Ending a game is never easy. It always feels like your game should be wrapped up in a tight little bow with everyone happy, but that’s not always the case. There are many reasons while your planned ending can go off the rails, and today we’re going to talk about a few of them and give you some advice on how to adjust to these changes!
Let’s start with the easiest concept of the bunch. If a character or two doesn’t make it to the end of the game, then it will obviously affect the ending a little bit. This is especially true of long campaigns, where the characters each play a much more pivotal role in the world as a whole, but is a major event in one shots as well because there won’t be time for another character to enter the fray. Character death can cause simple changes (like names of who is involved) or much larger global shifts (if they were involved in a large organization like the School of Magi or Thieves Guild) depending on who they were prior to their death. The best advice I can give you to keep your ending solid is to keep it fluid. Don’t script the whole thing strictly and you’ll have an easier time adjusting on the fly. I like to have an outline for how the game ends with points that I’ll hit on no matter what (like a time of day or scenery etc.), and I will fill in the blanks when the time comes.A Living World
A Living World
This one is more true with longer campaigns, but it holds water nonetheless. If your party has left work unfinished, that can seriously come back to bite them by the end of the game. Let’s say they picked a fight with the thieves guild, so when they finally return home some of their precious treasures are missing. You can spin this in two ways, a campaign extension or a passive activity. If your party wants to play one more campaign arc just for fun, end the session there and extend the game by one or two more easy meetings. For a passive activity, describe their adventure to recover what was lost from their old foes. Either way is great and it’s fun, but the fact that the world is alive and always moving can and will affect your ending at some point.Party Failure
This is the hardest one to grasp because of the intense ramifications of this happening. If the party outright fails, whether they all die or decide to join the bad guys or any other way under the sun, that means the immediate area is in for a bad time. Thinking on the small scale, if the party fails to chase away a bandit clan, that clan will continue to ravage the countryside. On a larger scale, let’s say the party fails to stop a coven of Warlocks that want to summon a Demon Prince to this world. Allowing that to happen would seriously damage if not totally destroy the world. You as a GM can choose to either narrate this ending and bring a new party into the same world to fight off the demon prince that was summoned, or leave the world in fire and let the party feel the weight of their failure. Both are perfectly acceptable, but I prefer the first method. More games mean more fun, and at the end of the day who doesn’t want to fight a demon prince and his whole army, right? Right!?
In conclusion, the ending to your game can change due to a variety of factors. The best bet is to allow your ending a little bit of wiggle room to figure out what it will actually be when all is said and done. The most important thing, though, is to ensure the fun of both yourself and your players before anything else. Incorporate your players into the ending to make them know that they mattered to the story.
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