When reflecting on this Sunday's Star Wars game, the one where I ran the largest battle I think I've ever run as a GM, I was a little sad but what felt like anti-climactic battles for two of the recurring villains in the series. Both villains died at the hands of a PC, but in both cases it felt like the moment lacked a bit of oomph. Maybe I should say in one instance, and the lack of oomph also affected the other fight. Since then though, I've been looking back over the game and it makes a lot more sense. Today I want to talk about that.
It's Easy To Get Lost
When running a game it's easy to get lost in the present. You have so much to keep track of between all your PCs, all your NPCs, the various plots and meta plots, combat counters, session dressing, pacing, emotional up and down beats. It's a lot to do. When this happens it can be hard to track how things have progressed and get mired in "this is just how it is." Because of this, I recommend taking some time to look over the game from the beginning.
Do You Know How You Got Here?
When looking at the game, do you know how you got to where you are now? Can you trace the steps? It's ok to say no at first to this, but if that is the case, it might be worth going back to the beginning and progressing through the game. Do it with a player or two if you need to. Make it a conversation. Now, notice anything?
Have the PCs Changed?
PCs can change. Sometimes a lot, but mostly it happens in little ways.
For some examples, one of the characters in my Star Wars game - Koh - began to game as a young kid who liked to sneak out and race swoops. He loved going fast. That part of him is still there. The character is practically giddy when he gets a chance to get back into the cockpit of an X-Wing. And yet, at the same time, he's become a squad leader for his group, reliable, and tempered as a veteran pilot who is capable of the most daring feats but knows there is a time and place for that too.
Another example can be found in Tal who started the game brash and impulsive, regularly causing problems by jumping into situations before they even knew what was going on. Now, while still full of energy, he is a skilled general and leader of troops who keeps an eye on overall morale and while still willing to jump into the thick of it, tends to understand what the big picture is first.
In both these cases the character has grown, matured, and changed in numerous small ways. The core PC that the player made in the beginning is still there, but the game has also had an impact. It has left scars, given burdens, and also friends and allies to help with those.
Have the PCs Changed The World?
If the PCs have changed, they've been interacting with the world. If they've been interacting with the world, they should have left a mark. So have they?
In my game this is pretty direct. The Rebellion is a lot different because of the involvement of the PCs. battles that should have been lost simply weren't because of them. Allies that never joined in canon did so because of the PCs. The Empire was forced into different paths because of them as they scored up their victories, and notched their defeats.
Why This Matters
In looking back on all this you can see how dynamic the game is. You can see that it's not just "the same old crap" but that things are moving, the game world is changing, the PCs are growing - and not just in XP. It can help ground you in the journey and figure out how to guide it and direct it for where you want to go.
Take the time. Reflect. Then make the next move forward.