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  • Writer's pictureericvansingel

Ending a Campaign

Greeting adventurers! This week I will talk a little bit about wrapping up a campaign, how I approached it and how the Players and characters interacted with it. Its always bittersweet ending a campaign but I can come out the other end of it knowing the players got an ending appropriate to their epic adventures in this game.

My goal was to have the players experience a final battle that was challenging and could go either way as far as the hero's winning or losing. Upon defeat the players would end their story there, and a new universe would spawn by some less than savory characters. Their struggles and victories would have been lost to time itself. If they won, no new universe would spawn and they would go down in history as the Guardians of Katashaka - the brave souls who put an end, to "the end".

On Tuesday's I have been running "Katashaka, the Sleeper Awakens" an adventure for 5e that I wrote with a bit of inspiration from DnD sourcebooks lost to time. I wanted a familiar setting (Forgotten Realms) but wanted to get away from the sword coast which most of the Wizards of the Coast published content exists. We got pretty far from Waterdeep, Neverwinter, and the Dale far to the West on the continent known only as Katashaka. The hero's interacted with the fine folks of a fishing village and learned about the legends of a Tarrasque waking up every 1000 years or so to eat up what they can before hibernating again. The team found themselves against hags, werewolf cults, vampires, a shady underground of fey like elven folk, and finally pitted up against the warlocks who drew their power from this ancient apocalypse machine. It was a great campaign, and I so enjoyed watching the characters interact with the world and do the cool things that heroes do, but all things must pass and the story approached the end.

I wanted to make sure these fine players had closure for their characters and a satisfying end. Have you ever gotten involved with a TV program just to have it end poorly? That sticks with the viewer, and not in a good way. A good example would be one of my favorite shows, "Jericho" - a story about what happens after nuclear war in a small great plains town of Jericho. It was a great drama where folks had to band together and question just about everything as new governments formed and find solutions how to survive in this new world. It ended abruptly, without closure and to this day it is a series I wish I could have seen all the way to a successful end. I didnt want this for my players. So I looked to great endings in cinema and television and took some inspiration.

I wanted 3 main things to happen for my players

A lead up of tension, building and boiling up to the final showdown

Closure for their stories

The ability to revisit these folks with some epic level one shots down the road

The building tension was probably the easiest as the story naturally crescendos as the world starts unraveling. The players got to experience this and had a sense of urgency to get their mission accomplished before all was lost. They dealth with materials disappearing, things falling apart, storms of sand being vacuumed to the sky. Tension was not a problem.

Closure on the other hand is hard to provide, and is somewhat predicated on the players communicating with me what they wanted to tie up for their characters before things ended. It also required a bit of cinematics from me, which was a difficult trigger to pull since I value player agency so much I didn't want to force anything story wise as things wrapped up. I helped provide some closure 2 ways. The first was giving them cinematic flashes in between turns in the final combat. The "camera" would pan to an NPC they met, huddled in a cave hoping for the best as the world crashed down around them. A favorite barkeep wiping down tables as the bar was falling apart. A child playing with a toy destroying a block city town they built. I knew it was risky but it sure landed on both feet and stuck with the players. I chalk this one up as a success. The other way I provided closure was more player driven, we fast forwarded past the final battle and ended our session with each player describing what their character was doing 1 year later. This was also a huge success and really gave agency to the players to participate on how the adventure ended. I really enjoyed implementing these 2 strategies and will likely use this method again as other adventures wrap.

Finally, I wanted to be able to revisit these characters at epic levels later for a short adventure or series of one shots. Since no one died (permanently anyways) this was a pretty simple thing to pull off and with the "1 year later" method we all have a new starting point if we want to get the band back together.

Goals accomplished, I still have a bit of a bittersweet feeling about wrapping up the campaign. I really enjoyed visiting with these characters each week for the last 7 months or so and I am going to miss them. I know my players will as well. But, all things must pass and we can at least say the story didn't end like "Jericho" we had an ending that the players deserved. An epic lead up, a cool final battle, and closure.

Bedritten, Selena, Vakas, Michael, Kiyara, and Rune will forever be remembered as true Guardians of Katashaka. Congratulations to them!

On to the weekly recaps!

PIFONS took down the pirates who stole Ara's old ship an have captured a fugitive of Mirabar. They spent some time in town planning next steps and decided to turn over their bandit to the Harpers instead of the authorities in Mirabar, a decision that I commend the group on as their characters are all pretty well off coin wise and all pretty "good" aligned. This was the best option to see that justice was served. Of course there was some pickle storefront purchases and a bit of fooling around but the team is now preparing to head north, to the tundra of Ten Towns to investigate the destruction of one of the towns due to some Frost Giants rampage. We pick up this week with that journey.

Monday night mad mage was a great time, the players fought some, explored some, and find themselves at the docks of Skullport. I love this city under the city and it may be one of my favorite places in the realms. Our adventurers tied up one mission from the Yawning Portal and are about to wrap another as they head into town to meet a Harper spy at a tavern. Excited to pick up this week in the iconic city of Skullport.

Katashaka wrapped up this week, see above as I talked about this session at length. I can not thank the players enough for their engagement in the world I presented them - it was a blast.

We took a week of monster of the week and resume on tuesday with another adventure full of monster mayhem this week!

Wednesday mad mage had the adventurers exploring a castle of a wizard who was up to no good. They found some cool stuff and fought some demons who nearly got the best of them. One of the characters revealed a bit about their backstory but no one has nibbled on it just yet, should be interesting to see how long they can keep their secret up as we continue exploring the Mad Mage's playground.

The Rangoon Platoon had another amazing session so full of spoilers I am at a loss as to where to start and stop. Long story short, they met the Queen of the summer court, the warlock got a new patron, and they are now infiltrating the kitchen of a Giant Stronghold in the mountains. I hope they find some cheese, they are going to need some nourishment for the fights ahead.

Saturday night was a most excellent adventure in Icewind Dale and although we started with some fighting the players engaged with the world, npcs's and each other for a stellar role play dominant session. Its no secret my games tend to favor role play at times and I highly encourage it. These folks take that next level and really do as their characters would as they interact with the world. They also leveled up out of the deal and are hot on the trail of an ice cold killer. This week should have a bit more fighting and plenty more chances to interact with the world around them.

Another great week, all thanks to the players. I literally can not do this without y'all so a hearty thank you from me to you all players past and present. Adventure in courage friends!

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