RPG Talk: Apocalypse Scenarios

In tribute to the end of my Millennium reviews (give or take that final bit left over in The X-Files), let's talk about blowing up your campaign world.
Not that I'd recommend it just any old session, but say it's all winding down anyway, you're at the end of a big arc, the players are moving on, whatever. Maybe dynamiting the whole thing is an option. This approach would have some definite advantages:
-It's memorable as hell.
-In bleak game settings like Call of Cthulhu, Cyberpunk or Stormbringer, it may actually be a satisfying way to end things.
-No take-backs, no attempts at returning to the game, full closure.

Of course, there are opposite drawbacks:
-Might leave a sour taste in players' mouths if they weren't on board with the idea.
-Might not fit the tone of the campaign.
-Kills off everyone and everything, leaving nothing for a sequel.

Of course, simply being open to this could lead to it without it being planned. Some scenarios invite the end of the world; it's just that the PCs are meant to prevent it. But what if they fail? In long-running campaigns, the GM will come up with some cop-out. The forces of evil fail all by themselves, or the heroes get a second chance somehow. But what if you go with it? You failed, world ends. A spectacular failure that will become part of the gaming group's campfire tales. Surely!

And it doesn't even have to be the GameMaster's fault. Though settings are usually large and expansive, the Player Characters' reality is probably much smaller. That puts the match in the players' hands. They couldn't blow up the United Federation of Planets, but they can set their ship's self-destruct. That's their whole world. You summon Cthulhu to eat cultists that have infiltrated your university (there it goes with you in it). To stop an evil Corporate plan, you wipe the Internet out... from the inside. It doesn't even have to explosive. If you eliminate a key element of the campaign world, you've essentially blown it up. Somehow killed the Force? Neutralized all magic? Wiped out the robot overlords for good? It's well and truly done.

But is it the end? Not necessarily. The end of an era is the start of another. From the ashes of your own game world can rise the Phoenix of the next. New PCs walking in the footsteps of the old, perhaps centuries apart, perhaps the next day. How quickly that military campaign turned into Mad Max!

But do you have the guts to push that button?

2 comments:

Craig Oxbrow said...

The closest I've come was when I set my Buffy game about trainee Watchers to run alongside the series, and joked I'd have to deal with the Watchers' Council being wiped out in the middle of season seven... and then the game ran for seven seasons. So the PCs survived and the world wasn't destroyed, but it took out a lot of established NPCs including a former PC. There were about a dozen episodes left to deal show the fallout, and a victory at the end softened the blow.

Siskoid said...

I love the whole idea of running a game parallel to established continuity. I've done it with DC Heroes, forcing Our Own Heroes(TM) into big 80s crossovers like Legends and Millennium, and have wanted to do something like that for our Doctor Who series. Just a question of whether I really want to spend a whole season shadowing the Doctor.

 

Blog Archive

Category

5 Things to Like Activities Advice Alien Nation Aliens Say the Darndest Things Alpha Flight Amalgam Ambush Bug Animal Man anime Aquaman Archetypes Archie Heroes Arrowed Asterix Atom Avengers Awards Babylon 5 Batman Battle Shovel Battlestar Galactica Black Canary BnB 2-in1 Books Booster Gold Buffy Canada Captain America Captain Marvel Cat CCGs Charlton Circles of Hell Comics Comics Code Approved Conan Contest Cooking Crisis Daredevil Dating Kara Zor-El Dating Lois Lane Dating Lucy Lane Dating Princess Diana DCAU Deadman Dial H Dice Dinosaur Island Dinosaurs Director Profiles Doctor Who Doom Patrol Down the Rabbit Hole Dr. Strange Encyclopedia Fantastic Four Fashion Nightmares Fiasco Films Within Films Flash Flushpoint Foldees French Friday Night Fights Fun with Covers Galleries Game design Gaming Geekly roundup Geeks Anonymous Geekwear Gimme That Star Trek Godzilla Golden Age Grant Morrison Great Match-Ups of Science Fiction Green Arrow Green Lantern Hawkman Hero Points Podcast Holidays House of Mystery Hulk Human Target Improv Inspiration Intersect Invasion Invasion Podcast Iron Man Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen JLA JSA Judge Dredd K9 the Series Kirby Motivationals Krypto Kung Fu Learning to Fly Legion Letters pages Liveblog Lonely Hearts Podcast Lord of the Rings Machine Man Motivationals Man-Thing Marquee Masters of the Universe Memes Memorable Moments Metal Men Metamorpho Micronauts Millennium Mini-Comics Monday Morning Macking Movies Mr. Terrific Music Nelvana of the Northern Lights Nightmare Fuel Number Ones Obituaries oHOTmu OR NOT? Old52 One Panel Outsiders Panels from Sheena Paper Dolls Play Podcast Polls Questionable Fridays Radio Rants Reaganocomics Recollected Red Bee Red Tornado Reign Retro-Comics Reviews Rom RPGs Sandman Sapphire & Steel Sarah Jane Adventures Saturday Morning Cartoons SBG for Girls Seasons of DWAITAS Secret Origins Podcast Secret Wars SF Silver Age Siskoid as Editor Siskoid's Mailbox Space 1999 Spectre Spider-Man Spring Cleaning ST non-fiction ST novels: DS9 ST novels: S.C.E. ST novels: The Shat ST novels: TNG ST novels: TOS Star Trek Suicide Squad Supergirl Superman Supershill Swamp Thing Tales from Earth-Prime Team Horrible Teen Titans That Franchise I Never Talk About The Prisoner The Thing Then and Now Theory Thor Thursdays of Two Worlds Time Capsule Timeslip Tintin Torchwood Tourist Traps of the Forgotten Realms Toys Turnarounds TV V Waking Life Warehouse 13 Websites What If? Who's This? Whoniverse-B Wikileaked Wonder Woman X-Files X-Men Zine