I’m a big fan of recycling. I recycle everything I can, from cans to bottles to magazines, cardboard, etc. Heck, I even use blank areas of junk mail for game notes.
I also recycle games. I don’t mean putting game rulebooks through the shredder (they can have my books when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers); I recycle actual campaigns. I’ve moved extensively in my life (including three cross-country moves), which means changing gaming groups every three to four years. As a single parent, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to work on my campaigns. So, if I’m starting with a new group of players, I dig out my notes from a campaign I ran successfully in another place, have my players create new characters, and off we go!
One caveat with reusing old campaigns: you can’t expect the story to play out the same. Don’t force your new PCs to stick with the storyline created by the old PCs. I usually rename my campaigns, to remind myself that this is a different game with different characters. I usually end up reusing the first adventure, the NPCs, and the events that happen in the larger world (the parts outside of the PCs’ control). And be prepared for the new campaign to vary wildly from the old one. In one Vampire game I ran, the PCs were charged with the job of selecting a new Prince for their city from a set group of NPCs. The second group chose the Gangrel I’d originally thought was one of the three top candidates on the list. The first group to play that campaign chose a Malkavian loner, who’d be selected because he wasn’t even present! As you can imagine, the two versions of the game had drastically different tones.
Still, it saves me a major amount of work. I already know the NPCs, so I have a pretty good idea of how they’ll react to new characters and new situations. This is one thing I particularly enjoy about reusing old campaigns — for me, reusing the NPCs feels much like visiting with old friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I know what’s going on in the world at large, so I only need to focus on changes made by the characters. This approach doesn’t work for everyone and it doesn’t work for every campaign. I’ve retired entire storylines because the last group to play them out created events that became so integral to the world, I couldn’t imagine events happening any differently than they did.
But if you’re pressed for time, it just might work for you.