Next weekend, located in balmy Hamilton, Ontario – like, almost spitting distance from the Gdaycave – the Southern Ontario Open will be welcoming a vast assortment of Warmahordsing type folks to play our favourite tabletop miniatures games. Namely, Warmachine and Hordes.
What’s on the agenda?
Friday: Champions, 8 player scrambles, Monsterpocalypse, possibly IKRPG, the hobby lounge and Speedmachine in the wee hours.
Saturday: Masters, more MonPoc, Mystery Deathmach, some more IKRPG and the ever awesome hobby lounge.
Sunday: Masters, more MonPoc, more hobby lounge, and the ever-entertaining Caster Draft.
I mean, aside from being able to hang around in my neck of the woods, it sounds like a jolly good time. It has me thinking back to one of my first Templecons, when I got to play in a one-off RPG session set in the Iron Kingdoms. This was before IKRPG: Full Metal Fantasy was released, but I still new that the Iron Kingdoms was a setting I wanted to play in. It was a short session, but fun was had, and having run an ongoing D&D campaign for some time now, I find myself pondering the nature of one-off games compared to full length campaigns.
One-off’s can be (comparatively) quickly set up, for however many friends happen to be free for the scheduled game time. They take no long term commitment, and can be a lot of fun for players both newbie and veteran. In the hands of a skilled DM everyone can have a fun evening of roleplaying shenanigans with a bare minimum of rules explanations, especially with preset characters.
The flipside is that here’s very limited opportunity for development, you can only dig so deep in the limited scope of a one-off, and if the party squirrels too badly there’s a threat that you won’t be able to finish the story in the allotted session time. At that point you either need to wing a false finale, undercutting the DM’s work preparing the session, or you need to coordinate a followup session, counteracting the entire point of a one-off.
Games that cater particularly well to one-offs, in my experience, include Paranoia and the beer-and-pretzels silliness of Hunter Planet.
Campaigns are much grander in scope, epic tales carved through the landscape, with characters growing, learning, developing as they peel back the layers of the campaign storyline to uncover labyrinthine plotlines woven to make a story that will be remembered for years… in no small part, because in theory they can take years to play. Campaigns take significantly more work from the DM as he or she breathes life into every corner of the setting, knowing full well that in a few months the players may wander back through the village and want to talk with the same blacksmith they spoke with last time, who had the Scottish accent and referred to everyone in the party as “Laddie”. The players get to be part of a broader experience, bonding, growing together.
On the other hand, we get the stereotypical nerd challenge of trying to get all the players (and the DM) together on a regular, recurring basis. The DM has to do a lot more work, week after week, to make a campaign sing, planning story points sometimes up to a year or more in advance that may never actually come to pass, and heaven forbid someone has a major life event in the middle of the campaign, like a new job with a different schedule, or a new child. Even one player in a group experiencing a major change can derail an entire campaign for all involved, depending on the size of the group and how pivotal their PC.
Games that cater to campaigns are… well, almost all of them. Dungeons & Dragons, of course, and the aforementioned IKRPG, which I’d love to play sometime soon.
Roleplaying games mean different things to different people, but in the end we’re all looking to write a story together, to create our own corner of social mythology in a world that’s becoming more and more impersonal. Whatever you enjoy from your RPGs, shine on. If you’ve never tried, I encourage you to chat with your local nerds and see if you can find an opportunity. If you’re going to an event like the SOO, GenCon, or any number of other conventions, check the schedule and see what you can make time for.