End of Campaig- What Next?
What is happening with Player Character after the end of Campaign? Here are some suggestions!
Today’s topic of the blog will be less controversial and less ranting. I don’t want to deal with the hate I got after the “Paladin Blog Post,” at least not now. The most hate I got was from people who did not even read the post, so no click baits… I think… or maybe…
Anyway, today I want to talk with you about what happens with the Player Character after the end of the Campaign. The BBE is dead, the world has been saved, and the princess was in that last castle – what next?
That depends on the type of games you are running. Some Game Masters will run the next campaign in another world, and some, like me and also like Critical Role, will use the same world for multiple campaigns.
So, how should we handle those existing PCs in future campaigns? I will not tell you how you should handle it; each GM is a master of their own table and should have their own way of doing things. But I will tell you what I did in the past, what I am planning to do in the future, and if you like some of those things, feel free to adapt them to your own game.
First of all, you should talk with your players. Player Characters are their creation, and let them have a say on what those PCs will do. There are different types of players; some will give you full creative control over their character, some will share how they see the future of the character, their plans, and others, and there are even some that will like to take those characters with them and simply will ask not to use them. And as a World Architect, you should respect those wishes.
If someone asks you not to use their characters but you have some cool ideas, sorry, just let it go. Create an identical character for your world and give him some spins. It's the best solution and won’t cause any unnecessary issues at the table.
When someone gives you hints on what their character would like you to do, gives you character plans and motivations, respect those but keep it realistic. This character will attempt to achieve those goals and fulfill his motivation, but it does not mean that the character will succeed. Conveying that bit of uncertainty to your player is good; you are toning down expectations, and your character will attempt that, but we will see what the future brings.
In the past, in one of the campaigns I played that revolved around the slavery of Elves and rebellion against a corrupted king, we had a Noble PC who had a personal motivation against the king, and we had a Warlock who was very cunning and intelligent, serving as the mastermind behind many tactics. The game ended with the death of the king, and there was a need to pick another king. Instead of role-playing that part, players decided to throw ideas on who would be King. The Noble PC became the new King, and the Mastermind Warlock player decided he would like to help build a Kingdom for now. There was one more player who decided to join the Knight Order, and an Elf Mage was in love with the Knight, so she followed him. Those were decisions made by players, not the Game Master or World Architect. The next campaign had a 40-year jump to the future.
The Emperor of the newly found Empire, a monk from a previous game, died of old age, his right hand was assassinated a few years earlier. The player who played the Warlock in the previous campaign decided to play the Warlock's son, witnessing his father getting killed and then being adopted by the Emperor. The Elven Mage was now the leader of the Knight Order, as her husband died while protecting the village from a Dragon, but it was not a Dragon who killed him. Out of four characters, we just killed three in the first session, but we created enough lore for players to create hooks for players, hooks that they are not only curious about but also are invested in from the very start. Who assassinated the Warlock? Who killed the Knight? Has the Old Age been the cause of the death of the Emperor? Keep in mind that you need to prevent Metagaming, as a Game Master knows they want to know those things, but giving them threads to follow and that new built motivation will make your campaign slightly easier to predict, or not, as players are unpredictable.
What if a player will say, do what you want with my character? Oh well, this is where the fun starts. One of my players pulled a card from the Deck of Many Things; he was very unlucky, and he pulled “Flames,” for those who don’t know:
“A powerful devil becomes your enemy. The devil seeks your ruin and plagues your life, savoring your suffering before attempting to slay you. This enmity lasts until either you or the devil dies.”
Unfortunately, that was nearly the very end of the campaign, and it was hard to create something out of it, but I have not forgotten that there is a Tower in the world, and when players will visit it, they will find signs of some kind of struggle, notes scattered around the tower, revealing what happened here, with the very last note revealing the true name of the Mage – the Player Character that pulled “Flames” out of the Deck of Many Things.
Another example of freedom that the player gave me was a Paladin; the player told me that this Paladin will continue to be an adventurer and find a new group, maybe someone he can train. That was enough information for me to thread a nasty story. Of a washed-out warrior who lives on the outskirts of the town players currently reside in, rumors say he used to be an adventurer and took some kids on an adventure. Not a single one of his pupils survived, and this Warrior sinks his guilt in alcohol day and night, trying to forget his mistakes. If my players decide to pursue the Warrior to learn what happened, they will learn that this is a Paladin that one of them used to play.
Another fun thing you can do, and that works amazingly well if you create a new world for future campaigns, is to use Player Characters as Gods. It's especially fun when one of the players plays Cleric, Paladin, or even Warlock, and you decide that maybe one of the Old PCs was bad enough to become a demon or something like that. That will let your players straight away, from session one, connect to the world and there is something familiar. In a recent campaign, one of my players was playing Paladin of Conquest, and he followed a God who ascended on Godhood from the Mortal Realm. It created a bond between player and world as he was familiar with that Character who later became a God. Every single player remembered what God Paladin was following from the first minutes of the game.
vAnd there is one more thing you can do with old Player Characters, to sum it up, I will reach for a quote from one of my favorite movies:
“Well, I guess you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – Harvey Dent - The Dark Knight (2008)
Old Player Characters who suddenly are revealed as villains will make a tremendous impact on your players. If you have not done it too often, you will leave them speechless. Doing it at the right moment, like a cliffhanger at the end of a session, can create hype and anticipation for future sessions, as players will want to know, what happened?
During one of the previous sessions, I lost two players, a couple, who decided to stop playing D&D. Sad but life is what it is. Initially, they were spontaneously showing up on sessions, so we came up with the idea that their characters found a cursed item, a magic lamp, and have been sucked in every now and then. But when they decided to leave permanently, the remaining players decided to use the Lamp Magic to defeat the enemy, rendering the lamp useless and trapping two characters in the lamp forever. Or so they thought, as at one point in the future, those two characters will come back, filled with vengeance, wishing to kill every single God of this world. Here is what my note says about those characters:
“The Story of God slayers starts like most of the stories where motives are ruled by vengeance...
A long time ago, there were a couple of strangers who became friends. They started the journey together with their friends and became lovers. Yet fate was not kind to them; they found a cursed item that trapped the lovers' souls inside. Their companions, instead of helping them, broke the magic jar, trapping lovers for eternity...
But lovers never gave up; they encountered a strange voice inside their prison that kept whispering to them, heating their hate towards their companions, they will pay... Their freedom was Granted by a Mad Wizard who, by complete accident created a crack in their prison. Lovers were free, but time passed and those who betrayed them were already dead, taken by Gods... The Gods denied them their Vengeance... So they will pay in their place. Those Lovers were known as Eveline and Ash…”
Player Characters from the past can be extremely useful for world-building, hooks, side quests, and many other things. If the creators of those PCs will give you their blessing to do so, use them as much as your imagination lets you. This can be a huge asset to your game.
Before I finish, there is one more thing I would like to talk to you about, something very important. My friends in the Dungeon Delver family have been struck with disaster. Let me quote the message:
"Early on the morning of January 1, 2024, my sister Beth, who along with her husband Ray shares a house with my niece Sara and her husband and two sons, experienced a severe fire that started in my nephew's shared bedroom. Fortunately, the boys were okay, but all of their belongings - toys, clothes, books - were a total loss. Additionally, the house itself suffered serious damage, and if that wasn't bad enough, they were in the process of changing homeowner's insurance at the time. This is a hard blow for anyone to absorb at the best of times, and these are NOT the best of times for them. I'm asking folks for donations I can pass on to them, to help repair the house, and replace what was lost from my two nephews. Thank you all in advance."
I do believe in people from the TTRPG community. If you can help by donating even $1, it will be massive support for those people in their grim hour. You can help by going to this GoFundMe page and by simply sharing this message forward. Thank you for any help; love you!