At some point all good things must end.  The epic campaign drives towards the epic climax, which when it resolves, often signals the ending of the campaign.  As the heroes stand victorious, having defeated evil, saved the world, etc, you must now bring your campaign to an end fitting of the way you have run it all along.  In this edition of the Lessons From The Long Campaign, I am going to talk about how to bring your game to a conclusion.

The Final Session

The end of your Long Campaign will start with the final session.  The final session is a bittersweet time.  On the one hand, you have delivered session after session of your campaign, culminating in the epic battle.  Now your heroes stand in the aftermath of their greatest battle.  This is an accomplishment in and of itself, considering how many campaigns never complete, but just fade into obscurity.  On the other hand, this is the last session you are going to run for the game.  If you have been running this campaign for any length of time, you have grown accustom to running the game and to your players, and this will be your last time at the table with them, for this game.

Your final session needs to bring your major plot lines to a final conclusion.  Part of your final session should deal with the aftermath of the epic climax; the world has been saved, the great wyrm has been banished, the evil army has been routed.  Take some time to show the consequences of the epic climax through some of your major NPCs.

The other temptation you must resist is to put too many twists and turns into the last session.  You do not have any more sessions to work things out, so anything you put out in the session you must deal with before the close of the session.  Keep your list of plot elements under control and make sure you close any element you introduce.

The hardest part of your final session will be to come up with the closing of the session.  Do you want to have a hook for a future adventure or campaign?  Do you want to end with a memorable quote, with a song?  In the end of my Iron Heroes campaign, I decided to close the final scene with the Manowar song Blood Brothers, to signify the bond between the three players, and all they had been through in the past 3 years.

After the Final Session, your group should celebrate your success.  Check out a few previous articles about the Wrap Party and Ending a Campaign On Purpose, for some ideas of how to celebrate the end of of a campaign.  For my Iron Heroes campaign, I created a Campaign Certificate for each of my players.  In addition, I ordered some tokens from Dragonfire Laser Crafts, that listed the players and the campaign dates.

The Eleven Endings

After your final session, you should write an epilogue to your campaign.  In my gaming group, we have called this, the Eleven Endings, poking fun of the end of the Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy.  In all seriousness, an Epilogue is a great way to wrap up your campaign, and give closure for your characters and NPC’s.

My recommendation is to make the epilogue a collaborative effort.  Start by writing an epilogue for the campaign world and all the major NPC’s.  Then, have each player write the epilogue for their own character and any related NPCs, and send them to you.   I find it works best if you get to see the player epilogue’s first, so that you can check them for continuity purposes. Then combine the epilogues into one document, and send it out the the players.

The epilogue is your way to say good-bye to your campaign, and to give the characters and NPC’s that feeling of completeness, and to put a proper closing on your hard worked campaign.  Give each NPC a rich description, marry them, let them have kids, and eventually grow old.  Give each one an ending based on their personality type.  Your stoic warrior may be more likely to wander off into the sunset, searching for more adventures, than to settle down in a small town and raise a gaggle of kids.

Packing  It All Up

With the campaign now wrapped up, its time to archive your game for prosperity.  Years from now you will enjoy looking through your materials, provided you have them in one place where you can find them.  Here are a few tips for archiving your material:

  • Print your electronic notes out.
  • Scan in any hand made maps into a digital format.
  • Archive your electronic note onto DVD or memory stick.
  • Make a custom binder for all your notes– Avery offers custom binders.  What better home for all your archive notes, then a nice custom binder.

You should put all your material in one place, so put the DVD you burned in a binder sleeve, in your binder.  This way everything is one place for you to find.

Lessons Learned

The Epic campaign is a large undertaking.  It is a lot of work and when it reaches its planned completion, you deserve it to yourself and your players to give it a proper ending, by delivering a final session, where you wrap up your plotlines, then to create a Epilogue to give the game closure, and finally to archive your notes so that you can find it all years later when you want to re-live your glory.

About  Phil Vecchione

A gamer for 30 years, Phil cut his teeth on Moldvay D&D and has tried to run everything else since then. He has had the fortune to be gaming with the same group for almost 20 years. When not blogging or writing RPG books, Phil is a husband, father, and project manager. More about Phil.



3 Responses to Lessons From The Long Campaign: Wrapping It Up

  1. Have you ever archived a previous game before and gone back to it? Did you enjoy flipping through the notes later?

    Why are you keeping two copies of everything (one print, one electronic)? Is that so you can enjoy paging through your notes casually (paper), but copy them back into active format for further work another day (electronic)?

    Sounds like you knocked it out of the park– it sounds well worth looking back on some future day.

  2. I have started using Microsoft OneNote on my tablet PC for everything. I used to hate using a laptop at the table, because I’m in IT and I liked the game being my mental break from technology. Yet Kurt and others made such compelling arguments for using laptops that now I’m hooked on it.

    Back to the point, with OneNote I’m able to keep all of my game related materials (planning, prep, music playlists, audio recordings of the sessions, etc.) all in one spot. It makes archiving and referencing prior sessions incredibly easy.

    Now I just need to take my 4e group to 30th level so that I can follow the rest of Phil’s advice!

  3. @Scott Martin – For this campaign, I wrote a recap at the beginning of every adventure. I then put these all together in a series of wiki pages, so that now, I have a chronicle of the whole campaign. My intention was to print it out and put it up on my game shelf, next to my rule books, so that on those rainy days, I can sit back and flip through them.

    The electronic format, is so that I can archive every file, image, map that I created during the game, in one place. If I tried to put all my notes for the game into the binder, it would be huge.

    As for Patrick– I have become a big fan of OneNote recently. My Iron Heroes game was written in a series of TiddlyWiki’s, but I have now given that up, and moved on to OneNote.

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