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Thread: Ask a GM [12/1/08]: Ending a Campaign

  1. #31
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    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.
    My Wolverine
    Yes you may pet it, if you do not value that arm.

  2. #32
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    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. >.<
    Let them hail the hollow one Bow before the damned Forge ahead into the night Forget the lessons of the past Follow the lead to failure Relinquish and pay no mind....

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by cigamnogard View Post
    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.
    Well we survived but the campaign did not.

  4. #34
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    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.

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    Stackpole is one of my favorite authors - he has actually played out most of his characters adventures!

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    Post A narrative or by player design

    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).

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

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    Quote Originally Posted by templeorder View Post

    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

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    breaking the scale

    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.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dytrrnikl View Post
    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.

  11. #41
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    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.

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    Ending the campaign

    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 ? "

  13. #43
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    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.

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

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