The End of the Road…

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 | Gaming

…in which I talk about the end of an Adventure!

So this past weekend, after several weeks of missed sessions due to chaotic schedules, health issues, and other unpredictable interruptions, we finally wrapped up the final storyline in my most recently run role playing game. The end of a game always feels kind of strange to me, with mixed feelings of accomplished satisfaction and confused disorientation. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m running the game or playing, whenever we get to the final climactic scene, it just always feels like I’m anticipating the next step.

Running the game.

You see, even though games are inherently story based, I have always seen them as epic sagas that have no fixed end. The characters have no expiration date and thus there is always another story around the corner. Unfortunately, realistically, you can’t run a game forever. There has to be an end to the story, even if everyone walks away safe and sound. So even with weeks – nay, months – of preparation to create a very climactic and conclusory ending, I still had a hard time just closing the book on the story. I am mentally bombarded with the urge to add epilogue after epilogue, Return of the King style. I had to bite my tongue from starting right back up with the next scene, and the next after that. I wanted a feeling of finality… while still leaving a bit left hanging for potential “sequels.”

I think that’s another important trick, for me, that spawns from being a player. After months, or even years, of playing the same character, you find yourself attached to them, and no matter what the likelihood, you always want to feel like there’s a chance that you might pick that character back up again, some time in the future. I’ve got folders full of characters that will probably never see the light of day again, but they’re all in there, waiting like they’re in some kind of suspended animation. In my mind, I know that we’ll never play them again, that they’re gone and forgotten from their imagined lives and their imagined worlds, but my heart holds on to them. You can’t watch a game in reruns, you can’t buy the collector’s edition of the game on DVD, so all you have are characters and notes left over from hours and hours of play.

Even if I did pick one of them back up, I know it wouldn’t be the same. Not all the same players are around, the characters and game systems have changed, the magic of their moments have faded. Trying to play those ghosts of the past would be like trying to recreate a moment from childhood, and garner all of the same infantile ecstasy from it. The joy of something increases with the loss of memory – it’s how we create the “good old times” for ourselves. We remember the good bits and gloss over the bad. The jokes and anecdotes that made the game great stick in your mind, while the boring bits between fall through the cracks.

So as I wrapped up the game, this past weekend, I knew that the chance that I would run another story for these characters was slim, but I wanted to leave hope. Hope for myself, for my players, and for the characters that were about to be sealed in their cardboard coffins, stored away with the others, waiting to come back and have the dice of fate rolled over them once again. The characters, even to the end were still so full of life, that I couldn’t just wipe that all away by saying “The End.”

Hathaway Brown finally got his dogfight, and in the end, defied death only to stand side by side with his team once more. Doctor Walter Farnsworth laid out the villainous masses with his fists of victory, knocking mooks left and right as the fate of the world hung in the balance. Lance Masterson reached into his own past, seeking the help of his lost brother, to stabilize a seriously unstable plot that threatened the safety of millions of innocent people. Doctor Oswald Farnsworth combined science and fiction to undo the maniacal machinations of the Pendulate Dodeca, an organization bent on bringing mass chaos through the reaches of time itself. Trixie MacAnally, PhD used her knowledge of the past and the passage of time to crack the secrets of the future, only to be shunted into a mysterious future of her own. And all the while, John Bollinger covered the exit, because his player was sick.

These characters succeeded in their mission, they saved the world, they survived to continue on. The Crichton Club still stands, poised for further adventure, but I can’t promise that I’ll ever run them again. Like my mausoleum of past characters, the game itself is interred into an unpredictable future along with several other epics that I’ve run in the past. In my closet I have boxes of old player’s notebooks, manilla envelopes stuffed with notes from past adventures, and maps of places never to see the light of day again, but I can’t get rid of them.

In recent years I’ve gotten much better about purging the useless and pointless things from my life and my house, but these things are destined to live on, forever. I’ve kicked myself for having lost or destroyed character notes that I all of a sudden “needed” to see again. I have a fear that years from now, if I don’t keep these relics, that I will want them and miss them, to the point of tearing apart the house looking for what is gone. I still lament some of my “greatest hits” of character backgrounds, that to this day, remain lost.

So as I lay another story to bed, I am thankful that so much of our gaming, these days, is digital and is stored in the cloud. So long as that storage space exists in the ether, this history of this game will live, and I will be able to recall it. Maybe it’s time to do the same for the others that are archived in the closet. Like the ancestors that have been disinterred to be stored more ceremoniously in porcelain pots, it is time migrate my dead to a better place. I foresee a lot of scanning in my future.

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November 2011