Endings are difficult, perhaps especially so in tabletop RPGs. Between the death knells of scheduling conflicts, interest and pure time investment, sticking with a campaign until it reaches what feels like a satisfying conclusion is so rare as to be cause of celebration. But how do you achieve satisfaction after felling the Big Bad in a climactic, risk-all conflict? Upcoming RPG book World Ending Game argues for a collection of emotionally resonant, player-driven vignettes.
Designed by Everest Pipkin (creator of The Ground Itself), World Ending Game is all about bringing things to a conclusion, closing the storybook, setting down the brush and turning off the light on your way out. The book provides a collection of 20 Endings, smaller games similar in length and presentation to the minigames that comprise Meguey and Vincent Baker’s popular Mobile Frame Zero: Firebrands.
Over the course of a final session, players use a series of Endings to wrap up unfinished business and see their characters off into the metaphorical sunset. The facilitator role is called The Director, and they will lead players through their selected scenes, interjecting and guiding the mind’s camera where necessary but largely giving individuals the space to say goodbye.
Pipkin stresses that these Ending games are not supposed to be dramatic in a storytelling sense - the Final Battle already occurred, and the threat has passed. Groups should treat a session of World Ending Game like the falling action of a movie where all that’s left is to tie up whatever loose ends they desire and put a fitting coda on their collaborative tale. Familiar locations and NPCs might show up, and each Ending will build on the previous one to eventually construct the last chapter.
World Ending Game is genre agnostic and meant to serve as a denouement to any kind of campaign. As such, most of the individual games tend to frame roleplay in a broad sense. The Omen, for example, uses the end of the group’s time together to hint at the world continuing beyond them. The game was but one adventure in a world full of it, and whatever Omen the player describes will hint at further tales told by someone else, at some other time.
By comparison, Karaoke Bar gives a group of players a stage, each other and open reins to just cut loose. Characters who choose this ending spend the length of a chosen song just feeling themselves - belt out some deeply contained emotion, vibe with your friends, or croak an elegy for those who don’t get to celebrate. The loose, interpretive structure of the Endings mean any detail can be flexed to fit a group’s needs. As long as it feels appropriate for their characters, the rules are just there to guide folks towards the right beat.
Not all of the Endings are happy or even bittersweet. The book understands that roleplay allows for all kinds of characters, actions and fates. Certain games will let you embrace death (or a kind of death), and one even allows players narrate the apocalypse of their entire world. There are endings for the destroyers, the losers, the truth seekers and, cheekily, those who want an anime-style music video to roll as the credits for their imaginary movie.
World Ending Game will contain illustrations across its covers and interior from 24 artists, including Connor Fawcett, Rce Boy and Island Book creator Evan Dahm and Danielle Taphanel. It will contain all of the rule necessary for teaching groups how to play and guiding them through each game, along with how to structure them together into a final session. There’s even instructions for ending the game about endings, and one shouldn’t ponder that line of thinking too much further.
World Ending Game is currently fundraising as a pre-sale on Pipkin’s Itch.io page as a digital download for $15 (£12). The physical edition, which will print as a 6.125” by 9.25” paperback, is currently expected to ship in September of this year. Pipkin will be posting updates to that timeline online.