Monday, July 11, 2016

Spotting The End

There comes a point in games where the players will do something so grand that it'll be hard to top. Sure, you could top it, but it'd involve starting from scratch all over again. It'd be like starting a whole new campaign, only one where the players are starting off at a very high level. These moments are important, because they're effectively end points. You want to spot them too, because you need to know before you get to that point if that is where you'll wrap things up, or if you want to push forward.

Today, I want to talk about that.

End Point Or To Be Continued
The first question to ask yourself is whether this is the end of the game, or if you want to continue. Some people may wonder why you'd want to end a game, and there are a lot of reasons. Some of the common ones are: you've gotten out of the game what you wanted to get out, you've told the story you want to tell, you want to run a different game, you need a break, or you're just done with that game.

If you want to continue the game that's fine too. However, this means you have a job to do. While you're tying up loose ends for what is going on now, you need to start seeding some ideas for what can come next. If all major personal, setting, and meta plots are resolved it might be hard to get the players involved with any enthusiasm. So figure out what you need to resolve, and what could come next.

How Do You Know It's Coming?
Hopefully seeing the end coming is obvious. Usually your game has been building to it. However, in more open or freeform games it can be hard to see.

If you're running one of those games, it tends to be a big event or NPC going down. Perhaps the PCs are taking down a king, or finally confronting a major antagonist that has been bothering them for several adventure arcs.

It could also be the opposite of something big in the PCs favor. Half or more of the group getting wiped. The world ending. The home city being wiped out. These are less satisfying ways to end a game, but they make endings just as well for the most part.

The point is, you're coming up on a major climax point. The kind of thing that would be at the end of a movie or book. That's what you're looking for.

Starting the Continuation
If you want to continue the game after this end point, keep in mind you can't just keep your foot slammed down on the gas. After the climax moment take some time to properly tie up the story. Give the group some down time. Then slowly build back up for the next adventure.

Remember, you want to peak at the climax point. That means tension goes down - perhaps way down - for a while. Give the PCs a break, a rest, and then start to build.

If you were comparing this to a movie or book think about it like going into the sequel. There's a time break, things change, the old adventure is put to rest, and then a new adventure begins.

Making The End Work
Alternatively, if you want to end the game there, you need to make sure that climax delivers. You don't want to go out on anything but your strongest note. After you do that, take time - perhaps not a whole session but that night - and tie up the loose ends. Help your players come up with satisfying epilogues for their characters. Help them tie up loose ends with plots. Help them tie up loose ends with other characters. Give the game a sense of closure. Let folks say goodbye to their characters, the world, and the game.

Most importantly, make sure it's an ending that you are satisfied with. Ending a game can feel weird, but do it right and it is an amazing experience too.

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