Not every adventure gets to have an ending, happy or otherwise. Whether you play Dungeons & Dragons, or other table top games, you will seen at least one game fizzle out before the curtain call.
Grown up responsibilities and ‘scheduling conflicts’ can cause a campaign to stall to the point that it’s not worth picking up again. Games Masters and players can get restless for a new style of game or a new character. In some cases, a game can actually go so well that the players don’t want it to end, and the host spins the adventure on indefinitely.
Though we may never reach it (or not want it to end), a great story needs an ending. Fantasy tales are often made or broken by how they sign off – how fondly we remember the adventure can be determined by its finale.
So I was in a great mood recently, when a D&D campaign I had been playing for over a year came to a close in a satisfying, bitter-sweet way. So great a mood, that I decided to write an epilogue. I wanted to encapsulate the moment, and also show my Dungeon Master how much I had appreciated the story.
I was quite pleased with the end result, and I thought I would share it. You are obviously missing a lot of context if you read this, but this is for anyone that enjoys the end of a well-travelled adventure.
These are the few things you need to know about the campaign:
- There were four heroes in this adventure
- Gnott – a hunchbacked, kind-hearted human fighter
- Aerin – a tempestuous, animal-loving elven cleric
- Amarth – a power-seeking elven ranger that always seemed to take the most damage in every encounter
- Hizael – my character, a gruff tiefling paladin determined to make the world a better place
- The campaign was set in a homemade world, where we played ‘Doomed Slayers’, monster-hunter mercenaries with a very low life expectancy.
- The last act of our adventure saw us confront a lich, in his twisted tower, at the heart of ‘The Dead City’.
- With the lich destroyed, my paladin ended the campaign with the intention of bringing The Dead City back to life. Rebuild, cleanse and bring in residents.
And I think that’s all you need. With that, I give you my love letter to a completed campaign, written as an epilogue from the perspective of a visitor to The Dead City, which is now very much alive:
Extract from the journals of Yvonasun Lanfear, Cartographer and Chronicler
This is my eighteenth visit to Canuth. Though the journey is long and arduous, all the more so in my increasingly formative years, the destination is always worth the time and effort. Over the decades, I have found myself gradually extending the duration of my stay. I expect that I shall soon find myself in residence, having unconsciously decided to retire here.
In truth, my visits to Canuth are, to a greater and greater extent, leisure over assignment. The city has blossomed over the decades that I have known it, to the present where it has found itself self-sufficient. It continues to grow, but in more subtle, steady ways that will need only a few words to surmise. Canuth has, for many years, found its rhythm. If civilisation is as music, then this wonderful place is a symphony complete.
I am thrilled to report on the one, most significant addition to the ‘City of Life’. Despite the implorations of the Council, Master Hizael Leveller had always insisted that the monuments to the city’s saviours be built “when all other business is taken care of”. From the few occasions I found myself graced by his presence, I might infer that the humble old soul cared not for any thought of seeing himself as a statue.
Nevertheless, in the years before his passing, the Master relented, and gave his blessing (and design input) for the Council to create the art that would remember his companions. It was on this visit that I made giddy haste to these sites.
I found the statue of Lady Aerin set within the grounds of Malora’s Gardens on the outskirts of the city. Her emerald marble statue stands upon an onyx black plinth at the edge of a natural pond. Building the statue here was quite the gamble. When the site was first cleared of its ruined homes, with the hopes of reconstruction, vibrant flowers and fruit trees began to emerge from the cracked earth. To this day, any attempts to erect as much as a fencepost in these Gardens has proved futile. Lady Aerin’s statue proved to be the exception, and a host of ground flowers have sprung up around its base.
Once I had paid my respects to Malora, I strolled to my host’s charming estate. My mind wanders back to the day I first met the bundle of warmth and smiles that is Kindred Leveller, son of Hizael, then a child of three. Now, the Master’s son is an endlessly good-willed and patient leader, an accomplished member of the Council, and one of the greatest artisans of our time.
Once I was fed and rested, Kindred escorted me to the next monument. We wandered over to the communal allotments in the grounds of the Temple of Chauntea. I was delighted to find Master Gnott himself at work on his own allotment. He is as spry and as jovial as he was half a century ago. He was keen to ply me with cups of tea and share stories, though I quickly detected his attempts to direct me away from the statue in his likeness. Under his breath, with cheeks reddening, he mumbled: “It not Gnott. Gnott not that good looking”.
Kindred later informed me that Gnott hadn’t argued against the Council’s desire to build him a statue (he could see how much it meant to them) but he had given them grief over the material the monument was built from. Any design that included anything remotely expensive, Gnott would insist that the money would be better donated to the Temple.
The compromise has led to a rather breathtaking landmark. It was Hizael’s idea, and so Gnott relented to the design. At the rear of the Temple, standing amongst the tall flowers, is a depiction of Gnott made of wood. Looming eight feet tall, the simple statue has been enchanted so that the wood shall remain unmarked and unweathered for a millenia. Though the statue was only constructed a few months ago, flowers, moss and vines coat the exterior. According to all those that frequent the allotment, the enchantment should actually prevent such growth, but the flowers grow unbidden.
The following day, once council business was dealt with, Kindred led me to the city centre. Where that cruel and twisted tower once stood, Canuth College stands proud. When I last visited, the foyer of this relatively new but renowned place of learning was quite sparse. Now this entry space has been fully decorated. On a plinth at the heart of this eight sided room is a magnificent representation of Blademaster Amarth.
At first, I thought the statue to be kneeling. Then I saw that Amarth is rising, his famous blade planted into the stone as he once more lifts himself up. On the walls around him, large tapestries hang from the walls, each one depicting a moment in his adventures with the Slayers. The messages stitched into this artwork tell a story treasured by the college. Amarth is a hero that has spent his life in the pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge that has granted him power. Yet, when the promise of dark knowledge threatened his soul, he chose a greater path.
On my third day, after a splendid meal at the Leveller Estate, I finally visited the monument to Master Hizael. As expected, his statue is the humblest, and most innocuously placed of all. Any pilgrim that hoped to find signs of Hizael at the Temple of Ilmater would be sorely dissapointed. Instead, Kindred led me to an unnamed walled garden a short walk from the Temple.
The quaint garden is dominated by a very large and aging tree. Beneath it’s bows, I found the black stone statue of Hizael. He sits on his heels, hands upturned and resting on his thighs, head bowed in prayer (or possibly meditation). Portrayed without armour, kneeling, and in quiet respite, it is truly the least imposing he has ever been.
In a small hollow near the base of the great tree, over Hizael’s shoulder, I found a small pile of blue chalk, and a small amulet with Ilmater’s mark on it. Kindred explained that the amulet was made from shards of a weapon his father used to slay the infamous lich. A weapon once carried by a man who would have been “irritated by having a shrine built in his name”.
As for the blue chalk, Kindred told me a story of how his father met the ghost of a small child here. To Hizael, this garden was a small place of peace in a dark, dead city.
Now the blue chalk serves a particular purpose. To soften the intimidating appearance of a kind paladin. An aspect that always concerned him. Across his black stone form, visitors of all ages have decorated him with blue chalk flowers, messages of hope, and a very impressive swirling moustache.
More than anything else, a message is scrawled across the statue by a countless number of visitors:
Thank You For Reading
I hope you enjoyed this little detour, and that this conjures up warm memories of your campaigns of old. I’d love to hear your tales too. What are the greatest campaign endings you have been a part of?