Dungeon World Endgame

Dungeon World Endgame

Dungeon World Endgame

There are no guidelines in the rules on an ideal upper limit on the number of sessions for a Dungeon World campaign. Unless you count the rules for advancement past 10th level, which create a significant change even though they don’t say “stop playing”.

I wonder what others have found to be an ideal limit, if there even is one.

We had Session 18 this week, and every single session continues to bring the campaign into sharper focus, with vivid conflict and no shortage of electricity. Around Session 12 or so, it really felt like we were fast approaching the campaign’s ultimate climax. But 6 sessions later, the tension keeps escalating with no end in sight.

I’m perfectly happy if it goes on like this. I have no fear that it would peter out—the GM moves alone simply prevent that. But I’m wondering whether it might grow too sprawling. Has that happened to you?

Or does Dungeon World naturally reach an endgame that concludes the campaign, in your experience?

Do you set a boundary at the outset or determine one as it grows? That seems to go against playing to find out what happens, a little, but it can’t hurt to have everyone on the same page in terms of expectations.

12 thoughts on “Dungeon World Endgame”

  1. I’ve always found my games end around the 10-12 session mark and it always feels quite satisfying where we end it. There seems to be a main “story” that the players focus on and then the enx of the game is the end of that story.

  2. We’ve had the most success (regardless of system) letting things develop organically until what sounds like your session 12 — when the end feels within sight. At that point I set a soft limit on how many more session we’re going to play, usually about 1/3 of the total we’ve played so far; so if I make that call at session 12, I’ll aim for 4 more sessions. For those sessions, my prep and improvisation shifts toward reincorporating elements that have arisen over the course of the campaign and looking for sensible climactic scenes or events.

    That 1/3 number varies in the end by 1 session more or less than planned, depending on what seems needed. In our Night’s Black Agents campaign, for instance, the PCs killed Dracula one session sooner than I anticipated.

    Also recommended: an Epilogue where every PC gets to describe what happens to them after the big conclusion. After doing this the first time we played Fiasco, we do it in most long-form campaigns. It’s a super-satisfying way to brings things to a final close.

  3. I should add that the other 2 factors that usher in the endgame for us have been 1) loss of momentum and 2) diminishing interest/investment by any party.

  4. Thank you, Jason Lutes!

    > 1) loss of momentum and 2) diminishing interest/investment by any party.

    I’ve never gotten there before with Dungeon World, because my last long-running game ended because people moved, and my other games were planned as one-shots or limited run games.

    And when we were running Tunnels & Trolls, we played a sort of dungeon-of-the-week style. There was a lot going on in the background connecting the dungeons and stuff, but our enjoyment didn’t hinge on pursuing those connections, or any big-picture arc.

    But then, the characters were basically disposable—getting them to mid-levels was a big accomplishment, but we didn’t expect to resolve anything besides whether they would survive and bring loot out of the dungeon.

    Dungeon World has produced a lot more World, and a lot more conflict that tends to draw the players in.

    After the last session, it feels like we’ve unexpectedly begun “Act II”, but I will keep your suggestions in mind going forward!

  5. Thank you, Jason Lutes! This sounds complementary to what you wrote above. Have you tried something akin to Paul T’s method?

    I have a pretty good idea what questions the Planets Collide players want answered at the moment, but they might not like the answers they get, and pursuing those answers look like death-defying adventures.

    Now that we are well passed the climactic events in Session 12 and a whole new vista has appeared, I think it’s too early to say how many sessions it may take to get to that point again.

    I’m curious, do you give any thought to building a “sensibly climactic” endgame when it comes to Freebooters?

  6. Deep Six Delver, I have not used Paul T’s method, but re-reading it now I might bring some variation on it into our next open-ended campaign.

    Freebooters in its current state is very much like the OD&D games of my youth — open-ended hexcrawly campaigns that rambled hither and yon before petering out. It’s set up to have a rotating cast of adventurers as PCs die or retire and players roll up new characters to take their place, with no particular end in sight. As a result individual characters can have interesting and dramatic arcs of existence, but there is no particular shape to the story of the adventuring party as a whole. I’ll be exploring potential solutions to that as I continue to work on the 2nd edition.

  7. Jason Lutes, I think we’re going to start some aspect of preparing for the endgame sometime soon. At least, set aside some time before sessions to ask what questions and issues we want resolved.

    It occurs to me that we could reinforce the effort at End of Session with XP: “Did we resolve an outstanding campaign issue?”—or something similar.

    I’m not sure about it. Do you think Listing the unfinished business prior to play and marking XP for settling it is likely to help?

  8. Deep Six Delver, hm, that’s an interesting one. Something like that might work, but given the stakes maybe it calls for something more substantial and/or narratively satisfying in place of XP. Perhaps some sort of custom move unlocks or a concrete advantage is gained for each resolved question.

    Give us an example of one of your endgame questions and maybe we can come up with some ideas.

  9. The players are now plotting their final mission on Discord, and we should meet up for the next game night next week. They’ve been texting me little questions to clarify details for their plans most of the day: “Despite being separate do the two planets use the same underworld?” I’m sure I’ll learn a lot about the outstanding questions soon.

    The obvious drawback of awarding XP for endgame resolutions is that there may not be enough time to realize the benefits of the XP they earn. They might level up again, but they might not.

    Unlocking custom moves is a dramatic idea! I’ll give it some thought. That suggestion made me think of Awesome Points from Old School Hack—unlike XP, awesome points could be both immediately useful, and count toward advancement when spent.

    Still brainstorming, but I’ll write back soon. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this, Jason Lutes!

Comments are closed.