... I think if the GM has this "inside session problem resolution leading to climax" mind frame, he can adjust, improvise and make sure SOME sort of a climax pertaining to the one or two major issues of the session takes place. (Even if not the initial climax, which may be delayed to next session, altered or tweaked)

As in the series, each chapter usually have a few hints about larger things, and 1-2 scenes that progress these. These are ok, as long as:
- They stand up enough in the players' memories, they are big enough, influential enough to leave a lasting memory. With groups that meet far and between, you cannot rely on them remembering small details. You need to make things a bit dramatic, cinematic. Not an obscure note in a book, a misinterpretation, or something a very minor NPC has said.
- They are not the main thing, and do not fully deter from dealing with the main issue. Otherwise you have a new major issue, which most likely you're not fully ready to prepare a climax for.

Your thoughts?

2014-10-15, 08:37 AM
Yeah, this sounds like the way to do it. Good luck to you.

2014-10-15, 09:01 AM
I have done someting similar with a Shadowrun group I run for. It changed the general game from the players as Shadowrunners to them being sinless and trying to protect thier small neightbouhood. It changed into a monster of the week serial. Very like Buffy the vampire slayer.
It works really well as the adventure rolls along with the wrap up being the monsters defeat or the recuring monsters plan foiled.
It did have to change moving toawrds the end of the campaign where the big bad was defeated over 3 games sessions not the typical one.

I ran something similar in Pathfinder, making the PC a group of healers working in the big city for the local healer temple. They had a base and an area to work in. The "phone" would ring and they had to get to the emergency as quickly as possible. It was handled with a variation of the chase rules. The quikcer they got to the scene the better.
They would heal up who needed healing (deal with any threat, street games and such) and then head back to base. The local paper was covering the healer teams and running a book on who was best. Soon they became minor celebraties.
It all work well as I had some control over what would happen, as I decided what runs would go on. I would make up the "chase" and at the end of each session how well they did was compared to other healer groups. (OMG put in some competition and PCs will always go for the win, started getting into smug boasting against the other teams)
Also as this went on the PC slowly dicovered a plot by an evil cult to poision the water supply. It all ended with 3 sessions just devoted to taking down the cult and the dragon that was leading them.

Both times I have done this, its been different then normal and the players knew up front what I was trying to do. It was suppose to play out in episodes and they knew it.

I have a hankering to do something similar with the party a group of Ghostbusters. I am thinking modern day urban fantasy setting. Not sure on a system as of yet. It so would lend itself to monster of the week deal.