RPG Campaigns and How They Come to an End

Sorry guys, Alex has been without internet for a fair few days so we have been a bit all over the place. That means you just have me again. Well, in any case, this post is partially inspired by the fact that, due to circumstances, I’ve had to start wrapping up my current RPG campaigns. Sadly, as you all may know because of experience or the memes that circulate the internet, there is nothing worse for a game group than adult life and timetables…it is just a nightmare. And it seems that it has come to that annoying point once again where enough of my players weren’t able to make the sessions, so I had a few options: reset, recycle, or stop. I was simply unwilling to go through with the latter: I like RPGs. I’ve been playing since I have memory. This is how I hang out with my friends, it’s a key element of my social life…I ain’t letting go that easy. I didn’t want to recycle the stories because we were simply too far into them, and I am not fond of reset button-nothingeverhappened/thosepeoplewerentthere/letsgo. So I decided to condense plot and wrap up. In this way the characters that were already out could get proper closure, and if we could keep on playing even with reduced numbers, the story-arch would be somewhat resolved and in a situation to carry through on different terms.

The only issue with this is that – sadly for my players – I had to be brutal. There was enough material for both campaigns to take easily another month or two of consistent game play. And they are not the sanest of people so they had created enough mud around them that this was never gonna be easy…So far in our game of Mythic Iceland there are only two player-characters that are not dead and could happily continue other plots. The rest…well, let’s see:

-there were at least 2 characters missing whole limbs (arm and leg) respectively, and with very low luck. In MI you use luck to stabilise your character and stop them from dying…considering that a Jotunn just unleashed a hell of fire of down on them and they dropped unconscious…survival is unlikely…My poor Thor worshipper who is still in one piece is sadly part of the ring of doom, thought he has a strong chance for survival. Cannot say the same for our lovely Freyja worshipper. Sadly for her, her luck is running low, she is in the deathy area, aaannddd seemingly a murderer…They wanted stuff worthy of the Sagas…did I not deliver?!

So, in any case, I thought as I was on the topic of campaign ends, I would spend some time today thinking about ways in which DMs and players end campaigns – and I mean both excuses and legit game play actions, and plot points. Off we go then!

  • A most common reason for any campaign to end is exactly what we were just discussing above: people simply stop playing. Now, I don’t know about you guys but I HATE this scenario, where I have put so much time into making a chronicle, we have played, then people start being flaky. There is a difference between people being unable to make the game and being flaky you see. If you can’t make the game and want to keep playing you rearrange. If you don’t want to play then that’s it you just say it. But flakiness is the core nuisance here, because then neither DM nor the rest of the party can rely on what structure is going to be available for them to perform that day. It Is a Party Killer, for sure. The game usually gets flakier as time goes by and just, puff, disappears.


  • Quest Completed! The most typical DnD setting would suggest that you have been questing for a while, you are now probably rather broken and high level and there is not much else left to do for the game. So the ultimate quest is some form of epic development of die or win with glory and after that a nice few words on how the world has ended or survived. 

So, these are the two most common and say, straightforward scenarios, or at least in my experience. Then, there are others than tend to be sometimes problematic:

  • Plot becomes irrelevant. You obviously can only do so much to keep a story together. Certain groups of players would ensure that the plot becomes nothing but a thin thread that uses as an excuse to (more often than not) misbehave. This also happens with campaigns that are character objective driven. Maybe one of the characters had things to do, these are accomplished and then, the rest haven’t got that far or are out of sync…It just doesn’t work out. Certainly, this can also happen due to bad Dming, not being consistent and not delivering what you should. It can be prevented in all cases, but you need to be on it.


  • Accidents happen. You know, you thought this was gonna be an easy encounter, side quest that meant nothing at all? Well, then everyone rolled crit failures, they were out of potions, bad decisions were made, and what remains of the party (if any) is so scattered that the game just needs to end. It is unfortunate and it only happens on occasion, but that is another way of a good chronicle to be easily destroyed. 


  • The DM had enough of your BS. Yes. We get tired too. And sometimes, despite our efforts things get out of control. Please note this is different from a mismanagement of the plot or accidents happen. This is when things go beyond wild, the murder-hoboing is just ridiculous, and you just decide it would all be much easier if you unleash the owlbear and kill them all…rolling all the dice behind the DM screen so they cannot argue with you, and then, hopefully, you can have fun again with a normal, FUN, DECENT, game. 


  • Bored/Don’t get it. It happens sometimes. You think you have made an awesome campaign BUT your players just don’t get it. Your divine interventions are just more frequent than the should, and you find it a struggle to just keep them going. Perhaps you yourself became bored of the very same thing you crafted. It happens, and we all have been there. 


  • Actual character development and campaign resolution! This is a different scenario than Quest Complete. Because, you see, there are certain games that do not work on a quest and levelling up system – like Mythic Iceland just above – or that do not have a specific goal that “terminates” the game. The most effective way to manage this is by creating chronicles with different stages: a bit as if you were making a book and you divide it into chapters. Every time a chapter is finished, the story moves on, or your characters do. Think that in games such as Pendragon you may go through a lifeline of different characters creating your own dynasty. Is not so simple as completing quests and being kickass; it requires more on behalf of the DM, and the reward for the players is episodic. Little closures to take them through a journey. If you pace it well, and they contribute, it works. That is just about the only reason why I could cycle my games the way I did: I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and the players performed to this.

With this in mind, I hope your games are going well and that you are having lots of fun. And if for whatever reason, like me, you need to stop playing or wrapping up stories to see what happens with your game, don’t lose hope. There are always players that need terrorising somewhere in the planet 😉



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