Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

Good Game Gone Long

Started by David B. Goode, December 24, 2007, 06:23:17 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

David B. Goode

So, I've been running a super-hero game for about a year and a half. It started as a filler game when a player was absent and became the favorite campaign of our gaming group.

A few months ago, we built to this amazing place in the story of heart-ache and betrayal that built to this incredible climax. I said to the players, "You know, maybe we should retire these guys."

"NO!" was the response. So, I went to the computer. Shakespeare and Dragons had some wonderful advice about running high-level campaigns, so I took it, and came up with more - very quality story-stuff.

We've run for three or four sessions, but now I'm getting complaints. "You know, maybe we should retire these guys," my players say. Maybe they're right.

So, I've decided to close the campaign this week - at least for a while. We'll tie off "the Zombies Take Manhattan." I'm thinking of using the normally abhorred deus ex machina, but using a very Narnian Santa Clausto keep it seasonal.
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." ~Gandalf the Grey

Looking for play-testers for my OGL d20 Super-Fantasy Power System at

Matt Snyder

Hi, David. This is interesting to me. I've been in similar situations -- games that were fantastic! Games where the players were so enamored of their characters that they resisted parting with them, despite the pretty clear signs that their "stories" were "over."

So! I'd like to hear about what happend among the actual people playing the game as that great climax built. What happened?!? What were the characters like, and what did they do, and (most importantly) why did all the players enjoy this?

And, I'd especially like to hear what happened after all that went down. Why did they later agree that, yeah, probably we should retire these heroes.

Oh! One last question. This game replaced an existing game, right? What happened? Were you the GM of both games? Or, was there someone else running the previous game? Do you think that change from the previous game to this one is a cause for concern? Why or why not?
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra

David B. Goode

Okay, Matt, this is gonna be kind of long winded. I'll try to keep it from being one of those rambling gamer stories.

For years I'd been tinkering around with this "superhero/fantasy" world where I want to set my comics. My wife and I had been paying it as an rpg for a long time, but I could never talk my regular gaming group into stepping away from D&D into something different.

We were playing a Dragolance campaign I'd started, but another dm had taken over. I was at work one day when my wife called to ask how to use the powers system - we were using Mutants & Masterminds combined with d20 Modern. One of the other guys from the group was over and they were looking for a pick-up game. They wanted to run a game in my world when I wasn't even there. I was pretty excited.

Later that weekend everyone was together without me, and one of the other guys rolled-up a character and joined them.

They fell in love with the characters and the world and asked if we could make it our regular campaign. I was ecstatic. It was a d20 game, so I ran them from 3rd to 20th levels with other GMs cycling in for one-shots and such.

The prior game had a fatal flaw that I learned a great deal from. We were trying to run a trilogy of 2nd edition modules in 3rd edition. The characters advanced so fast that they outgrew the adventures. Everyone still loved the characters and story, but challenging them became a huge issue. I caught myself asking the player of the wizard to please not use his teleportation spell to leave the adventure. That didn't seem right.

That experience helped me be ready for the current campaign. A 12th level wizard is tough, but a 12th level superhero?

Our campaign is a modern supers game with lots of fantasy elements. It's the story of renegade agents of the powers of darkness, unified and given a reason to fight for good. The reason is different for each, but given by an old werewolf soldier.

The highest point in the action prior to the actual climax happened when the group went to the middle east to stop the Hashshashin - a secret sect of assassins to whom one of the heroes had once belonged. They discovered that their enemies, who believed themselves to be serving God, were secretly controlled by the campaigns Big Bad. They also found out that their teammate, the one who had been part of the Hashshashin, was still secretly a member, and he used them to take out the leadership and seize control.

This level of betrayal, by probably the most lovable and powerful player character, cut the others deeply. The characters and players were mad. My wife swore like a sailor. I endured many "I hate you, David"s. But everyone agreed it was the most intense game they'd ever played.

They had to go into hiding, as their new nemesis knew everything about them, and had murdered one of the other team-members to prove his loyalty to the Hashshashin.

Soon, world events drew them out again. They were engrossed in a plan to saved the world. They realized a bit late that the actions they were taking were helping a long time enemy, an ancient evil wizard, in his attempt at world conquest and achieving godhood.

The big climax was a very surreal battle with the wizard on the plane of darkness after he had the power of a god, and while trying to stop him and a sea of undead from escaping into the world.

It ended when one of the PCs, who had long ago been the wizards lover when she was a villain, saved him from death, and locked him up in a magical prison.

This irritated the other players, who wanted to see him dead, but again, made for fun role-playing.

It was fun for everyone because the climax included all the players.

The ex-sorceress daughter of Odin had a personal stake with the wizard. She had a romantic past with him, he had placed a curse on her fiancé, and during the final battle he made it clear that he wanted her to rule the world at his side.

The mercury addicted, vivisect cyborg had to deal with the wizard when trying to save the world early in the sl, and had to endure many insults. He was also dealing with his own inner demons at the same time - his mind being a synthesis of two brains, a secondary persona was vying for dominance. This led him to speak to his wife for the first time since his transformation, and learn about the two children he'd left behind.

The newest character, who'd replaced the traitor, was a time-displaced holy-warrior from the old west. His fiancé had been turned into a horse by her father, an evil shaman. They had discovered a loop-hole in the curse which allowed her to return to human form under the full moon, and the two were finally married.

So, where we were after the by climax left one character as a newlywed, another engaged, and the third renewing a relationship with his wife and kids. Everyone was ready for more.

For a session or two they helped clean up after the climactic battle - trying to set the planes right again and return the earth to some kinda normality, and the characters had about two weeks of downtime.

Then Dracula and the Dark Brotherhood of the Dragon (a group of histories most evil people, now all powerful undead) challenging them to a duel at Times Square.

The battle was fun, and everyone was excited, but Dracula escaped, along with a few others, and they learned that the challenge was a ruse to distract them while an undead plague was released onto Manhattan.

They coordinated with the government to rescue the uninfected from the island and corral the zombies into Central Park to destroy them.

That's when the players started mentioning a break. "You know, these guys could really use some downtime." Weddings and honeymoons and time with the kids is what I picked-up on that they wanted. My wife, a great writer, has expressed that this is a natural stopping point for the story.

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." ~Gandalf the Grey

Looking for play-testers for my OGL d20 Super-Fantasy Power System at

Matt Snyder

Hi, David. That sounds fun.

Your wife is right. It is a natural stopping point. Your group appears to have successfully achieved a rewarding group story, and it also appears that they had input and made choices about that story. Good! While there may be other things I'm missing, or just other things you didn't share (which is fine), overall it seems like a great story.

So, what happened is that everyone's story resolved. This is really important. And, in fact, it's often the case among game groups that stories never resolve. They just go on and on until players lose interest, and they start the whole thing over again. Some people may enjoy this. Personally, I don't. I'd much rather my character's stories resolve. It's one of the reasons I like to play.

Now, what I'd caution you to notice is what's going on here in terms of your wife and your friends playing the game. What they are saying, quite rightly, is "Seems like these guys (our characters) need a bit of a break."

And, sure, they're right about that.

But, what they are also implicitly saying is "Ok, I'm satisfied as a player! These stories are finished. This game is coplete. We're going to have to start completely anew to build up anything like that again. I feel like doing is with these characters won't work."

And, that's totally cool for them to say! I take it as a sign that they enjoyed themselves, that they want that story to remain in their minds as resolved (perhaps they've been in games where those stories never resolve, and they don't want to see that experience happen again given it's solid completion already). And, that they're probably interested in doing it all again, but probably with another kind of game or set of characters. Neat!

Let me ask -- was this the first time the group's completed such a nice story arc with such satisfactory resolution?

And, let me also ask, do you think I'm even correct that all or most of the group is indeed really satisfied?

For example, was there anyone one player's character who didn't quite resolve, or possibly any player who was bothered by all the epic plot twists, like "Hey, man! Why do you keep screwing over my character?!? He had that relationship, and then you made it an evil person! I wanted them to be happy!" (Or whatever similar kind of thing.)
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra

David B. Goode

Thanks for the great insights, Matt.

Actually, everyone seems happy with where their characters are, or at least where they are immediately going onto (i.e.: getting married, etc.).

You were dead on. This is the first "ending" we've reached as a group. In fact, the concept of a role-playing game ending is pretty new to me. I mean, it makes sense. Good stories have endings (except the Simpsons, of course).

I've discussed a few times the concept of a "limited run". I think now my players can understand the concept better, and so can I.

Next Friday will be our final game of this story-line. Character-sheets will be tucked away, and new characters will be designed. I'm excited, but I'm kinda sad. Its been a lot of fun,and I'll miss them.
"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." ~Gandalf the Grey

Looking for play-testers for my OGL d20 Super-Fantasy Power System at

Matt Snyder

That's great, David. I can't speak for your group. They have their own preferences. But, if it were me in their "chairs" I'd be very happy with such a game and its completion. Good luck on the next one!
Matt Snyder

"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra