Please Just Play the Adventure (One Shots)


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Committed Hero

Explorer
Isn't it always going to be the case that the character are presented with a "choice" that isn't really a choice? I could start the adventure with the characters standing at the entrance to a dungeon and tell them that they've been tasked with finding the Mobile of Baby Vecna, but if they don't "choose" to walk through the front door there's no adventure.

"Tell us why your character is looking for Vecna's mobile."
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Not for a con game. A con game is allowed to be, even expected to be, a linear experience. If you can pull it off otherwise -- great! But you can't fault someone for preparing a 4 hour adventure for a 4 hour con slot.
But isn't that very much the same as a normal one shot? Id say so
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Not if by "normal one shot" you mean for your regular game group, I don't think they are quite the same. that familiarity and rapport with your group allows for a different dynamic at the table, as does the potential that the one shot doesn't HAVE to be a one shot.
Well, having run more one shots for a group than I have for strangers, I'll disagree. Familiarity helps, but its not a panacea.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
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.
I played in a Star Wars tournament game back in the late 80s and it worked quite well. Just about any set of objectives that can be fairly tabulated work well. I'm less of a fan of the "best roleplayer", "best team player", and other subjective measure, whether based on player votes or GM fiat. I find they create incentives for attention grabbing.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
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. :)
Well, sure, but gold was the reason the party risked their lives and was how you would award scores to the survivors.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
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.
For a campaign with friends or with people with whom you'll have time to build up a relationship, I agree 100%. Often the failures are the highlights. But this can be very hit or miss in a convention game. Some people are upset or frustrated at "failing" especially if they feel things were not clear or "fair." I don't run games at conventions because I don't think I have the ideal style and personality for it. But as a player in convention and organized play games, I've observed that most players prefer rather obvious and railroady one-shots. I can thoroughly enjoy a good railroad adventure. As a player, I'm a good date. I go with the flow and can generally read the room. And I can have fun with about any game, as long as there are no toxic people in the group (I've been lucky. I have no convention horror stories. There have been some people that were mildly annoying but never anything over the top.)
 

The problem are not the players, or the GM.

The problem is the adventure format.

It's said that 90% of everything is crap, but for published adventures it's more like 99%. And most GMs seem to base their idea of how to plan an adventure on published adventures. And as the programmers like to say "garbage in = garbage out".

RPGs are a medium in which the players are given the ability to make choices about what their characters think and do, and those choices have consequences that determine the story that is playing out. Published adventures don't understand that and instead write a whole story in which all the choices have already been made for the players. Without telling the players about it. Players might make the wrong choices, and so adventure writers come up with all kinds of ways to make sure no ideas of the players can work, except the one that they are supposed to take. That's railroading!

Those players sound great. They seem to play an RPG like an RPG is supposed to be played. They make judgements about how things look to them, and then make decision based on their interpretation of the information available to them. Published adventures don't want them to do that. They are written to make players guess what the writer wants them to do. And if the players actually play the game instead of just playing along with the script, the adventure breaks. Because it's garbage.

Any decent adventure worth playing provides situations that players can interact with in ways that they think best, based on their understanding of what is going on. Such adventures can exist, but they are almost unheard of in the publishing world. It's a struggle that the entire industry has been fighting with for almost 40 years but never appears to have realized what the cause of the problem is.
Don't write scripts that the players are supposed to act out while not having any idea what the script is.
I'm not sure, have you played convention one- shots? What you describe doesn't seem to apply to the OP's experience very well.
 


For what it's worth, the rider screams "adventure this way" to me. Then again, I've been DMing most of my gaming life, so I may well be "overqualified", see things too much from the GM seat perspective.

I mean, no sane GM plants a " optional distraction " in a con game.
 

MarkB

Legend
For what it's worth, the rider screams "adventure this way" to me. Then again, I've been DMing most of my gaming life, so I may well be "overqualified", see things too much from the GM seat perspective.

I mean, no sane GM plants a " optional distraction " in a con game.
Sure, but convention games get all sorts of players, from old hands to newbies to people who've only ever played in one group. You can't assume that they'll be familiar with the conventions of convention games.
 

aramis erak

Legend
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.
Tournament mode works great for military/paramilitary mission scenarios...
Such as in Prime Directive.
It could work well in Hollowpoint, Delta Force, Crime Fighter (the old TFG police one), Star Trek, Star Wars, or Blade Runner¹.

¹: Yeah, been reading my copy.
 

But how do you know the designated path? Look to the GM to give you signs if you are playing correct or doing something wrong?
If you are crossing a desert and find a stranded traveler (in a one-shot), that's a plot hook.

It doesn't get any more obvious than that. If an entire group missed that glaring plot hook, you've got a table full of duds.
 

Colgrevance

Villager
Problem is, as far as I understand the OP's tale: The players correctly identified the hook (they went over to the rider, spoke to him and gave him water; they even assumed someone might be out for him) and thus 'got caught'; and then happened what? The rider went to sleep, vaguely suggesting to post a guard, and nothing else was to be done - the group even had ample time to discuss what to do next.

For me, that's a like the fish had bitten the hook and expected to be roped in, but the fisher just let the line dangle. Especially in a convention game, when time is tight, I'd expect the gm to pace the game much more tightly, quickly coming to the adventure proper and keeping the introduction as short as possible. And if he doesn't, it looks like what seemed to be the hook might only have been a diversion, or some scenic element to set the tone, or whatever. The OP complained that the payers didn't "go with the flow", but at this time there simply was no "flow" to speak of, and I don't see why a violation of the gm's expectation (stick to the hook and wait for the adventure to start properly) should be worse than a violation of the players' expectation (getting to the action as quickly as possible).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If you are crossing a desert and find a stranded traveler (in a one-shot), that's a plot hook.

It doesn't get any more obvious than that. If an entire group missed that glaring plot hook, you've got a table full of duds.
Unfortunately, getting the bolded is a very real possibility when running a convention game, meaning the GM has to be prepared for such and to have in some ways written the adventure with that possibility firmly in mind.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
I sympathise as I have run a one-shot Call of Cthulhu scenario where the players did not want to investigate, turning the adventure into Call of Call the Police. On the other hand the adventure itself sounds like a bit of a damp squib. I do think the "goal" of the journey being going to the city mixed in with the "hook" of an encounter is confusing, especially in a one-shot with unknown players. The actual point of the adventure also puzzles me - was it the ultimate combat encounter with the pursuers? Trying to plot out the intended stages, it seems to me to be:

Meet The Rider at Location A --> Journey to Location B --> Hole up Location B --> Combat Encounter at Location B

I don't know if that's it?

The very first thing I would change would be to get rid of The Rider and simply make the PCs the ones who are being pursued. This resolves any problems with motivation, talking to the NPC, arguing with the NPC, and so on. The PCs and the players now have a very clear problem they need to solve. You can also add personal objectives or knowledge that each PC has about their pursuers, giving them some knowledge and investment in what is to follow.

If you want some NPC interaction you can include that but then leave the decisions the players/PCs make about that NPC entirely up to them - perhaps they do meet a wealthy rider, do they offer him help? will the rider help them? do they risk taking them with them? If they leave him will he inform the pursuing gang or even join them instead? Whatever the players decide will not derail the scenario, but that decision will have some impact. If The Rider is an enthusiastic youngster who joins them, helps out in the final encounter, but ends up getting killed it will add some pathos to the PCs victory, etc.
 

Unfortunately, getting the bolded is a very real possibility when running a convention game, meaning the GM has to be prepared for such and to have in some ways written the adventure with that possibility firmly in mind.
Huh.

Good point. Personally, I've never done the 'table of strangers for a one-off' thing.
 

MGibster

Legend
Good point. Personally, I've never done the 'table of strangers for a one-off' thing.
I used to do it a lot more in my younger days. It's a good way to meet new people and try out new games. My group of 10+ years has more or less dissolved recently, and if I want to keep playing I'm going to have to find new people. I'm hoping to find more people around my age though.
 

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