Tuesday, June 19, 2012

End Game

End game.  It's one of the more difficult aspects of RPGs to get right.  A few possible reasons why:
  1. Failure to Climax.  Most games don't reach the End Game.  They fizzle out along the way.  So GMs don't get a lot of practice ending a game. 
  2. Lack of Planning.  How many times have you, as a GM, painstakingly planned the beginning of a campaign?  How many times have you planned the end game ahead of time?  Do you know what to plan for?  Probably not.  This is a often a problem with the sandbox game (see below).
  3. Sandbox style almost works against an end game.  Because of the free world roam , do what you want style, its very difficult to plan far ahead.  But, sandbox does not mean there is shouldn't be a structure to the game and the events.  You may come up with a awesome conclusion and the players decide to go back to the tavern to stinky drunk and give all the wenches a bounce.  While not a bad way to end an evening maybe not the most exciting campaign exit.
  4. Developing enemies over time.  When PCs encounter and enemy, they kill them.  Why release them so they can screw them over later?  You can build to a big boss, but there is something ultimately more satisfying having an enemy encounter through out the game before you drop the hammer on him.  
  5. Campaign Scope is a rarely discussed topic and I think one that could help develop an End Game.  This is as easy as developing characters on a special mission that doesn't have to be of epic proportions.  Not every campaign has to be Lord of the Rings in epicness.  It's perfectly cool to have two slubs whose whole purpose is to infiltrate the enemy kingdom and steal away their secret weapon.  A finite series of events in time and space.  
  6. Character Power gets to the point where the GM needs to throw ridiculous critters at them.  While the now 10th level party is constructing their Fortress of the Giant Cod Piece those bands of orcs and ogres and trolls are no threat.  Even the occasional dragon is a minor annoyance.  This is where a GM really needs to have his chops concerning politics and religion to make the game interesting.  But often times more effort is put into digging another level of a mega dungeon or stating out the beholder titan dragon god. 
Now are their more reasons?  Absolutely.  Are there ways to end a game with a party of 300th level characters in a sandbox style game with no arch enemy where the GM failed to plan it out?  I'm sure you can.  Everyone has their own style, strengths and weaknesses.  As a GM its important to have some sort of plan for your campaign.  Its important to have an overlying story going on that allows players the freedom, but are still effected by the events.  Without some sort of structure to the game the campaign soon degrades into a bunch of dudes looking at one another with pizza stained shirts and caffeine  headaches saying "What do you wanna do next?" 


  1. I think one of biggest reasons is just losing interest--or perhaps getting more interested in something else. Some people have the ability to poor everything into one setting, one game, but I've always had too much of a wandering eye, and I think that's true of a lot of my player's too.

  2. I think anyone who has played rpgs for a while has got used to the idea that most campaigns will not reach the end-game and don't worry about it too much.

    I've had a couple as a Ref' and as a player. Sometimes we decided a session was the final one after the fact, everyone agreeing they were satisfied with it as a conclusion and were happy to move onto other things.

    Campaigns aren't novels or movies. The format is so different I think it is a mistake to try and apply narrative convention to rpgs. Some may be story-driven and may end, many more won't and likely were simply never destined to do so.

  3. Good insights. I don't think I've ever been in the endgame of an RPG. Mostly this was due to other things outside the game taking over (folks moving/getting married/new jobs/etc). That reminds me, I have to kickstart my group again ;).

  4. Also, not all DM's are great at writing a plot that builds up to a great climax.

  5. -to continue-
    Having played in a few excellent adventure paths, I find that some of them have an amazing denoumont that builds on events scattered all throughout the series. It's not something I think I could do making it up as I went along.

    On another thought, I've seen some games that ju,ped the shark. They came to a natural climax, but people were so jazzed they continued on and the next part just wasn't as good.

  6. Trey Yeah I think that is probably one of if not the biggest factors on not reaching a ending. But I think port of it is not having a contained scope of the adventure.

    Brendan Sure campaigns are different from movies and novels, but I think there are tools from them that can be applied to a campaign that are useful and can make a cool ending instead f just ending.

    Johnathan Luckily I am in a group where we are in it for the long haul. We sputter and spark sometimes, but we always get back into the game.

    Philo When I run a campaign I try to have several smaller conclusions and they usually end up combining together and making sense on their own. But I'm guilty of jumping the shark also. And know it when it happens and want to pull a Dallas and say the last session or two were just a dream and don't count.

  7. The way I solved this problem in my own game group was to tell stories in arcs. That way we can do an arc of a story, wander off and do something else if we want, and if we come back to it that's great! If we don't, it had some sense of dramatic closure.

  8. I kind of like the idea of starting a game in the end game. Maybe via a few tables of life events to create the character's back stories and then, Poof! - it's time to protect your city state from intrigue and nasty neighbors. Maybe battle the horrible Wyrm of Hyperbolia while your at it. Might be fun for a bit.