In most forms of entertainment there is a finite resolution. Books, Movies, TV series, board games, video games, card games, etc.-they all have in common a definitive end at some point. Role playing is different though as there is no clear winner and the adventures never need end. Even if a character dies, a new one can be created and can join right in.
It's the rare entertainment though that leaves one with a "...and then what happened?" ending. By "...and then what happened?" I mean there is no clear resolution and a sense of leaving to the individual's own mind the possible resolutions. I don;t know if this is possible in RPG's but I am intrigued at the potential. I guess a campaign is really an extended "...and then what happened?" Yet I've never refereed or played one that really left me with that feeling. Is it possible?
For example, did Clint Eastwood survive the swim in Escape from Alcatraz or not? At the end of the first star wars film (1977) does Vader live? die? become a renegade? (as an aside I remember long debates in grade school (before Empire Strikes Back) about what happened to Vader and the Empire at the end of Star Wars and frankly I still think our ideas at 8 or 9 were better than Lucas') My point is that not resolving everything (what was in the case in Pulp Fiction?) and leaving it to individuals to ponder or resolve is a rare event in entertainment.
You probably missed it, but this week was the end of the second "THE COLONY" experiment, and it was an ending that my wife and I are still discussing. We did not discuss the end of BSG or Lost for more than a day and frankly both of those were completely lame in comparison to how THE COLONY ended.
THE COLONY is a show on the Discovery channel that pre-supposes a global pandemic causes the breakdown of civilization. Into this setting a group of individuals is put together and for 50 days and tries to survive. Through the days they must find food, scavenge equipment, defend themselves from hostiles, make moral decisions over helping others and in general just try to survive. It is an extremely interesting show not only from the "survival" aspect but from the civilization versus self preservation difficulties and moral questions that arise. For example food and clean a water are limited, and your group of 12 has enough for maybe 3 or 4 days...and then a group of 12 women and children come by begging for food and water outside your shelter: Do you help them? Do you keep it all for your own group? If you do give it away will news of that get around to other people? What happens to you if everyone scavenging in the wild thinks you have food and decides to try and come take it? Will you be able to replenish the stock you give away?
In season 2 the scenario is: After a global pandemic wipes out most people, the uninfected colonist are dropped off in a government safe area by a group known as VOPA. (VIRAL OUTBREAK PROTECTION AGENCY)..and then kind of abandoned to survive with a bit of food and a few supplies. VOPA appears randomly as do raiders, traders, and other interesting twists. All the while the colonist try to survive and improve their daily lives.
...and while season 1 and 2 are both good, Season 2 is far and away a better show. For those who intend on renting or buying the DVD's of the series or finding them online to watch, please stop reading here. All I will says is the series, and the ending in particular, will keep you off balance and discussing "...and then what happened?"
SPOILER: At the end of Season 2 the Colonist find and raid the enemy camp, make off with some supplies and decide to evacuate to a previously discovered and unoccupied fishing house in a fan boat they constructed. The destination house is right on the water, has a dock and is undamaged. Easy food and clean water available and no one else around!
After the raid as they are packing to board the boat VOPA suddenly arrives in 3 or 4 black Suburbans. One man gets out and says he can take TWO of the group to a safe area where they will have meals and treatment and be protected...who wants to go? VOPA's previous involvement was about zero so this is a shock to the colonists, and despite all the vehicles the can only take two colonists because the rest are filled with agents...its odd to say the least. So one woman colonist (and only one) agrees to go. As the vehicles drive off, you hear the sound of aerosol spray cans and the woman screaming while the vehicles leave the encampment.
Cut to the Colonists camp suddenly being counter attacked by raiders. The colonist hurriedly get onto their boat and take off. Then you get the normal fly over scenes of their ragged boat cutting through the water in the sunlight. Now comes the camera face time for each colonist about "what they learned" and then a pan shot of the boat and colonists faces as they approach their safe house. You see smiles and the Colonist faces as they see the house..and then suddenly smiles change to fear and disbelief...one or two guys pick up their makeshift weapons, and the camera pans 180 to the house again...a group of armed raiders comes charging out of the house and on to the dock threatening the colonists...then the screen goes black....and then what happened??
It's rare when you are left hanging and get so many plot twists at the very end of a TV season that will never be resolved. There is something about the inherent gritty nature, moral quandaries and surprise plot twits in this series, and in most PA material (not of the radiated mutant variety) that is intriguing. If you enjoy it as well, The Colony is good show for you to explore.