Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is endings, to go along with our last live chat of 2019. Speaking of endings the image below is from our wildly successful Out of the Box: Encounters for 5th Edition Kickstarter. In Shadow of Your Former Self, the ending of this encounter brings adventurers face to face with unexpected adversaries. The Out of the Box Pledge Manager remains open for late pledges. You can get your hands on the book and all the add-ons including presale badges for Nerdarchy the Convention, or upgrade your badge to Legendary or Artifact level. There’s also a FREE encounter Seizing the Means you can download for a sneak peek at the sort of content you’ll find in the book. Check it out here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here.
Endings are great, because they lead to new beginnings. When Nerdarchy began our first fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons games we set out with the goal of taking those games to 20th level. Both games achieved that goal, but one game lingers on to be completed. One of our beloved gaming friends got ill and we’ve worked around their schedule in addition to the normal meshing of seven busy adults’ schedules.
When Ted’s game ended we began a new campaign where we as group picked one of three campaign themes, what level we’d start the game and how many sessions we’d play. The beauty of knowing where the game will end is everyone gets a sense of completion when the story comes to its end. Now just because you hit the end of the story doesn’t mean you can’t start a new one. Our current game we’ve completed 10 of 12 sessions and the characters will be 12th level. The Dungeon Master Nerdarchist Ted is planning to wrap up the story on the 12th session. Afterwards we will decide as a group what kind of game we’ll be playing next. It could very well be a continuation of the current game or something completely new.
How about another way to look at endings? Let us zoom on an ongoing campaign. As the DM planning breaks into the story arcs can be mini endings. They are great places for downtime activities to occur within the game. Or for the players to indicate to DM they’d like to take the game in a different direction. This could even be tied what the players did during their downtime.
In my Scarlet Sisterhood game one of the downtime activities important to them was to open a public bathhouse. Naturally I tied several mini-adventures to the bathhouse, because the players signaled to me through their in game actions this place was important to them.
At the end of each adventure arc ask your players what they’d like to both as individuals and a group. Give them a little downtime even if it isn’t addressed during play, but outside of the game. This could be great fodder for future subplots, plots and adventures.
What about endings as a way to start a campaign? Look the Eberron Campaign Setting. It’s literally a campaign that starts after The Last War. Five nations had been at war for a very long time. That war reshaped that world. Now players get to adventure and live in the aftermath of that war.
Dark Sun starts after one of the Dragon Sorcerers and the City State of Tyr has become a free kingdom.
What about in your own homebrew campaigns? The aftermath of a major war or other worldwide event can inform the campaign. What if the world has been overrun by demons or devils? That event is the ending of a war between humanity and hell. The players start the game trying to survive a world transformed by the hellish influences. You could do something less grand. The party is on a ship that has wrecked. A major fire in a city’s grainery. All left for dead on a battlefield at the end of a battle. Just some ideas of how to let endings inspire your D&D games both inside and outside of the game.
From Ted’s Head
In years before Nerdarchy our games were almost always played as the forever game. In fact when games did end it was almost always because someone had a good idea for a new game or the Dungeon Master was burned out.
The age old expression says all good things must come to an end and your roleplaying games should follow suit as well. You need not have a clear picture when the game starts but you should have an idea of how long you plan on the game going and this is something all players should agree on during your session zero or early on. This gives you, the DM, an idea of what kind of story you are interested in telling.Having the ending in mind you know that a 12 session story arc is vastly different to a four year long game. Having done the latter and nearly done the former both have their advantages and disadvantages but be forewarned what you are in for. If all players are aware the type of game you are playing — and yes the DM is a player too — then you are prepared both mentally and physically for what will unfold.
But just because one game or story is over does not mean another will not take its place. This allows a new game or a new DM to step in and keep the fun going. The end of the story arc does not mean the story needs to stop. If everyone is interested the game can keep going. If the story keeps going here is an easy spot to add new players or remove players who are no longer interested. It can be a time to give the DM a small break to re-energize.
Another end is simply the end of the night so with Nerdarchy being fan of dwarves and dwarves being fans of alcohol I insert a drink to offer for your taverns: a Dark End
A Dark End
This dark liquor is not for the faint of Constitution. Not only is it expensive but it is hard on the body and mind. Many tend to drink it to help forget, but be careful, drinking too many leads to its namesake. There are many commoners and adventurers alike who had too many and were never seen from again, alive that is.
Anytime you take a shot of a dark end you must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or lose 1 hour of memory permanently from the last 24 hours and make a secondary saving throw with the same DC. If you fail the second save you black out and may or may not remain unconscious for the remainder of the next 8 hours. The DM controls your character for that time period where you eventually awake with a splitting headache. Memories lost from a dark end are not recoverable via a remove curse spell. It takes much more powerful magic, perhaps even divine intervention.
The reason a dark end is so powerful is no one really knows where it comes from. Many taverns have a bottle that mysteriously shows up without the proprietor’s knowledge, but they somehow know the cost. Some legends say it has demonic influence, while others proclaim it must be extraplanar in origin. Others think an evil trickster god or their agents are clearly behind it. Whatever power is at work, its intentions are sinister for sure. After all who seriously wants a dark end?
From the Nerditor’s desk
My home game group played a regular bi-weekly game on average for about two years before things got tumultuous. Life changes, moving, and fading interest meant keeping an ongoing campaign continuing forward became a real challenge. As the primary Dungeon Master in the group, it felt like every session might be the ending of the group itself, and this was frustrating for a while.
But then I leaned into it! If any session might be the last, then every session needed to be a self contained adventure, like a one shot with semi-recurring characters. This was a breath of fresh air in several ways.
The most significant impact is a change of perspective for me. Instead of preparing adventures to help the players continue the story of their adventurers towards big picture, longterm goals my focus turned to creating a setting. Any given character or adventuring party’s story may experience an ending, but the world persists.
Another curious change took place in the players. Now when we manage to get together and play D&D, the endings of our games are only the ending for the adventure — not the characters. The next time we play might be completely different scenario and the players choose characters to play from a growing pool of recurring ones. I’ll explain.
Our Spelljammer campaign (meant to be an epic 1st-20th level experience) fizzled out around 10th level after almost two years. We’ve started about a half dozen different campaigns since, which also got the fizzle treatment…sort of. Now when a DM pitches a campaign, adventure or one shot, we discuss the past character each of us might play. Quarion the bard from Waterdeep: Dragon Heist becomes a professional bounty hunter for a 8 session campaign in our home setting. Sir Finn from the Adventurers of Adventure winds up aboard a spelljamming vessel. Mesmogdu the enchanter, killed by a gray ooze in Undermountain is next seen helping a branch of Acquisitions Incorporated find the Orrery of the Wanderer.
I know it sounds crazy, but with all of the campaign endings in our group for whatever reason, as players we adapted to exploring our favorite characters in different scenarios. We keep different versions of them in D&D Beyond with the copy character feature. When we are able to get a game session together, we just enjoy rolling funny shaped dice and creating memorable stories together, knowing any session could be the ending of the character, campaign or even a player temporarily or forever. People ghost people am I right?
When it comes to endings in D&D or any tabletop roleplaying game, my advice is this: approach every session like a one shot, or consider it like a pilot for a new series. It may never be seen again, so give it your all. If you return for more, your exciting first session helps inform what you might explore next. Either way, every time you get together you’ll give them such an ending!
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