View Full Version : Ask a GM [12/1/08]: Ending a Campaign

11-30-2008, 04:10 PM
TAROT asks, "How do you end a campaign?"

I was reading a gaming book recently, and it was talking about meta-genres and how tragedy was unfit for roleplaying.

Later on, the GM section on campaigning basically amounted to "mix it up." But I realized that the assumption was that the game was to progress indefinitely. There was no guidance for ending a campaign. There's always a section on plotting a single adventure, but bringing a campaign to a satisfying conclusion is a very different beast and as far as I can tell, is never even considered a possibility (Promethean: the Created being the exception).

In my experience, campaigns tend to meander along until:

The game just runs out of steam/People want to try something else that is new and shiny.
"Is there anyone still alive who was there when this quest was handed out?"
System is cracking. "Let's start over at level one."
Even making it to the Big Boss with the fully assembled MacGuffin doesn't guarantee a satisfying conclusion.

How do you bring a long-running game to a good finish?
How do you go about planning a campaign to last a specific number of sessions, tying up personal and group stories satisfactorily (if not necessarily victoriously)?

11-30-2008, 04:12 PM
How to end a campaign?

Itís a great question and one too often overlooked in GM advice. A great ending is often what makes a campaign most memorable!

First, as the end nears make a list of all open plot points. A satisfying ending wraps all (or at least most) of them up. A dropped plot point is likely to frustrate players. Plan ahead and avoid that pitfall. You donít have to come up with this list entirely on your own. Ask your players a session or two before (if you can). What do they really want to resolve? If there is a plot point no one mentions that you think is important, well Ö maybe itís not.

Second, consider is there anything the PCs donít know about the villain or the plot that you wish them to know Ė this is your last chance to hand out information! Remember, villains love to gloat.

Third, the ending should be unique and special. If the PCs have been fighting in cavern after cavern Ö consider the ending scene being out in the woods. Shake things up. Throw in a gigantic battle scene. Shake the pillars of heaven! If you can't go all out at the end of the story, when can you?

Fourth, good endings are often surprising. If the PCs think just because they have the magical MacGuffin they need to slay the Dragon that all is going to go smoothly, well, think again. What about a twist? What if the dragon is already slain by a more powerful foe who needs the MacGuffin for his own twisted purposes? ďYouíve done me a great favor by bring it here. Now hand it over and you donít have to die like all your pitiful friends!Ē A twist at the end is not essential but it is can be a very potent option and one you should consider.

Five, endings have consequences. Alas, after the ending, things will never be the same. Whether for good or ill, the ending of your campaign should change the world in some way.

Six, steal steal steal. Remember that movie or that novel with that ending you really loved? Steal it. Adapt it Ė sure. Put your own spin on it. But steal it. Why reinvent the wheel? The world of fiction is full of great endings. And donít restrict your stealing to fantasy and sci-fi. Read some Louis Líamour novels. They are quick, delightful western adventure tales (mostly) and that man really knew how to write a powerful ending. Some of the best endings are actually adaptions taken from another genre.

Seven, the next time you put together a campaign Ö why not think about the ending first? Think about what would make a really powerful, interesting, compelling ending and make a campaign that works toward it. Employ literary devices like foreshadowing. Have one of the characters be haunted by visions of some terrible calamity that looks like the end of the world but maybe just maybe really isnít.

Ending well is no easy feat. Just ask all the movie makers and writers who have failed to accomplish it. But when it works ... it's magic.

"The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable."
ó Nietzche


11-30-2008, 04:12 PM
As Gary suggested, I usually begin with an end in mind. I don't plan for a specific number of sessions though, and neither do I plan everything that will happen from beginning to end. Rather, I know where I want the main story to being and I have an idea of what the most likely conclusion is should the characters succeed and if they fail. The campaign "ends," when the characters reach that conclusion or forge their own. Usually, these campaigns end up being between one and two years long (playing bi-weekly).

Within the campaign, I also have individual story-arches which for whatever magical reason gravitate towards being about six sessions in length. These are smaller stories within the main campaign that each have their own conclusion. These smaller stories within the stories, or quests if you prefer, yield their own rewards and advance the story that much further. I tend towards a bit of mystery in my games, so the satisfaction my players get is from figuring out what is really going on, figuring out what their part is in it all, and outwitting the bad guy.

Does it necessarily end there at that final scene? It doesn't have to, but I have run into the dangers of continuing the campaign ad infinitum. By the end of the campaign, the characters are probably significantly more powerful than they were at the start. Therefore, the next challenge has to be that more grand, more epic. Eventually, saving the world isn't enough and the whole thing can become a bit hollow. That has been my experience anyway. If you reach that satisfying conclusion you were looking for, take it as a blessing and think carefully before you plod on ahead into the next one with the same characters.

11-30-2008, 04:12 PM
I usually like open-ended type endings. I know sometimes a player or 2 I have will say after a campaign "ended" a while ago will ask to pick up where they left off. I tend to get the players "finish" what they were doing up 'til then or tie up most of the loose ends by the time the campaign ends. Usually I'll work out something where some of or all of the players will be called to different areas, such as their hometown (if any) or guild/group they're affilated with and they would have to go there for a said amount of time (like several months). The characters can then set up a time to come back and meet.

It is really disapointing and frustrating (as a player, at least), when the DM can't decide what to do at the end, so s/he kills off all the characters or sends them to a plane they are stuck in, forever.

I've always wanted to see a cliffhanger type ending happen, but I'm sure it'll only propel the campaign further, as they players may want to know what happened to the characters. (Such as having the characters somehow captured-in a net, or something similar-then hung over a volcano, as a sacrifice to the dragon/volcano god/whatever. ;) Do they escape to tell the tale or no? I'm evil aren't I?)

11-30-2008, 04:12 PM
Primarily I like to have the main plot of the campaign be finished. If you are running a stand alone module, you could just have the characters go their separate ways since they achieved their goal. If you are running you own homemade world, then basically I would not really think that there would ever really be an actual ending. The party would finish that particular task, but there would almost always be something more that they could do. Especially since you are writting the whole thing yourself.

Now myself, even though I have usually started with an actual premade module of some sort, I like to have some type of a twist at the end that will allow for the party to continue on after they have completed the original task. Then there is also the opportunity of while they were working on the original task, there could be any number of ways to put in encounters that can lead to another task that they might be asked to undertake.

Without giving to much away, I have several things in the works for the current game that I am running that will actually give the group a new task to deal with once they have completed the current one they have been sent on. I find that it works much better to be thinking of these things as the game is going on, rather than trying to come up with something right when the party accomplishes it goal.

I do have to agree with Anaesthesia in that I don't like when a GM/DM just kills off the whole party or zaps them to the purple haze plane never to be seen again. Now this isn't to say that at the end of a particular campaign, there can't be some type of an epic battle in which the outcome could be that some of the party members might not make it. If you are not planning on continuing with the current set of characters, it would be nice to have a reason for what each character goes to do as the party disbands. This way it will give a sense of closure to the party's campaign.

11-30-2008, 05:26 PM
First it is nice to see groups actually get to an ending. Several that I have been involved with ended differently.

One really didn't end. The characters retired out of adventuring. They would later appear when a DM would create a quick high level adventure specifically for the characters.

Another ended at completion of the "story". In that one, the leader of the group died sacrificing himself in battle to complete the story. The players felt that it was a good end.

Finally, the others ended when it was somebodies elses turn to DM. The campaign comes to an end and everybody starts at first level.

Honestly, as a DM, I always want have a story in hand. Where I want to go with the group leaving room for where they want to go with there characters. This seams to me the most successful way to conclude.

12-01-2008, 10:02 AM
Looking at the posts, I'm not totally sure everyone here's using the same definition of "campaign". Does a campaign have more to do with the story or the actors?

Would a campaign be all the adventures/quests/modules a particular group of heros has together, until they all decide to start over? Or is it more like one really long story arc comprising a lot of individual stories/modules?

Basically if, after spending about 20 sessions on a story, they finally kill the final boss, and the following week the same characters start a new story, is that a new campaign?

12-01-2008, 10:49 AM
I can't speak for the rest, but when the party either achieves their goal or is defeated, then that particular campaign is over. Usually every campaign has an actual mission to be completed, provided things go well for the party. Now, depending on what that DM/GM does, this same group of characters could continue on with a new mission. As I have previously mentioned, there is always the potential to have a new task arise out of something that took place during the campaign that was just done. Especially if the players are happy with their current characters that they have been using.

12-01-2008, 11:55 AM
The last campaign I ran, I asked the players what the characters wanted to do with their lives. Then I wove opportunities for those goals into the story, so that once accomplished, that part of the story was complete. Of course, along the way, I added in new plots that the PCs turned into goals, but most of them were embroiled in the final goals.

The beginning was kind of like a session with my highschool guidance counsellor, but the end result was very good. It would have been better if real life did not end the campaign prematurely.

John E

12-01-2008, 01:06 PM
This is one thing that I really enjoyed when running games like Buffy or Serenity. Each adventure is an episode and each episode is part of a series that leads to a big finale. Having the end goal in mind before you start is key. I was listening to Fresh Air a while back and Terri was interviewing an author who likes to picture the writing process like this. She needs to sail a boat across the sea. She knows where she needs to go but not how to get there and everything is foggy. But the more she goes on and the closer she gets things become more clear.

12-01-2008, 03:30 PM
a campaign without an ending is similar to a song without those last few notes which resolve it. you always wonder if it ends the way you think. in those cases, i simply write the endings myself. although i'm always careful to distinguish between the actual adventure or campaign and my own creations. creative copyright (respect) and all, you know.

12-01-2008, 09:59 PM
I think this is a great question and gdmcbride has a solid progression of things to do to help you get to an ending if you don't have a plan in mind. It's definitely not something covered well in most rulebooks on GM'ing.

For me, 1958Fury's question, "Does a campaign have more to do with the story or the actors?" is a real important one. Is your campaign a story in which the characters are figures in the progression of the telling, or are the characters the campaign and their stories the details in the telling of their lives?

It's a great way to look at it and has no wrong answer; but knowing the answer makes things easier up front.

Most of my games, for instance, are definitely about the characters. When I'm running in a setting of my own design, I put things into motion, insert characters, and see what they do. The campaign itself is about those characters finding the things that are important to them and seeing them through. Ending the campaign is closing down those important things to conclusions and the resulting retirement or death in some cases. Its the telling of the lives of those characters.

I think that 4th Edition D&D lends itself well to this character driven campaign idea; with paragon paths and heroic destinies the rules and suggestions lean toward the idea that a game is about the characters growing into the powers that be, and then passing off into the realms of legends.

One thing I would really like to try is serial campaigns, where micro-stories are told and the characters are agents within a larger, but limited plotline. It would be a nice shift for me, and running under a set number of sessions per serial leg would be an interesting crucible to be creative within.

12-02-2008, 04:17 AM
Basically if, after spending about 20 sessions on a story, they finally kill the final boss, and the following week the same characters start a new story, is that a new campaign?

For the purposes of this question, no. That would be a change in the group story of the campaign. IME there are usually open character/personal stories going on, and the group might take a couple of sessions to focus on some of these before starting up the next group story.

By "ending a campaign," I am talking about resolving the boss fight and Alfred reunites with his long lost brother (in the boss' dungeon) and takes him home; Betty takes the boss' Boots of Butt-Kicking, returns to Valeton and takes over the guild; Carla dies heroically in the fight; and Dave spends the rest of his days drowning his sorrows in cheap booze because he never told Carla how he felt. The adventurers are dead, retired, promoted or on indefinite administrative leave. To further define:

Session - One continuous block of time around the table. (aka Chapter)
Story - A series of events, with a beginning, middle and end, detailing the resolution of a situation, composed of one or more Sessions. (aka Tale, Adventure, Scenario)
(A particularly long Story, with multiple break points, might be referred to as a Season, as in TV.)
Campaign - All of the connected Stories. (aka Chronicle, Saga)

Now, the connective element for the campaign can be people ("the party"), a location or an object.

For example, you could run a series of stories that follows an artifact through time. Either something like Dead Man's Gun, or along these lines: In the first story, the characters are Incan and creating an artifact to make the crops grow; The second story, English privateers loot Campeche, where the artifact has sat in the Governor's house since the days of Pizarro; and so on until modern times where you're stealing it from a museum to make the crops grow. This is, I think, the easiest sort of campaign to bring to a good close, as, in the Incan campaign, there would be less emphasis on personal stories, and Dead Man's Gun would be a series of personal stories without a group conflict.

The game Ars Magica is centred around the covenant (the place where all the wizards live with their associates). Two consecutive stories in the campaign might have no characters in common. Bringing a campaign to an end here is complicated by the fact that each player has two major and often a few favoured minor characters, and the covenant itself has status as a shared character. Which all combines to more than double the number of active storylines in comparison to a game centred around the more traditional "adventuring party."

12-02-2008, 04:26 PM
I had a DM a while ago who would end almost every campaign by killing all but one character, so that one character could walk off into the sunset and be the cool guy.

We didn't like that, since it guaranteed zero reward for the other 7 of us.

I like to wind down with a session of epilogue-style roleplay with no dice. My players like the concept since it gives closure.

12-02-2008, 11:13 PM
As a DM, I try to end campaigns when I can.

Star Wars (well really any genre, now that I think about it) is often the easiest, just have a big climactic battle, after a long political-infused story arc.

It's not necessary that a PC die, but often seems to happen (via a self sacrifice / hold the line / suicide mission to save the rest) as the characters are brought to the absolute wall of endurance.

Additionally, I'm wondering what book this was, that said that "tragedy is unfit for roleplaying" since I most often run campaigns with tragic / norse heroic elements.

12-03-2008, 12:24 AM
Additionally, I'm wondering what book this was, that said that "tragedy is unfit for roleplaying" since I most often run campaigns with tragic / norse heroic elements.

I wasn't going to name names, as I'm sure that I've seen similar sentiments before, but this one really jumped off the page at me.

In a gaming context, Tragedy works even less well as a campaign theme, since most people want to have fun when playing a game.

I think I was actually a little bit offended to be told that I wasn't having fun. It does go on to talk about using Disadvantages to represent the tragic flaw. I'm pretty sure that the paragraph is repeated in some of the other genre books for HERO.

I'm going to have to re-read Pendragon to see what it says about tragedy.

12-03-2008, 04:24 AM
I'm sort of surprised.

I like playing doomed to die characters that struggle on till the bitter end.

Kind of like daily life.


12-06-2008, 02:30 PM
If we are talking about the end of playing a set of characters. Ending their adventuring. then there are several factors to consider. One is that each character usually has something in their background or a question that was raised, and that they worked toward resolving.

For instance one character who is a wizard: When he was an apprentice had a rivalry with a fellow apprentice. when the master wizard died, they fought to see who would take his place, and the other apprentice (not the character) succeeded. In this case the character left and sought out knowledge and power so that he could take his rightful place as master wizard.

In this case at the end of the story/campaign he could go back and have an epic battle with said rival in order to prove he should be the master wizard. When he succeeds against the somewhat weaker rival his story would end with something like "You assume the seat of the master wizard on the wizards council and advise rulers and powerful beings. You orchestrate dealings between nations behind their backs, you manipulate society as a whole so that it does not fall into a dark age. In this you are successful!"

That is really a shortened version of it, but the idea is there. have the characters have a long term goal, and have them solve it later on. Summarize it with a speech on how well their character does, and leave it hanging a little (don't kill the characters off) in case at some point you want to pick it up again.

12-08-2008, 10:18 AM
I'm about to wrap up a story arc for my players, but I'm planning on leaving a bit of a cliff-hanger to keep them thinking while we take a break for about a month (which I hate doing, but moving and holidays are the motivating factors). I've got four players and have been trying to build everyone to a point where they want to see what happens next after we get back from the break. The main theme of the story arc will be resolved, but the characters will continue on (hopefully) together.

12-09-2008, 02:01 AM
For me 80% of all my games ended with all of the pc dying. 15% the pc are bored,and 5% they make epic pc and retire. for me epic games are what i like to run.

12-25-2008, 10:08 AM
How do I end a campaign?

Well, as my signature line says:

"And then you wake up."

01-19-2009, 06:18 AM
I never liked that it was all a dream ending. It doesn't work for me in fiction, and really doesn't work for me in RPGs.

It essentially means the time spent in reading or playing was wasted.

Like seeing Saving Private ryan, and at the last scene, he's looking at the graves and asking "Do I earn it?" and we pull way back and there are cameras and crew and All the dead guys drinking coffee.

Yeah, I know it's a movie, but I got to be able to suspend disbelief.

Similarly, this is why I don't like raise dead or resurrection in games.

Funny though, I can deal with Dragons, but okay I got my hot buttons.

Ending a Series though, It would depend on the specific setup.

The most practice I Have with such things is in playing Star Trek, since there is real good advice in the Last Unicorn and Decipher books on how to run an episodic campaign, and story arcs and such. Good stuff inside the buffy game, too, though I don't like the original show, nonetheless the techniques there are good for that TV show flavor.

01-20-2009, 12:30 PM
How do I end a campaign?

Well, as my signature line says:

"And then you wake up."

You know, in the Toon Ace Catalog, under the "25 Annoying things an Animator Can do" Table one of things is to end every scene with "And then you wake up."

02-12-2009, 07:29 PM
I am currently in a campaign where I am pretty positive that the DM is out to kill us off. The currently EL is estimated to be well above double our level. :mad:

Inquisitor Tremayne
02-17-2009, 12:06 PM
Well considering the only campaign I ran to the end resulted in a TPK, I am going to say I may not be the best judge on this one!:D

Regardless, I think the end of a campaign should wrap up most if not all of the storylines, side plots and character goals. I also think that he end of a campaign shouldn't really be noticable. The players shouldn't know, ok this is it, it should all flow together.

As far as character death I look at it like this, being a hero in an RPG involves risking your life to some extent. That means your character could die at any moment not just at the end of a campaign.

03-27-2009, 09:27 AM
i loved your term "MacGuffin", so i am going to use that for the rest of this post lol.

whilst ending a campaign is often difficult, especially if you have the MacGuffin - it's too predicatable for the PC to kill the dragon, and put the MacGuffin away in a display cabinate somewhere, and go back to his old, peaceful life.

a good idea is to make the MacGuffin not work. your characters have a supposedly fool proof way to kill mr-big-boss-man, so make mr-big-boss-man find a way around it. make them improvise. maybe the MacGuffin only weakens the big dragon, and the players have to think on their feet and collapse the cave around him, crushing him and themselves for all eternity under a few thousand tonnes of rock. forcing your entire party to comitt suicide brings the campaign to a close very quickly.

one i used was to let them think they were going to track down mr-big-boss-man and slay him with the MacGuffin, and then, nearing their goal, a new enemy attacks them. I had a very radical main character, and made him meet a very puritan character with significantly more firepower than him. the puritan character thinks the PC is planning to join the bad guys, and kills him. I wrote about 200 words for each of my characters, which involved their last moments. one got killed 3 times by a space marine (he was like jack harkness of torchwood, but by the end, the marine just vapourised him with a lascannon), one tried to fight the space marine who came after him, and instead had his head crushed by the marine's fist, one had a psyker take control of his mind and make him jump from a balcony, breaking his neck. however, as simply killing my party would have been a bit unfair, i rewarded the one character who i thought had played best that campaign - he had remained in character, he had schemed and connived so epically that tzeentch himself would be proud, and he had not been afraid to take risks to secure the objectives of each mission. so, as his reward, i had his final scene involving him finally getting the immense technology he had been scheming for all the way through (which he had betrayed and killed a member of his own party to get), and single handedly killing 3 space marines, then escaping, allowing him to be used in future campaigns.

so in all, my view is that whilst killing the party often makes for a dramatic and epic ending, be wary of killing off your best player. if one person does exactly what you think they should have done throughout the campaign, let them live, maybe let them reccur in a future campaign, or at least in stand alone games.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
03-29-2009, 10:35 AM
I dont hold back. Depending on your gaming prowess and a bit of luck(chance does play a roll, especially with crit hits & failures to contend with), a player character should make it to double digits in levels before retiring, death, or something worse/better(vampire/lycon/undead, be a few possiblities), depending on the players perspective. If i were to figure a percentage of death in my campaigns(all things considered), i would say that you have a 5% of death per level, or rather, you have a 5% chance to die-or worse(see above) at each level of play.

I've had retired players:
1) Command a small keep
2) Own taverns
3) Go into politics
4) ...etc

I've also had bad things happen to players:
1) Turned undead
2) Vampire
3) Lycon
4) Lich
5) ...etc

1) captured and tortured, dead
2) captured and sacrificed, dead
3) captured a became a slave to Drow, dead
4) Mind Flayer brain snacks
5) ...etc

With over 30 years of gaming, i can never hope to remember them all.

03-30-2009, 08:16 PM
I've had retired players:
1) Command a small keep
2) Own taverns
3) Go into politics
4) ...etc
I've also had bad things happen to players:
1) Turned undead
2) Vampire
3) Lycon
4) Lich
5) ...etc
1) captured and tortured, dead
2) captured and sacrificed, dead
3) captured a became a slave to Drow, dead
4) Mind Flayer brain snacks
5) ...etc

MMMMmmmm...brain suckers!

03-31-2009, 08:12 AM
i'm with thoth-amon with the number of years gaming experience i have i cant remember all the ways i've had campaigns end. or characters end their adventuring but two come to mind. one is an adventurer bought or cleared land and built a keep for himself and wife to become lord of that land and the other well lets just say "rend" done by a hook horror left him in pieces.(as recently 1 month ago). most of my campaigns end when the players feel they have accomplished enough in that world. my current campaign is one where they have been transported via a whirlpool and magical underground river to a new world where it is always noon. and they are supposed to find a way back so they can get to the gladiatorial games that one of the characters is entered in. in first town come across find out their cleric might be able to help after they overcome language issue but he is missing (last see arguing with hermit in caves near by and local merchant that has left 2 days prior to go upriver. what to do?

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
03-31-2009, 10:55 AM
Other ways characters have been retired in my campaigns are:
1) Became a professor at a magickal school
2) Became an professor at a martial school
3) Became a Sage(lone or library)
4) Became someone important in a local village
5) Became a diplomat
It's coming back to me, i'll think of more...

Grumpy Old Man
03-31-2009, 11:48 AM
I like a group that keeps continuity, we traded DM after each adventure and had the option of new characters or a new adventure with the same characters so everybody was already geared to the team members strengths and weaknesses.

When I run an adventure from 1st to epic I have the basic ending written into the story before the first die is cast and tweak it to the characters still in the campaign at campaigns end. They can take my ending for them and retire the character and start with a descendant of the old character or keep the old character going, their choice.

Most of our games were short quests and the characters only went up 4 or 5 levels so they could last 3-5 games before getting too powerful for a campaign with new people coming in. Either way the ending was always written into the game before the first roll.

03-31-2009, 09:34 PM
Old soldiers never die they just fade away. -General Macarthur

The same could be said for good campaigns, but if all the players deem it time to move on I would sit down and write an ending to it that either immortalized/betrayed/pedestalled the players. Usually in which case I wouldn't take too much time focusing on actual goals or activities, reduce all combat and make it more just role playing (usually 50/50 combat role playing; 70/30 in the ending) just put them in one final fight and let them decide for themselves how they want to end. In a blaze of glory raising themselves to the status of Gods, or petty fall out amongst players a separation of a long a partnership that just couldn't last, a sad loss of a player/players bringing the battle harden group together long enough for their bonds to fade and be that of myth, or final valent fight for truth and valor (evil, and malice) against the hordes of evil (good) one that they know they won't come back from one that they know will secure their places amongst the warriors of yesterday in the heavens (or underworlds). Sometimes though that one last act can be so well planned, and powerful enough to jar the boredom from the game and make them want to continue...which just means you wrote yourself into a hole. >.<

04-02-2009, 03:46 PM
I am currently in a campaign where I am pretty positive that the DM is out to kill us off. The currently EL is estimated to be well above double our level. :mad:
Well we survived but the campaign did not.

04-23-2009, 04:14 AM
First, I define a campaign as two things: 1. the level at which I choose to hit the reset button and have the group start over with new characters and 2. a final conflict in which the group must perform one final epic act of heroism. Usually, my campaigns are a series of 5 or 6 key adventures, interspersed with a bunch of unrelated or tangent adventures that all have the intent of reaching an endgame scenario with the group at a particular level.

As for ending a campaign, it's a tough call. Some player's want closure for their characters, others want them to be powerful NPCs they are able to interact with there new characters. In my early days of DMing, either my player's would lose interest or I would, either with the characters being played or with the apparent story being woven. Now that I'm a seasoned DM, I don't begin a campaign unless I have a definitive ending. I got the idea from attending a seminar about writing novels given by Michael Stackpole. He stated that you should write your story from the ending to the beginning. I started using that concept this right around the time 3e was first released and have never looked back.

04-23-2009, 03:19 PM
Stackpole is one of my favorite authors - he has actually played out most of his characters adventures!

05-08-2009, 09:56 AM
How do you bring a long-running game to a good finish?
How do you go about planning a campaign to last a specific number of sessions, tying up personal and group stories satisfactorily (if not necessarily victoriously)?

For campaigns, i usually have no clear finish per se. There is an objective, and most of the time survival is the heart of it. Each character for a campaign i create i will document certain benchmarks i expect to see them achieve - raising faiths follower status, achieving rank or title, meet with certain entities, etc. - character development goals that are not time dependent, but before scenario X, character Y has to have achieved Z. For the campaigns - they are usually starts to long epochs. I often let the characters decide how the camapign ends... and to do that, my own are created very open ended. If they do not stop some event, it either changes the world they live in or someone else will step in. Post campaign is often where some of the real fun starts - i open the storyline to other GM's and we often play for another year or more with the same characters, turning a campaign into what i call an epoch - multiple campaigns and or scenarions related through a series of characters. People are free to just 'adventure' without a lot fo the pressures of campaigns (which tend to drive them in a direction unless they really dif theri heels in).

For final closures, the players usually leave it to me to come up with a narrative. I ask if they want to live or die, and if the later does it matter how. I then weave all the loose threads together and 90% of the time, the players are very satisfied with what happens. We have one campaign going where we have offspring of the original characters from 5 years ago involved... so in a way, that first one has not ended yet (though they are venerable - i've used theirm as NPC's for knowledge a few times).

05-08-2009, 07:41 PM
in a way, that first one has not ended yet (though they are venerable - i've used theirm as NPC's for knowledge a few times).

That is how I am running my PBP Campaign

08-31-2009, 01:09 PM
When designing a campaign, I make the scale of the campaign very specific. I know exactly how big the turf is and how long it takes the PCs to go from one end to the other. Whether it is a strict dungeon crawl or a galaxy spanning adventure. I start with the scale.

After I set the scale, I set the scope of the PC's impact on the turf. how much influence do they have? how much can hey earn? will they become masters of the dungeon or supreme commanders of all naval forces for the galactic alliance?

After the scale and scope are decided, I decide what the characters have to do to break either the scale or the scope. Is there a magic weapon in the crawl that will empower them to rule the dungeon? Can they master a new technology that completes their control of their environment? When they break the scope or scale, the campaign ends. Or if they die in the process...

Then we evaluate the campaign and decide if there is more story or if it is just going to get stale. If there is more story, then we do another campaign.

09-15-2009, 01:07 AM
I have only DMed through one campaign ending, and I'd like to think it was rather successful. However, it involved characters of very epic proportions. See, we had 5 groups of characters who had each been off in a different part of the world doing different things. Most of them were fighting against the various aspects of Tiamat and Vecna, and many of the characters had met some of the other groups at various times. The characters ranged in level from 9 to 23, with 27 characters in all (including NPCs traveling with the party).

And in the end, in one giant, climactic battle with every single character present that spanned the course of two full D&D nights, the characters slew the overdeity behind the destruction of the lands and freed the daughter of the world's patron overdeity.

My players were quite satisfied with that as an ending, though certainly not all campaigns could end as such.

09-16-2009, 12:23 AM
Now that I'm a seasoned DM, I don't begin a campaign unless I have a definitive ending. I got the idea from attending a seminar about writing novels given by Michael Stackpole. He stated that you should write your story from the ending to the beginning. I started using that concept this right around the time 3e was first released and have never looked back.

No wonder Stackpole can't write endings well. All of his endings, that I've read, seem forced and sometimes counter intuitive.

09-24-2009, 07:32 AM
As a player the "campaigns" I've had the most fun in were the "open-ended" variety. There were set "quests" that had completions (i.e. object or person found, bad guys dealt with), but the "world" had areas that you could go to for "quikies" (i.e. a cave system that you could explore but it had no long term story attached and you could go for one session or many), story arcs of continuing adventures that could thread in and out of other things, NPCs to interact with long term, etc. Characters were free to continue or retire. I like that it can leave old characters in place to give a town or area more color (the old adventurerer becomes the local tavern owner or such), and occassionally as a group would decide to take new characters for a change of pace.

I dislike campaigns that force death on characters. I like to keep my character even if it is retired because I get emotionally invested in them, even the ones I may never play again.

If the Gm has a specific story arc that will end the campaign, that is good to, as long as the players have the main role in it and are not just swept along as minor characters in the overall plot. We all like to be the center of attention, and we each have a different idea on what is required to be the center of attention.

10-23-2009, 12:58 AM
One of the most rewarding expierences ive ever had as a DM was the conlusion of a 3 year long campaign that started my sophmore year in high school and ended when we all graduated . Knowing that 3 of the PC's were moving away for college , there was a good chance this group would never be together again . Beyond losing the players , i was losing 3 of my best friends as well . I wanted to make the end very special for them .

For the last 2 years of our game the party made a powerful enemy in one of the local barons of the land they resided in . This baron tormented the group showing up when least expected and giving general disruption to there lives . I can truthfully say , they hated him . I use to hear them talking about the baron in the study hall , it was great for me as the DM . As the end of our school year approched they learned the baron was actually a vampire who has taken residence in an ancient temple . Long story short , of the 5 PC's who entered only 2 walked out , they had there final conflict , defeated the bad guy and buried there fallen comrades . We all knew this was the end of the campaign , and it couldnt have ended any better . I was lucky in knowing our time was up , it is very difficult to know when to end your campaign , much like an aging athlete we all think we still have more in the tank

I recently found one of the guys i use to game with on facebook , after not talking to him for almost 13 years the first thing he asked me was " Hey , the Baron is still dead right ? "

10-23-2009, 08:52 AM
jasonj - that was an awesome way to finish the campaign.

I recently finished, and i use that word sparingly, a campaign thats been going on about 3 years now. I thought i would share the process here in case it spurs ideas for others. The characters got to a point where they were unsuited for the plots and scenarios. The characters had really just been through enough. The entire flavor had shifted from 'adventure' to 'politics'. These characters were ready to settle down and enjoy all the rewards they had reaped. They almost all had titles, lands, businesses and a strong fame and presence locally. As a group we talked it over and decided it was ok to move on... three of the campaigners wanted to play descendants of their current characters. It would give them a jump start in terms of beginning assets and equipment. I wrote a quick story that settled the characters and introduced a few new faces and events over the next 15+ years.

Interestingly enough the many loose plot ends in the camapign served for a great back story for the next generation of characters. The center plot under it all had not changed (which the characters knew little of), in fact it too spanned generations. In essence, the new characters can pick up right where the old ones left off. Though not nearly as powerful, the characters will mostly start off with good items passed down or bought with money... and i, the GM, can adjust all the future scenarios to follow the pace of their increase in power. These new characters get to see the camapign through to its finish, i don't have to throw away all that unused work, and the players get the fresh start they need to keep their interest up - plus i have a hook (the family/group loyalty) that starts the characters off knowing and trusting each other.