Wednesday, February 23, 2011

GM Mentoring: Three New Plot Hooks Every Session...

Good Evening, All:

As my campaign continues to wind along, my players still have not yet crossed over Sovereign Chasm and into the Madlands themselves (although they should after tonight's game). They've been really focused on the little side trek plot hooks that I sprinkle in my games. I try to put three hooks out every session, just to make the world seem alive and diverse. The side effect of this, of course, is that player-characters are often distracted by the shiny new plot hook, and so we end up pursuing side quests instead of their stated main plot line. I don't mind that, as it gives me a chance to really flesh out my setting with more detail. Occasionally, though, they stand back and realize they haven't touched their original campaign goal in months.

When you find something like that happening in your games, I suggest that you provide multiple alternate paths that may lead them in the general direction they wanted to go originally as players. For example, several of the open plot hooks I’ve provided lead into the Madlands (all to different locations, of course, but they're all on the other side of Fellgorge and the Sovereign Chasm.) In addition, you might find yourself having to remind the players, directly or indirectly, that they are the ones that get to decide where they go in the game. I haven't closed a door on them yet in regards to the directions of their characters. (They may have closed a few doors themselves through their own actions, but any door they have closed, they can open again with a modicum of effort.) All I've done is provide options and distractions. It's their choice as to what they decide to pursue within the context of the game.

Note that by choosing to pursue local plot hooks rather than Madlands plot hooks, my players are showing me the kind of gaming experience they desire within the context of their characters. It's my job to take those clues and build on them, to give them a rewarding scenario that develops both the characters and the setting. If they never decide to enter the Madlands, the flavor of this aberrant land so close to the current gaming region has already added a significant element to the campaign's flavor. I'm personally good with whatever direction they decide to go.

Of course, as the player-characters become more talented and powerful, the players may feel more confident in heading off into the unknown realms known as the Madlands. It doesn't hurt that I've planted a really big seed that hopefully will draw them out in search of the City of Gold. One of the players wants his character to resurrect a dead God, and so I've given them news of a very powerful one-of-a-kind ritual (an arch-ritual, if you will) that can bend reality and reshape it once. Of course, there are consequences if you should succeed, and more horrible consequences if you should fail, but I'll let them know more about that before they actually find the ritual and have to make a hard decision. If he decides to go through with it and succeeds, he could easily bring back a Fallen God through warping reality, and change my home campaign setting dramatically.

In the past, I used to have a problem with providing only one major storyline and then railroading the game in that direction. This tendency I've developed of offering multiple story hooks each session to provide players with more world flavor and adventure options is part of my effort to overcome my previous approach to campaigns. While this is the second campaign I've run under this particular style, you can see that I'm still getting the ropes of it all, so to speak. That being said, I find that I enjoy my game all the more for presenting options, and the sandbox design approach has been a lot of fun. My players seem to like it, too.



vorpal_Cortex said...

Hi Flynn, I stumbled upon your writings while researching Savage Worlds and just wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed everything I've read. I am a new GM and hope to convince my group to give Savage World a try since I think it would promote creative role playing and give me the freedom to create on the fly. I still don't have a setting in mind so I'll probably stick to one shot games for now. Is your Madlands Campaign something you have made public? - Ian

Flynn said...

The Madlands Campaign has been partially detailed in various posts throughout this blog. You can read the background info by looking for the Madlands Campaign tag.

Hope This Helps,