Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Sense of Novelty, and Giving Players Control of the Plot

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately, mostly on account of a lack of momentum -- I let myself get out of the habit of posting regularly, and it's a tricky one to pick back up. So there may be some more rambly-type posts like this one, as I try to catch my footing again.

And then there's the campaign I'm running. For a while, I felt like I was just going over old ground, which meant there wasn't much for me to write about concerning it. More importantly, that feeling over going over old ground was causing me some vague dissatisfaction with the game. When I game, particularly when I run a game, I like trying new systems, employing new techniques, learning new things. Using a system I'd used ages ago to run a sequel to the same game I'd used it before just wasn't satisfying on that level.

That's better now, I think. For one, I've started doing more with the social aspect of the game. Trollsmyth's tea parties are rubbing off on me, and at least a few of the players are interested in that kind of thing, so now we have things happening like major world-shaking plot points hinging on who's sleeping with who, and who else knows about it. Which is new, and good.

More significantly, some of the things I set up at the beginning of the campaign in an attempt to make it more open-ended have started to pay off. Without delving too deeply into fiddly, campaign-specific details, (and without giving too many of my future plans away) a four-way battle for the throne of the empire the game centers on is stirring on the horizon, as well as at least two separate invasions from foreign powers. Each side is either driven by or heavily depends on the actions of at least one of the PCs, and while I will admit to meddling in favor of chaos, destruction, and general good times, what happens next is largely up to the decision the players make.

This is a pretty major change, for me. Historically, I've avoided railroading on principle, but for a long time I prided myself on being very good at getting players to do what I wanted anyway. Whether it was a kidnapped NPC, a shiny object, an enemy on whom they'd sworn revenge, or simply the stirrings of great drama, it was never hard to exert gentle pressure on the party in the direction of my convenience. I always left the details up to the party, and I was generally happy to accommodate their own plans when they had them, but in my best campaigns I always had a master plot, a final villain, and an ending in mind.

This was always fairly popular with my players, since I had the good sense to leave the details sketchy and to use plots and villains that interested them, but the new approach is much more interesting to me. Before, I always knew how the game was going to end, and it was just a matter of how they'd get there. This time, I'm playing to see how it's all going to turn out.


  1. Now you only need to give your players some whimsy cards to really shake it up, eh? :)

  2. You mean you DON'T have a Great Plan? I feel so disillusioned...