Unlike the House of Worms campaign, the Dust of Gold campaign took place not in Tsolyánu, the titular Empire of the Petal Throne, bur rather in the land of Mu'ugalavyá, Tsolyánu's great rival to the west. I did this for a number of reasons, not least of which being that there's not a great deal of information about Mu'ugalavyá in the canon of Tékumel. I hoped to use the campaign as an opportunity to "find out" about Mu'ugalavyá through play, a process I've used many times to good effect in other campaigns (not least of all the House of Worms).
The early sessions took place in and around the city of Gashchné, located at the westernmost edge of Mu'ugalavyá, just south of the Great Desert of Galái and east of the vast expanse of the mysterious Plain of Towers. Before too long, the characters traveled outside Gashchné, seeking business opportunities for their mercantile clan. Eventually, these opportunities led them even farther afield, seeking out the legendary city of Ureshyésha on the far side of the Plain of Towers.
As the characters traveled, many of them died, most commonly due to combats gone wrong or failed saving throws. Since the characters were far from home, the deceased couldn't simply be replaced by new members of the Dust of Gold clan, as I would have suggested had they been back in Mu'ugalavyá. Instead, the players created characters from among the local tribal people of the southern Plain of Towers. Known as the Nixkámi, these people were socially and culturally quite different from the Mu'ugalavyáni, with whom they'd had little contact prior to the appearance of the PCs. Also along the way, several players dropped from the campaign owing to real life demands.
By the time the surviving characters successfully made it to Ureshyésha, only one of them was still a Mu'ugalavyáni member of the Dust of Gold clan. The rest were all Nixkámi or others picked up along the way. This didn't have to be a problem and, in some sense, it shouldn't have been, but I can't deny that, for me, I increasingly found it hard to find much of a thread connecting the start of the campaign with where it had wound up. I attempted to maintain my enthusiasm for the campaign as the characters explored Ureshyésha and learned more about its weird society, but, after a few months, I found it difficult to do so and admitted as much to the players who, while disappointed, nevertheless understood my feelings.
I often think back to the Dust of Gold campaign and how things unfolded. In particular, I think about the extent to which the large number of character deaths in a wilderness far from their nominal home base severed continuity with the campaign's start to such an extent that I was no longer able to muster much interest in it. To some extent, this is my own fault, in as much as I had hoped to use the campaign as a means of exploring Mu'ugalavyá. Had I not been so fixated on that particular goal, I might have cared less about differently the campaign had turned out from what I'd intended. On the other hand, the discontinuity between where things started and where they ended almost two years later was truly significant. The survival of but a single PC from the start made it hard for me to invest in what was happening and so my interest waned.
One of the reasons I prefer the term "referee" over "game master" or a similar formulation is that I try very hard to keep a certain distance between myself and the actions of the characters. I attempt to be a neutral observer and arbiter rather than being more actively involved. I don't always succeed, of course, but this is the approach toward which I aim. In the case of the failed Dust of Gold campaign, though, I can't help but think I allowed my own feelings get the better of me, to the detriment of the game. Yet, I also continue to ponder the importance of narrative (in the broad sense) continuity in a campaign. How vital is it and was it reasonable for me to feel discouraged by its disappearance? I have no firm answers to these questions.