|Battlefield Picture by Alex Powell Inca|
What did you do for the Fourth of July? Oh, I spent eight hours playing D&D with a bunch of my friends before going to watch fireworks. We completed the final session of my campaign arc yesterday as my players assaulted a ruined city where cultists were attempting to tear the very fabric of reality in order to permanently join the material world with the third circle of the nine hells. Fortunately, my players stepped in to stop that nonsense.
We started the day at 10 am with everyone meeting at my place for brunch. We made waffles, eggs and bacon before settling in to start play at about 11:30.
Yesterday's game was the culmination of nearly five years of play, and I felt like it was a sufficiently epic conclusion to the whole ordeal. The session included:
- An adapted version of this speech
- The PCs airdropping in on the back of griffons to take out an enemy defensive emplacement (while Ride of the Valkyries played, natch)
- A battle against the resurrected corpse of the NPC whose name the players most like to get wrong.
- A fight against a similarly reincarnated red dragon flanked by two other end bosses who had previously escaped the heroes on multiple occasions.
- LOTS of dead NPCs
- A battle against a former player character, now driven insane and bent to the will of the cultists (also happened to be the in-game boyfriend of one of the heroes)
- That same hero effectively nuking one of the end bosses while screaming, "YOU KILLED MY BOYFRIEND!"
- The whole party surviving a blast of dragonfire to the face (though just barely and with later consequences)
- The paladin withstanding a full attack by the dragon after his fiery assault
- The deaths of the party's paladin and cleric at the hands of one of the end bosses
- The dragon and the other boss riding on his back finally being brought down by a volley of arrows from the group's ranger, falling from 120 feet into the courtyard of a ruined cathedral.
- The group's rogue agonizing over whether to spend her one wish granted by the magic jewel she was carrying to revive one of her dead friends, or to halt the runaway reaction tearing the very fabric of the planes. In the end, she chose to save the world over bringing back her friends.
It feels really weird wrapping up this arc and I feel much more emotional about it than I expected. Not in the sense that I'm blubbering into my pillow or anything, but just in the sheer number of often contradictory thoughts and feelings whirling around inside. I feel both lighter and a little bit empty. Makes sense on some level I guess. I feel accomplished at having fully completed the first campaign I ever set out to run, amazed that it held together as long as it did and that I was able to wrap in several items of the players' own devising back into the finale. I feel a little guilty at killing off two player characters, but know I would have regretted it more if I had played the final battle with anything less than my full potential lethality. Besides, the players' status as heroes and the army with high-level clerics at their backs pretty much guarantee that the deceased characters could be brought back. I feel relieved at having wrapped such a long arc, which was born of a naive desire to be "the most epic." Though I vowed never to run any single arc that long again, I also don't want any new campaign with the same characters to feel less incredible.
I'll probably do more on the specific gameplay at a later date. I incorporated a couple custom elements that I think helped keep the battle manageable while adding to the players' sense of influence over the situation. But for now, I wanted to get some of my reflections down while they're still fresh.