Provide rules that drive a story or character toward an end state.
The End, Happily Ever After, Finis
The Endgame pattern borrows its name from a chess term. In chess, the endgame is a phase characterized by the two opposing players having only their kings and one other major piece and/or a few pawns. This stage of the game quickly builds to the climax of checkmate or stalemate. Similarly, a role-playing game may incorporate rules to drive play toward some final climax. The climax can result in the end of a story, a character’s participation in a story, or both. Note that, if the endgame results in a character’s “retirement,” it does not necessarily mean the character dies. He could simply ride off into the sunset, supposedly to live Happily Ever After.
The Endgame pattern is sometimes used in games having story and narrative as their primary focus. The ultimate aim of these games is to generate an interesting story with a dramatic climax. The point at which the endgame arises may be a purely player- driven decision based on whether he thinks his character is “ready” for it. Of course, this means that the player must have some viable means of making that judgment. Alternately, it may be triggered automatically when pre-specified events occur.
The Endgame pattern is appropriate in games where you
Please note that the Trauma Gauge, Wound Trait, and Endgame patterns are not mutually exclusive. So, you might want to contemplate using some combination of these patterns in your game rather than rely on any one pattern in isolation. Of course, the Hit Points pattern provides an “end” for characters as well (death), so mixing it with the Endgame pattern might be counterproductive as it can interfere with the second goal listed above. If you’re willing to accept that limitation or provide some means by which death is not actually an “end” (such as a dead character continuing on as a ghost), an Endgame/Hit Points mixture is possible.
Since the Endgame pattern conveniently provides an ending to a story or character, any game designer using the pattern might reasonably want to “fill in” the other parts of the story as well. If that is your situation, you should consider using the Structured Story pattern as well. If your game goals do not include driving characters or plot to a definite end, you should avoid this pattern.
The Endgame pattern provides a definite story or character end designed to satisfy player concerns.
From a design standpoint, the pattern only requires that you let the players know when it is appropriate to enter into an endgame scenario, how the endgame is different from the rest of the game, and what that scenario will concern. If the endgame outcome is uncertain, it is a good idea to make sure that the players have a reasonable chance of success at this point, whatever that means based on your overall game concept.
Ensuring character survival until the endgame can be accomplished by purposefully omitting rules that kill characters or by explicitly incorporating rules that prevent character death until the endgame.
Let’s create an example game using the Endgame pattern that could have easily (and less effectively) used some other means to measure character survivability. Suppose we are creating “Terror in the Skies,” a game where player characters are all passengers on an airliner that is hijacked by a group of terrorists wielding machine guns, knives, bombs, and the like. Somehow, the hijackers got the whole works past security checkpoints. The terrorists threaten to kill one passenger every hour until their demands are met.
In our game, the endgame sequence will start as soon as the terrorists have murdered 20 passengers. Until that time, the player characters are completely immune to death. They can be shot, stabbed, gagged, threatened, and beaten, but they simply will not die. It is understood that the terrorists will not perform any actions that would necessarily result in their deaths, such as emptying a machine-gun clip into a player character’s forehead. The terrorists are similarly immune from death and at least 3 terrorists must always be armed and wary until the endgame starts. Obviously, if the endgame is triggered when the 20th passenger is slain, non-player passengers and crew can die before the endgame commences.
When the endgame starts, the rules will state that all player characters and terrorists are at full capacity. If they were previously knocked unconscious, they will awaken. If they were shot, their wounds will not hinder them in any meaningful fashion (although they will still exist as “dressing” and may cause the characters to limp or act in other appropriate ways). If they were bound, they will somehow escape their bonds. The objective of the scenes prior to the endgame is to build tension, demonstrate the evil intentions and conviction of the terrorists, and allow players time to assess the gestalt of the overall situation. They are not meant to hinder the characters. In fact, they may include scenes where some characters gain weapons of their own or one of the terrorists is convinced to betray his comrades. The endgame will be a rapid sequence of scenes in which the player characters attempt to retake the plane. During this phase, both they and the terrorists can be killed. The game ends completely when either all player characters die or the external door opens and the blood soaked heroes help each other out of the plane.
The characters survive until the endgame merely by the rules stating that it will be so. Of course, there are a lot of details to be worked out in exactly how characters can be killed after the endgame starts, but that is the purview of other patterns.
InSpectres is a game whose characters are ghost exterminators, much like the characters in the GhostBuster movies. At the beginning of every “mission”, the game master decides how much the mission is worth in terms of “franchise dice”. During the game, players earn these dice in conflicts. When all of the franchise dice have been earned, the GM declares the mission to be a success and rewards the players with the dice they have earned. These dice can then be spent to boost the resources of the ghost extermination business to help out in future “episodes”.
My Life with Master has characters who are minions of Evil Masters. All minions have attributes of “Self-Loathing,” “Weariness,” and “Love.” Masters have the single attribute of “Fear.” The endgame starts when a minion successfully resists a command given him by his Master and his Love attribute is greater than the sum of his own Weariness and his Master’s Fear. The endgame consists of a sequence of scenes culminating in the Master’s death by the actions of one or more of his minions. After the Master dies, the fates of the minions are determined by other various formulas. Depending on circumstance, a minion may kill himself, integrate back into society, become an Evil Master himself, or meet some other end. The players narrate the details of how these results come about according to their own preferences.