D&D General Do I Have To Have Players?

delericho

Legend
I'm in the process of kicking off a new campaign, and for once I've actually managed to get well-prepared for running it - there's a solid beginning and middle, and at least some notion of how it's going to end, lots of encounters that I think should be fun, groups to interact with, mysteries to explore... basically, I'm very happy with it.

There's just one problem: now that I've done all this work, I find that I don't want to run it, because those crazy players will obviously wade in and promptly wreck it - they'll dash off in some random direction that I haven't thought of, or resolve the central conflict in one session, or something like that.

This is, of course, a case of "my precious campaign", but it's the first time I've been struck by it so strongly. And I fully intend to ignore it and get on with running the thing. But I thought it was amusing enough to post about.

Any other DMs out there run into something like that?
 

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TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Not to that degree. But I had a similar feeling a few times.

Can't say it's a solution for every instance of the problem, but once I actually used what I had prepared and turned it into the backdrop and lore of the world. So all the cool stuff I had planned became events that happened a few years ago and I built a new adventure building on it. Unfortunately, the campaign didn't last very long because of unrelated issues, but it worked well!
 


Stormonu

Legend
I'm in the process of kicking off a new campaign, and for once I've actually managed to get well-prepared for running it - there's a solid beginning and middle, and at least some notion of how it's going to end, lots of encounters that I think should be fun, groups to interact with, mysteries to explore... basically, I'm very happy with it.

There's just one problem: now that I've done all this work, I find that I don't want to run it, because those crazy players will obviously wade in and promptly wreck it - they'll dash off in some random direction that I haven't thought of, or resolve the central conflict in one session, or something like that.

This is, of course, a case of "my precious campaign", but it's the first time I've been struck by it so strongly. And I fully intend to ignore it and get on with running the thing. But I thought it was amusing enough to post about.

Any other DMs out there run into something like that?
Sorta. It's why I write novels instead.

In D&D, you have to set the stage, but it's the players that drive the story. Often off the stage, out of the building and into the street onto an incoming car.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Me personally? No. Because I tend to run linear-like adventures and adventure paths and have no issue making the things that guide players down the path that has already been written out for me more enticing than anything else that might be out there. So they'll follow the adventure path because it's the most interesting thing they can accomplish.

I also have no problem re-inserting things into the path of the players that might have been written to be in one place in the book but which could be better reacted to in the place the players now find themselves. I don't find sandboxes that enticing or interesting to run, so if the players move away from a potential plothook by going over there instead of over here... I'll just pick up that plothook and place it over there now to see if they decide to act on it. At that point if they do see it but choose not to pick it up then that's cool we don't have to engage with it... but I'm not going to throw it out whole cloth just because the group decided to wander away from the location where the hook was originally going to be found.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I'm in the process of kicking off a new campaign, and for once I've actually managed to get well-prepared for running it - there's a solid beginning and middle, and at least some notion of how it's going to end, lots of encounters that I think should be fun, groups to interact with, mysteries to explore... basically, I'm very happy with it.

There's just one problem: now that I've done all this work, I find that I don't want to run it, because those crazy players will obviously wade in and promptly wreck it - they'll dash off in some random direction that I haven't thought of, or resolve the central conflict in one session, or something like that.

This is, of course, a case of "my precious campaign", but it's the first time I've been struck by it so strongly. And I fully intend to ignore it and get on with running the thing. But I thought it was amusing enough to post about.

Any other DMs out there run into something like that?
Sometimes, although not to that degree. I used to however.

I've been doing this for a while now and I came to trust my players that they won't wreck my campaign for the sake of wrecking it, and that when I tell them what kind of campaign it is in the first place, they tend to make characters that fit the campaign and take decisions that match my expectations. It is facilitated by the fact that I keep to small groups however, which makes my game and the player's more agile.

I've also learn to love the curve balls that my players throw at me once in a while. So in a very Bob Ross way, I like to turn these "happy mistakes" into my advantage and pretend that was the plan all along ("it will be our little secret"). Or else it genuinely forces me to rethink the campaign (or segment) and oftentimes, I end up preferring it to the original idea.

In my last campaign, the PCs managed to save the NPC at the end of the first act and prevent him from becoming one of the main villains in the process. In retrospect, the story was made better and the players had a real feeling of acomplishement. I call that a win-win.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I think it might really help to run the campaign with people you really care. No strangers, no 'friends of friends', just real close friends and family. You'll probably suffer less if they derail it, and they'll probably not want to derail it themselves if they care for you back.
 


The Best way to avoid frustration is to make world building or campaign building as a collection of entity with tools and motivation.
Entity can be very wide, a single character, a king, a city, a guild, a band of trolls, a small inn.
As players take interest and interact with those, you refine their tools, their motivations and add more flavor.

Running a campaign is to allow PCs to interact with those entities, clash with opposite motivations, and find ally with some.

if you decide right from the start the faith of a given character or group, for sure you gonna be disappointed.
 

Art Waring

Redlined Ratrod
Just my way of seeing it, but I kind of enjoy it when my players tear my campaign worlds apart.

Sometimes they can instinctively find a exploit that you didn't anticipate for, and this can make things more exciting for me the GM. Not to mention, it helps your designing in the long run if your creations and your worlds are challenged to a greater degree.
 

Wolfram stout

Adventurer
Yes, and to the same extent as the Original Post. Specifically, it was The One Ring 2nd edition. A beautiful awesome looking game. And while my whole group likes Lord of the Rings, I am the big Tolkien fan-boy and lore enthusiast. I realized as I was writing up the campaign that it was heavily railroady, and my first reaction (to myself) was "Well it has to be or they will just mess it up". That made me realize that I should not run it. Instead,

I am about to start a Spelljammer campaign instead, and look forward to whatever craziness and off the wall stuff they can throw at the campaign.
 


payn

Legend
Also, if you have no plot to ruin in the first place, your game is effectively bulletproof. There is no middle or end preplanned ahead of time. The players can do whatever they want and whatever they do is the story.
You can, but I find GMs often run boring games in this style. Its not something easily done.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
You can, but I find GMs often run boring games in this style. Its not something easily done.
Plenty of DMs run boring games with or without plots. As long as there are things to do in the context of the setting and the players get after it, there's not a problem. I refer to what I believe you're saying as the "quicksand box." Where there's no obvious adventure to be found anywhere so most sessions are spent spinning one's wheels and/or shopping.
 

aco175

Legend
I try to view making a campaign like building blocks with a child and knowing they will knock it down as soon as they can. It is in their nature, so I try and not dissuade them.

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Look at how much fun he is having.
 


Any other DMs out there run into something like that?
Not really. I'm kind of the opposite way. I get bored writing extremely elaborate campaigns because I want to know what the players will actually doing, rather than trying to either:

A) Write super-long-range detailed predictions of what they might do.

or

B) Write a mediocre-to-bad fantasy story that is pretending to be a campaign.

The latter has been consistently a huge issue in TT RPGs, I was reading some commentary from one of the White Wolf lead designers about it. They tried to get people to write like, actual campaigns, but they kept ending up getting what were essentially just stories where the players were basically onlookers whilst NPCs did cool stuff, and even if you avoid the NPCs doing the cool stuff - which even TSR/WotC fall into at times - you're still doing something kind of to the side of writing an actual campaign.

I'm running Spire at the moment, and the "campaign frames" it has are much more like what I tend to write, which is a like a large-scale, longer-term scenario, but where anything but the initial parts aren't really detailed and are pretty theoretical, and where it's more about creating interesting moving parts to play with than telling a specific story.

And if you're not telling a specific story, you don't get the "my precious campaign!" factor! But hey at least you get that it's an issue, rather than just clutching your specific story to your chest and weeping lol.
 

Well, inside every fan is a frustrated novelist. Have you considered that if it you are too attached to it to allow outside input, maybe then you should just write the darned thing the way you feel it should go and be done with it?
Not to be contrarian (though I know I can be, sorry!), but I think some of us just have no novelist inside us. Like, I can write a lot of words on the internet, but I couldn't envision myself writing a novel (cut to five years later where I have just finished the first 1200 page volume of my ludicrously overwrought purple-prose-filled fantasy epic lol but shut up!).

But anyway my point was rather that if you don't have the novelist inside you, maybe you're less interested in stories, and more interested in moving parts? I mean that's always what's fascinated me as a DM, for 30+ years now. Not the beginning-middle-end story campaign (which I enjoy as a player, if it's done well!), but placing some interesting pieces in front of the players, and giving them a goal or a mission, should they choose to accept it, and seeing what happens, which is almost never what I expect to happen.

I think this is kind of a lucky thing, because I've seen so much heartbreak from DMs over campaigns "gone wrong". Even my own brother, apparently we made some unfortunate decision in a WEG Star Wars campaign one time, which we all thought was going great, but like the chain reaction from whatever it was we did basically destroyed months of work/planning on his part, and he actually gave up on running it.

But I agree with your point that if you really have that novel inside you, write it! Like 75% or more of the better fantasy and SF writers of the last couple of decades got their start as DMs.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Kind of. I definitely used to get that feeling. When I was younger it was the bane of many of my campaigns. I'd set up this "great" campaign concept, but then when it came time the players would immediately run roughshod over it, like bulls in a china shop, which made me no longer want to run it.

Nowadays, I build my campaigns to be broken. I'll throw a weak beam here (the removal of which could bring down a section of the roof), and a false wall there with something game changing within. So on and so forth. That makes me want to continue running the campaign, because each week I tune in to see what they break and how.

IMO, if you have a campaign concept that's your darling, and you don't want to have to kill it, then don't run it. Maybe use it as a historical background for a campaign concept set in the future, one that you've designed to be broken. That way your darling will see use but (short of time travel) remains unbreakable.
 

Oofta

Legend
I'm in the process of kicking off a new campaign, and for once I've actually managed to get well-prepared for running it - there's a solid beginning and middle, and at least some notion of how it's going to end, lots of encounters that I think should be fun, groups to interact with, mysteries to explore... basically, I'm very happy with it.

There's just one problem: now that I've done all this work, I find that I don't want to run it, because those crazy players will obviously wade in and promptly wreck it - they'll dash off in some random direction that I haven't thought of, or resolve the central conflict in one session, or something like that.

This is, of course, a case of "my precious campaign", but it's the first time I've been struck by it so strongly. And I fully intend to ignore it and get on with running the thing. But I thought it was amusing enough to post about.

Any other DMs out there run into something like that?

I remember reading an article long ago from an author who had played D&D when younger. When asked if they still DMed, they said that no they couldn't DM because the players never did what she wanted them to do. Seems like you're hitting the same issue.

I haven't run into this problem for a long time because I realize that I am merely setting things in motion and setting the stage. Yes, I control the secondary actors but I don't control the story. So if I ever find myself thinking "and then the PCs will..." I stop myself. Instead I think of the actors (which can be human, monster or organizations) what their motivations and goals are. Actors can be good, evil or indifferent. I think about how the setting has been affected by those actors and what, if any, impact previous campaign have had on the world. But then I let it go.

The actors respond to the actions of the PCs, but the PCs have a great deal of control over the scope and direction of the campaign. Figuring out what those actors think, how they're going to view the actions of the PCs, what kind of ripple effects there could be is a big part of the fun and just as engaging as trying to write out an entire campaign. I'll usually have a general outline in mind - what happens if the PCs don't interfere - but it's just an outline and one I'm more than willing to toss out the window if a new direction makes sense and sounds like more fun.
 

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