Have you ever read The Lord of the Rings? Once you get past the fighting, the mountain, the personal sacrifice, the story climax… you find that the book does not end! The emotional investment and intensity is wasted by dragging the story along further. For those who have only seen the movies–and feel the drawn out ending is long–be glad you did not experience it through the books first.
But that is not really what I am writing about today. On episode 68 of Gaming and BS, Brett and Sean talked about ending the campaign. This direct shot at Sean by Brett brought up some awesome points and really got me thinking. I have gone back to this episode several times while driving and listening. It is one of my saved episodes. Go and listen to the episode later, but let me summarize the episode quickly before getting to my points:
- This was not a passive aggressive topic on Brett’s part, it was an aggressive aggressive topic.
- Every DM has a campaign where they said, “okay, we’re done” and ended the game.
- People need to be honest about their thoughts on a campaign, going in or during.
- Sometimes it makes more sense to just start over.
- “When [the campaign] doesn’t end, it really has an odd drag…“
- Drive for an end, boom. If the game does not have an end, the story product has less meaning.
By the way, the new image icon for Gaming and BS with Brett and Sean’s faces with the mic in-between is great!
As the title of this article indicates, a great story needs a great ending. I agree wholeheartedly with Brett’s assessment in the episode. Following a story or campaign arc naturally leads to the reveal and conclusion of that arc, where characters get a sense of completion and closure–don’t psychiatrists say that closure is important? Without an end goal in mind for a campaign, I feel that a D&D game can drag on or lose focus very easily. This has happened many times for me in the past. This is also why I think sandbox campaigns can become very problematic, they need something to polarize action and direction for the player characters–I look at Princes of the Apocalypse for an example sandbox with no direction. It took listening to Gaming and BS before I realized the problem I had with campaigns fizzling out and not ending properly, to put it into words rather than a vague feeling. That feeling was so strong that it became one of my gaming goals for this year.
I want the satisfaction of finishing up our Out of the Abyss campaign by the summer. In order to do that, I am cutting out the side treks I planned for the characters and marching them straight to Gauntlgrym, which is chapter 8. Some people might think that it is crazy to skip backstory and character development to continue a published campaign module. I do not necessarily disagree, but all their characters were developed with the Underdark in mind, so their stories and ultimate fate lies beneath the surface of Faerûn… either as triumphant saviors or in a shallow grave. <Insert evil DM smile here.>
But… what do I know…?