The hardest part of any good story is the ending. Whether you’re writing, reading, or listening to a tale of adventures gone by, finishing the story leaves you with the feeling that there should have been so much more. I remember reading the Inheretence series by Christopher Paolini and being utterly devastated when I read that last page and knew there would be no more to Eragon and his story. When I started playing RPGs and really becoming invested in the story, I had a similar feeling at the end of every major arc. There could have been so much more!
With this feeling in mind, I try my hardest to give all of my stories, in a game or otherwise, a definitive and complete ending. The easiest way, I find, to accomplish this is by keeping the story simple and straightforward rather than weaving in complex subplots at every available point. The major negative there is that this method severely limits the length that a story can go before becoming repetitive and boring. This method, thankfully and fairly obviously, is not the only way to tell a story with a definitive ending.
Whenever I think of a story with a satisfying end, my mind drifts to Lord of the Rings and the conclusion of the main three novels/films. While the films and movies have some different details about their ends (see Saruman’s invasion if the Shire) they essentially come to the same conclusion. All of the characters have grown from their experiences and choose to live a life of happiness and wholesomeness, even if that takes them away from home. The characters that teased romance previously find love, the warriors can lay down their weapons, and the darkness is thwarted for the rest of the age. Honestly, I cannot think of anything in that ending that lacks meaning or a proper explaination. The plot is tied up with a nice little bow and I walk away feeling satisfied that the story has been told in it’s fullest (or at least as close as I’ve ever seen).
This being said, Lord of the Rings had a whole bunch of twists and turns in the plot. Say what you will, but it was far from one dimensional. If nothing else, this shows that given sufficient time and care a story can be long-reaching and utterly satisfying even at the conclusion. The same can be done in an RPG. For a recent example, go check out Critical Role on Geek and Sundry. Matt Mercer crafted such a unique tale, and all of the players involved kept you invested in every single minute of the 100+, 3-5 hour episodes that aired every week.
Suffice it to say, a stylish and classy ending is not unachievable. Hard work and attention to detail are a requirement for any long-running campaign to come to a satisfying end, but it will all be worth it once the credits roll.
Some exciting news this week, as I am proud to announce that our podcast is now on iTunes! Search “npod collective” and be sure to let us know what you think! For special access to the bloopers and expanded content on those podcasts, be sure to check out our Patreon by clicking here.
Final announcement: we will be at A-Kon in Dallas, Texas starting tomorrow through Sunday the 11th, so be sure to come find us!
Thank you again for reading, and as always…