So, today (technically tomorrow from when I am writing this) is the beginning of the end for my Greymoore game. The party has re-assembled with their allies, they have gathered their armies, and they are beginning the march for the final and climactic battle. The game has been ramping up to this point from the very beginning, when a young farm boy first jumped out of the woods and just narrowly avoided a Dwarven merchant guard's axe. The game is gearing up for battle, for blood, sweat, and tears. I don't know who is going to live, I don't know if the PCs are going to win. I do know, however, that you'd never know that was all coming up by looking at my plan for tonight's session.
See, it is my opinion that often in gaming we lose sight of how valuable the quiet moments can be. The reason that we have those dips in the plot escalation throughout the game, and don't just follow what Chuck Wendig calls the 'male ejaculatory arc' where there is just one constant rise, a peak, and then a plummet. These dips along the way are important though, they give the audience (and characters) time to rest in between moments of excitement. Lets them savor their victory, or at least their survival. It stops everything from becoming overwhelming and exhausting with how the tension just constantly rises. But I've talked about all this before.
Today what I want to talk about is the importance of that last dip before the story hits the peak. That one, specific rest moment before the storm truly begins and the game/story is resolved for good or ill. This is the most important of the dips in my opinion, because it is the last rest before the big hurrah. There is no going back once you leave this rest point, you either make it through, or die trying, so it is best to make it work.
This last rest is also special for a number of other reasons as well. Stories are often their most desperate right before the climax, and end once the tide has been turned. Very rarely do you see the finalizing and the mop up. You see the big win, that big moment, the part that is filled with the most hope and assurance that all will turn out well. This means though, that at this last rest that the direness of the situation is looming over everyone. Yes, they're resting. Yes, they can bask in their previous victory. But everyone knows what is coming, everyone knows what is next, and everyone isn't sure that they're going to make it out the other side in one piece.
Finally, the last rest is also the last chance for people to tie up whatever personal plots they have going. Sure, there could be moments for some tying up after, but plots that get tied up mid action are often more tragic than happy. How often do you get an "I love you" after the final rest moment that doesn't involve one, or the other, getting shot, killed, or at least horribly injured?
This moment, for all those things it can do, is important to give to your players when running a game. Give them that last chance to rest, that last chance to get their personal stuff handled, and watch how much better they come at the end game. Remind them what they are fighting for, what they are trying to preserve and save, or to destroy and wipe out. It will be a quiet session, sure, but it will also be one of the sessions that the players will love. A chance to reflect, to bond, to be in character fully one last time before the game goes nuts and comes to a conclusion.
That is my plan for tonight (tomorrow night....). The calm before the storm, a chance for the party to come together one last time as friends before the frantic final battle begins. A chance to resolve their personal plots, and other personal issues. A chance to prepare for should the worst happen to them. A chance for merriment, perhaps. But all with the threat of failure looming over them more than it ever has before.
Hopefully it will go well.