Breaking the Mold: Ends to RPG Campaigns

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

It’s a classic job interview question and there’s a reason for it. How ambitious are you? How high does your vision go? How long are you going to be satisfied sticking around here? Is this even something you like to do?

The same principle can be applied to RPG characters. In my campaigns at least, they begin well with no real defined goal state, characters satisfied with having some fun and getting some coin for the ale and wenches. It is hardly surprising that we rarely get to a grand climax of plot, action, heroism, and tragedy. My games are like TV series which may be enjoyable and run a long time, but always get their plug pulled before any wrap-up episode because I or my players or both are ready for something different.

My suggestion is to plan the ending of the campaign. You can start with it being fairly loose in details, but decide if a final massive confrontation with Lord Bone and his army of undead will be the campaign climax and take a shot at what the PCs will look like then. Will the simple farmer driven to adventure by rampaging orc raiders have become the noble knight? Will the scholarly priest now command holy warriors or be responsible for a city of souls? Will the long-lost heir have become king or is that the reward for defeating Lord Bone?

Once you have a concept of the end, other things fall into place. Undead will be a theme of the campaign and Lord Bone should be built slowly yet consistently as their great nemesis. Adventure after adventure should challenge the PCs in ever more dangerous and evil situations as they and Lord Bone grow in power. Lord Bone might strike at them by killing family members, anything to ratchet up the hatred between them and make the climax all that more powerful.

Lay the groundwork and then make the end the best it can be. If you’re skilled at it, craft some terrain for the final fight to make the board memorable (or take advantage of your locale convention to get some at a good deal). Paint the final battle in epic scope with hordes of undead rushing a smaller line of soldiers depending on the PCs to defeat Lord Bone and send the undead back to ash and dust. Pick the time of day (dead of night, climax at dawn).

And let that battle end the campaign. Don’t overstay your welcome and leave them wanting more.

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