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My Final Five #5: There Are No Endings

This is my fifth article in my final five series [1]. That means that it is also my last article for Gnome Stew. I have chosen this comment by reader Janus [2] as the inspiration for my final article:

Goodbyes are always sad, but i think everyone wishes you well for the future. (me too!) Also you may find a spark to ignite a flame for something new. :-)

Since the topic is right, what about a article about endings? Ending a campaign, adventure or the parting of a character. (maybe player too?) How to make it memorably for everyone involved and to set up a good climax and maybe a epilog.

There is so much potential to endings… and every ending is the beginning of something new, right? ;-)

(sorry for my english, have to write more often.)

The more that I contemplated this comment the more that it perplexed me in the creation of a response. There was something that nagged me about the idea of advising others on how to end a campaign, an adventure, or a character’s part in the story. How do you bring such things to an end?

Eventually I came to the conclusion that you do not end anything. Instead things transition from a current form into another. Your campaign does not really end. The main conflict may be resolved, but there is always the next chapter in the story that can be told if you want it to be told.

Finished adventures may result in hooks for new adventures. Characters that exit the story may still have an impact upon future events in the story if the characters leave a legacy behind. Campaigns do not have to end if the players and the GM decide to answer the question “What happens next?”

With the idea that there is no such thing as an ending in mind, my advice is that GMs not focus on “endings” of any type. Instead the focus of a GM should be to make it possible to eliminate priorities for the PCs and players. The adventure concludes because the PCs have a large enough impact on the situation that it is no longer a matter worthy of their attention. The campaign no longer moves forward because it reaches a point where the players and the GM feel that all of the major story points have been addressed adequately. A character exits the game when its role in the story results in the resolution of a conflict.

You can always pick an adventure, campaign, or character sheet back up again at a later date. The secret is to remove the sense of urgency that something else still needs to be done. Once the sense of urgency is no longer present, the fun and challenge fades away and all of the players (the GM included) are willing to move onto something else.

I feel that I have met all of the challenges that were laid before me as one of the contributors for this site. I will now transition to another set of challenges, but I hope that others take what I have provided here and develop it further. Please comment with your own ideas and thoughts on how endings should be handled, and may your gaming never end!

14 Comments (Open | Close)

14 Comments To "My Final Five #5: There Are No Endings"

#1 Comment By Spenser On April 8, 2013 @ 4:32 am

A perfect finale, Patrick. You will be missed. Best of luck in all you do!

#2 Comment By Patrick Benson On April 8, 2013 @ 6:13 am

Thank you, Spenser. I am glad that you enjoyed it. 🙂

#3 Comment By Martin Ralya On April 8, 2013 @ 8:47 am

Thank you for all of your work on the Stew, Patrick! Good luck, godspeed, and here’s to crossing paths at Gen Cons to come.

#4 Comment By Patrick Benson On April 8, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

Thank you for the opportunity to have contributed, Martin! We will certainly cross paths again at a Gen Con in the future!

#5 Comment By Roxysteve On April 8, 2013 @ 10:16 am

Thanks for all the good steers you gave me over the years, and there were many of these. As for the stuff we disagree on, well, you are entitled to your opinion no matter how misguided it is :o)))))

Luck for the future.

Adios my friend. Via con queso.

#6 Comment By Patrick Benson On April 8, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

Thank you, Roxysteve. I’ll just have to take solace in the 4 ENnies that my misguided opinions have earned me in conjunction with the work of the other gnomes for this blog and other projcts. 😉

#7 Comment By Roxysteve On April 10, 2013 @ 9:02 am

Well, if you’d rather be popular than right…80D

#8 Comment By Patrick Benson On April 10, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

You are partially correct. I am rather popular. 😉

#9 Comment By Scott Martin On April 8, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

“The secret is to remove the sense of urgency that something else still needs to be done.” That’s key, and where I often fail.

Somehow, my ending rarely feel like endings; rather, they feel like the kitchen fire has been put out. That’s great, but the burning living room still demands attention. I need to concentrate more on ensuring that things feel resolved enough to put them down. That takes careful attention during the wind down, to making things feel resolved, not just put off temporarily.

Good luck in everything Patrick!

#10 Comment By Patrick Benson On April 9, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

Thank you, Scott. It has been great working with you on this site!

#11 Comment By randite On April 10, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

A well chosen finale.

I would just add that an ending needs to point towards how things will be in the near future and offer some clue as to how things are in the long term. You don’t have to spell out “happily ever after” by any means but sans some sort of idea of the future there’s no closure and a lackluster ending.

Au revoir, sir.

#12 Comment By Patrick Benson On April 10, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

Thank you, and your advice is spot on!

#13 Comment By Janus On April 10, 2013 @ 4:16 pm

I am honored to have given you the thought to your final article.

I like your advice on “no endings” especially because i am running currently a sandbox game. I think in this kind of game it is particularly usefull.

Challenges are overcome but storys never truly end. 😀

Thank you Patrick and good luck for the future!

#14 Comment By Patrick Benson On April 10, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

The honor is all mine. Thank you for the inspiration! The thing that I will miss the most about writing for Gnome Stew is the feedback that the readers have given me over the years.