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The Power of Closure

My group’s Stargate SG-4 campaign has just two episodes left. Last night’s game was awesome, and our GM is clearly leading up to one hell of a season finale. Don, our GM, is ending this campaign according to plan [1]. He’s told us that he’s leaving the door open for future adventures, if we decide to come back to Stargate (as we’ve done once before).

On an intellectual level, I grok get all that. I’ve written about the different ways you can end campaigns (collected in the free PDF How to End a Campaign: Six Approaches [2]), and I understand the pros and cons of the different approaches — including Don’s planned finale approach.

What I wasn’t expecting was the feeling of satisfaction that comes with knowing that a) we’re headed for a grand finale, b) the game will end, not peter out or wither on the vine, c) we can pick up the campaign down the line, if everyone’s amenable and (most importantly) d) this campaign will have closure. That’s a surprisingly powerful thing.

I think of it like watching Firefly or reading the Harry Potter books, to use a couple of recent examples. After loving the first few episodes of Firefly, or getting solidly into the HP series, there’s that double-edged realization: “This is awesome, and it will end.” Applying that to our Stargate campaign really brings home for me how rewarding campaigns with defined endpoints can be.

Have you had a similar experience with a limited campaign? Do you dislike limited campaigns, and prefer open-ended games with no predetermined endpoint?

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#1 Comment By bignose On July 8, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

Just a note of terminology: To “grok” means to understand with one’s whole being, to understand at *all* levels. So “On an intellectual level, I grok all that” is close to being an oxymoron 🙂

#2 Comment By VV_GM On July 8, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

I like knowing that a campaign has an endpoint. I want something to shoot for, a goal to achieve. You can always have the PCs continue their adventures together in the next campaign, but a campaign that never ends usually dies after a while with no sense of closure.

#3 Comment By blackheart On July 8, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

I personally like the approach this GM is pulling. It allows the players to formulate how they want the characters to shine toward the end, while keeping their minds open to a future Stargate game. I’ve done it with past D&D games and one dragonlance. My players seem to like the approach, because it feels somewhat like a safety net.

If no one has decided what they want to run after a campaign ends, a player will simply turn to me and say, “what about those characters that we loved? Let’s play something with those.”

Quick question though… I’ve missed ALOT of the stargate SG-1 series, but I’ve been loving Stargate Atlantis. Is the stargate rpg worth the buy, and do I have to go back and watch SG-1 to run it well?

#4 Comment By Burrowowl On July 8, 2007 @ 6:36 pm

I recently closed up a limited-scope campaign with the story reaching it logical conclusion to nobody’s surprise. It was interesting to see the shift of intensity around the table as the players grew increasingly confident that they were *just* *so* *close* to succeeding after months of turmoil, adventure, and maneuvering. I think that the firm knowledge that they weren’t about to have the rug pulled out from under them had a lot to do with it; perhaps I’ve thrown too many plot twists at these folks in the past.

#5 Comment By Abulia On July 8, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

Quick question though… I’ve missed ALOT of the stargate SG-1 series, but I’ve been loving Stargate Atlantis. Is the stargate rpg worth the buy, and do I have to go back and watch SG-1 to run it well?

Hiya. I’m the aforementioned GM and I also wrote the Stargate SG-1 RPG published (OOP) by AEG. The game covers through season six and has a wealth of background information. There were four sourcebooks as well with a good mix of material, ideas, and crunch.

The system is powered by Spycraft (1.5) and, honestly, is a BAD fit IMHO. For our game I use D20 Modern with little change to the stats and it runs much better. Had I more time I might use a different system, say SW Saga or Savage Worlds. As it is I can port the Spycraft stats for Osiris into D20 Modern with little/no alteration.

They’re beautiful books and well-written (I’m biased!) but the rules are crap. Doesn’t mean you can’t have a great game, however. 😉 The bits about the society of the Goa’uld, Stargate tech and the SGC are worth the price of admission alone I’d say

#6 Comment By Ken On July 8, 2007 @ 7:39 pm

I think the idea of an end to a storyline is a good one. Having run a campaign that never ended, I as a GM would like closure as well.

Blackheart: I run the Stargate SG-1 RPG. The first part of the core rule book has a summary of every episode for the first six seasons. (Also there are summaries of every show online at gateworld.net) That should help you out some. I got into the game because I love the show, so I recommend watching it on general principles, but I think you should be able to run your game without having seen all the episodes.

If you’ve only seen the early seasons of the show, then I’d suggest starting your game during the seasons you’ve watched. Then you can let it diverge from there dependent on the character’s actions.

#7 Comment By stupidranger On July 8, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

Speaking as a player, I like knowing there is a goal at the end of all the trials and tribulations. It’s always difficult to “retire” a character, but it’s nice to know that at the end of it all, you saved the world.

#8 Comment By Telas On July 8, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

I played in a game where it had an end, but the campaign was taking too long to get there, so we ended prematurely. It’s silly (or is it?), but I really wanted to end it properly.

So yeah, I grok it.

#9 Comment By Calybos On July 9, 2007 @ 8:05 am

The end of a campaign is not the same as “the end of your character’s story.” Careful GMing can indicate that, while the major plot has been resolved, the characters’ individual lives go on in new directions.

I just last weekend wrapped up my 2-1/2 year 7th Sea campaign with a Big Finish (save the queen!). But all the heroes had new plot points and connections that they would be able to pursue “after” the game ended… their lives go on in our heads. I think that leads to the most satisfying conclusion to a game.

#10 Comment By John Arcadian On July 9, 2007 @ 10:47 am

I always try to end my campaigns as planned. This means that I never really plan them to go extremely long. There have been one or two that I just abandoned for lack of motivation. The final sessions where the players knew they were going to be the final session have always gone best. There is a sense of anticipation, and a real desire to do it to the fullest extent.

#11 Comment By Martin On July 9, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

Seconding Don’s assessment of the SG-1 book: the fluff is excellent, I don’t care for what I’ve seen of the system. d20 Modern with a couple tweaks (leveling by GM fiat and awarding Action Points on the fly are the biggies) works a trea

bignose: Thanks for correcting me on “grok.” I bet I’ve been using it wrong for years. D’oh!