And as the curtain closes upon our heroes, there is a wailing in the distance…
Closing an RPG session is part art, part science, and part plain old intuition informed by experience.
Back in the day, we closed out a session if the dungeon was cleared, or if everyone’s characters were dead, or if was time for Andy to go home. Maybe it was bedtime or time to do homework, maybe we got to the part where the GM had no idea what was south, but that’s where we were headed, and they wanted to prepare rather than improvise.
All of these prompts to close out a session of gaming are still valid. Adults have bedtimes and responsibilities, and some of us are dreadfully uncomfortable improvising. Life & external considerations have a nasty habit of interrupting our fun.
However, just because there’s time left o we feel up to continuing doesn’t mean it’s not better to bring an RPG session to a close. In our The Sky is no Limit campaign of Leagues of Adventure, we nominally have a 4 hour window in which to play. We never use up all of that time. Inevitably the game will close on a cliffhanger. Heck, it’s pulp heroics – it’s supposed to end on cliffhangers. Anthony always seems to find a good spot in the middle of the action to bring the curtain down “until next time”. I’ve actually gotten pretty good predicting when he will do it. Being in synch like this is a good sign, as it means we are reading the genre similarly.
That said, games that aren’t pulp benefit from ending on moments of tension as well. I’ve often made the mistake of ending on a point of resolution, and the effect isn’t the same. It’s like exhaling, pushing your empty plate away, and laying down on the couch for a nap.
Instead, closing the session on a natural moment of drama or tension or uncertainty is like holding your breath, leaning forward in anticipation, hearing that sudden noise behind you, and having time stop as you release the ball all at once.
Makes you want to come to the nest session, doesn’t it?