The most recent session of Dwimmermount was one of those sessions. Anyone who's run a longstanding campaign knows what I'm talking about. It's not that the session wasn't fun or that nothing transpired during the time we played it, because neither of those things is true. Indeed, the party ventured further into the current level and made a number of possibly significant discoveries, chief among them being that Dwimmermount was used at some point as a monastery devoted to the Thulian god of magic, Turms Termax. Granted, they had suspected this for some time, but the preponderance of religious artifacts, monastic cells, and ritual chambers more or less confirmed it.
It's also not that the session was devoid of "action." The characters continued to encounter vermin, such as giant spiders and centipedes, as well as hobgoblins and an increasing number of undead, albeit of a mindless variety. There were traps to be overcome and secret doors to be found and all the usual obstacles one would expect of a megadungeon. The characters have also finally begun to find some valuable treasure, not the paltry copper and silver coins they have found in large numbers to date. Brother Candor acquired a stash of clerical scrolls for future use, as well as some potions, which will come in handy. And Dordagdonar and Iriadessa inched ever closer to advancing a level.
But Session 14 was a classic "just a bunch of stuff that happened" session and my players were fine with that. That's the nature of RPG campaigns in my experience: not every session is a roller coaster ride of excitement. That level of intensity is neither sustainable week after week nor, in my opinion, desirable. "Slow" sessions are valuable. They give everyone a chance to catch their breath and they're very low maintanence for the referee. I didn't have to come up with impromptu NPC personalities or describe an entire quarter of the city-state because the PCs wandered off on some whim. I could simply use my notes to the dungeon and proceed more or less as planned without much hassle, which I appreciated. I should note too that my players seem to do so as well. It being Father's Day, our contingent was smaller than usual and the social aspect of the evening loomed larger than usual. This was a "comfort" dungeon crawl -- something to pass the time without placing too much of a burden on either my players or myself.
I am loath to compare long-term campaigning to anything in the real world, since I know from hard experience that one or more people will misread my intention. Therefore, I will be vague and simply say that, in life, there are many long-term, emotionally-engaging commitments into which one can enter. To expect that those commitments will each and every time generate the same kind of passion and intensity is a recipe for disappointment. Sometimes -- often -- one is simply content and perhaps even grateful that the level of emotional engagement has subsided to less thrilling levels. I doubt that human beings can be ecstatic 24/7, 365 days a year and I rather suspect that, if they tried, they'd make themselves an emotional wreck in fairly short order.
The absence of constant esctasy is not an indication that a campaign is failing or that it's grown stale. It could be, but, in my experience, it's mostly an indication that a campaign is growing comfortable and that players and referee alike have settled in to a pleasant routine. Now, routines must be broken from time to time and I certainly don't advocate allowing a campaign to fall into a rut. No one wants that. However, we need to be sure to distinguish between comfortability and staleness. The two are not the same and to confuse them has, I fear, brought a premature end to many a campaign on the verge of having the staying power that leads to long-term satisfaction.
I think a lot of gamers are too impatient to let a campaign find its feet and they bolt at the first sign of things becoming "boring." By many measures, my last session was "boring," because it consisted mostly of mapping and some scattered combats, few of which had any greater significance and none of which were all that dangerous to the PCs. Nevertheless, I think last session was important and contributed to the health of the campaign, even though nothing particularly exciting transpired. But, months from now, as the campaign has unfolded further, no one will remember Session 14's dullness. If they remember it at all, it'll be for its significance in the ex post facto "story" of exploring the megadungeon, a story they themselves helped to create through their shared memories of time spent around my dining room table imagining a world not their own.
Nothing of great import may have happened in the game, but I can assure you something of great import happened in my home this past weekend: my friends and I got together and gamed.