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I have been brought in as a substitute DM to finish the last 2-3 episodes of an almost eight month campaign of Tomb of Annihilation spanning over 30 sessions. (I was chosen to help maintain continuity because I am a former player with knowledge of their campaign.)

It would be great to give the ending a great sense of closure and feel epic as if the PCs have accomplished something important and the world recognizes it.

It is said that you can give a story a more satisfying and powerful ending by simultaneously closing a variety of story arcs at the end of a story according to screenwriting teachers like Robert Mckee (the teacher that inspired Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson to rewrite Lord of the Rings.)

But, reading ToA it is clear that there are a variety of unclosed story arcs. As written, the ending feels a little abrupt. There are a few comments about how if the PCs saved a particular character then they receive treasure as promised and a few words about future adventures, but that's about it. It feels a bit unfinished - like Star Wars: A New Hope without the throne scene or Return of the Jedi without the scenes of celebration across the many planets. The ToA authors left a variety of arcs for the DM to close.

For example...

Syndra is an almost legendary arch-mage in the story that the PCs save but little is mentioned of their final meeting. This feels like a "throne room" opportunity that is being missed.

That said, there are hundreds of pages of adventure - and clearly the authors opened a variety of arcs, many of them closed, and some portion left open - but it can be a challenge to find and remember all those arcs even having been a player.

It would be great to have a list of those unclosed story arcs so we can as a DM create scenes to close all of them to help give that more satisfying "Mckee-an" sense of completion.

So the question is, what are the story arcs that are opened in ToA’s story that were unclosed in the module?

We are looking for a bulleted list of opened arc story elements that the authors left unclosed or for which the authors didn’t outline the scenes for closing them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Aug 16 '18 at 5:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how this is a question that can be answered on stackexchange. The answer would depend entirely on what your PCs have done in the story. ToA's ending resolves what they set out to do, end the death curse. Everything else besides that is up to the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – Theik Aug 16 '18 at 6:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik The authors only opened a finite number of story threads - and only left a portion of those unclosed. That's the list. Some DMs may have opened others and closed others themselves (outside of what's written in the published text)- but we aren't looking for those. We are only looking for those story arcs that were opened in the original adventure that weren't closed with scenes by the authors in the published text. \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Aug 16 '18 at 6:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri It’s open and the system is operating as intended. (If you have issues about the site, please use Role-playing Games Meta instead. Comments are not for discussing the site’s operation.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 16 '18 at 16:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Idea generation requests are almost always too broad for SE and I’ve closed the question on that ground, since requesting ideas was added to it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 31 '18 at 3:03
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Here are unclosed story arcs we have found so far...

...along with some closing ideas (in progress) that we will play test and update so other DMs have some base ideas on which to improve.

Ignore the closing ideas sections if you just want the open arcs.

OPEN ARC:

Ubtao and the Nine Gods --> As Acererak is vanquished or routed, there is little mentioned about how the Nine Gods, who have possessed various PCs, leave their hosts, what they say or how they convey the reward for those who get to keep their special weapons. What is missing is how might DMs close these arcs.

OPEN ARC:

The Airship Crash Survivors --> The PCs found a crashed airship in the jungle. The crew had failing health, no food, and a broken ship. Their story is left unclosed after being saved. DMs can answer the question how does one close this arc in a meaningful way for the players? -->

...CLOSING IDEA:

At the end of Lord of the Rings, when it is clear the ring has been destroyed, three eagles are sent to pick up any possible survivors. The eagles find two survivors. One eagle flies back without anyone. Once the soulmonger is destroyed, diviners and others the world over will know resurrection works again. The DM can consider placing that very airship and their crew, taking the risk to fly to the Tomb and waiting outside like the eagles to pull up the battered and bruised PCs. ”We are honored to be here and greet the heroes...” The airship returning to Port Nyanzaru can become the way the PCs see the rest of the impacts that they have had on the world.

OPEN ARC:

The Clone --> A clone of a PC is found beaten and bloodied, tortured by the witches, and deformed but with all the memories of the PC. Andrew Stanton, in "The Clues to a Great Story" says the core principle of great stories is "Make me care." DMS can answer the question, how do we finish the arc of the Clone and make it so the PCs might care? -->

...CLOSING IDEA:

The pit-fighter PC who was cloned in our party was creeped out by the Clone. Whereas the rest of the party cared about the abused Clone and actually freed it from its cage. To give the Clone an arc and a chance at gaining the that last PCs empathy, we expect to have the Clone throw himself in front of one of the Soulmonger's tentacles saving his clone "brother" from being thrown in the lava. The Clone will take heavy damage in the lava and be additionally scarred. If he survives the fight he will tell the party he will leave pit-fighting to his...he's unsure what to call his cloned brother...and instead "wants something a bit more peaceful. Maybe run an Inn up in the mountains. If I ever get one, you can always know you are welcome and have a place to stay."

OPEN ARC:

Strawbundle, Clay No-Face, Joho --> The party found children with souls trapped in dolls who are slaves of the witches. The party freed them from witches. DMs can answer this open arc around how does their story end and how to convey it to the PCs?

...CLOSING IDEA:

The dolls can ride back with the PCs on the airship, looking down at a world they have never seen - tugging at the legs of the PCs pointing out sights that stun them. The three dolls are a new odd family straight out of a Tim Burton movie that ultimately leave for the world of Fey.

OPEN ARC:

The Monodrone --> In ToA a Monodrone is released into the Prime Material Plane with no clear way to get back to Mechanus. Blinking and in fear, it clung to the edge of the bureau, clicking and whirring unsure what to do around the PCs.

...CLOSING IDEA:

--> Our party became quite attached to the Monodrone. "He's a cute little guy." He's been following the players because he is lost. If the PCs freed the Dao who said she will take them anywhere in the multiverse, she can offer to return the Monodrone to Mechanus.

OPEN ARC:

Artus and DragonBait --> Despite being hunted by Storm Giants for the Ring of Winter, these NPCs can ally with the PCs and help them on their quest to defeat the Soulmonger. Yet, little is mentioned how the story finishes and how they finish their alliance and story in a compelling way.

OPEN ARC:

The Frost Giants --> searching for the Ring of Winter, the PCs meet and fight some of them. This has a middle but could use a story arc for their encounter.

...CLOSING IDEA:

---> One could close both Artus & Dragonbait and the Frost Giants in a single scene. For example, as the PCs travel across the jungle in an airship, they can see the Frost Giant's longships leaving Chult for now. Artus says, "They are leaving. Maybe they too have friends or family they wonder if can be resurrected." He looks at the ring. "They'll be back."

OPEN ARC:

Undead --> There were tens of thousands of undead wandering across the land, bound, potentially, by Acererak's power. DMs can answer the open story question was there any effect on the land of Chult with Acerak's setback?

...CLOSING IDEA:

--> The undead can become temporarily aimless, being torn apart by dinosaurs. Floods of undead are walking into the sea.

OPEN ARC:

Families of the Dead --> Families have been suffering across the world. People gave up hope and buried the dead. Graves are filled with the bodies of the un-resurrectable many which now become resurrectable. How best to show the impact that the PCs have had on the people's lives?

...CLOSING IDEA:

--> As the PCs enter the city by airship, they could see grave sites being dug up all over. Priests stand nearby over the exhumed bodies to cast resurrection. People are hugging lost loved ones brought back from the dead.

OPEN ARC:

Syndra ---> This almost legendary arch-mage is suffering a withering death from the SoulMonger. DMs can answer, what is a cinematically effective moment for the PCs to greet her and close the tale? -->

...CLOSING IDEA:

Syndra can be on the steps of the temple that resurrected her. All the priests are around her and as the airship lands she greets them and thanks them - kind of like a throne room moment.

OPEN ARC:

Acererak ---> This legendary arch-lich is defeated in his effort to create a new God by the adventurers. The adventure mentions that the Acererak decides to kill the PCs with the most powerful tool he has to wield: time. As an immortal, their lives are a blink in time. He will let them die and haunt their progeny. This is a haunting story moment that would seem a great loss to the story if PCs were deprived of experiencing this realization.

...CLOSING IDEA:

---> In the calm of the epilogue, Acererak can deliver his message of dark vengeance to their dreams months later so the PCs realize, the quest to end Acererak has just begun.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suggest sticking more to explaining the unfinished plot threads and put less weight into explaining the thing you're planning on doing. At this point your answer is 3/4 "here's the cool stuff my group is planning on doing" but we don't look for that in answers and it's not necessary to answer the question. Focus more on just explaining the unfinished story arcs. Readers can come up with their own plans. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 29 '18 at 11:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with doppelgreener about the ratio of answers to the question vs. brainstorming solutions. My issue is that a downvote (which I don't mean to imply came from @doppelgreener) means the question gets marked as technically unanswered, which is not the case- the answer is there for anyone with the same question, but it could benefit from editing for clarity and focus. Praxelites, I'd follow the suggestion and remove the notes on stuff your group is doing, and you'd have a very successful response. \$\endgroup\$ – The Grumbleputty Aug 29 '18 at 14:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Thanks for the suggestion. We have separated out the arcs from the solutions so people can just ignore them. (We left the arc solutions as our original desire in our question is that we also wanted example principles of arc completions that have been used in play and proven to be useful. We will come back and add whether or how these worked in play and what the principles were that became clear that can be used for crafting ending arcs for ToA.) \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Aug 29 '18 at 20:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ That goes beyond what the question is asking, which can be perceived by voters as “going the extra mile”, or can be perceived as “going off topic”. Considering the response so far, it seems the latter might be happening and it may still attract downvotes. Time will tell. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 30 '18 at 1:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Praxiteles Aug 31 '18 at 3:52

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