Momentum is of eminent import to a campaign. It's that collaborative energy and excitement that a good campaign just exudes. Momentum feels easy to build when it's happening, is incredibly easy to lose, and seemingly impossible to bring back when it's gone.
I've got a few thoughts on how momentum is made, kept, lost.
To Build It
- Your Enthusiasm is Paramount - Enthusiasm is infectious. If you're excited about the game, it'll be much easier to get your players excited.
- Listen to Your Players and Incorporate Their Ideas - People care more about things in they feel they've helped shape. When your players have an idea, try not to shut it down. Even if it doesn't really fit in the setting at all, work with them until it does. You're going to have to be willing to bend a bit to do this. Flexibility is a key characteristic of a good GM.
- Be Upfront - If there's gonna be a big twist or a some central conspiracy, let everybody know up front. Don't spoil the secret by any means. Just let everyone know that, "hey, there's a big twist in this one at some point...", or "this is gonna be like X-files, but weirder...". Let dramatic irony work for you.
To Lose It
- Don't Play - Large breaks between sessions sap the momentum out of a campaign. Life of course makes this inevitable on occasion.
- Play Past Everyone's Bedtime - Life often pushes Roleplaying into the late evenings. Stretching a game into the wee hours of the morning can leave everyone at the table tired and disconnected. Do it too often, and it can wreck the fabric of a game. The biological need to sleep will almost always win out against enthusiasm once you reach a certain age.
- Turning to Greener Pastures - Losing your own excitement for a game because something new comes along is an all too common problem.
To Get It Back
- Remind Everyone How Awesome the Game Is - If there is going to be a break between sessions, send out a few texts or emails about the game. These can be simple, lighthearted anecdotes ("Remember when Arcaneous cast grease at the brothel house to get out his bill? Hilarious!"); heavy discussions of character growth (How would you feel about your character suffering another personal tragedy? Think it might push her a bit more to the Darkside?); or anything inbetween. Just keep the game in the player's (and your) mind.
- Remind Yourself Why You Wanted to Run This - The grass may always be greener on the other side, but something made you want to run this campaign in the first place. Remind yourself why. Has the game shifted? Maybe you can get a little closer to what you originally had in mind. Maybe you can get it a little closer to what you're jonesing for now.
- Talk It Out - A frank discussion with your players concerning the state of the campaign can do wonders.
Those are just a few thoughts I came up with this afternoon. There's plenty more things both large and small you can do to build, keep, or lose momentum.
How have you handled these issues in your games?