This post is a part of the #RPGaDAY series for 2017 by David F. Chapman and RPGBrigade. For more information, see this post at AUTOCRATIK. I'm modifying per suggestions from S. John Ross as well as applying my own interpretations. Comment with your answers or links to your own posts!
Day 9 - What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?
This one will also be short and sweet, I think. At the beginning of this month, I had assumed that at some point I'd have to repeat some answers, but it still surprises me that I'm doing it so soon. The clear standout for me for this question, though, is again Shadow of the Demon Lord by Robert J. Schwalb. In one sense, this is another crowded field, in that I would imagine that any game not expressly designed for one-shots would probably make a good answer. But SotDL stands out to me because it's explicitly designed for a campaign of about 10 sessions, with 10 PC levels and an advancement per session. There's something nice for me in that, the system built so that there explicitly comes a point where you recognize that there's no reason to advance further. Despite the game's adventure fantasy dressing, it is still a horror game, after all, and I think the inevitable end brings a lot of flavor to the campaign tone and atmosphere. I have an appreciation for those endless, open-ended campaigns, particularly of the trad fantasy variety, but despite my RPG beginnings, it's just not what I'm looking for anymore. To be honest, character advancement isn't even that exciting to me as a play feature these days. SotDL says to me that there's a limit to be reached. You can be badass, absolutely, but this isn't a game which will carry on to the story of a party of demigods. You're not really gunning for an "epic" campaign like you might with D&D. You want to tell this party's story, and that story will have an end. I can dig it.
As a last little bit of editorializing, I will admit that I was surprised how much I saw Powered-by-the-Apocalypse games in people's answers. (Well, and as people's answers, also.) I personally often think that those kinds of games are geared a little bit shorter...five or six sessions, say. Maybe a single arc, rather than a whole campaign. There's something about the intensity of play, the tragedy of the PCs, and the (general) oppressiveness of setting that makes me feel like shorter campaigns are more appropriate. There are exceptions, to be sure; in particular, Blades in the Dark (John Harper) stands out to me as one that could do particularly well in a long-running campaign, and it was certainly built that way. And I suppose I'm probably leaning toward a certain breed of PbtA games in that evalutation; it strikes me as generally a bad idea to generalize about PbtA games as a group in any circumstance. It may also be that I've never played a long-running campaign of, say, Apocalypse World (D. Vincent Baker & Meguey Baker), so I don't have a frame of reference for it. But broadly speaking, those games lead me to feel like telling the hell out of a particular story, but also that once that's story's done, it's done. It's entirely possible that I just need more exposure in that arena. Upon consideration, I could see launching a campaign of, say, The Sprawl (Hamish Cameron). But life being what it is for busy adult gamers, I don't suppose I can look forward to that kind of thing any time soon. Which is still fine with me; I'm all about one-shots and mini-campaigns these days.