Coming Back After A Long Time

So, you’ve done it.  You finally killed Tea-A-MATT and Waht-R-DEEP, who were both totally out to kill you, and you were ALMOST about to escape the Alpha Complex when you got taken down by The Computer.  Congratulations.

lisaBut now, after a nice foray into another genre, a different taste of a different campaign, possibly even a different system or a different GM, it’s time to return to the campaign that you’ve been working on for the last two years.  You’ve finally decided on a Paragon Path (or Prestige Class, if you have trouble moving on) for your half-elf ranger, and you’re itching to get your hands on the new PHB2 for a look at some feats.  That wizard that seemed so bland a month ago is starting to look pretty sweet again – as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  As a GM, you were wondering how you were going to make another adventure in another dungeon seem exciting to the players, but you picked up a copy of Open Grave, and now you’ve got some ideas on how to take the campaign in a rather dastardly direction – a dead ally is is now an undead foe.

When you and your group take some time off from your campaign to try and get a little variety, the transition back to the old and familiar campaign can be a little tough.  However, with a little thought and preparation*, you and your peers can return to your endless crusade against evil with a second wind and a dash of excitement.

  • Free Level – Few campaigns will make it from 1st level to 30th (or to whatever top-of-the-tier-ranking-system suits your fancy), so, rather than be a miser, just throw out a free level.  Let the players start off with a new spell or feat or ability.  This will make the character fresh and new.  If you can, have the players pick their advancement before you meet, so you can tailor the adventure to their new feats.  (“I’m so glad I picked up Great Cleave as a feat – we’ve fought so many goblins tonight!”)
  • Time Passed in the Campaign, Too – Not only has it been a month in the real world, but maybe it’s been a month in the campaign.  Or a year.  Or two.  Maybe you reached a good stopping place (this would require some forethought by the GM), and your characters had traded their swords for plowshares, and were masters of their estate, looking forward to a life of vinification and child-rearing.  Then BAM!, Lord Pharaxus not only rises from the dead, but sends his minions to kill your spouse.  Nothing to do but round up your old allies and go show a lich what’s what.  Maybe your characters spent some time in court, getting into the intrigue and what-not.  You gained a level (or two), and some contacts, when your liege asks you to step in and get a little more directly involved.  Like, fireballs and holy smiting involved.  Same characters, same fond memories, but a new direction, a new focus, and a little new flavor.
  • Rebuild – This one won’t work for all campaigns, but perhaps your players have become masters of a system, and when you started they were but novices.  This is especially true when you upgrade a new edition.  Take an evening and let your players rebuild their characters.  This requires a little maturity on their part, and you should ask them to stay as close to their original character as they can, but let them make some corrections.  Maybe the GM doesn’t weigh social interaction skills as much as genuine roleplaying, and your players spent a million skill points on Conversation and Bluff and Streetwise, skills that are relatively useless under your game style.  Or they thought Staggering Smite would be awesome, and yet they’ve only used it once in the last eight levels and wish they had taken Righteous Smite instead.  Let your players rebuild a character.  There might be a little retconning involved (“Remember that time you cast Bigby’s Icy Grasp?  Too bad you can’t do that now.”  “I know… Uh… If only I still had that scroll…”), but any good group can get past that.
  • Trade Players – This can be done any time (and I’ll probably make a full post about this as a tool in a group), but trade players.  Have the fighter play the mage and the cleric play the rogue.  Not forever, just for the first night.  This will allow the group to remain the same, but the players will get to try something new to transition back into the game.  Have your players be as true to their interpretations of the character as possible.  Your players will get to see new uses for old abilities (“I never though to hamstring and set him on fire at the same time… that’s awesome!“), and will get an idea of how the other players view their characters (“Boruthos isn’t anywhere near that arrogant… is she?”)  The second session back, the players will pick up their old character sheets with both excitement about their combat skills, and a deeper understand of how their characters are perceived in the group.

And there you have it – four easy (relatively) ways to make jumping back into an old campaign fun and refreshing.  Now, about what happened to Tea-A-MATT…

*Note: Why is it that every GM tip is easy and fun “with a little thought and preparation”?

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