So, a couple of weeks ago, my friend Michael wrapped up a campaign that had been running for a number of years ((About eight years, in fact. We started shortly after the first Iron Kingdoms books came out.)). It was set in the Iron Kingdoms, which world really had Michael pumped to run a game.
I will admit that, after reading the game books, I wasn’t all that impressed with the world, but I figured I’d give it a try. I had some problems with the whole steampunk ((No, you won’t persuade me that IK is not steampunk. No, you won’t persuade me that steampunk is cool.)) thing, and I didn’t much care for some of the rule changes that had been made to de-emphasize non-mechanical magic and emphasize fighters, rogues, and mechanical magic.
On the other hand, I quite liked their take on elves, for example, and the way they made non-human races quite rare in comparison to all the different flavours of humans. And I tend to enjoy the games Michael runs, so I opted in.
And thus Ladimir Csabor was created.
Ladimir started out as a very basic soldier, with some good general weapon skills both for ranged and hand-to-hand. He was a former sergeant, and thus had some experience making people do what he wanted them to. He was also the old man of the group. Over time, he turned intoLadimir Csabor, Man of ACTION! I boosted a lot of his physical skills to let him pull off interesting stunts in combat ((Things like leaping over opponents, swinging on chandeliers, and, in one memorable scene, charging his horse up a wooden ziggurat to disrupt a ghostly sacrifice.)), many of which were rather surprising, given his massive size.
The campaign wound down at one point, when we had completed the initial mission we had banded together for ((The group was made of characters from several different nations – some of them almost at war – so we needed strong reasons not to shoot each other. It almost happened a couple of times, anyway. The shooting each other thing, I mean.)), but restarted after a hiatus to move us into a second, then third phase of the campaign.
And then, near the end of the third phase, we trailed off. Sessions became less frequent, until it seemed like the game had died. It was less than ideal, but that’s the way it goes sometimes with games. Interest wanes – either in the players or the GM ((Sometimes both.)) – and the game just dies.
But Michael didn’t want to let things end that way, so he scheduled one more session to wrap everything up. I thought it was a good idea, but I worried about how he’d pull it off. No sleight is meant to Michael; it’s just that the inertia of a stopped game is hard to overcome. It’s tough to get people back into character after too long, tough to make them care about the game again, and tough to wrap things up in a way that makes it feel worthwhile.
Man, did he come through.
He got us back into character and caring about things through a quick, interactive recap of events up to this point. He let us roleplay for a little while, fleshing out plans, but didn’t let us get mired down over-anazlyzing the situation ((I don’t know about your group, but my friends and I can create more problems for ourselves through overplanning than the GM can conceive of to throw at us.)). He got us into some wonderful cinematic action that moved fast and kept us on the edge of our seats. He gave us the victory we fought for ((I really didn’t think Ladimir would survive the final battle. He did, but it was a near thing.)).
And then he did something that was absolute genius, as far as I’m concerned. He gave us each three poker chips, and had us use them to narrate the end of our characters’ stories, a la Fiasco. I wouldn’t have thought of it, myself, and it worked gloriously.
So, I got to tell the tale of Ladimir returning to his family’s farm, taking his place among the uncles working there, turning into a crotchety old man, and finally dying and being laid to rest.
It was awesome.
So, thank you, Michael for the game. I may not have liked the world, but I really enjoyed the game. And thanks for showing me how to end a game properly.
What are you running next?