DM Advice: 3 Tips for Ending a Campaign
Read the original article here.
It’s said that all good things must come to an end, and the same is true of every Dungeons & Dragons campaign. You’ve spent so much time building this world together with your friends that it can be hard to say goodbye. However, the story must eventually end so that a new one can take place.
Last year, I had the privilege of completing a hardcover adventure for a group of my college friends, and I wanted to come up with some fun ideas to make the ending of the campaign memorable and provide closure for my players. I put together what I called a “campaign after-party,” where we hung out and talked about our favorite moments from the adventure. During this time, I incorporated the following three ideas into the party to see how they worked. My players all loved it, and at the end I had each of them sign my adventure book as their characters. It was a great ending to a great campaign.
These three ideas can be incorporated into the final moments of your adventure, whether you’ve been a part of the same campaign for several years or if you’re just wrapping up a one-shot. They work well regardless of which TTRPG system you’re using, and they provide incentives for your group to get back together and start a new game together. Here are my three tips for ending a campaign.
Have Players Write Their Own Epilogues
By the time the adventure ends, the players may still not have completed everything they wanted their characters to complete. This can leave them feeling dissatisfied with how the story ended and like they missed an opportunity. Allowing players to write their own backstories gives them a moment to put their characters in the spotlight and direct them into the future.
As the DM, you want to give your players as much leniency as possible when it comes to writing their epilogues, but you want to prevent them from writing their character, other characters, or the world into a corner. Encourage your players to focus solely on their character and have them treat the epilogue like a stepping stone to their next big adventure. In short, the epilogue should be less of “happily ever after” and more “until next time.”
Host a Q&A Session
Depending on the kind of adventure you’re running, your players may have a lot of unanswered questions at the end: “What happened to the bartender?” “Who were we really talking to at the theatre?” “How would things have ended if we had chosen to join the villain?” By having a Q&A session at the end of a campaign, it gives you the opportunity to step away from the DM screen and let your players into your thought process, as well as fantasize about what might have been if different choices were made.
This time was my favorite part of the after-party, especially since we were playing a game of urban intrigue where almost everyone had secrets. I answered most of my players' questions, revealed which moments were clues and which were red herrings, and at the end, we all took turns answering the question of which were our favorite memories. It was wonderful to reminisce on those good memories.
Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash
Give Out In-Game Awards
As a DM, it’s important to carefully walk the line between making an adventure immersive and treating the adventure as a game. However, once the story was completed, I decided to lean more into the game side and give my players each an award for completing the adventure. The awards were meant to highlight something memorable about each character, but they also were able to function as something they could use for a new character. I treated it like a “New Game +” where each player got something special that could be used once, either on the same character later or a new character if we played together again.
I recommend not worrying too much if the awards are going to break the game because the game is already over. While all of the awards should be cool and unique to the characters, it’s important that each award is relatively the same in value so it feels fair to the players. Each award acts as a one-time buff, and players should be able to earn a new award to replace it once you finish the next game.
My last parting thought on ending a campaign is not to treat it as an ending. The friendships and memories made along the course of the story will last long after the story is finished. Ending a campaign also gives you the freedom to start a new one. Maybe there’s a new story you would like to DM for your players, or maybe one of your players wants to be the DM for a change. The possibilities are truly endless.
Now it’s your turn: have you ever ended a TTRPG campaign before? Is there anything you do special for your players that I haven’t included? Let me know in the comments below! Cheers!
Want more tabletop content? Check out the original article and my blog here.
Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash