Please Just Play the Adventure (One Shots)

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
At least then they don't have the excuse that they were being clueless about the nature of the adventure hook. This couldn't be a failure of hook identification, this is outright and explicit denial to follow the hook.
In this specific case it's not even a 'hook', it's just the premise of the game. You're playing a one-shot dungeon delve where you search for the mobile of baby Vecna. If you don't like the premise don't play the game. Worse yet, don't sign up just for a chance to be a bloody wanker and play against the premise when everyone else is doing the opposite.
 

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hawkeyefan

Legend
I have two bits to add.

The Heart RPG has a great bit of advice: don’t be coy. I think we sometimes let ourselves worry way too much about maintaining the “illusion” of an RPG. We shouldn’t do that. I think that contributed to the situation. Don’t be coy about what play is going to be or should be about.

The second is to find a reason for the characters to engage with the hook. For the players, the reason is to play through the scenario. But of there’s no reason for the characters, then some players will struggle to know why they should have their characters perform specific things. Often players will come up with goals or motivations for their characters that don’t align with the hook. And that’s a problem.

So you have to find a way to prevent (normally I’d say discourage, but for a comvention oneshot, let’s just say prevent…let’s not be coy!) the characters from simply looking at the dying rider and saying “sucks to be you” before they walk off whistling happily.

Make them merchant guards. Make them employed by the local lord to keep the roads safe. Make them hired by the dying rider’s father to find him. And so on.

Don’t shy away from treating this like the specific scenario it is. Just accept that and then do everything in service to that scenario.
 

Reynard

Legend
In this specific case it's not even a 'hook', it's just the premise of the game. You're playing a one-shot dungeon delve where you search for the mobile of baby Vecna. If you don't like the premise don't play the game. Worse yet, don't sign up just for a chance to be a bloody wanker and play against the premise when everyone else is doing the opposite.
Yeah, it has only happened once or twice but every once in a while someone signs up for your con game that seems to have no interest in actually playing it. Which isn't really a problem unless they are actively working against the rest of the players doing so. I think that has happened once or twice in 10 years of con GMing.
 


MGibster

Legend
I'm a big believer in using pre-gens for one shots. On the pre-gen sheet you can state goals, specific-character knowledge and other information that can help avoid some of the issues discussed in this thread.
I would never run a one-shot without pregenerated characters. If for no other reason, because we have a limited amount of time and making characters would eat into that. Particularly for people unfamiliar with the system.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
The Heart RPG has a great bit of advice: don’t be coy. I think we sometimes let ourselves worry way too much about maintaining the “illusion” of an RPG. We shouldn’t do that. I think that contributed to the situation. Don’t be coy about what play is going to be or should be about.

The second is to find a reason for the characters to engage with the hook. For the players, the reason is to play through the scenario. But of there’s no reason for the characters, then some players will struggle to know why they should have their characters perform specific things. Often players will come up with goals or motivations for their characters that don’t align with the hook. And that’s a problem.
One example where I think convention games have done this well is with Pathfinder's organized play - the Pathfinder Society. Each scenario is a mission that the PCs as members of the Pathfinder Society get sent on by a Venture Captain higher up in the organization's hierarchy. And the assumption of even playing in the organized play program is that PCs will all participate through the PFS's motto: Explore, report, cooperate.
I'm going to emphasize that last one - cooperate. It means that PCs (and players) are expected to cooperate in getting the mission accomplished and not being problematic or contrarian because "that's what my character would do". The organized play program isn't coy about its expectations and every player mustering at the table has plenty of opportunity to know that or be reminded if they forget.
 

That sounds like a real bummer. To me, especially at a game with strangers, you need to be willing to bit that hook and get going quickly. To see the opposite behavior in an entire group is especially egregious. I've only ever seen one or two players do this in similar situations and most of the time they get roped into following everyone else on the adventure or in rare cases the GM just cuts away to them doing whatever and then goes quickly back to the real action.

In my experience, this sort of thing doesn't happen en masse very often. Most of my experience gaming with strangers, they've been quick to pick up on the adventure thread and follow it. Regardless, I'm sorry you had to deal with it.

I did have one player that would routinely balk and try to sidetrack the adventure. He would just grind the entire session to a halt on some digression, or try to convince everyone to go do something else. To his mind, he was a skilled player testing the DM's mettle. To my mind, I eventually kicked him out of the gaming group.

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?

I hate when a single PC holds the whole adventure hostage just so they can argue for more money. It's annoying at home, but at a con game or other open table where we have limited time to get through the adventure. In most games, there's going to be some form of treasure baked in.

Yeah, I've had some problems like this. There was the guy who wouldn't accept any quest without reward... and then spent an age arguing over whatever reward was offered. There was the guy who refused to bite on any adventure hooks, and then complained that it was the GM's job to entice him. And I'm sure I've had cases very similar to the OP's description.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
One example where I think convention games have done this well is with Pathfinder's organized play - the Pathfinder Society. Each scenario is a mission that the PCs as members of the Pathfinder Society get sent on by a Venture Captain higher up in the organization's hierarchy. And the assumption of even playing in the organized play program is that PCs will all participate through the PFS's motto: Explore, report, cooperate.
I'm going to emphasize that last one - cooperate. It means that PCs (and players) are expected to cooperate in getting the mission accomplished and not being problematic or contrarian because "that's what my character would do". The organized play program isn't coy about its expectations and every player mustering at the table has plenty of opportunity to know that or be reminded if they forget.

I think it depends. The Alien RPG may have strong reasons to not have PCs cooperate. They can all be involved in the scenario, and be cooperating to some degree, but have motives or goals that ultimately will conflict. I think that kind of dynamic is key to the feel of Alien. You need to have a Burke or a hidden android like Ash to complicate matters.

But yeah, aside from that, I think having all the PCs be members of an organization is a good way to handle the required focus of a convention game or a one shot. Anything that pushes the characters to engage with the scenario.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
One example where I think convention games have done this well is with Pathfinder's organized play - the Pathfinder Society. Each scenario is a mission that the PCs as members of the Pathfinder Society get sent on by a Venture Captain higher up in the organization's hierarchy. And the assumption of even playing in the organized play program is that PCs will all participate through the PFS's motto: Explore, report, cooperate.
For one shot games with strangers I've come to believe that there is nothing better than the mission format for games. Brief the players on who they are, who they work for, and what the mission is, give them the layout of where things start, and then get started. The briefing can be in character or out of character but the important piece is setting a goal for the scenario of some kind. Most of the best con games I've played in have been in mission format - and most of the worst con games I've played in have started with an open-ended premise that expects the players to bite and engage in a particular way but doesn't telegraph it explicitly. It can work, but it really depends on who else is at the table and for me whether my blood sugar and sleep schedules are both aligned properly (And basically any adventure that doesn't lay out at least one explicit goal for the PCs to try to accomplish is a crap shoot as to whether the players on a given day are going to pick up on what the adventure wants them to do or not - even if the GM thinks its obvious, in the hands of random strangers what's obvious isn't always going to be apparent).
 


payn

Legend
The whole idea of convention games started as "here's a dungeon, let's see how much treasure you can haul out of it."
Tournaments are really fun, but typically framed appropriately. Also, this doesn't work in non-fantasy RPGs where dungeon delving isn't part of the game.
 

Yora

Legend
In a non-dungeon-looting game, you give the players whatever other instructions apply. "Go salvage that spaceship." "Go find that murderer." "Go get that money from the vault."
 

payn

Legend
In a non-dungeon-looting game, you give the players whatever other instructions apply. "Go salvage that spaceship." "Go find that murderer." "Go get that money from the vault."
Again, this assumes its some type of steal/kill everything you can type play loop. Many games work outside of that.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The whole idea of convention games started as "here's a dungeon, let's see how much treasure you can haul out of it."
I thought it started as "here's a dungeon, let's see if you can survive it." Treasure was just a pleasant reward for the survivors. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Again, this assumes its some type of steal/kill everything you can type play loop. Many games work outside of that.
Thing with a con game is there has to be a fairly clear goal; and this is why tournament dungeons were so big back in the day as the end goal was both a) blindingly obvious and b) built in to the fabric of what was being run that day. Now, that goal can be as simple as any of the following:

--- get as far as you can into this dungeon/setting/situation as you can in the availble real-world time
--- survive as long as you can, either as a group or individually
--- accomplish task x (which can be anything, as long as it's made crystal clear what it is before play even begins)
--- solve problem or mystery y (ditto caveat as per task x)

What I'm saying, I suppose, is that perhaps the best method is to somewhat approach and-or run con games* as if they were tournament dungeons even when they are not. The GM makes sure everyone knows the goal, and the players bend their efforts toward achieving said goal.

Another thing to consider is that it's possible some games/genres/systems/GM-or-playstyles just don't work as well in the short one-off convention format as do others; be it because the system or genre isn't one that does hard-coded goals well, or because the game or playstyle simply needs longer for the characters to develop as expected, or because the system is simply too slow and-or granular in its resolutions to allow any meaningful progress in that time, etc.

* - exception: demo games where the primary point is to introduce/explain a new system rather than to play anything in-depth.
 

GreyLord

Legend
I find flexibility is the best thing in GMing or DMing. So what if they don't follow the planned route the adventure sets forth, there are MANY ways to get them to go there...and if they don't...well...improvise.

Some of the best adventures I've had are from improvisations which I came up with on the spot when the party decided to go the opposite direction.

Don't be afraid to let them fail and have consequences. Just today, the party failed to really talk or negotiate with a intelligent creature and led to a pretty major conflict in which they absolutely not only failed the quest and adventure, but brought about dire results for the surrounding countryside. They survived (well, for the most part, one is dead as an undead), but the entire point of the adventure was failed.

If they do something, go with the flow of it. I find being a DM/GM requires inventiveness, quick thinking on your feet, and great improvisation. With those as your tools it is VERY HARD to make an adventure go wrong. You can adapt to whatever they do most of the time.
 


Reynard

Legend
I find flexibility is the best thing in GMing or DMing. So what if they don't follow the planned route the adventure sets forth, there are MANY ways to get them to go there...and if they don't...well...improvise.

Some of the best adventures I've had are from improvisations which I came up with on the spot when the party decided to go the opposite direction.

Don't be afraid to let them fail and have consequences. Just today, the party failed to really talk or negotiate with a intelligent creature and led to a pretty major conflict in which they absolutely not only failed the quest and adventure, but brought about dire results for the surrounding countryside. They survived (well, for the most part, one is dead as an undead), but the entire point of the adventure was failed.

If they do something, go with the flow of it. I find being a DM/GM requires inventiveness, quick thinking on your feet, and great improvisation. With those as your tools it is VERY HARD to make an adventure go wrong. You can adapt to whatever they do most of the time.
Not everyone is good at improvisation, so they prep. For those people, better to give them advice on exactly how to guide players into the prepared adventure. The easiest way to do that is start them there and make sure their characters are motivated to go on the adventure.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Not everyone is good at improvisation, so they prep. For those people, better to give them advice on exactly how to guide players into the prepared adventure. The easiest way to do that is start them there and make sure their characters are motivated to go on the adventure.
The real issue is what, exactly, are they prepping, isn't it?
 

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