Summer. It’s that time of the year, where publishers launch new games during the major gaming conventions. With all sorts of new games hitting the market, we gobble them up, anxious to get them to the table. The problem is we already have a game we are playing. And so comes the age-old conundrum of how to finish up one game and start a new one gracefully. How can we have both a satisfying end and an exciting beginning? Because seriously, I just got this game and its burning in my hands — I need to run it nooooowwwww.

The Shiny

Yea. The shiny gets all of us. We recently talked about it here on the Stew and on the Gnomecast. It’s tough to resist. For me, right now, I am running this amazing Tales from the Loop game, but I got my PDF copy of Scum & Villainy. I really want to play S&V. I loved Blades in the Dark so much, that doing it in space can only be better…like really better. At the same time, my Loop game is all sorts of amazing, and building up to a big reveal. Ok, so how do we do this?

It’s More Work For The GM

Welp, here is the honest fact. If you want to transition between games well, you are going to have to do some extra work. If you are up for it, it will totally be worth it, but make sure you have the time to commit.

In a nutshell, you will need to bring your game to a satisfying conclusion, while at the same time prepping your new campaign. While this seems pretty easy, you are going to have to keep focus and remain committed to the campaign that is ending, while you crack open the new shiny and bask in its lovely glow. You are going to have to resist the urge to dump everything and fall into that siren’s song of the new game.

Why Bother?

Too many campaigns end without satisfying endings. They just one day stop. And we as humans are creatures that are conditioned to stories. Deep in our animal brains, we like things that have a start, middle, and an ending. It is why we lost our shit when Firefly was canceled. The same is true for campaigns. They are so much more satisfying when they end cleanly.

Bringing The Old To An End

So the first thing we need to do is plan the end of our campaign. Finishing a campaign with the end of a meaningful story or arc is a good way to wrap things up. Look at your current storyline and the arc you are in and look for how that will logically complete. Also, consider if you also need to conclude any minor arcs, character arcs, etc in order to give the campaign a sense of completion.

Next, with some understanding of how the campaign could end, go and talk to your players. You need to get their consent for this. In many cases, they are just as excited for the new shiny as well, so you won’t have to sell them too hard, but depending on the game it could be harder than you plan. As you are telling them about wanting to run the new game in the future, you can also give them an idea of where the campaign will end, and likely when based on how many sessions you think it will take to get there. Talk it through, ask if they have any arcs they would like to see completed before the game wraps, and if possible, make sure they are included.

BTW – it’s not that you need all the players’ consent to switch games – after all, you are the one who is running the game – but it is polite to ask everyone for the input, especially if this is the group that you are planning to run the shiny game with.

If everyone is on board with the plan to end the game, then make the commitment to do so and work towards that goal. Often there is an energy to the game when everyone knows that a major arc is going to conclude, and this can add some new excitement to the game.

Prepping the New Game

Now that you know when and how your old game is going to end, you can start your work of getting the new game prepped. The first thing you likely have to do is to start reading the rules, so get cracking. As you get into the rules, you are going to start to have ideas for the campaign you want to run. Start jotting those ideas down. Eventually, you will need to get some player input and that is where it gets tricky.

We Suck At Finishing Things

 …we humans love starting things and we hate finishing them.

So everything we have been talking about up to this point is really straightforward advice… finish one thing before starting another. But from experience as a GM and as a Project Manager let me tell you that we humans love starting things and we hate finishing them. Rarely does a Project Manager have issues getting a new team started on something, but rarely does that team surge across the finish line with the same excitement.

The same is true about GMs and players. All of your instincts are going to drive you towards dumping that campaign and playing the new shiny next session. First, there are going to be the doubts that creep into your mind… why do you need to finish the campaign, it was fun enough. Then the new ideas from the shiny are going to jump into your mind… oh man, I can’t wait to do this and that in the new game, it’s going to be so awesome. Third, it will all get worse when your players get excited as you ask them questions or tell them about the game, and they start having that feeling of doubt about the old and excitement of the new.

This is where you need to dig in and hold the line. If you are going to do this right and give your campaign the ending it deserves, you are going to need to fight your own inner voices, and you are going to have to keep the group focused on finishing.

Here are a few tips:

  • Share info with them as late as possible. The less excited they get the more energy you can use on keeping yourself focused.
  • Have a target date in mind. It helps to know that there is an ending and it’s getting closer. When we don’t know when things will end we lose hope of getting there.
  • Get it out of your head. The reason we obsess over things is because your brain does not trust you to remember them. For example, why can’t you remember you need a light bulb when you are in the store, but you do two seconds before you turn on the light with the burnt light bulb. So when you have some great campaign idea, write it down into something you can look at later. Get it out of your head, and your brain will calm down.
  • When you do involve the rest of the players, remind them of the goal of closing out the campaign and when that it is. Set expectations.

Be Ready To Start After You Finish

So if you have held it together, you have been prepping all your stuff for the new game while bringing the old one to a conclusion. Pay that off to the players by being ready to jump into the new game the session after the old one concludes. Finish the rules, start working on campaign ideas, and get materials ready for your session zero. Be ready to start right after you close out the current campaign.

On that note, take a little time after you close the old campaign to reflect with your group on the fun you had. In fact, a little ending ritual or party never hurts.

It Is All About Self-Control

Our human nature to chase the greener grass can mean that we play the newest and shiniest games, but we sometimes leave incomplete campaigns in our wake. With a little awareness, planning, and a bunch of self-control, we can transition between games and end a successful campaign before starting a fresh new one.

Right now, I am reading S&V while planning out the last 3-4 sessions of my Loop game. I am pretty calm and committed to bringing the Loop to its season finale. I will let you know how it goes.

How are you at this? Do you drop campaigns for the new shiny, or can you get them concluded properly? How tempting are new shiny games to you? How do you do it?