D&D 5E Giving PCs Dilemmas, not Problems

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
but then we are back to choices not mattering, whatever I ignore, someone else cleans up
Whatever Party A ignores, Party B - which may or may not be run by the same players - cleans up.

Sometimes there's simply more needs doing all at once than a single party can handle, e.g. of six characters in a party, four have just picked up unrelated-to-each-other quests that have to be seen to right now; meaning you're staring down the barrel of running four parties* rather than just one.

* - not necessarily all at once, it's easier to run one for an adventure then put it on hold and jump to another - I do this all the time.
 

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While I try to give people options most of the time, or set up scenarios where just because I didn't think of an option doesn't mean there isn't one, I don't really plan out things this way. I think in terms of actors (NPCs, groups of NPCs, monsters) and what their motivation and goals are. Then I come up with potential goals for the group and they decide what to do.

But I do want to talk about good dilemmas and bad. I've been in games where we had to literally choose between a devil and a demon. Neither side was good, it wasn't even a choice between lesser evils. It was a choice of which evil. I hated it and will never do that in any game I DM. Even the choice of lesser evils leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't play a game to be handed a pile of donkey-poo that has absolutely no good answers, I play the game to have at least a chance of the good guys coming out on top. Maybe I'm not successful, maybe the easy path means is the "evil" path and the risky path the "good". But give me a chance at the latter.

I'm not saying the OP is suggesting any of that, it's just that one person's "interesting dilemma" is another's "Sophie's Choice" where there is no answer that can possibly leave the player feeling good about what they chose.
We had the devil or demon dilemma. Through a series of rather silly decisions 1 PC managed to unite the demons and devils. Made all future decisions rather easy
 

We aren't great fans of 'misery porn' types of campaigns.
(We would rather have two choices. Each is 2/3rd good, 1/3rd bad.)

Unless the game IS a dilemma game, like Witch:Road to Lindesfarne.
 



Oligopsony

Explorer
that makes no difference, then my choice made zero difference in the world, we are back to square one
There’s a lot of space between “everything in the world requires the party to solve it” and “the world is like the efficient markets hypothesis and if they don’t an identical party will.”

For a lazy procedure for running a sort of living world type thing, you might have a d6 table for plot seeds that the party skips like
1. Faction A (faction best equipped to handle it) handles it, if it’s in their interest to do so
2. As previous, but they screw it up
3-4. Same for faction B (next most likely)
5. Everybody ignores it, situation progresses
6. Something weird happens

Stealing Dungeon World’s “fronts” are also good fodder for this.
 

mamba

Legend
There’s a lot of space between “everything in the world requires the party to solve it” and “the world is like the efficient markets hypothesis and if they don’t an identical party will.”
but there is no difference between ‘the world will be exactly the same, no matter which problem the players tackle (assuming they succeed)’ and the choice not mattering

So yes, you have to advance the rest, with a chance of that other party failing, making the problem worse, new problems popping up, and old ones disappearing because someone took care of them
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
that makes no difference, then my choice made zero difference in the world, we are back to square one
Wut?

If Jerelle is quested to defeat Villaroto the Dragon (and suffers severe penalties if she does anything else, as per the old spell) then she's not going to be able to help deal with the Giants on the north border, is she; and they also need to be seen to right now before they rampage into the lowlands.

So, Jerelle recruits a second party around herself (i.e. everyone else* rolls up new PCs) to go deal with Villaroto, meanwhile the rest of her old party (i.e. all* the other existing PCs) go do what they can about the Giant problems (and Jerelle's player rolls up a second character for that crew). As DM you ask the players which adventure they'd like to play first, then run that, after which that group goes on hold and you run the other lot.

* - unless some existing PCs decide to go with Jerelle; the end result in any case is that everyone now has two (or more) characters in the setting.
 


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