A few years back I wrote a pretty detailed example of what a "campaign arc" might look like
in a long-form, full-panoply old school sandbox D&D campaign. As I mentioned then, the "campaign arc" is something that I think is not necessarily considered and appreciated in armchair discussion of the game as much as it should be; this is one of the slowest rpgs known to man (not moment to moment, but simply in how slow some of the things that are actually tracked develop through time), so it is entirely normal for the long-term movements to be largely ignored in favour of worrying about moment-to-moment concerns.
As we finished another such arc just yesterday, and it was a pretty clear one, I thought that it might be nice to take a structural look at that one as well for comparison while it's still fresh in mind. Some things have changed through the last couple of years, some things have remained the same, and of the course the game has immense width, so it's rather unlikely that two of these mid-term arcs would ever be too similar to each other.Background on the campaign
The current game is a spin-off of our rambling "historical fantasy Europe" campaign that's been on-going for soon to be five years under four GMs so far, with more or less continuity of aesthetics, fictional positioning, rules traditions and such.
The current GM, Tuomas, started his stint with 5th edition D&D as "hilariously" documented in the adventures of Iron Thomas the Loco Motive
; in January, when I joined the game, the group had been playing 5th for the fall season already. As documented in that thread, in February we had a major breakdown of creative goals which caused a campaign realignment towards a decisively more old school form: Mentzer rules chassis, hex map approach, etc. The player base was reshuffled a bit at the time as well, with the most hardcore middle-schoolers retreating from participation while a few hardcore old-schoolers who'd avoided the game so far got into it.
The new phase of the campaign has been quite interesting, and right up my alley in general. A few key observations:*
We have three regulars in the game now with major GM'ing experience with this style of play, in addition to the GM Tuomas, who - while being an experienced gamer and GM - is running his first properly challenge-based old school sandbox campaign with all the bells and whistles here. Obviously enough we're getting along swimmingly, as we've all played in each other's games at times and so on.*
I helped the GM with creating one of the most work-intensive bits of tools paraphelia for the game by putting down a hex map of Prussia in the 15th century. You can see for yourself, it's in Google Draw - in Finnish, unfortunately, as I am pretty happy with how it turned out in some subtle ways. Lots of useful notational detail that has been serving the GM well, we could continue adventuring on that single map near indefinitely as far as I understand.*
The game's strong mix of historical content with D&D continues apace, quite nostalgically in the same way I originally did it in 2012
On occasion I get to give little lectures on the history and habits of the times, the GM peruses Wikipedia on relevant historical background to mix into his machinations, and D&D material is mixed in liberally to concoct a historical fantasy setting with evil (or let's say, liberally-challenged) Teutonic Knights, keen Jagellonian Polish royalty, all sorts of ethnic minorities, medieval economics and so on and so forth.*
We're running a full panoply of sandbox D&D tools here, in part because I've been honing my apparently-mandated role as a party logistician. (I already was the logistician when Heikki was GMing for us last year, and apparently I'm the logistician again.) The biggest new bit in my toolbox is sharp calendaric journaling - I keep notes of everything of note that happens, and track time. The GM wondrously is tracking time as well, but frankly it seems like having a player do it works better overall - the GM has other things on his mind, after all. The newly precise calendaric work has certainly brought more depth to the logistics and emergent elements of the game.
I could talk rules and characters and such detail, but tonight I'm here to talk large-scale features.