Still dealing with a power outage at home, but a trip in to work to recharge the phones is giving me a bit of time at a laptop so I can at least have a small post today. The topic for the day was inspired by discussion of how many of our favorite heroes (Batman, the Supernatural boys, etc) adventures end versus how games end. Most importantly in how things all come to a head. So, for today, I want to talk about that with the hopes of maybe finding a way to fix it, or just pointing out a pitfall a GM may fall into.
The TV Show Ending
In a lot of TV shows the ending can be a bit lackluster from time to time. The main character of the show doesn't necessarily cause events to come to a close as much as they just happen to be there when it does happen. The villain goes nuts and causes their contraption to blow up, meaning Batman just has to escape; some angel drops in and saves Sam and Dean from the demon in question; or two villains take each other out in a blaze of glory. These endings are often cinematic, but they have problems when being implemented in a game. Let's look at a few.
Out Of The Players' Hands
This is the big one to be aware of. A lot of these endings, by definition, are out of the players' hands. When that happens, the players can feel robbed or cheated of the ending that they think they deserved. They may also feel that the adventure was on rails, and thus that nothing they did had any impact - even if they were instrumental in why things played out this way.
Why is this the feeling that comes across? Directly because the player doesn't have a direct impact on the ending. Even if they brought the person in who wrapped things up, they may feel upstaged by the NPC. Some players may be ok with this, but a lot of people will feel robbed. It is part of the basic psychology between being the human directly involved, and being a human consuming a story - or being a part of the story. Even in those stories the character involved often feels unfulfilled with the ending, and that is something your players are going to feel when this happens.
How To Fix?
I'm not so sure how to fix this, but the best way would be to give your players a key hand in what happens. Even if it isn't the big fix that solves things, if it is a pivotal part it can be enough. Play up their role and show how much it matters. More importantly though, give them closure. A satisfying ending can make up for a lot unfulfilled longings.