It seems lately that I've been moving from subject to subject started by other people on other blogs. The latest would be the D&D 'end game' ... the point where the players stop adventuring, settle down, accumulate titles and find themselves saddled with men-at-arms.
I don't understand the term. "End"? As in, stop playing the characters?
There was a policy in OD&D that once the character reached a certain level, that was as strong as they could get. It was a bad policy. AD&D fixed it. In all my experience, I've never had a party resistant to the change. Rather, I've found that parties cannot get enough of going up levels, getting stronger, mastering the wilderness and so on. Generally, by 8th level, I've found that parties begin to get interested in things like raising eggs into monsters (dragons, remorhaz, griffons), and thus interested in developing complex fortifications to make such things possible. The same goes for establishing some kind of continuous income, to provide for the men-at-arms they want, the weapons they want, the materialistic needs they have (everyone always seems to want some kind of massive wardrobe) and so on.
But quit? Not on your life.
On two occasions prior to my present offline campaign, where the players are just now reaching this stage (two of the principle players are just shy of name-level), I have run supposed 'end-games.' The first I ran for about a year, but that was quite early in my experience with the game, and the party was mostly about drawing massive buildings and stocking them. The second end-game I ran lasted for five years. Doesn't sound like an end-game to me.
By the time it ended, for reasons having nothing to do with D&D and a lot to do with many of my players finding their vocations in other countries around the world (Vietnam and Ireland, as it happened), the party and its henchmen had established themselves on three continents. To begin with, a fiefdom equivalent to the smallish district of Viano do Castelo in northern Portugal, which they were given as a reward for winning a massive sea-battle of sixty ships vs. greater odds, defending the north coast of Portugal in the process (the mage was given the admiralship for an earlier exploit involving the king himself and a land battle that occurred near Badajoz in western Spain).
Using this fief, the party followed the Portuguese example and colonized a bit of the coast of West Africa, a piece of modern Guinea-Bissau. They founded a town, established an economy, cleared forests for plantations, built a road into the interior to better communicate with the scattered African states that had once been the Empire of Songhai, cleared pirates out of the Bissagos Islands, fought disease and pestilence wrought by mosquitoes, bought slaves from inland Malinese traders to sell to the New World and shipped valuable luxuries back to Viana do Castelo in order to expand their castle and bullfighting arena back home.
Having established a slave trade, their next escapade involved the island of Barbuda in the Caribbean, which was as yet untouched by Europeans (this being circa 1550). Instead of selling their slaves in the New World, they established a sugar plantation on Barbuda, so that sugar could then be shipped back to Portugal for income; the party's five ships were then employed hauling tools from Portugal to Guinea-Bissau, slaves from Guinea-Bissau to Barbuda, and then sugar from Barbuda to Portugal. The party was really starting to establish a solid income base.
Meanwhile, as several years passed in these exploits, characters who had chosen to take wives had also gained children, one of whom at the age of 17 had become a cleric with rather frightening statistics (two 18s, a 17 and two 16s). This girl I ran as an NPC, and she became the biggest nightmare to her father (the Admiral mentioned above) as she a) turned Roman Catholic (her father was Greek Orthodox), and b) proceeded to journey with a group of her father's soldiers, plus minor members of the party (to keep her safe), through Iberia healing people and performing good deeds. During a disentery plague, she so remarkably performed as a cleric and religious icon, saving a village and the region surrounding it, that it was declared that her exploits were worthy of being considered a 'miracle.' From that point on, I would chide the player who's daughter this was that she was destined to be a Saint someday ... I fully intended to carry out that storyline to the end.
Meanwhile, a henchman gained by one of the party turned out to be a dispossed royal heir to the throne of a minor kingdom in central Africa, in what would now be central Niger. At the time that I stopped playing, the party was in the process of moving men and equipment into Guinea-Bissau, in order to march them more than a thousand miles overland into the heart of the Sudan, to wipe out the usurper and place the henchman on the throne. After such a journey, I had no doubt the henchman would have been quite a few levels higher - but sadly, we never got to play that campaign.
The complexity of the above meant that different characters would assign henchmen, which they ran themselves according to my policy, to individual campaigns - some to Africa, some to the West Indies, some to Portugal and so on. I would run every week, four or five runnings with the European campaign, four or five in Africa ... always stopping when preparation would get the best of me. Thereafter, I would stop running here, to work on whatever, picking up the story line somewhere else.
End game? Pshaw! Never heard of it.