Behind the Screen: Handling Victory…

2007 October 15
by Dante

Today I’d like to explore a topic that I feel very strongly about: handling victory in your campaigns. In this case, I’d like to look at the Big Victories that encompass the major plot lines that make up a game.

The Written Endgame

For me, it doesn’t exist. In my mind, the least engaging possible end story takes place when the players are forced to listen to a derived dissertation on what happens to their characters after the main objective is reach.

Instead of writing a long speech to deliver, I often opt for a few bullet points that contain the main talking points as they relate to the NPCs or the plot elements within my control. I make NO effort to assume anything about how the player characters will react to attaining their goal, because I have found that 95% of attempts made by the GM to fill in the rest of the storyline for the player characters leave the players themselves dismally unfulfilled.

The Collaborative Endgame

My process usually involves explaining the victory scenario: the evil wizard dies, the horrible army of the damned gets turned away, the ominous clouds part and light returns, etc. After that point, I set a general expectation about how the rest of the world will react to the bad things being eliminated and let the players tell me what will happen with their characters.

If the campaign itself is at a close, I usually roleplay some of the celebratory steps such as the homecoming, any lingering NPC interactions, and I let the players tell me a little about what will happen to their characters in the next months and years. In my most successful campaign, we adjourned after the characters returned home and I had them give a week’s worth of thought to what happened to their characters and we reconvened the following week and went around the table sharing what became of their hero.

If the campaign is to continue, I usually do most of the same steps however I ensure that they have some time to spend adjusting to being a hero. They may be allowed to spend any reward they may have received, collect their accolades and kudos, and outfit themselves in a state befitting their heroism. Barring that, everything else happens as naturally as possible and the game continues.

Make sure it is all about your players and their characters

My final advice to you on how to handle victory is simply that: make sure its all about the PCs and their players. Let them feel the victory for what they have completed.

Don’t make it about the city they saved or the royal family whose daughter the party just rescued. Make the characters and their players feel special for having survived the Terrible Onslaught.

If you do this right, the first question you will have to field after closing your books for the night will be an excited “when can we play again?” That is one of many ways I measure my own victory as a DM.

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