Seems fixable. If they make their minds up to start riding off, just have them spot the telltale dust plumes of riders on the horizon, heading their way, then the fugitive wakes up long enough to gasp "please don't leave me, they'll kill me!"Alternative Title of Thread: Just Engage with the %$#@ing Adventure
For free RPG day I ran a one shot at my friendly local game store, and, well, I didn't have as much fun as I'd hoped. I haven't played with a group of strangers since, well, it's been at least 5 years and I was a player not the GM. But come to think of it, I kind of had the same WTF reaction to the actions of the players back then like I did this time. So maybe I'm the problem?
It doesn't matter what game I was running yesterday, but the premise was that the characters were traveling through the desert when they come across a dead horse and the rider lying in the shade of a cactus some twenty yards away. Even without speaking to the rider, they can tell that he's a wealthy young man by his clothing, and they can also see by the condition of his horse that it was ridden to death. One of the PCs rightly figures out that this dude is running from someone or something and I'm thinking, "Yeah, we're off to a good start here." I describe the rider as being in a bad way, obviously suffering from heat stroke, he asks for water, and they help him out. The rider suggests they post a lookout and goes back to sleep. This is where the trouble starts.
The PCs start figuring out what they want to do. Which is great, because I normally love to see players engaged by having them discuss in character what they should do next. I cleared up some things for them, the rider isn't lazy for snoozing he's actually suffering from dehyrdation and heat exhaustion and genuinely needs some rest. During the course of conservation, we got your typically bad PC ideas and a few good PC ides, but the most popular choice was to leave the rider some water and just continue on with their journey. Which leaves me rather flummoxed thinking to myself, "This is the adventure, guys. If you refuse to nibble on the hook, that's it. You're getting 3 hours and 45 minutes of your time back." And I feel the need to stress that just leaving the rider was something they were seriously contemplating.
Why is this a debate? Just let them win the argument, disguise him, and have it not be very effective.After much debating, they decide to wake the rider and go ahead and travel with him. So, yay! They notice they're being followed by about a dozen riders, and the rider, Billy, explains to them that this group is after him and intend to bring him back to his family. But he doesn't want to go. Since the PCs can't outrun these hunters, they decide to hole up in a nearby abandoned mining town. Things get a little weird from there. They find some miner's clothes and ask Billy to change in order to disguise himself. Billy balks, explaining that these hunters no doubt have an excellent description of him, this outfit won't hide him, and besides, it doesn't suit his style. One of the PCs decides its a good idea to pull a weapon on Billy and threaten him which doesn't work. But another PC persuades him to change which he does even if he thinks it won't work to disguise him.
Why would you be invested in trying to save someone you only just met, who for all you really know might be a criminal on the run from justice? And if you're not that invested, threatening his life is going to seem like a decent way to get him to go along with your plan.Long story short, the PCs defeat the hunters. During the course of the fight, when things looked to be going south for the PCs, one of the players decided his character was going to sneak away during the fight, steal the other PCs horses, and leave. Which I really thought was an unnecessary, crummy thing to do. But, whatever, by the time his plan was coming to fruition the tide had turned and PC victory was fairly certain.
So the whole experience kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. What bothered me most was a bunch of people signed up to play a game and when we got started didn't seem interested in engaging with the adventure. That's just super frustrating. It's a one shot, guys, just go with the flow. I don't mind if you surprise me, but surprise me by how you engage with the adventure rather than running away from it. Then there's the odd behavior. Why would you point a weapon at the guy you're ostensibly trying to save?
Ultimately, the players don't know The Plan, so they don't know that they're deviating from The Plan - and when they come up with what seem to them to be perfectly good ideas to resolve the situation, it's not their fault if those ideas don't happen to match what's written in the scenario. And with a lot of people, trying to push back through in-character interactions is just going to make them dig their heels in even more.