The Burnt Offering is where Stu Horvath thinks too much in public so he can live a quieter life in private.
This is a reprint of the letter from the editor in Unwinnable Weekly Issue Sixty-Two. You can buy Issue Sixty-Two individually now, or purchase a one-month subscription to make sure you never miss an issue!
(continued from Issue Sixy-One’s From the Desk of the Editor in Chief)
They killed the Tarrasque. They also killed most of my villains. They also managed to kill the campaign.
It was my intention to have a short fourth act follow the battle with the Tarrasque, perhaps four sessions, in which the party would discover the existence of the Devouring Void and have to figure out how to restore the humanity of Henry Maker, the seventh son of the seventh son, so he could use his reality altering powers to save the world.
When my pals found this out, though, they were a bit disappointed. They thought this marathon game was it. This was an auspicious occasion and they wanted an ending. Which was totally understandable. The game had been going on for ten years, after all.
So fuck it, plans are architects and I suck at math. I spent my downtime during the trip – the drive out, the breaks, a sleepless hour staring at the ceiling at 3AM and more – figuring out how to condense about 12 hours of planned encounters and role-playing in to…well, I wasn’t sure what.
It needed to be short, likely no more than two hours, but it couldn’t feel rushed or tacked on. It needed to be simple, because it was bound to unfold in the wee hours of the morning, as everyone’s gas tanks ran to empty. It needed to still involve a series of choices and failure needed to be a possibility. When it was over, it had to have impact.
About halfway through Saturday afternoon, I cracked it. So long as the Tarrasque battle didn’t turn into a slog, I was confident I could give the ten year campaign a fitting end.
Once the Tarrasque was dead, around 2 in the morning, we put the dice away. We didn’t need them anymore.
I told them a story and they acted out their parts. They debated how to solve the problem of the Devouring Void. They implored Henry for his help with impassioned speeches and, when they were rebuffed, they made me leave the room as they discussed the wish they would use to bend Henry to their will (they wound up wishing that Henry felt guilt – not for what he had already done, but for all the harm his inaction would cause in the future).
It ended on a beach, because we had watched The Warriors earlier in the day and it seemed appropriate. Henry was gone, consumed while dismissing the vastness of the Void. Only a tiny portion of nothingness remained and, when it became clear that one of the PCs was going to have to sacrifice themselves to banish it, they fought over who it should be, each player unwilling to let the previous volunteer march to his death.
It wound up being the paladin. Of course.
And just like that, it was over.
Suddenly not having this game to think about anymore is weird. The grand conspiracy I laid out in 2005 was unravelled, its architects dead. Over the course of those years, the party had managed to foil my most insidious schemes and save the world no less than four times. We had played the game in three editions, gained and lost half a dozen players and had a hell of a lot of fun.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t strangely emotional about it that night, after everyone had turned in.
Stranger still in light of that reaction, when I got back to New Jersey, I couldn’t wait to get the notes all collated and put them away. I hauled all the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books out of my apartment and lugged them back to my mom’s house.
On the shelf. Done.
Time for something else.