On Endings

Griffin McElroy, a (possibly inadvertent) font of wisdom, said it so well: “exits are not made equal.” This, too, is true of endings. They are not all the same; some are satisfying and many are not. Some leave unanswered questions in a way that engages us and makes us think while others just leave us wanting.

I am now faced with an ending that has been about a year in the making. I first conceived my mini-campaign, The Scion Chronicles, in early spring of 2017 while driving home to visit my father and dying mother. Turning on the voice recording app on my phone and just brainstorming out loud on a somber drive was a welcome distraction. I spat out the outline of the first three chapters during one long bout of traffic on I-95 and then clung to the idea with a sort of manic hope that I could make something of it.

A month or two later, I brought some beers over to a friend’s house and spend the evening with him and fiancee before asking him for a favor: could I run a game in the tabletop system that he and some friends had designed a few years back? He was more than happy to help me with any rules questions and we were both excited for him to get to be a player in the world that he’d lovingly built.

I’d say we (five of us including myself) played every month to month-and-a-half thanks to some irregular schedules, but we still never let the game fall by the wayside. I’ve been in too many gaming groups that died because it was too hard to get everyone to the table regularly – but this was, luckily, not fated to go gentle into that good night of gaming oblivion.

In a little over a week, I’m running the final chapter in my game. As with every chapter, I am more than a little nervous to put myself out there and orchestrate an enjoyable and emotionally fulfilling evening for my friends. The GM of any game is no stranger to this kind of pressure. As the day of the game grows closer, I feel it very keenly. I think I’m as prepared as I can be for the final confrontation and an epilogue for my players, but as with any game, you never really know how things are going to go in any given session.

And that’s part of the magic, isn’t it? The collaborative storytelling? It’s such a powerful shared experience to have with a group of people and being the one to facilitate it this time around has changed me and changed the way I think about narrative fiction.

Our group has already discussed moving on to a new game and a new campaign when this one is over. I’ll only be playing this time, which is more than a little bittersweet. I won’t be feeling that heavy pressure in my chest, screaming at me to make sure everything is perfect, but I daresay I’ll miss GMing something I’ve spent so much time crafting. At the same time, I’m more than ready to hand the reins over to someone else. For now.

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