This is something I've been pondering off and on again for a while, and got back on to thinking about it after dusting off my copy of Apotheosis Drive X recently (as well as thinking about Evil Hat's new Shadow of the Century game about to go into playtesting).
Up until now (with the exception of a short-lived continuation of my old Stargate SG-10 campaign) I've only run games that cover one period within a world's timeline and followed the adventures of one group of characters. Apotheosis Drive X suggests a different approach, in which campaign play can potentially progress over multiple generations. Spirit of the Century also suggests something similar, time skipping from early century adventures in the 1920s/1930s to the same characters later on in the century.
It's an ambitious idea for running a campaign but it's something I'd really like to try out at some point.
One of the main challenges of attempting an epic campaign of this sort is, of course, the players themselves. I'd be very lucky to get the same group of players to stick around for a multi-generation game, though it's not necessary - strictly speaking - for the whole group to be present from start to finish. It might be cool to keep one or two on board, playing as either older versions of their characters or their descendants, but for the most part the new generation's cast need not have any ties to the old. After all, none of the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation had any ties to the original series except that their adventures took place at a later point in the same universe's timeline. Then again, having players make callbacks to earlier events in the timeline would be part of the fun of running such a campaign.
Introducing new players to a multi-generation campaign also poses the danger of continuity lockout; the longer the campaign's history becomes, the more difficult it becomes to catch new players up on what has gone before. That assumes it is important for them to know the history though. It could be that they only need a basic knowledge of the setting and the current situation. If the events that led to it were part of the earlier generation of the campaign, those events can be referenced in-game, maybe in response to a Knowledge (History) roll or something. It would probably also help to maintain a campaign bible, recording the timeline of the game and biographies of the major participants as it progresses.
I have no idea if or when I'll actually get around to attempting this. I suspect that, if I do end up giving it a try, I'll run one 'season' of a campaign and propose a continuation into a later generation as a possibility for the next semester of play to the group when the game wraps up. It should be the players' choice, after all, not just the whim of the GM.
I know this isn't a new idea, so I'd like to hear from other GMs about their own experiences of running multi-generation campaigns. What challenges did you face? How did you tackle them? How did it work out overall? If there's anything you feel like sharing about those games, then please leave a comment below.
See you later!