Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The End

So I saw Harry Potter 7.2 last night. Wizard School's out commmmpletely!

How many series have you brought to a definitive end? Most games fizzle at the end (sometimes the middle) of an adventure, with a plan to maybe go back which doesn't actually work out.

Putting a cap on things if you don't have a real intent to go back seems like a good idea, but it's pretty rare in gaming. A lot of games seem to get cancelled mid-season with no warning, so their final sessions lack finality.

In my case as a GM I can say I've really managed it four times, and only one of those was over an academic year long, the others having been built to run for one year and stop conclusively. And one of them ran half a year due to... events... but I still managed to pull a final session together.

I could have ended The Watch House at pretty much any season finale, and pretty much expected to end it at the end of season one, but we kept on going.

I had a theoretical end point, seven seasons like Buffy itself, complete with the Watchers' Council being destroyed halfway through season seven as it had been on TV, but was rather surprised to actually get to it.

And by the end I knew it was time to wrap things up, knock things down, kick things over...

The whole season had been billed as the final one, the last Big Bad was as big as I could make it, and I emailed descriptions of trailers with the James song Destiny Calling and the verse "tell us when our time's up, show us how to die well, show us how to let it all go..." playing over the PCs going into battle.

By this time the Buffy Season Eight comics had started but while I've joked about an equivalent I'd need to get several players around a table who haven't been at the games soc for a couple years. So this was to be it, the end, and I'd built towards it for most of the season.

I had The Battle Of Hogwart's partially in mind (as much as The Battle Of Pellenor Fields and The Battle Of Sunnydale High) but I messed up and made the most tactically useful location a field outside the city, rather than having the final conflict smash up the heart of the setting. Ah well, can't have everything. It would have meant rather too many people in Cambridge seeing a horde of vampires lead by Death itself attacking King's College, anyway...

We were so far from let-the-dice-fall that we'd discussed killing one of the PCs fairly openly for a few weeks before, because somebody had to die along with potentially rather a lot of friendly NPCs and of course the villains. An interesting way to play, but not for everyone and not to be used very often.

For various reasons it took about three months to get that final session organised with everyone there. But we managed it, in the end, and I think we can be proud of that. It was absolutely worth the wait.

A definitive ending (with or without loose ends, a Blake's Seven style TPK, or just the players and PCs taking a moment to consider the possibility of going on) really does give a game a stronger set of memories than a final session with no hint of impending cancellation.

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