On Friday we had the last session of the high level D&D game I began three years ago in December of 2016. It was a fun session, the PCs were victorious, and I felt like everyone had a good time which was awesome. We've decided what we're going to start in a couple weeks (more D&D, making this one of the few times I've ended a campaign in one system only to stay in that system) but I wanted to take today to look at my successes and failures from the last game.
Success and Failure is perhaps not the best words for that. More, things I think worked well, and things I need to work on going forward.
Things To Work On
1. More Character Focus - I tend to be very character focused in my GMing, but I feel with this game I could have done a better job of focusing on the personal stories of individual PCs. The root cause I feel that prevented this is its own thing, and while a couple PCs - the ones I feel engaged the most vocally with the game - had a lot of focus, and everyone had something happen for them, I could have done more to poke and prod and challenge who the PCs were and to give them more personal narratives.
2. Don't Rush. Don't Feel The Need To Rush - I've talked about this several times on here of late, but for whatever reason I felt rushed a lot with this game. Like I was dragging things out too long, making things take too long, or just needed to get on with main plot points. This led to the lack of character focus I mentioned above in some cases because I didn't take the time to focus a lens on the individual PC because I didn't feel I had the time to do that.
3. Embrace the Sprawl - Following on not feeling rushed, there really isn't a thing of a 'side quest' in a table top RPG. At least, not in the same sense as in a videogame. In a videogame a side quest is a small, minor task that is done divorced from the main point or story of the game. Only, an RPG is a story about the characters and what they're doing, and so the 'main story' is whatever is being done by the PCs at the moment. Which means there's no reason to push players towards one story or another for the most part. You can embrace where they focus themselves and work on that. Time is your play thing, so enjoy it. Embrace it.
Things That Went Well
1. They Felt Like Heroes - Several of the players commented over the course of the game that they felt powerful and capable. They felt they were the group that could deal with this problem, and that if they failed...that was more or less it. It wasn't a case of "why are we doing that? You have three gods and a group of level 20+ adventurers right there who could do this even faster!" that happens in some games or game worlds.
2. They Were Invested In Beating The Villains - The players, and their characters, were invested in beating the end villains of the game. Not because "this is where the game is going" - though that is likely part of it too - but because they felt that connection to the enemies and they wanted to defeat and stop them. The villains managed to make it personal in the things they hurt, and the times they escaped along with the escalations that happened.
3. Everyone Was Important To The End - In the end, everyone was important to the end of the game and a successful end of the story. In the actual final fight the person who did the least was the druid, but at the same time, the druid was also a huge part of getting to the final fight itself and several other things. And it isn't like she did nothing or wasn't helping. The fight came down to everyone getting at least one big moment or round off though, and that's something you can't plan so I'm really glad the set up was good enough to facilitate it happening.
Overall I think this was a very successful campaign. When the game started it was literally "I want to try running D&D again and see how 5e works as a campaign." In the end I had one PC take over a kingdom as Empire, another build a castle in neutral territory for themselves, a person ascend to be an arch druid, and a whole lot more.
I stumbled a lot in the game, but never so much that it ruined or hindered the game. Everyone had a fun time. Everyone liked the world. So much so they asked to have the next game in the same world - which I feel is a huge plus.
I am happy with the game. And I'm excited to see what happens in the next game.