In a week or so me and my group will be wrapping up a two-and-a-half year long 4th edition D&D campaign. It's been a blast, but now they're hitting level 25 it's definitely starting to become more of a chore - something that must be done rather than something I always want to go back to. This isn't because of the players - they're fantastic and I have a huge amount of fun with them. It's not even about the story arc, which has been going for pretty much the full tenure of the campaign. It's the bloat that inevitably hits 4e games in epic tier, and I really dislike it.
For me and for my players, I know that having reams of data on a 5-page character sheet isn't the best way to play. Turns take an age, status effects are dishes out like Halloween sweets and monsters seem to become lifeless heaps of powers. I admit that as DM I'm responsible for making sure combat is exciting, roleplaying opportunities are fun and the players are having a great time, every time. But there's only so much you can do when a rules set explodes into a mess and you have to wrestle with it in order to make it do what you want.
I think the 4e system is a good one, especially in heroic tier. I like powers, but in moderation. Hell, I don't even mind healing surges. I've said in the past that it's really hard to kill players in 4e and that's true, to an extent, but over the past 7 months or so there have been a bunch of near TPKs and deaths even with all the added advantages characters are given. Believe it or not, 4e can be made to feel like good old-fashioned AD&D, especially if you use the Fourthcore design mentality, which I've incorporate into my game with success.
This was my first ever campaign and I think it really came into its own when the players hit 16th level and I found my stride. I don't think it was perfect and I can think of so many things I would have changed, but it's been a huge boon to my GM skills. The good sessions far outweighed the bad ones and the fact that the players want to see the story to its climax is hopefully testament to having done a good job. Anyone who has helmed a game for multiple years will know how difficult it is to keep inventing new ways to hook players and keep them entertained and now we're reaching the end of the story I look back with pride that I was at least able to keep an arc going.
Next it will be someone else's turn to sit in the GM's seat, which is a quiet relief. I love being a GM and prefer it over being a player, but it'll be good to stretch my legs as a single character at last. We've all agreed to keep campaigns short this time around so that we can get through many games and keep things fresh. On the horizon we have Space 1889, Tunnels & Trolls, Gamma World and more, which I'm really looking forward to.
So now to end the campaign with a bang and make these two years feel like they were worth something.