For almost a year, most of my extra mental energy has gone into the pirate campaign I run using Honor+Intrigue for the last eleven months. The game started without a name initially, but I started referring to it as the Siren’s Call after about a month. Fittingly named after the ship the PC crewed the majority of the adventure. My ten-month voyage (technically nine since I started out as a player) began with the original GM realizing they really didn’t have a satisfactory direction for the game. I was into the idea of playing cutthroat pirates at that point and offered to take over, switching roles with the then GM. I had plenty of ideas for my character and had imagined how his story would unfold. More than that though, I didn't want to see the game end after only two sessions. With that in mind, I wrote my character out of the campaign (I hate DM PCs) and started focusing on telling a good story.
In October, I was going full throttle and was maybe too into the game as I decided I would participate in NaNoWriMo. It was the perfect excuse to flesh out the settings. I’ll be honest I was under no illusion that I would be able to write 50,000 words, plus I had done next to nothing to prepare for it. I did achieve my real goal which was to flesh out most of the setting stuff that needed to be written. Midway through October psyched about the game by the end of the month I felt like everything was perfect and I had all kinds of new ideas to take the game after this maiden voyage completed.
Then I realized that I hate it. I didn’t like the mood or the tone I set out for the game. More accurately, I failed to set. It felt like the players had very different ideas about the mood and tone of the game and it often felt like I was juggling 3+ different stories.
I try to make a habit of asking for feedback even though very few of the people I game with want to offer any legitimate feedback other than it was “fun.” During one of the sessions, I got feedback that helped me so much and re-enforced why I should continue to ask. The players mentioned they it would be nice if I would be more descriptive. I had held back on providing any significant descriptions out of fear that it would bore players. So many people complain about horror stories where GM-monologues dumped too much detail on suffering players and how you should show and not tell. To be fair, I occasionally take my interpretations to extremes.
One session, the group started having a conversation about their opinion of what type of game people felt we were playing which got some interesting answers. A player mentioned that it seemed like a straightforward monster of the week. I didn’t want to hear that at the time because I felt like the PCs didn't make much effort to even converse with the other pirates of the crew. After a week or two of thinking on it, I realized/accepted that wasn't part of my plan but was what they were expecting from the game. That was when I decided to embrace that instead of fighting it.
I went with the monster of the week concept and went with a more campy feel with each players side stories. I went with an overly stylized anime side-story for the former Spanish inquisitor, think Fullmetal Alchemist & Vampire Hunter D. A tragic "Cursed with Awesome" origin story for the African witch doctor. I just straight-up ripped off anything similar to Buffy for "the Chosen One" tropes I used for the German mercenary. The pirate queen which I had the most fun coming up with was a bizarre amalgam. It combined the urban myth version of the peddler from Disney’s Aladdin and Mephistopheles if the Devil was Tezcatlipoca.
The game turned around during the second arc. I was in a better place with the game and happy with the new the stories direction. I still had a few inherited issues and hiccups in the second arc. The players didn't appear all that interested in the story hooks I provided. I dropped a few story hooks after deciding they were too ambiguous. After several attempts, the players were more consistently following the hooks.
A player went lone wolf and missed several things that other PCs would have likely noticed. Several players appeared to decide they would never share any information with other characters. I had to have a conversation with one player about how it was struggling because I had to tell separate stories because characters where avoid interaction with other.
El Dorado was the last story arc. I fully embraced the over the top nature the game had taken on. There were flat earth Jaguar men that pulled people through the ground to the Upside Down. I introduced a masochistic phoenix god that referred to being killed by heroes as its birthday present. The arc was topped off with a visit to El Dorado, a city created by South American neanderthals from the future. In the original timeline, Neanderthals become the dominant species on earth then they ruined the planet in true human fashion. They sent Time Vaults from the future to the past as their last desperate act to save themselves and correct their mistakes. They, of course, failed and the only functioning vault was El Dorado, a resort meant for the ultra-rich.
When it was all said in done, they had killed the “acting” CEO of El Dorado; released Tezcatlipoca from the God Machine powering El Dorado; made a deal with a gin to become a vampire and El Reina Dorado; made a getaway in a helicopter filled with gold jewels; endured fake product placement; and, in the case of one player, Was Never Heard From Again™.
All and all a successful campaign.