OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


How To Properly End A Game


This might be even tougher then losing members. We hate to see our games go, but if we’ve finished the story, gone as far as we could go, and hit the limit. It’s time to pack it up and call it a day, we did our job and by god we did it damn well. But how do you do that? How can you end a game? Do we just delete it like a bad character? No! That is never an option! A game isn’t like a character, it’s something more. Imagine it a home. Imagine if Back To The Future had no ending, if Star Wars had no ending, if Breaking Bad just suddenly stopped, or you ended like the Sopranos and just cut to straight black. That’s not exciting, that’s boring. And ending a game like that, to be honest, it might tick off a few people. If you can’t think of a way to end your game, that’s ok. But if you can but don’t want to, that’s a little unprofessional. With this you can find ways and examples on how to either save or end a game.

The General Concept

Now, if your game is not part of the “end of the story” scenario, it might be something around the lines of it’s been inactive and you don’t want to deal with it anymore. That doesn’t mean you should just end it right then and there. Just to make sure I say it and mean it, IT’S NEVER EVER EVER EVER OK JUST TO BLATANTLY END A GAME. But, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to write a completely new story just to end it. The big concept here is that you should never shut down the game without explaining to the members why, not “Well you weren’t posting enough” or “I don’t like the people in the game.” Think about it as writing a very important email or letter to a boss, telling him why you’re leaving. You would never [I hope you wouldn’t!] write “I ███ing hate you and I wish for gorillas and tigers to █████████████ with ███████████ while ██████████ while playing the violin. Good day.” As gentlemanly [if that’s not a word it is now] as the ending was. You need to be professional about it. Try the Ultimatum and Goodbye email method. If you’ve reached the end, follow the Coup De Grâce method.

The Ultimatum and Goodbye Emails

So you don’t want to write a story to finish your game. Before you hit the delete game button remember that people were a part of this and they deserve to know what’s going on. You want to be professional about this. You are literally the GM, the General Manager. If this was a business you wouldn’t stand above the shop floor with a megaphone and yell “You’re fired and I hate you all. Goodbye.” You have to explain why. If you feel like you can save the game, try to encourage them, offer help. Try to give them an ultimatum of when the game will close if there are no posts. Just remember to be mean and nasty about it!

To: Game Members,

From: GM

Subject: Thank You For The Time

Hello everyone. As you know, the game has been really inactive lately. I hope you all haven’t forgotten about the game, but if you need help I am here. However, I have come to the sad conclusion, that if there are no posts by <Whenever, try to give them about a week> I will shut down the game. Until then, I have appreciated your company, and thank you for everything!



 Where Do You Go After The Ultimatum Email?

Well if you’ve saved the game, stop reading, you did it! Now go post If it’s come down to the line and no one has posted, it’s finally time to cut your losses. Now comes for the Goodbye email. Try to tell them that the deadline was reached and you’ve decided to shut down. Be nice about this too,

Dear Members,

Sadly, today I have officially closed the game. I want you to know that people have lost interest in the game, and I understand. You all have given me such a great time and I want to thank you. Good luck in your other adventures!


It’s not a tearjerker, but it’s good enough.

The Coup De Grâce Method

The story is slowly winding down to an end, the swansong is coming close. It’s time for the Coup De Grâce, the final blow in the story. That means it’s time to take one of the many roads to end this, these can range from going home, death, finding peace, or a plot twist ending. We’ll go over those as they are the most common.

Going Home

Every hero [if they survive] always goes home in the end. It’s kind of obvious, just like the typical Hollywood movie pattern. Going home is a good way to end a story. It’s time for the hero to hang up the towel/sword/cape/gun/laser/light sabre/keys/cantaloupe/fresh fruit/motor oil, whatever they happen to use as their trusty weapon. Now Going Home can be done in many a way, either reuniting with the family or just finding a place they call home. You want to make a strong connection between them and their home, make it look like they want to be there, they’ve been away from the place for a long time and they’re finally back. Making a tearjerker is hard, but it doesn’t have to be a tearjerker. Take the film Castaway with Tom Hanks, the big part of the story leading to the end was him finally making his way home. It’s worth a try if you don’t want to kill anybody. Which leads me to our next method.


Death, blargh. A nasty subject at times. But let me tell you something, just like leaving a game or deleting a character, sometimes death is an option. This is always climatic to a protagonist or antagonist. Many an entertainment program has used this to end a show. The highly anticipated ending of Breaking Bad received 10.3 Million views. That’s over half the population of the State of Florida! That’s actually a big number. A death can always end a story, it can bring people together, or maybe even leave a cliffhanger for a sequel [<- Oh hey that’s a good idea!] Try to make it something that can make people feel. A hero lying on their deathbed or the hero sacrificing them self or the bad guy finally being ended. This is always a good move and most of the time never fails.

Finding Peace

So you don’t want to go with returning home, or death. Maybe it comes time for them to find peace. Say the hero was not a hero but an Antihero. They were originally the bad guy, but a change of heart makes them realize what they’re doing is wrong and they decide to change for the good. Now both Going Home and Death can apply to this situation. Just think of a way for the enemy to become a friend and help out with the cause. Darth Vader even admitted he was wrong when he was dying. He found peace with Luke!

Plot Twist

This one I really can’t go much detail in you. Think of a way to really make the people go “Wait… Really?” Like the ending of St. Elsewhere with the snow globe. That really confused people!

Just remember, it’s never ok to just blatantly end the game without explaining why or if it can end without a story and you just abandoned it. This is here to help, try it out. You’d be surprised!

  • Ralazie

    Good article… I should use a cantaloupe as my trusty weapon.

    • Tiberius

      You haven’t been already? Super Hero 101, gawd get with the program

  • I wish I’d seen this before I closed ATYFIG. 🙁

  • Grade

    I just went with a closing down of game that went for 7 wonderful years. We had our ups and downs (okay, lot of downs then ups) and the game stopped by itself. The players seemed to have lost of interest. I try to add some twists to it, trying to keep it fresh, but the players didn’t seemed to have interest in them. So they stopped posting. I try for few months on my own (since MY assistant GM, had also jumped shipped).

    On my own with only one player, we continue to write stories, but we ourselves were loosing insterest aswell, since the game was already dead. We just continue to end that chapter and wrap things up. Bad guys were vanquished by the good guys. The villain (wasn’t really a villain, just trying to defend the institution he served for many years, despite not sharing the views of the bad guys), ends up in ending with the war and sign a peace treaty with good guys. Of course the peace treaty had it own adventure, just one last big goodbye to the game. End up in last lines, with that grey leader of bad guys faction, marrying a female pilot of good guys faction. They had several face-offs and end up being a romantic couple, for quite a while. Just in a way to solidify the peace treaty and signalling that the war was finally over.

    Then it was over. I was heavy thing for me to do and even with ending with final goodbye, made things harder in the end. But I came to my senses the game was dead and it was time to move on. I’m thinking on doing another game, but I’m finding the lack o patience to start a new game. Maybe I warned out trying to swim against the current all the time, but I learn a lot of things during those years, so I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time. It never is…

  • Daenelia

    I think everyone has been a member at some point of a game that ends, one way or another. To be honest, the most frustrating endings are when the admin/GM just disappears. Since we already had the experience of one GM disappearing due to an illness, I never stop hinking about those GMs that just … poof. I worry, I do.

    The best endings are where a GM can at least acknowledge that the game is now done. Over. Kaput. It doesnt have to be pretty, dramatic or friendly even. Just, you know: final and leaving me with the impression everyone came out of it alive, at least.

    There is something awesome about game endings that incorporate a proper end to the story. Think DS9 rather than Angel. Well, that’s a bad example, I hated DS9s ending and I loved Angel’s. But still! It’s awesome to aspire to make a better ending than DS9!

    Endings are as important as beginnings. Wrapping things up and putting them away is neat.

  • Elena

    I have seen two RPGs closing properly, ie with the end of the story. Yes, ultimately it went to some writers losing interest/ finding new demanding jobs/ etc. But it could be done in style – not closing it in a whim, just out of the blue.

    One was an Age of Sail site, in which the last battle ended with all the three ships sinking due to the damage taken in the battle – the ones who won and the ones who lost alike. Such things had happened in history too. There might have been survivors, as the last posts were hinting. Only that their story was yet untold – a possible sequel nobody would actually write.

    The other was an urban fantasy/ sci-fi site. Ultimately, a bunch of relatively good guys (I say relatively because some had further motives) were searching for the bad guy who had a powerful radioactive gem in his hold… They found the bad guys, who put a fight… and in the fight, the gem gets hit and the place/ world ends in an explosion. Again, there might have been survivors who got into another dimension/ world. Or nobody survived. If any survivors, their story was yet untold – a possible sequel nobody would actually write.

    And I liked both endings. They provided a satisfying closure to the story. I wished all the RPGs ended with a story ending, instead of being closed overnight.