D&D 5E Which of these possible endings do you prefer to see in every published adventure *as written*?

Which of these endgames do you like to see in every WoTC 5E adventure as written? [multiple choice]


So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
I won't write much here as to hopefully avoid biasing the results of this poll.

If helpful, benchmark examples of:
  • Only 1 ending examined & explored as written = i.e., Wild Beyond the Witchlight
  • No heroically good ending written as is = i.e., Prisoner 13 of Keys from the Golden Vault
  • Adventure as written concerning itself with moral correctness = i.e., Mazfroth's Mighty Digressions of Candlekeep Mysteries
I want to emphasize the poll question is asking about your preference regarding what's actually published as written (and not what you could add in with your own time and effort)

Defining what is morally correct or not is subjective and up to your interpretation!

I also left a lot of other options so you don't feel like you're being put in the wrong box. Hopefully I covered most of them!

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Victoria Rules
Though you phrased this poll as 5e-specific, the questions you ask are quite edition-agnostic and can apply to adventures from all editions. Further, an adventure from any edition can be converted and run for any other edition.

And so - even though my closest-ever approach to any 5e adventures will likely be to pick up a few (I have already), read them, and maybe convert and run them - I feel no guilt in voting. :)


So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Though you phrased this poll as 5e-specific, the questions you ask are quite edition-agnostic and can apply to adventures from all editions. Further, an adventure from any edition can be converted and run for any other edition.

And so - even though my closest-ever approach to any 5e adventures will likely be to pick up a few (I have already), read them, and maybe convert and run them - I feel no guilt in voting. :)
Ha. I chose 5E specifically, because a) I am selfishly concerned primarily with 5E, and b) other D&D editions and other systems might lean to different sensibilities.

For example, OSR games might lean more to a different moral code (I don't know for sure, just surmising).

In any case, I'd be grateful to anyone participating in the poll, so thank you for feeling guilt-free :)

I like heroic characters and happy endings, so I voted for that first option. But I also prefer those endings to come from effort, not just be handed on a silver platter--that feels disingenuous at best and outright dangerous at worst (teaching people that they never need put in effort to make the world better.) So I chose other options to reflect that.

In general, I prefer there to be at least four loosely-considered endings: the "best" truly heroic/moral ending, a "good enough" ending if things didn't go well but didn't go poorly, an ending that is bad but at least tolerable/fixable, and a truly "bad ending" where it's clear the players have really screwed up and things will be bad, perhaps not forever, but for a long time.


Victoria Rules
Sometimes the happy ending is simply that the characters - or at least some of them - get to the end. :)

More seriously, oftentimes adventure authors seem to expect things will end a particular way and give little or no consideration to alternate possibilities, which can really leave a DM twisting in the wind if that ending the author had in mind isn't what happens in play.

SPOILERS AHEAD for H1 Keep on the Shadowfell - I assume most here know it well, but for those who don't now might be a good time to skip to the next post. :)

I mean, consider an adventure like Keep on the Shadowfell, where the goal is for the party to interrupt a ritual and prevent an interplanar gate from opening. It's set up such that when the party arrive on the scene the ritual is well underway, the gate's already partway open, and a huge extraplanar creature is coming through it. There are so many different ways this could end:

--- the PCs interrupt the ritual and find a way to close the gate before the creature gets through (the heroic option)
--- the PCs fail to interrupt the ritual in time and either have to deal with the creature (good luck with that) or flee for their lives (the "we tried" option)
--- the PCs allow the ritual to finish, somehow get the creature to ignore them, and then go through the gate themselves to see what adventures might await on the other side (the stand-the-campaign-on-its-ear option)
--- the PCs themselves join and-or continue the ritual in hopes of gaining control of the creature (the facepalm option)

The author of the module so clearly expects the first option above to be what happens in play that no guidance whatsoever is given on how to deal with the other three situations (or any others) should they arise. When I ran it, half the party went for the first option and half for the last; it came down to a single timing roll to determine which group won, and the gate-closers succeeded a mere few seconds before the gate-openers would have......


I think an adventure should include the worst case scenario, where the party fails. That way the character's actions have consequences, where at least part of the world is altered by their failure. Obviously this assumes the party survives, but it can also include when the DM continues using the same campaign setting for the next game.


Limit Break Dancing
Only two votes for me:
1. No preference, I write my own endgame scenarios, and
2. I'm not concerned about the PCs' moral correctness.

My reasonings for voting the way I did:
1. This isn't by design; it's just the way things usually turn out. My players tend to go their own way and do their own things, and I don't try to force them to stick to the adventure outline. The result is that they usually end up pretty far from the author's intended ending when all is said and done, so I have to get creative with our ending.

2. This is not to say I don't pay attention to it, keep track of it, and plan NPC encounters accordingly. I'm just not concerned about it. I play D&D with my friends, and we're all adults...there is no cause for concern.


I prefer to see at least two (preferably three) endings explored:

  • What happens if the PCs succeed?
  • What happens if the PCs fail (but survive)?
  • And perhaps a third giving a variant of one of the other two (a disastrous fail, or an alternate success)

I don't particularly care whether those are "heroic", "morally good", or whatever - I'm quite happy if the adventure posits that the PCs are amoral mercenaries doing a job, in which case 'success' may well not be 'good'. (Naturally, I wouldn't run such an adventure with every group... but then I wouldn't run a 'heroic' adventure with every group either.)

For the most part, I agree with what @delericho said.
I checked the morality things, though, because I appreciate it when an adventure discusses the repercussions of major actions on NPCs or factions (and I try to also reflect that when I run games). However, the adventure should ideally not make any assumptions on the morality of the adventuring party.

I definitely prefer that there be more than one featured ending. If only one ending is considered a success...that isn't really more than one featured ending, it's just a single ending telling you how to deal with degrees of success.

That being said, I don't need pages of detail on each of these. Just enough to give some guidance on what might happen in the world as a consequence of certain events. I like the ending to be open-ended.

I'm also not a fan of adventures where the only way you get the best result for the world is by having a PC die (or otherwise suffer some undesirwable result). You don't see that as much in D&D because of resurrection magic, but in another game I'm seeing more than one adventure like that (reading, but haven't played). There is a place for that, but it requires a very specific mindset which I'm not seeing as inherent to the game. I have at least one player likely to revolt over it. As I said, not terribly relevant to D&D, but relevant to the poll options.


We play generally as good characters with some (minor) moral ambiguities.

For us, a good ending is when the PCs achieve their objective, and what we're doing is generally regarded as "moral".

However, ever since the OGL fiasco, we've been looking into alternative systems and more 3rd party content, so what WoTC produces isn't really a big concern for us.


In Princes of the Apocalypse (PotA) you have a choice of 4 big bads to fight in the end, but the moral/good objective is to kill him and stop the forces of evil. I'm not sure if it is listed or just hinted at if the PCs fail and the elemental forces are released upon the lands. That, of course, becomes another story.

Generally, I'm less concerned about the moral thing and find the Pcs are motivated by gold or magic and some by doing good deeds. To make the end of the adventure have a moral choice like let the princess die or open a pit to hell, might be ok once but is not my heroic fantasy. It might make a good story to continue the adventure so the PCs can figure out a way to close the portal, but it would be poor to have eveny story Wizards puts out have something like that for an ending.


Moderator Emeritus
I am less concerned with "morals" than I am with repercussions.

I am also not very concerned with "endings." How can I know what the ending will be until we get there? I mean, I think discussing two to four most likely outcomes is a good thing but they should be written capaciously enough to allow for a variety of possibilities within and around those potential endings.

WotC's adventures for 4E and 5E have been pretty epically mediocre-to-bad (with a few honourable exceptions)

The main thing is that if you're going to write an adventure for sale, and set up the final scenario so that there are different ways it could, potentially, end - which most writers do, intentionally or otherwise - please at least pay some attention to what those different ways are. So many writers manage such a narrow conception of how their adventure could end that it's rather shocking.
The author of the module so clearly expects the first option above to be what happens in play that no guidance whatsoever is given on how to deal with the other three situations (or any others) should they arise.
I genuinely would love to interview the authors of Keep on the Shadowfell, or read an "oral history" of it. I have rarely seen post-1990 adventure so full of assumptions, and weird thinking, and odd scenarios - but not odd in the good 1E "what the hell?!?!" way - odd in a "interesting concept, maybe you should have thought it more than 30% of the way through?" way.

I was personally so appalled by KotS that I'd been intending to run the sequel adventures to it (I'd bought, physically and everything), that I read through them, and they were equally dire (well, not quite as bad, like 80% as bad), but instead by the time we got to the end, when the portal collapsed, I had the adventurers get sucked through and deposited on another world, and I started writing my own adventures instead, for the first time in many years.


Loves Your Favorite Game
If I'm running a module, it's because I'm interested in the story and actively want the assistance of not having to come up the framework from whole cloth. So, the bare minimum I'm looking for is a writeup for what happens if the antagonist/conflict of the module is directly confronted, and prevented from executing their plans/happening. I'm not necessarily looking for a specific how to do that in there. To me, it then seems obvious to include the converse, what happens if they are not stymied. I may end up coming up with my own ending, but only if I'm dissatisfied with what's written.

On a tonal level, I'm not looking for a specific moral guideline. More important to me is the existence of an ending that concludes the story with the party feeling like heroes, and that they succeeded in their goals. Unless the adventure is very specifically a bleak one, where winning is more avoiding the worst than getting the best (and there's definitely room for that sort of book, but I'm not likely to reach for it quickly), I want a path to at least exist where the players don't feel like their win is inherently compromised. I'm not saying I need that to be easy, or the default conclusion, but if the party did all they could be expected to, I want everyone to walk away from the table with a satisfactory, if perhaps sometimes very traditional, narrative arc.

That all said, if the book goes out of its way to think about the gradient of success, or has a couple different paths that are plausible given expected approaches, I'll definitely appreciate it more.

I think there's room for certain adventures to directly concern themselves with morality, and how the party specifically approaches and achieves their goals, but that's the sort of thing that requires consideration from the start of the writing process, a consistent thematic approach throughout the entirety if it. And, given the variability of morality in the context of this system, there's a very reasonable chance that the DM/party could find themselves disagreeing with how the author landed.
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I let the player's choices determine the ending. This means that any pre-published material I use has to be adapted to fit the realities of our table and story. So mostly the occasional standalone adventure.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
"I am concerned about the PCs moral correctness in the game."

I have selected that (among others), but need to clarify:

"I want PCs to have to make tough moral choices, and to have to grow and evolve as characters."

In other words, there should be moral choices in the game, but I'm not as a DM pushing the players for any particular answer. I like lots of shades of grey in the games I run and the ones I play in.

All of that said, when I run I do put out in Session 0 that I am looking for heroic PCs, or at least good-adjacent. I don't enjoy running an evil campaign.


I’m not my players teacher, pastor or parent so I don’t feel the need to enforce morality. I don’t think I’d want to be a DM if I needed to. You keep talking about moral correctness in a way that make me think of one of those… one with a long meter ruler… thwack!

Adventures with a heroic ending, usually end up with a body count. The BBEG bleeding out on the floor, or banished back to hell. Because that’s a good honest heroic challenge. Killing a monster. I don’t have a problem with that, but I don’t think it’s an inherently moral or virtuous thing to play out.

Also, if you want modules that aren’t purely combat based then you’re gonna have to challenge some people in other ways. That isn’t always going to be easy and isn’t always going to turn out the way the PCs want. Allies of convenience, double crosses, phyrric victories, and just getting out alive is sometimes a good outcome.

Does the first Jurassic Park have a heroic outcome? Do the Conjuring Films? What about Aliens, or Game of Thrones.. They are still satisfying and cathartic and heroic in their own way.

Ironically people often say the Witcher is grimdark, but the eponymous character actively rejects the virtue of a lesser evil. Of course the series also rejects the idea that most people are one thing. Good villains aren’t cookie cutter templates. I’m excited by the prospect of a D&D heist book that gives us modules with some moral quandaries, some unusual consequences and a bit more bite to my D&D than we have seen before.

I voted "Other".

Most of what I want from an adventure is the timeline of the villain's plans and what they are going to do about it when those pesky adventurers get involved. I'm also looking for something clever to inspire me as well as saving myself some time. I prefer more heroic storylines, but my players do what they want. I don't use alignment except in a cosmic sense.

Moral issues can be interesting from time to time, but I got pretty sick of them when I played through a number of "screw the paladin" adventures. If we're going to have a moral puzzle, make it interesting. Otherwise, keep it on the level of Temple of the Frog, and let the PCs stab who they think should be stabbed. Most people have decent discernment on those things.

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