When I was younger I would play D&D with my family and a few friends. Whenever there was sufficient number of people present at our house interested in playing, we would start a game. we all had multiple characters who we would use in different campaigns/adventures. some time we would have the same character playing in two different adventures at the same time. which adventure we played was determined by who was present and out mood. We also tended to switch DMs for the longer campaigns, the prime example of this my Federation of Dargunn Campaign/setting, there were 6 different people who DMed that one continuous campaign with no less than 10 changes between DMs. We never completed any single campaign or adventure; there was no distinct change between games, and everything was just seen as a different adventures we played in D&D. By the end of High School I had approximately 30 characters, only 2 of which reached 10th level(David a fighter, and Galron the elf).
Since then, I have found that the rest of the RPG community doesn't play this way, they tend to stick to one campaign with one character until that campaign is finished or falls apart. Play tends to be a lot less free form, and more structured; because of the very nature of committing to play at a specific time
So, what is an open table? It is a style of game play that involves a large pool of players that play frequently in smaller groups among a shared world. Many modern gamers are amazed when they hear that Gygax and Arneson had 20 or 50 players; they imagine how dificult it would be to run that amount of players all at once. What is misunderstood is how they would handle all those players. They played in smaller groups and many solo sessions, but the players in a group would rotate so there was no constant single campaign occurring.
The open table consists of a large group of players who may each have more than one PC. Depending on who shows up to any single gaming session, the players pick the PC they want to play at that time.This style of play can encourage greater participation and engagement in the setting of the game. Dungeons aren't meant to be 'cleared', and if they are something will take up residence in the now empty dungeon. The wilderness is constantly changing, there are always new things to discover. The world may change because of the actions of another group of PCs. Different parties can interact with each other, and ultimately multiple DMs can run run different groups in the same setting.
Following are some ground rules for the open table I am starting an open table at the college. Any company of PCs who goes adventuring will be part of that group until they return to chapter house of the adventurers guild. If Bob the fighter, Sally, the cleric, and Jim, the Thief, go into the dungeon of scary things, and they don't return by the end of the session, then those characters remain in that position until the game is picked up later by the same players. Bob the fighter would not be available for play in a different adventure until he is played again and returns to a chapter house. In this fashion, each player may have several different characters on several different adventures simultaneously, and also may have some in reserve at an adventurer guild house. Once a character has returned to a guild house, he or she is available for play in a later session at any location with a guild house. I will detail the Adventurers Guild in my next post.