2005-02-04 : Archive 168


Endgames for games without defined endgames


Well, you know what I think already. I think that a protagonist starts at a turning point and ends in a static situation. When you land at last in a static situation, that's your endgame. If you want to keep playing that character, you need a new kicker, a new turning point.

Ron talks - especially in Zero at the Bone (that's a pdf link) - about bringing all the characters to crisis at the same time. He has a word for it, I forget. But isn't it cute how "crisis" and "climax" are the same thing?

Does the Mountain Witch has endgame rules, or just "eventually you win to the Mountain Witch"? I didn't notice any rule changes but friend it was 5:00am by then and I wouldn't'a. Nevertheless, we all came to crisis at once. Except you (Keith) and Clinton, that is. And Rob! So never mind. Only some of us came to crisis at once.

Each town in Dogs has sort of an endgame. There's a point where it's clear - I say it out loud if people don't seem to have noticed - that the town's whole grief is revealed, and now what do we do about it?

So, yes, rambling, but there are my thoughts. An endgame in the kind of game I'm talking about is the same thing as an end to the story. Even if you don't have endgame rules, your stories will still end.

1. On 2005-02-04, Matt said:

Hmm. Even D&D, from that perspective, has defined endgames. You're done exploring the map, and you killed the last goblin. The end. They're just hardly focused on the characters at all.

Character endgame. That's a whole different sort of thing.


2. On 2005-02-04, Ben Lehman said:

Hey, Matt—

I will note that while "even D&D" has a number of endgame points (hey, tactical endgame is very important for Gamist play, and a 20th level character endgame is necessary for the strategy), a lot of other games don't. What's the endgame in GURPS?

D&D is better designed that a lot of people give it credit for.

yrs——Ben (still waving the same damn flag)


3. On 2005-02-04, Eric Finley said:

(Skipping the D&D thing)

This implies to me that it's all about the clarity. Dogs may not have endgame mechanics but that point in the town is clear, distinct, and play changes when you hit it.

This may connect to how poorly many texts (say, a WW one) define the unit of play that is "a story". Because, there, play doesn't really change much when you hit endgame; endgame is 100% emergent from the GM's inventions, 0% emergent from the rulebook and manner of play.

If a character hits a static point but we have to squint to see that, it's an endgame of the sort Vincent is discussing... but it's a poorly defined one.


4. On 2005-02-04, Emily Care said:

It's also about flow and escalation. What happens during an endgame is that all of the resources available to the protagonist have been mobilized, and the stakes have been sent sky high. In many action films, the buddy gets killed just before this hits—sending the hero into a towering rage that brings them to the point of being able to bring the story to it's end, killing the antagonist.

A protagonist is a character set into motion. The story ends when the motivation to move gets resolved. What's needed is not so much for things to happen once you're in endgame, as to have things to get you to the state of endgame.

Look at MLwM: once endgame gets triggered, the game literally ends. In Dogs, what makes the endgame possible is in the town creation plus the GM's adversity. What was most important was the players actions throughout that pushed the situation closer and closer to the edge.

Another issue here is getting everybody to climax together, or not. In tMW, the fates intertwine and probably depend on one another, so you could have a domino effect. In Primetime Adventures, the exploration of the characters' issues are part of the explicit pacing of the game. Each character's 3 spotlight episode is an opportunity for them to resolve their issue. End story, begin new one. Though it could happen at any time.

But Matt's right, character endgame is a different thing than overall story endgame. If it's character, it will overlap with other characters stories and can have a completely different arc structure (look at PtA) And then you want it to end that story but pick right up with another new conflict. Wash, rinse, repeat.


5. On 2005-02-04, Chris said:

Let's not forget the value of focusing situation in any game either. PTA, Sorcerer, and MLWM make it a mechanical thing, while D&D, Dogs, and Dread make it the expected scenario. Still, most other games leave it so open, you have to have a grasp on situation building to make it fly.


6. On 2005-02-04, Vincent said:

Hold the phone. I've just received a mental monkey thought straight from the deadly mental monkey mind!

The game in question has endgame rules ("when this and such happens, you enter endgame; the rules now are thus and so") but does not have a defined endgame ("master dies" or "we kill the Mountain Witch").

Double yeah. That's a thing to think about.

(Read this. Giant Floating Monkey Head commands it.)


7. On 2005-02-04, Vincent said:

Keith, also: did you coin the phrase "One and Done"? It's good.


8. On 2005-02-04, Dumb Monkey said:

Which game in question? Monkey not know!


9. On 2005-02-04, Vincent said:

Y'know, any game in question. Some yet nonexistant game. Maybe my game ... uh ... No Kings' Men.

What if?


10. On 2005-02-04, Chris said:

Vincent, you're going to have to nail that down for me a bit better...Are you talking about a game where the rules shift, but there's no situation basis? If so, is there an end to the end game? Or is it simply, hey, now the rules are different?


11. On 2005-02-04, Ben Lehman said:

I have to stop harping on my game so much, but Polaris does that, I think. Not so much anymore, but there was a point in the game where making the switch over the Veteran changed the rules rather dramatically: This is the endgame. Yet, there isn't totally a decided fate—death, triumph, betrayal and retirement are all options, although the game loves you for you to go with betrayal.

Those changes in rules might come back soon. Huh.


12. On 2005-02-04, Vincent said:

Well, okay, so what if ...

"Once every character has a Drive at 4 or higher, the rules change. Now we're in endgame. From here until the end of the game, you can't accumulate more Drive; instead, those points become dice the GM rolls against you. Furthermore, if your Determination is Grim or Stalwart, it doubles; if it's Half-ass or Faltering, it halves."

No direct reference to situation whatsoever.


13. On 2005-02-04, Keith, Goat Master said:

Vincent: Keith, also: did you coin the phrase "One and Done"? It's good.

I don't know. When I was talking with Tim on our long ass ride I kept using the term to describe the type of game tMW is. It may have been my invention...

I have to agree though that character endgame and story endgame are kinda separate but equal entities that sometimes occur simultaneously (like you guys in tMW).


14. On 2005-02-04, Meguey said:

Hooray for the Monkey Mind! I think that's great, Vincent. It creates an open-ended endgame. Hee.


15. On 2005-02-04, Matt said:

One of my comments got eaten! Sad. Me try again.

Have you looked at "With Great Power?" Play sort of works like that, but without a specific turning point. It's more of an in-stages kind of thing. You start out with the odds against you, but you can willingly fail at conflicts in order to slowly shift the odds.

I was thinking about doing a sort of "thermometer" thing in Galactic, where your actions in play add to this pool or whatever, and when the thing reaches a certain amount, then that triggers certain events or rules changes.


16. On 2005-02-05, Clinton R. Nixon said:

First, that monkey thing is fantastic!

Endgames intrigue me so much. I'm getting the thought that you can nail down situation or mechanics, but nailing down both would be, well, boring.

I tried real hard with TSOY to make an interesting endgame, but I haven't gotten a lot of actual play with it yet. It seems too simple to be neat looking back, but maybe it's just too simple to be clever and I'm confusing the two.


17. On 2005-02-05, Matt said:

dude, transcendence is totally endgame. It's endgame for one.


18. On 2005-02-05, Matt said:

and what I meant to add to that is: and that's cool and original. It's the counterpart to Sorcerer's "endgame because bad."


19. On 2005-02-05, Judd said:

Transcendence is neat because it is one character's end-game but it leaves the rest of the game irrevocably different. It allows a player to change their world and leave their mark. That'll no doubt make th game world more interesting for future games with the rest of the PC's. Interesting stuff.

Dogs' endgame to me seems like the time when the Dogs have everyone they need wrassled up and its time to lay down judgement. I try to give them the town's grief as soon as humanly possible, running screaming away from any kind of mystery game.

I want that moment where they are set to render judgement and the whole situation is mroe complicated and rough than they had first envisioned. Its glorious because everyone's always troubled with the final outcome. I love that ride out into th sunset with troubled Watchdogs looking back over their shoulders and wondering if they dont right.


20. On 2005-02-09, Dav said:

Perhaps it is that I have become disenchanted with the runaround of most games, but I have come to a point where I only play games with a definite endgame in mind. I'm not particularly interested any longer, in the "long-hard road to nowhere" that is implied by many rpg's.

I think that, similar to politics, once you "get it", a lot of the standard "my cool and different character is X" loses something, but the "I'm going to die by fire (or X)" becomes something of a neat concept...

The "why?" and "how?" become very interesting.

After all, a hero isn't made by surviving the legend.


21. On 2005-02-11, Vincent said:

Dav: yes!


22. On 2005-03-08, Jasper said:

I'm coming in a bit late here. But I thought I'd mention that Trials of the Grail has this kind of endgame that you play through. Just like in Vincent's example, there are precise requirements for hitting the "final trials" (your characters haev enough wisdom, have reached their potential, etc.) Then conflict resolution and point-exchanges start working differently.

The only thing is, you can fail at it, and potentially go on and keep playing (if you want) so then it's sort of a mid-story escalation/de-escalation. I think it still counts though.



23. On 2005-03-08, Jasper McChesney said:

BTW, I'm Jasper McChesney, not Polane.