Hey, space adventurers!
Hm, no, that doesn’t sound right. Let’s try this again.
Hello and welcome to the last entry in The Force Does Not Throw Dice, my extremely inconsistent ETE series about roleplaying in the Galaxy Far, Far Away! We’ve had a long run, and even if that run was primarily nothing but empty space, I hope this little corner gave you some food for thought. I hope it helped you decide to jump into the wonderful world of tabletop roleplaying or, if you were already part of it, that it gave you a few useful ideas.
So what’s this final entry going to be about? Something very appropriate as this website approaches the end of its life. Today, we will discuss how to gracefully end the campaign you’ve been running for the last months or years. Fasten your seatbelts, my dears. We are going in.
Actually getting to that grand finale
As it’s tradition, here’s a confession: I’ve had really, really bad experiences finishing campaigns. I’ve run long games that have fizzled out in the last two or three adventures and never reached the final one. It’s very frustrating, and you don’t want that to happen to you. Why did it happen to me? Well, I’ve done a lot of thinking on this and realized that I took for granted that my players were looking forward to the excitement of the grand finale, to the point that I assumed they were in for the whole ride and forgot to maintain the momentum.
So you should make sure you keep your people invested in the campaign as you start wrapping things up. Remember that they can’t see behind the screen, and even if you know the finale is close, they don’t necessarily feel it. So keep providing them with new challenges and meaningful character development. Remember that Breaking Bad‘s most-loved episode was not the last one but the third-to-last, “Ozymandias”.
The mise en place
Getting to your campaign’s endgame phase several adventures before the grand finale would be best. How do you maintain momentum during these final sessions? You need to provide the players with a sense of purpose and direction. Think of the Rebel gathering before Endor, of how Mon Mothma and Ackbar clearly explained the necessary steps to destroy the Death Star and finish the Emperor.
Those last few adventures are the right time to start streamlining your narrative. Identify any unnecessary plot tangents and carefully do away with them. Again: think of Return of the Jedi and how it devoted a significant chunk of its length to Han Solo’s rescue. You have to start focusing on the key story elements and show the final objective, breaking it into smaller tasks to keep your players focused and motivated. Has your whole campaign been about locating the Supercluster Eviscerator and saving the New Republic? This is where your players finally discover its location and get a task list of everything that needs to be done before it can be destroyed.
Don’t let the campaign devolve into planning sessions, though. Keep a high-energy atmosphere and keep your players emotionally engaged by allowing small moments of reflection. Have their bounty hunter nemesis show up and kidnap the slicer who knows how to crack open the Eviscerator’s defense screen, then have their favorite NPC show up and confess their love for them. Keep things running, but be careful to avoid cramming too much into any one session. Seeing all storylines come to fruition at once can be exhausting, and some players will start checking out if the storytelling is too dense. It’s not an easy line to walk, but by this point, you’ve run a whole campaign: you will know how to do it.
Bring back important NPCs, locations, or unresolved storylines from earlier in the campaign. This ties up loose ends and reinforces the sense of a cohesive and interconnected narrative. This may be the last time they will see their favorite Glup Shittos, so remind them why they love them. Let them visit the cantina where they first met. If their first mission involved rescuing a senator, bring that senator back for an adventure. Revisiting familiar elements allows players to see how their actions and decisions have shaped the course of events and brings a sense of fulfillment to their journey.
Once you’re well into the endgame, it’s time to set the stage for your final confrontation. Build anticipation for the final session by dropping hints and foreshadowing what’s coming. The Eviscerator fires upon a planet they know well! Rumors say their old enemy Lord Insanius has received a new mission from the Emperor! You must make your players curious and eager to get to the end. If you’ve decided to end the campaign with a twist, it’s time to start providing hints and clues about that final twist.
Start elevating the stakes: what used to involve saving villages now becomes saving whole planets. Take time to identify the key story arcs that have unfolded throughout the campaign and ensure they receive proper resolution. Take stock of the major plotlines, character motivations, and unresolved mysteries. Determine which arcs are most significant to the overarching narrative and focus on providing closure for those while allowing others to remain as tantalizing mysteries that can spark the imagination of the players even after the campaign ends. Not everything needs to end with a nice bow on it! Sometimes you only find who Sifo-Dyas was in a cartoon one decade after the campaign finale!
Somehow, the campaign has reached its end
And one day, before you know it, you will be ready for the final adventure. All secondary storylines will have been either concluded or discarded. Your players will be chomping at the bit, looking forward to that final chance for their characters to shine. Well, it’s your time to shine too.
This is Star Wars. Things tend to end in epic battles that showcase the culmination of galactic conflicts. Whether it’s a climactic lightsaber duel on a lava pit, a space battle against overwhelming odds, or a showdown with an immortal Sith Lord, the stakes are always high, and the action is always intense. Why wouldn’t you try to give your players that experience?
“Don’t split the party” is a typical RPG saying, but it’s a piece of wisdom that usually goes away during the final adventure. Your players will probably be more than happy to go off on their own and face their own ultimate obstacles: the pilots will want to be behind their starfighter’s throttles, and the Jedi will want to face destiny lightsaber in hand. This is perfectly fine! It will probably mean your final adventure will spill into several sessions, but if there’s a time to be willing to let an adventure play out, this is it.
Use every trick that you’ve learned during your time running the game. You want thrilling combat encounters that push the players’ characters to their very limits. Go ham! Create a cinematic experience by incorporating descriptive language, vivid imagery, and immersive sound effects! PYEW PYEW PYEW! KRAKA-BOOM! Show them that you mean it! This is the money shot! Engage all your players’ senses to transport them into the Galaxy Far, Far Away and make the final adventure memorable.
And what about plot twists? This is Star Wars, after all! Yes, they are undoubtedly overused, but as another RPG saying goes, your job is to be entertaining, not original. A mind-bending plot twist will always leave a lasting impression on my players. I still get nostalgic comments on an old D&D game of mine where the Big Bad Guy was revealed to be a character one of my players had run for two days and then discarded four years earlier! Well-done revelations can take your players by surprise. Whether it’s discovering that their secret intelligence source was Lord Insanius’s apprentice, that their trusted officer has always been working for Crimson Dawn, or that the Supercluster Eviscerator is not a superlaser but a time machine, a well-executed plot twist can add an extra layer of excitement. So don’t be shy.
And finally, Star Wars endings are always emotional. It doesn’t matter that Lord Insanius is the most powerful opponent they’ve ever fought if they don’t care that much about him. Be careful to provide opportunities for genuine and meaningful character interactions as the campaign draws to a close. As it’s easy to lose track of this when the action is intense, I will sometimes keep them on a Post-It by my side: “Remember that Lord Insanius killed Kevin’s mother, so have him gloat about it,” or “Remember that Kevin’s father abandoned him, so let him find out that Lord Insanius’s father did the same thing.”
And as this is the final game, make sure that all individual character endings honor the growth and development of each player character. If the smuggler started the campaign as an amoral Black Sun douchebag but became a staunch Rebel soldier by the fourth month of play, give him a chance to openly say “no” to his former allies. This is the ideal time to overcome their inner demons, make the selfless sacrifices they may have been looking for, or definitively embrace their newfound purpose. Give each character a chance to shine and leave a lasting impact on the galaxy. If they are fatally wounded, allow them to express their character’s final words, sentiments, or farewells to the companions they’ve fought alongside. This can be an emotionally-charged moment that resonates with everyone at the table. And isn’t that what you want?
The actual end
There’s no formula for closing your final session, but I like to finish my campaigns with a touching description and then give the players the mic. I will, for example, end the game with an NPC hearing about the heroes’ victories and sacrifices, mumbling about how things have changed, adding a final cute twist (that beloved minor NPC is actually alive!), and then fading to black. I prefer to end my part like The Last Jedi rather than Return of the Jedi, so to speak, and then I like to give everyone a chance to finish their stories.
In any case, the end of a campaign is the perfect time to honor your players and their characters. If they don’t seem the type to get on the stage, consider crafting epilogues for each character, describing their future enterprises and the impact they have left on the galaxy. This will give your players a sense of closure and lets them say a fond farewell to their beloved characters.
Then, it’s time to breathe. You are done! And it’s been beautiful! I like to finish the last session by just chatting. Open some snacks and drinks. Encourage your players to share their favorite moments and memories. Consider creating a shared online repository for campaign lore, stories, and fan contributions. You might even inspire others to start their own Star War; who knows! But hey: you’ve done it. You can be proud of yourself. I know I am proud of you.
So long suckers!
It’s been my privilege to share with you this hobby that I love so dearly. I hope you know that no matter who you are, where you are from, or what you identify as you always have a place at the table. That you are more than welcome: that you are necessary. For this hobby to survive, it needs your perspective, your experience, and your point of view. It needs you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Before we say goodbye forever, I have to thank M. Dean Cooper, the massive dork behind this website since day one. Thank you for trusting in me, for not kicking me to the curb when it became clear I didn’t have more to say about Star Wars, and for being a good friend. If you ever again decide to do something as crazy as this site, count me in.
And to you, dear readers, thank you for being there. Until next time!