Campaign Style Play
At Wayfinder, the majority of our Adventure Games are written as One Shots. We imagine worlds that we visit only once, stepping into them to shape the course of monumental events, before moving onto the next, carrying those stories and characters only in our memories. We do, on occasion, delve deeper into worlds and engage in campaign style play, returning to the same world across multiple camps or One Day events and allowing player choices, and the stories that they shape, to run their course.
Campaign play allows us to spend more time with a particular character and story line, to carry our characters forward through a series of events and construct singular narratives around the different stories they find themselves at the center of. Characters always provide us a reflection of ourselves, a vision into another way that we could be and interact with those around us. Returning to a character can feel like coming home to yourself. Characters can share a lot with us, they may be good, they may be evil, but whoever they are, the distance they provide from our everyday selves brings a newness into the body that can be very welcoming. The longer you play as a particular character, the more of that character’s life you will hold in your memory.
We often talk about the opportunity for self-exploration that is afforded to us through Live Action Role-Play (LARP). One Shot play doesn’t afford us less of this, but it is simply different. For years, our One Day Adventure Games have offered linked storylines, allowing players to continue the same character across multiple games for as long as that character survives. It provides us with a personal stake and investment in a storyline that is different than may be offered to us anywhere else. Anyone who’s played in a tabletop campaign may have experienced this kind of character play. I have found that there is a difference when I am physically embodying the character. The stakes feel more personal, the intensity more immediate, and the joys more personal.
Last summer we returned to having linked Campaign style Adventure Games as a part of our summer offerings. Over the course of two weeks of camp players were introduced to a world that our staff had collaborated to build the mythology of. People built characters that had to face off against an ancient evil, a lich who had found a way to once again crawl out of death. In our first week characters fought an increasingly desperate battle to stem the tides of undeath, to hold this evil back before it swallowed the world. They were successful, but at the price of a large number of their own, including some heroes they had grown to care about. In the second week we opened with a funeral for one of those characters who had passed. Campers and staff alike gave impromptu elegies that brought a solemn warmth to the scene, and made it all the more upsetting when the character rose again possessed by the lich. Playing in the same world over the course of multiple weeks, made everything feel more familiar, more lived in. Campers were able to share stories and lore with one another. The world became truly collaborative.
After the summer we had two opportunities to return to our campaign world. At our Adult Retreat we played a prequel that took place in the same world, giving a perspective to characters and storylines from the summer. Many of our staff, having worked over the summer, found themselves getting the chance to play as PCs in earlier storylines that tied into their experiences over the summer. A number of them found this deepened their experience, they already felt connected to the mythology and the chance to build into that world in its early days provided a unique LARP experience for them.
We also returned to this world for our Winter Game, bringing a new problem that arose directly out of choices that the campers made in Games over the summer. Demons arrived, ready to claim the world and lay waste to it, having been given the power to do so inadvertently by a deal the campers had made this summer. Once again the forces of good had to rally to hold off the certain destruction of their world. Before the Adventure began though, I saw campers teaching each other lore and mythology that they had built this summer, telling stories about their characters, helping to ensure that the players who were joining this campaign for the first time would share in that same depth of experience and mythology as the ones who had already been there to be in the world.
Take it directly from Finn, one of our campers who played in all of the Song of the Dead series except for the adult retreat, “I had a fantastic time playing the three Song of the Dead games, each addition to the trilogy adding a unique level of depth to the world that I already knew and loved. Being able to play on the same PC team numerous times gave us the time to add our own little details, like a few words of a language, and it was really cool to see the new players of that same group change up bits and pieces and use it as their own! (OSIMALNI HOO HOO HOO)”
This summer we will be having two more linked games. Building out these games is a fun design challenge. We have to craft two games that are stand alone stories, but played together they show a full story arc, and as with all of our Adventure Games, the storyline that we play wraps up, the campaign does not stretch forward forever. It is a hallmark of our Adventure Games that we build these worlds and these characters, inhabit them, and continue into the next story. This summer at our first two weeks of Overnight Camp we will be playing linked games and hope to see you there! What will you build with us? Where does your story lead?
Written by Judson Easton Packard. Jan. 2024