Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Shadoworld: Loose Ends

The original Shadoworld logo, built long before I knew
how to make logos.
I am the Warden!!

These past couple of days have been remarkably emotional for me as I pour over all my old Shadoworld notes to compile everything for Shadoworld: The Finale. And it's been amazing and refreshing how much I can still remember with just a single name, reaffirming once again that my RPG design work has helped me regain confidence in my cognitive functions. After reviewing everything I have, a checklist of concrete plot points for this final adventure stand at the ready.

But I'm not writing about those individual points because my players read this blog and most of that checklist revolves around the revelation I call The Answer, the truth about why everything happened in the campaign. The Answer has existed since before designing the first encounter of the first adventure nearly 10 years ago and has only been tweaked here and there to account for new details, new PCs, and sudden moments of awesomeness waking me up at 4 in the morning.

My point being the entire campaign has been about revealing The Answer. So why am I still unwilling to write it down for the purpose of telling it to the players?

Stories Are Like Children
I've always struggled with endings, not because I don't know how to get there, but because I'm reluctant to jot them down. I've always thought it was because I'm an improv GM - just give me the plot points, NPCs, and battlemaps, and I'll take it from there to keep the energy fresh. Writing down the ending seemed too forced and the players may end up going into a completely different direction from what I've written down. This feels like something entirely different.

I've never written down The Answer. Ever. It's remained in my head and thankfully wasn't lost when my head smashed into the steering wheel. And The Answer isn't even the end of the campaign, it's the launching point for the end. Yet for the past two days, I've been truly struggling to write it all down. I find myself skeptical about everything, doubting the story I've been working on for a decade. Not because it's flawed, but because I don't want the campaign to end.

I don't have kids, but it seems to me I'm treating my work like children and cannot let them go off into the world as adults. Like I said, it's been incredibly emotional. Not that I've actually been crying or anything, just highly reflective and sentimental about the campaign. By writing the conclusion of this massive endeavor - the largest campaign I've ever worked on - I'm saying goodbye to ten years of time spent in front of the computer, long walks deep in thought, and countless hours spent unveiling at the table.

The End = Purpose
Probably not a healthy reaction, I'm sure. I spent the majority of last night tossing and turning, lying awake in bed reflecting and pondering. And I keep coming back to a terrifying fact: The Answer could have been buried with me. If that accident had gone sour, the end of Shadoworld would never come to pass and the campaign would remain as nothing but a series of tormenting adventures leading nowhere. Without The Answer, everything my players have gone through - floating adrift at sea on nothing but an overturned wagon, being hunted by Horrors of all shapes and sizes, laying siege to the Shattered Tower, getting a doppleganger pregnant (yeah, that's right), and spending weeks strapped to the machinations of a torturous pit fiend would be nothing but a collection of random memories.

That's when it hit me. The Answer gives everything meaning. Purpose. Without it, everything the players went through means nothing. The Answer and the conclusion of every story packages everything into a cohesive whole, allowing the player to stand back and feel the same sense of accomplishment you get with finishing a good book. Without it, the story is nothing more than an attempt at writing. Without it, I'm just a hack.

Brew some coffee, my boy. It's time to write an ending.