How would you play if it was your LAST NIGHT!? Would that change things?
Tonight won't, I dearly hope, be our last night ever--but it's going to be the end of the Ghost Hunters game. Things have come to a head--plot lines have resolved. We're about to (maybe) make some big moves.
How does knowing you'll (probably) never play a character again change things?
How Do You Know It's The Last Night?
The first (valid) question I would think to ask is are you sure it's the last? The answer is, of course, not really. We're tending to play beginning-middle-and-end games these days for a variety of reasons (as we are at least nominally play-testing JAGS Revised Archetypes we want to have things that end so we can do other things, we are starting with fairly controlled 'situations' so there are ways to tell where / when they resolve, and we do, indeed, like having "an end.")
But could we go on?
Sure. If the players really wanted to keep going we could do that. I'm sure the GM (also one of the players, in his way, of course) would oblige.
Also, I have inside knowledge: I know that the GM thought about running his next game in the aftermath of this game. Which would be interesting ... but we're probably gonna do Supers next so that's not likely.
But yeah: we don't know it's the last. There could be like one-more-session anyway.
Live Every Day Like It's Your Last!
The truth is that most motivational advice is horrible. Living every day like you were going to die the next day would be filled with a tragedy of lamentation. Living every day like "YOLO, man--let's score some heavy shit and get drunk off our asses and ride stolen shopping carts at full speed down the big hill" is what asshole college students do.
Making bad there's-no-tomorrow decisions is, actually, stupid, not enlightened.
Pain is nothing more than weakness leaving the body--that's how you know when your work-out strategy leads to crippling injuries you're doing it right!
So what I think is that the knowledge that things are going to end doesn't change my play all that much, nor should it. I know the game is going to end some time (they virtually all do--even if we aren't playing with some end-state in mind)--if it doesn't change my play on day one, why change it on day 52?
And, I'll note, I envision an imaginary life for my characters beyond the story. It's not that I expect to play it--or even dwell on it later (although: maybe?)--but when playing "my guy" I often do things that are either in the mind-set of the character thinking long term (Jack Revald doesn't know his last day of play is tonight) or imply a long term narrative (will Jack's potential dark future come to fruition? It (probably) won't in our play--but unless I got a perfect chance to make it or miss it in the last 2.5 hrs of game-time I wouldn't force a decision about that).
In other words, from both an immersion perspective and a narrative perspective, I'm not looking for a major direction change "on the last page."
A More Interesting Question
What if your game had a mechanical end-state. Polaris does--I believe it all has to end in tragedy no matter what. What if your game was like Dungeons and Dragons--but a pacing mechanic led the party towards an inexorable TPK ... eventually. Like, for sure--if you keep adventuring sooner rather than later the Dire Dice will land and you'll start losing guys ... like they had 1 HP or something.
Would you play that differently than D&D?
Sure you would--you'd start ... I dunno ... fighting less as the danger level climbed. Maybe the GM would throw less can't-avoid combat encounters ... assuming you liked your characters and the fun was seeing how far you could get.
Or maybe you'd figure you were going out sooner or later so screw it: NO RETREAT. NO SURRENDER--JUST FIGHT. Actually, to my memory, that's just like D&D.
Oh--and there's one other way you'd play that game differently: Most of you would only play it once.
However, the point is that end-states, whether they are built into the mechanics or the situation are different from a vast open-ended no-known-end state game in some ways.
Tonight maybe I'll get to answer my own question.