View Full Version : The Big Finale

2014-02-19, 10:22 AM
My current D&D game going on four years is finally reaching its climax, the group are a couple weeks out from facing the Big Bad. So this will be the last dungeon, assuming they win.

Because its the assumptive last session I try to think of a way to make this session feel special and bring the wow factor, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet.

So I look to the playground for inspiration. What are some of the ways you or your GM has brought out the big guns for the final battle and wowed the group?

2014-02-19, 10:30 AM
Tie everything back in. Bring back old allies, reveal the big secrets of the world, give answers. Make the big fight meaningful. Make big things happen in the world. If this is the end, nothing will ever be the same.

2014-02-19, 11:01 AM
Build anticipation, make them salivate, promise a great game and awesome closure.

During the finale, make sure every character has a chance to shine and can feel like he contributed well to the end.

Make the session different. If you don't usually use miniatures, use them. If you don't usually use props, use them. Make it a session not only different in its content, but also in how you played it.

Make it epic. The BBEG should ideally have the time to have his final rant and maybe dying words. And let the PCs do the same. If it feels good, bend the rules a little. There's nothing as unsatisfying as having the final villain auto-decapitate himself because he critically missed or something.

Give the players closure. After the defeat of the villain, let the characters say what they want to do, see the effects of their victory and what their characters will do after it all ends. I played once in one of the greatest campaign I ever played, but as soon as the BBEG was done for, the DM stopped the session. It just left a bitter taste in my mouth. A bad ending to a great game.

2014-02-19, 11:25 AM
Give the players closure.

This is so important. Closure matters a lot, and it depends a lot on your players what exactly they need to get it. Listen to them, ask them. Let them tell their stories, but don't force them if they're happy to watch their character ride into the sunset and then fade to black.

In the one really epic campaign I finished that took as no less than seven years to get through, in the end, all but one of the PCs either sacrificed themselves or were killed in the final confrontation, and in the end I described how the dead heroes souls ascended straight to the paradises of their respective gods (which was kind of a huge thing in the setting because usually, your soul has to wait for quite a while to be judged before being allowed in) and then the player of the surviving character described how he came back from the battlefield, built a monument to his fallen comrades, made sure the body of his fellow mage got transported back to her home to be buried there, and then finally how months later, he had settled in as court mage of the new empress and named his newborn daughter after two of the other PCs, and all that with the best bittersweet piano music I could find playing in the background (the piano version of the X anime theme is a guarantee for tears around the table). It was the greatest ending I could've possibly hoped for, and all the players agreed.

So whatever you do, make it memorable. This can be a lot of things, memorable quotes, your favorite NPC showing up before the final battle to help you or have one last talk, ingame as well as out of game, one player had brought a d20 he bought specificially to make the one decisive last roll and he now keeps in a little bag and said he'd never use it again unless a similarly important situation ever comes up. Little things like that go a long way to make such moments memorable.

Red Fel
2014-02-19, 11:49 AM
Go back over each PC's backstory and his conduct over the course of the game.

Was there anything he wanted to do that he hadn't done yet? Anything magnificently epic, heroic, or just plain cool that he wasn't recognized for? Anything horrible that he should feel guilty about before he embraces the riches in store for him? Take note of all of it.

In confronting the BBEG, have him take a moment to remember each of the PCs. To think about how each of them have wronged him. To mock their weaknesses and loathe their strengths. Use this time, as a DM, to remind the players of the highs and lows of their characters' actions.

If the PC did something truly epic which merited the admiration of others, find a way to bring them in, in spirit if not physically. Did he help save a kingdom? Several of the guards show up to help hold off the encroaching forces while the PCs face the BBEG. Did he lose a loved one? If he fails a save, give her spectral form a chance to appear, smiling to him, to take the hit for him, promising that she'll always be there, always be proud. Did they save a dragon? Dude, dragon.

Once the BBEG is down, as Art and Delta said, give the PCs closure. Start by tying off the loose ends of the plot. Does the BBEG's base collapse? Does the dark god die or is it banished back into the pit? Is the evil relic sealed away again or destroyed? What about the two-faced scheming vizier?

Next, go to each of the players in turn. Remember how you went over their backstories and actions? It's time to give each a retirement party. The farmboy who became a Paladin to save his home? It's time for him to return home to be with his family and loved ones. But as word of his epic deeds spread, supplicants come from around the country to learn acts of heroism from him. Smiling, he teaches them instead to be humble and kind, and offers them work on the farm, which becomes a center of agriculture and faith. The swordsman who sought to master the art of the blade? He realizes that there is simply no-one greater than he to challenge. At first despondent, he considers turning to drink, until he, too, is approached by those wishing to learn. Soon he realizes that there is mastery not only in practice, but in training, and opens a school to pass down the art of perfect swordsmanship. The Wizard? Make him a god or something, it's what they always want and he's practically one anyway.

Is there an Evil PC seeking to descent into Hell and claim devilhood? A great ending can also be a great hook - give them a send-off worthy of a BBEG in the making.

Is there a PC in your party who entered into a relationship? A wedding scene, with some comedy relief and moments of heartwarming, is one of the best ways to end a story.

And so on. Give each one an emotionally fulfilling, gratifying ending. You'll have tears, you'll have laughs, you'll have people talking about your campaign for years to come.

2014-02-19, 12:55 PM

This. I've noticed, during my admittedly brief time on these forums that Red Fel know's what he's talking about.

If you can find the time, having a longer session to include all of these things can help, because it stops the final session from being too rushed. But cram EVERYTHING in. If they forget about the city of Hamsterville and the fact that the Mayor needed their help, WHO CARES? Because they just saved two hundred different villages from a far worse fate. Let everything conclude, but don't force the party through hoops just to make the characters experience it all. Let them choose what they want to focus on by dangling every plot hook that is left unresolved and watch the result. And for the final battle, pull out all the stops.

2014-02-20, 10:01 PM
Or, you could avoid the obvious ClicheStorm (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ClicheStorm) and just have both sides duke it out.

No fancy speeches or gloating or holding up pictures of slain buddies.

Just have the bad guys attack. If there's so much history and rage between both sides, talking might only make a potentially-amazing scene into "just another copycat ending".

However you do it, make it fun and memorable.

Kol Korran
2014-02-21, 12:52 AM
Most of the things have been said- Give characters closure, tie things together, old allies, old friends, give the BBEG rant time, give a sense of the length of time, and development the characters went through...

I'd suggest few more things though:
1) The element of new surprise,and urgency: Have something new, unexpected happen in the session. It needn't be big, but ideally it should give a greater feel of how things went behind the scenes. And perhaps more important-give soem matter of urgency. Suddenly there is a time pressure, or some other kind of pressure- it helps keeping the last session fact paced, and tense. Don't let them just explore a dungeon, have it be a dungeon that is collapsing, or phasing into another dimension, or hear the cries of a dying god, or something! Put the players on edge!

2) The big fight: Something burrowed from video games, but which I thought is quite good- the 3 stages fight: The final battle escalates, in 3 stages, with a change of the BBEG capabilities, fight scene, minions, situation or all of them together!

For example:
In a final scene i a campaign of mine, the party faced a final Rakshasa sorceress over a great chasm, as she was trying to free a prisoned greater demon. The fight was in the air, with effects from the luring darkness below, and minor power of the demon.

Second phase- in a throne room )had relevance in the game), where the demon is starting to be free, and affects the minds of characters, and a new breed of soldier demons is set to defend them.

Last section, on top of the palace' spire, the rakshasa is dead, the demon is even more loose, and a raging storm of battling dragons above, the demon getting control of them and crashing the dragons on the PCs.

3) Give the players some place to express themselves more. I had the BBEG offer them great power, a last tempting speech just for the sole of them showing defiance, which they loved. I also made a special, termed "Reflections of you", a very complicated encoutner to run, but which the players still speak of:
The PCs find themselves in an oval room, which is all one big smooth mirror. They don't see their reflections, exactly... In front of them are their own reflections, but anyone can see only the others ("Friends"). At their back they see their old selves (possibly from different stages in the campagin, but I suggest before some pivotal changes they undertook). Each person can only see their own past self. to the left are past major enemies, some may be alive, some are dead (I put only major enemies there, and also some general themes, like a jumbled monstorsity of demons, a major foe in the campaign), to their right some allies, and in between all kind of other special characters, or representations of concepts (Like beliefs and such).
A character walks behind the representations, and makes a small speech, as if trying to understand who are the characters, what are the "inner images" of their soles and such. Each character could choose 3 images, and explain why they mattered to her, why they represented her. These gave some small bonuses to the fight ahead. Then the party fought all the rest together (Lessened version), which was kind of fun, including fighti9ng old enemies, rejected old selves and such. The encounter gave everyone a way to tie their current character to the entire campaign, and express themselves, what's important about them, one last time. We got some interesting choices there!

4) Music: I highly suggest long tracks of music, inspiring music (I like using two steps from hell, there are some 1 hour or 10 hours tracks out there) Just don't make it too well known if you don't want to distract attention. Especially good for some battle scenes. If you want help I can look up tracks.

Good luck to you, have fun! And have a truly memorable last session!