This post about third acts continues a discussion of dramatic structure in games. The introductory post in this series is called I, II, III, the post about first acts is First Act, Ask Questions Later, and the post about second acts is Too.
There’s a thing people say about how a third act should be: unexpected but inevitable. As much as that’s a “sound of one hand clapping” thing to say, it’s true. A story should end with a twist that catches you by surprise, but when you think about it later, it has to make sense to the point that you can’t imagine things having turned out any other way.
In RPGs, the GM has the usual bag of narrative tricks. He can reveal that the focus of the second act didn’t tell the whole story, or that the premises of the second act were flawed or based on filthy lies, or engage in all kinds of similar what-have-you. The third-act reversal is tricky but no less do-able than for a novel or script.
What about the unexpected and competitive games, though?