On June 9th, 2012, we played our first session of our “War of the Dead” (Daring Entertainment) campaign, written by Lee Szczepanik. I didn’t want my players to know that I was about to throw the zombie apocalypse at them, so I called it “Beyond the Sea,” since the campaign begins with the characters on a cruise ship at sea.
Last night was our final session of that game.
That first night, there were 7 players at the table, in addition to me as GM. For a brief time we had 10 players in the game, though they were never all present at the same time. Last night, more than two years later, we ended the game with 6 players at the table. That core group of 6 has been the group for almost a year now. Of those 6 players, 4 of them were there that first June night in 2012. Of those 4 players, 3 of them were playing the same characters they’ve been playing since it all began.
I knew it was going to be a long haul going into the campaign. “War of the Dead” is written to be a full year of 52 episodes, one per week. We ended up playing it for more than 2 years. It was definitely one of the longest RPG campaigns I’ve ever run. The last game I played that ran as long as this one took place over my junior and senior years of high school. In the intervening years, I’ve run 2 campaigns that came close in longevity. Both lasted about 18 months (one was a D&D 3E game with a psuedo-Celtic flavor that ran in 2001-02 and the other was a D20 Modern game based on the Stephen King’s Dark Tower series that ran from 2004-05).
To be fair, we didn’t play consistently every week. When all was said and done, we ended up playing about 60 or so sessions. Along the course of this post-apocalyptic epic, life happened.
Over the course of my 33 odd years of gaming, I’ve never before measured an RPG campaign in terms of life events. This time was different.
During the course of this game, we added Cesar (a very special Siberian Husky) to the family and the two Siberians that were already a part of the family. I changed jobs. My mother retired and my father quit working (both due to health reasons), my mother went on hospice care and later broke her hip, both of my parents were hospitalized and later transferred to a nursing home for about a month, my father died, I spent a chunk of the winter with whooping cough, and my wife changed jobs.
It was a heavy two years.
We took several short breaks from the game, along with a long 4 month hiatus. At one point, we spent a few weeks playing a pulp actions game because I just couldn’t handle a horror game, and zombie horror at that, with all that was going on in my life. My players put up with a lot of adjustments and accommodations to get me through the past two years. Surprisingly, taking time off from the game never really killed the excitement. Over the last few months, we all began to sense that the game had run its course and made plans to wrap it up by the end of July.
At times, I thought running the game was going to drive me crazy.
In the end, I think it kept me sane.