Over the years I've tried a lot of different things to make the campaigns better and while I talked about three that worked, see Make it Count for more information, I didn't say anything about what failed. So after a request from the magnificent JD - who writes the fantastic blog, the Disoriented Ranger - I decided to post a few of the more memorable failures.
My Top Five Rejects
1. The Campaign Booklet. Back in '06 I decided that I wanted to run a Dragonlance campaign as close to the second edition boxed set as I could. There was one big problem, none of my players knew anything about that version of Dragonlance. In my exhuberance to bring them into the fold and make them one of us I decided that it would be brillant to make a little booklet. My goal was five or six pages with just enough information to make their lives easier. What I ended up with was a bloated fifty page document that read like a text book only without any of the pretty pictures. Needless to say the campaign failed as there was too high of a buy in.
2. The Background Worksheet. In the winter of '08 I was getting ready to run a new campaign for a small group of friends and got it into my head that if I wanted this campaign to really run right they had to come in with fully formed characters, whose personalities and histories mattered to them. So I made them do a worksheet with no reward other than personal satisfaction. No one ever took the time to finish it.
3. The Obsidian Failure. In the spring of '09 I was running for a small group and decided that since I only had three players that we should create a campaign on the Obsidian Portal. I would give experience points to the people who updated the site and I would create a linked wiki that would put everything at their fingertips. After a month of no one making the effort I shut it down as I realized that the problem was with me expecting them to be as committed as I was to the project.
4. The Mentor Project. Back in '06 I got the brilliant idea that if everyone knew who their mentors were then the campaign would have a greater depth. I had not realized that I. C. Wiener was such a popular mentor . . .
5. The Secret Murderer. In the summer of '07 I ran a mini-campaign where each player was given an envelope with a target to kill written inside. Most of the envelopes had non-player character names inside, but one had a player character's name. The campaign fell to pieces because I told them that one of them was out to get the others. My fault entirely for this failure.
Why They Failed
If you've been reading me for very long at all I'm sure that you've realized that I've gnashed over these failures wondering what I did wrong, and I've long since come to terms with my short comings on each of these projects.
1. The Campaign Booklet failed because I allowed my own exuberance to over ride my reason. I should have limited myself to a small booklet with no more than six pages of text. It should have been an enjoyable and fun read instead of a clinical treatment of the setting.
2. The Background Worksheet failed because it was dull. Instead of asking the questions that made you want to explore your character further it read more like a doctor's form.
3. The Obsidian Failure was doomed from the start as I didn't listen to my inner voice when it told me that they weren't as on board as they sounded. And looking back on it, it was incredibly clear that Kid Icarus and the Glorious L had too much going on at the time.
4. The Mentor Project failed not because they had a sense of humor about it, but because I forgot mine. I should have rolled with everything they threw at me, but at the time I was wrapped up in this idea of becoming the perfect Dungeon Master so I wasn't doing either of us justice. I've long since come of that foolishness.
5. The Secret Murderer failed because I spilled the beans. When I run this again in the summer I'm doing a lot different and I'll tell you more about it when the time is right.