1) I think they're excellent
2) I have to be realistic about what I can reasonably prep in the limited time I have
3) I think they're excellent
|That's right! I have the shirt!|
Secondly, there's no overall story or campaign arc, which is something my group seems to be used too. It's really just a series of adventures. I'm going to add a few themes that will tie them together, but there's no concept of campaign goal other than adventuring. I'm hoping that the "story" such as it is, will emerge from the evolution of the characters (and their deaths of course - this is DCC). One of my gang, Mr. Todd over at Beacon, is a big advocate of emergent story, and I'm hoping the others in the group will see it that way too.
The final consideration, which is both positive and negative, is that by using modules, this won't be a sandbox game. I love sandbox games and I think they have the greatest potential for a truly rewarding game experience. Sandbox campaigns were the norm in the glorious high school and university years when we had oodles of time to explore, discover and build.
But that was then and these days our group (not the same group as in uni of course) seems to lose its way in sandbox games - we tend to wander about aimlessly until the GM gets mad and throws something nasty at us. I'm not sure why this is exactly, but I think it's because sandbox games require a lot of proactive energy from the players. As players we need to be as creative as the GM and look for ways to build longer term goals, strategies and stories into the setting's framework. This is a long process and requires patience, effort and lots of investment but pays off in epic proportions.
But the reality is most of us don't have this sort of time or energy anymore (some of us do, but they're rare and lucky bastards, each and very one of them) - we've got jobs and kids and a million other things demanding our attention. When we get together on a Friday night we're brain dead from a week in the real world and I think we're lacking that vital creative capacity. We need to react, as it were, rather than proact. We also only have about four hours of gaming every two weeks - which makes it hard to sustain that (wonderful) meandering, discovering the world and our role in it approach that typifies sandbox gaming. We need to get into a game quickly and start seeing results. If a game world is just too big or complex, it tends to overwhelm us into a state of paralysis and we chase after the easiest, nearest thing like a pack of ADHD crazed camp kids with axes and fireball spells. In short we arrive at the table and we're craving immediate action. We need a goal we can quickly understand and work toward solving in a session or two. If things are too open ended (which would be a feature in the sandbox style) we can get frustrated (and frustrating for the GM).
I'll use my own Trail of Cthulhu Armitage Files game from last summer as an example. I had multiple secrets, personalities and stories sketched out with multiple approaches, an open world where multiple leads and hooks meant the investigators were free to chart their own course to uncover deadly conspiracies and deal with them however they would. Their actions would have ramifications that would reverberate in many directions and shape the future of many nascent plots. It was fucking magnificent and perfect if we gamed eight hours every week for the next two years (with lots of secret notes and e-mails between sessions) and the players had the time to invest in thinking and planning for the long haul. I was very proud and excited about it (and was the reason I started this blog in fact). But it closed after three sessions. I certainly don't blame my players - they had the best of intentions. It was simply too much, too long term, too involved and required far more effort than most players could give (there were other factors too, such as it being the summer when attendance gets spotty, but you get my drift).
Now before anyone gets too yanked up over this, I'm talking about my experience, which will obviously differ from yours. But it comes down to this; for better or worse, our group seems to need something to focus us for our sessions. Something's gotta kick in the door and give us a reason to get out there or we'll just sit around and talk in funny voices for an hour or four. It's one of the reasons board games go over really well with us - jump right in, clear objectives, not a lot of rev up time.
Modules are also great for this. There's a clear set up and a feeling of accomplishment in one or two sessions rather than the slow group build to an epic arc over say, five, ten or more sessions. So, that's the way I'm going to go. Our first session with Sailors on The Starless Sea was a lot of fun so hopefully that becomes the trend.
Unfortunately this removes that treasured freedom to explore, at least at a macro big world map kinda level. It can feel a bit railroady and "monster of the week" too, so there's a definite trade off. The question is, will we be content with these limitations of the module approach in exchange for the benefit of having highly focused games, or will we eventually get frustrated and start trying to break out of that box? I have seven or so more sessions in the GM chair before it passes over to the next game, so this will be my experiment to find out.