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A campaign is a game with a continuous storyline that a group of players play over multiple sessions (as opposed to a one-shot, which lasts only one session). A campaign may involve multiple scenarios. The extended duration of play in a campaign allows character development and character advancement that might not be possible with a shorter play time.

At inception, campaigns may be open-ended (meaning they will continue for an indeterminate amount of sessions until the players choose to conclude them) or have a limited duration (meaning that they are expected to be concluded after a fixed period of time or at a certain point in the narrative).

Aspects of a campaignEdit

There are many different styles of campaign play, but a single campaign will generally keep the following aspects consistent:

  • The GM (or GMs). The GM for a campaign is said to run the campaign.
  • The group of players who participate. Although individual players may join or leave the campaign, a significant shift in the makeup of the group as a whole usually means that a campaign will end.
  • The party of player characters. As with the players themselves, characters may join or leave the party (e.g. through character death), but the party as a whole endures.
  • The setting of the campaign.
  • The tone of the campaign. Sudden, unexpected shifts in tone (e.g. from horror to comedy) can hurt the players' connection with the game.
  • The system or rules used by the players. This includes not only the published game system, but also the house rules used and the interpretations of those rules. Gaming groups might decide to change some of the rules (or, very rarely, the whole system), e.g. if they found that the original system was not working as expected, but this can be a significant and disruptive shift.

Many of the details of a campaign, particularly its characters and setting, are created (either solely by the GM or collaboratively by the GM and players) before the gameplay of the campaign begins, at session zero.

TerminologyEdit

The word campaign for role-playing games originates in the hobby's roots in wargaming, when it referred literally to a military campaign that would be played over multiple sessions.

Campaign is the generally accepted term for this style of play, but some game systems use alternative terms for the same concept. These include chronicle (in White Wolf games such as the World of Darkness and Exalted) or saga.

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