When I was in college I ran a Deadlands Hell on Earth table top role playing game for a group of friends. There were five players and me, the GM. We played almost every week, on a Sunday. We were often hungover from Saturday night shenanigans. And Friday night. And Thursday night. We drank a lot.
When we started, I was in a pretty good place. Sure, I was single (had been for a while) and a drunk (also for a while). But, I was also doing well in school, had made lots of friends, and mostly felt good. Depression reared its ugly head every now and again as is its wont.
And, I was happy to find people to play RPG that weren’t D&D with. We maintained the game for about 18-24 months. I don’t remember exactly because it’s been over 15 years since that time in my life.
I do remember that the group was good. We had a decent mix of experienced and new players, but everyone invested themselves in the game, which is important. If you’ve never played RPGs before, know that player involvement makes everyone’s jobs easier, especially the GM’s.
The first few sessions went well, if memory serves. We played about three hours each time, and there was laughter, excitement, and character deaths. I wrote the adventure and let the players guide the story, as is my style. There are other ways to play Deadlands: Hell on Earth, certainly, but that’s how I ran my game.
Showing Up to Deadlands: Hell on Earth Became a Small Struggle
Eventually, things got more difficult. My depression kicked in more than before, and school responsibilities took over the group. Still, we made an effort to show up nearly every week. Sometimes we would only play for an hour. Other times, we would get together but not play. It was those times that I especially felt bad. See, if the players show and you give it your all and it’s a bad session that’s one thing. It’s something else if they show and you go through the motions. I am not saying that’s what I did, but it felt that way to me sometimes. As I am sure it did to the players.
There were times when I didn’t want to play. I felt down and depressed and didn’t want to put the work in. Other times I didn’t know where the story was going, or why we were still playing. I realized then, as well as now, it was my issues. Depression, lack of self-worth, burnout. My friends always seemed willing to get in the trenches and sling some dice. For that, I am and was appreciative.
How Do You Measure RPG Success?
Thinking about it now, we had more successful sessions than not. I wrote a lot of the campaign we played, but I also used pre-written modules. It was, I think, a good mix of both.
Overall, I think the game was successful as evidenced by the fact that the players continued to show up to play, and we usually seemed to be having fun. Not always, but that’s life, right? Eventually, as it happens, life got in the way and the game died. Friends quit. I moved away.
I will always remember it fondly, though. It was the longest game I’ve ever been involved in, and the bonds of friendship are still there.
What’s the longest you’ve ever been in a single campaign? What keeps you coming back? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading this small reflection on a time in my life that I look upon with happiness despite the negative feelings I sometimes had.