Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
PadreBoniface

Newb GM question - players choices

Recommended Posts

Recently Ive been through some wise literature that could be summed up as "GMing for dummies" and it inspired me to reconstruct some of the adventures I have prepared for my players. I see that I am having some problems with railroading, as introducing players choices poses real challange for me - my ideas for decision making either spoil the whole plot or are no real choice. 

 

So I am asking you guys - what kind of players choices do you allow? Which work well? I have noticed that official adventures offer the choices of supporting certain party (like The Edge of Night or The Witchs Song) as well as "be gnetle or be brutal" kind of choices (Omens of War or The Gathering Storm). Do you have other ideas? Or advices?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Railroading vs Sandboxing can be very tricky and also depends on play styles.  Most groups of Players appreciate having "road signs if not train tracks".

 

I wouldn't try to "create player choices" rather "don't try to limit them" and "be open to them".  Players who want them will make their own choices.  "What do you do next?" should be the single most common phrase out of GM's mouth with a fall-back plan of "who kicks in what door if they don't do anything".

 

The best way to handle this sort of issue is to think of/design adventures not as "a-b-c" happens but as "conflicting interests" (Conflict Maps) with their different resources and plans - sometimes blind to each other/overlapping (Edge of Night is like that).  This allows you to adjust to player plans and actions.

 

Chis Chinn/Bankuei had some great posts on his blog about this once but I think when it was reinvented/migrated they were lost.

 

Have a default through-line of what happens if PC's do nothing/fail, and then "let that fall where it may" in having groups react to what PC's do.

 

Alongside this think of the set-pieces, great fights, magnificent scenes, key reveals, chances for each PC's backstory to shine and keep those things in mind, turning play towards them when feasible.  Do what what is "dramatically great with reasonable suspension of disbelief" not what is "statistically likely".

 

For example, a friend of mine is GMing a group who in Gathering Storm want to "clean the beastmen out of the marshes" (okay yes let's leave aside that this is not D&D where 4 PC's clean out a nest of goblins).  His challenge there is not to "say not" and not just say "okay, here's a fight you can never win".  It's "let them try, show them a bloody nose, but don't make it pure suicide unless they clearly opt for that".  E.G., let them have a small win of understanding more what's going on with beastmen, have one or two fights they can win (though beastmen are great for dealing criticals!) but then (if it was me) having shown them "how near a thing that fight with 4-6 of them were", the sight of 80 of them or however many dancing around the fire and celebrating.  In the meantime, have the other plots advance and show some signs of advancing that produce "interesting hooks" to draw PC's in (let them rescue a farmer from beastmen who leads them to head south to the goblin fest).

Edited by valvorik

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We've had a few discussions about this on the boards. What I have found really works well is basically this approach:

 

1: Give the players a goal. You need to either know the players/characters well enough to know that they will actually aim for the goal you set or discuss it with them beforehand.

 

2: Litter the area they are in with appropriate and interesting stuff that is more or less related to the goal.

 

3: Let the players figure out a way to use the stuff you put in there to reach the goal.

 

 

All other methods tend to run into problems. Railroading is as much a problem for the GM as it is the players. For the players it can become a bit boring and uninspired. For the GM though, it makes you way too focused on one path. When the players do something that veers off the path you are not mentally prepared for it and have a much harder time adjusting to a game where the stuff you planned no longer fit.

As long as you and the players agree on what the goal is, you can all much more easily collaborate in making a fun story instead of fighting over the reins.

Edited by Ralzar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you very much for your suggestions.  I have taken them all into consideration and used last session, running Journey to BFB yesterday. The night was fun and I guess no one felt railroaded (although this adventure is well.. straightforward), but now new question came into my mind.:

How do you control the pace of the adventure, if we give so much freedom to the players? With my group we have already dedicated 6 hours of play into Journey to BFP and they just managed to encounter the Orcs at the end (the fight is next session). The PCs literally explore every detail about the locations and NPCs I describe as well as develop them into mini adventures. Aside of the scenario suggestions they have carried out 2 inn parties, organised some travel mules (with some good rolls and very clever use of the elf forged map) to speed up the travel time, interrogated grave robbers, were interrogated themselves by the town militia (twice), bribed the toll collector, donated to hospice and overall became heroes of Grentztad, just to kill the goblin scouts a few moments later. Honestly, I thought this "one shot" adventure was aimed at 3-4 hours of play (now I think altogether it will take..9?), but saying "yes" and generally being open to their ideas makes me wonder how many sessions would I need for a campaign like The Witches Song or (Sigmar forbid!) The Enemy Within.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like you have good proactive players who help make a story interesting, lucky GM! I find that the more active Players are the more engaged I stay.

 

Session speed of play through material can vary wildly depending on what points Players focus on, how rolls go etc.  My group, for example, sped through Enemy Within pretty fast compared to many (as often as I remind them that in an investigative game not only the locations but every NPC can be regarded as "a room to explore that may hold treasure, trap, obvious doors on, secret doors one etc." - all "adventures" are really "interconnected webs" between points be the points rooms, scenes, items, NPC's etc.  They are pretty much always "racing to whatever seems next" (e.g., like the guy in the dungeon who as soon as fight is over in this room opens all the doors out of it before folks finish searching this room).

 

For pacing, if Players are investing effort in interesting stuff you can "find a way to make work" let them have at it.  If it's really going down rabbit holes be prepared to hand-wave stuff, say they want to spend lots of table time planning parties and in your mind it's simply going to amount to a connection or two, fortune dice on some rolls later - and they won't regard the table time they spent well-rewarded.  Instead of saying "don't to that" if at at possible reduce the table time.  Tell them, "we're going to settle how the next 3 days and party go with a single roll, each of you can contribute in one way by making a check, your checks build the dice pool for that roll" (there is some advice on this sort of thing in Hero's Call).  Each player does something (check all engaged), the "party roll made", 3 days passed, play moves on - their cool ideas are given a chance (say "yes you can try that" is a good rule for GM with limits such as the old example of "guy wants to charge an entire army on his own to kill the general"- just because you can try doesn't mean you have a chance).

 

If things are straying too far into unproductive action, I have an eye on "is this flagging, flailing about and are they at a loss", which can lead to "advance the plot and change situation so now it's not stop murder now it's find killer with new set of clues" or simply a "kick in door" things arrives and demands their attention.  That could be something from the current plot or just "this is when the NPC you ticked off arrives to make life difficult with violence or otherwise".  Eg., in a prior campaign there were two Tilean thugs [criminal enforcers with a bit of flair] with a reason to dislike on PC they felt cheated by (the Player actually wrote that into his creation story), who I kept handy, similarly there was the corrupt priest from 1000 Thrones who survived, a "1 scene' witch hunter from Edge of Night who could show up again etc etc..  Think of these as "the B plots" to an adventure's "A plot" (e.g., in TV this week we focus on solving murder of the chef [A plot] while B plot is whether main character #1 manages to find enough time to plan a smashing valentine's date for his flame). 

 

Character creation may already have set these things up in PC's backgrounds - in Enemy Within PC's are created with ties into main plot where pursuing a minor B plot they are "handed to start" leads into A plot.  This is one of the things to vary, for the sake of not having a gazillion threads to track, B plots should turn out to lead into A plots fairly often (e.g., successfully navigating B plot turns up a clue to break the logjam in A plot) but not all the time as that 'strains disbelief'.

 

Added - part of this is also being efficient as a GM.  Once you create an NPC or use one from adventure and they have some onstage time, are developed a bit more off the cuff, shame to not use them again.

Edited by valvorik

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...