Stop and See the Sights - Campaign Advice

Retreater

Adventurer
As a part of our original campaign discussion, the group decided they wanted a political, intrigue, and less action-oriented game. So I created a really detailed city with a pretty nice full color map, many points of interest, and several competing factions. The group spent 2 sessions there before racing off to the next city. So I created a second really detailed city with a pretty nice full color map, many points of interest, and several competing factions. The group again spent 2 sessions there before being ready to race off to the next city.

Numerous plot threads are left dangling. Work is going unused.

I am wondering, do I force the party to stay there? Do I stop planning at this level and have the group interact with bland, generic cities? Or do I remove the motivation for their rush?

The group is trying to find a kidnapped political prisoner, a child. I've tried to make it clear that the boy isn't in immediate danger and he's being used for political leverage. I've had NPCs suggest that they try to gather intel in City A (and again in City B) - because they don't even know where the kid might have been taken or why.

So I introduce factions that offer to help the group if the party agrees to do a simple mission for them. Their response is "we don't have time-we have to find the boy!"

I'm wondering if I should save my campaign by 1) killing the kid; 2) having the other kingdom list their demands; 3) allow the party to go ahead and rescue the kid; 4) take away their means of travel to slow the pace.

Or maybe there's something I'm missing?

What do you think?
 

pogre

Adventurer
I would drop heavier hints that vital information/clues are available in the city for them to complete their mission. Killing the child would rob the players of even having a chance at a successful conclusion as they have made the rescue a priority. Use that priority to entangle them in the city's politics and factions.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
I say go with #3. They've clearly latched onto this as the hook that most interests them. And heck, you can always loop them back to their original city - maybe the kid needs to be returned there, or has some other reason to go there. And of course, then there are the political ramifications of their actions to play out.

As for killing the kid, maybe that should be on the table as a consequence of failure, but I wouldn't do it just to drop the plotline. Heck, they could become obsessed with vengeance and still end up ignoring all the other hooks and threads.
 
I think you're in a good spot. There's a lot to work with here and just a change in perspective from you and your PC's point of view could make all the difference.

It sounds like you just need to give them quests that they want to do. In this case, quests that are directly related to finding the boy. Side quests in order to gain the favor of a faction which may help them to find the boy is clearly not what they want.

I'm going to assume that you are populating the world well, with likable and well described characters, locations, shops, allies, enemies, etc. This can be one of the reasons they don't stick around in a city if you are not.

From my point of view, it looks like your players want to play a detective game, putting clues together, interviewing people, and connecting the dots of the political landscape. In this case, i would suggest adding a new character which does the boring ground work for them, allowing them to go on an adventure.

In this vein, i would suggest adding a new character: a Detective who is similarly searching for the boy. When the players are searching for information, they will no doubt be told of someone else who came searching for similar information, and be directed to the Detective. This detective will show the players his clues and his web of intrigue that he has developed, which includes names that the players haven't heard, places that they haven't seen, Items they don't understand the use for, and his many clues and leads which he has yet to explore. The detective is hesitant to trust them, so he tells them only what they need to know. Once the players are familiar with him, he is killed for sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, giving the players a list of names & places to investigate, as well as volumes of the Detectives personal notes which each offer further insight, but take downtime to read and understand.

The Detective's study will give the players both a Home-Base and a ton of quest leads. This can keep the players grounded in a city, or at least returning to the city to revisit the clues and stacks of books. The quest leads the detective leaves are generally non-specific. "A name of someone and the name of a tavern." "The location of a Tower where a princess was once imprisoned," or "The reliquary which holds a magic item that can find royalty." (I'm assuming the kid is royalty, or is otherwise important.) This allows players to investigate without really knowing what they're going to find, increasing the intrigue and keeping the players on their toes.

As for factions, now you can have quests like "We have to enter the Unnameable Library, but only members of the Citrine Crusade are allowed inside, we can sneak in, or gain their favor by doing a quest for them." If the party isn't particularly sneaky or clever, they might opt for gaining favor, or else may sneak inside and get beat up, then thrown in jail for trespassing.

If you're trying to slow the players down, I would add in Timer-Quests, or quests that can't start immediate for one reason or another. An informant that arrives in the city in two weeks to tell the players where the child's parents are, a clue buried under a cave-in which must be unburdened, or the Detective's notes must be read and deciphered to learn where the boy was kidnapped. Lots of options here.

I hope this helps.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
First, I feel your pain. I've had a lot of campaigns where the PCs would dart hither and yon because <fill in silly reason>.

There is a rule I learned that helps slow that down that you seem to have violated: if you want the PCs to stick around an area, do not have hooks leading outside it. In your shoes, I would be tempted to provide one or more hooks that lead back to the second of the original cities that will provide enough information that the PCs can rescue the boy in the first.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
As a part of our original campaign discussion, the group decided they wanted a political, intrigue, and less action-oriented game. So I created a really detailed city with a pretty nice full color map, many points of interest, and several competing factions. The group spent 2 sessions there before racing off to the next city. So I created a second really detailed city with a pretty nice full color map, many points of interest, and several competing factions. The group again spent 2 sessions there before being ready to race off to the next city.

Numerous plot threads are left dangling. Work is going unused.

I am wondering, do I force the party to stay there?
No. Don't *make* them do things.

Do I stop planning at this level and have the group interact with bland, generic cities?
Stop planning the things they don't need. They said they wanted political intrigue. That doesn't need a full-color map, or places of interest. The factions are important. The political situations are important.

Or do I remove the motivation for their rush?
Make sure you *understand* the motivation for their rush, first....

The group is trying to find a kidnapped political prisoner, a child. I've tried to make it clear that the boy isn't in immediate danger and he's being used for political leverage. I've had NPCs suggest that they try to gather intel in City A (and again in City B) - because they don't even know where the kid might have been taken or why.
And you wonder why they dash around?

So I introduce factions that offer to help the group if the party agrees to do a simple mission for them. Their response is "we don't have time-we have to find the boy!"
These are factions, with their own political agendas, and the PCs have what proof they even know where the kid is, much less have real motivation to tell the PCs? What reason do the PCs have to *trust* that the side-excursion will be fruitful, instead of time-wasting and entangling? How do the PCs know these factions aren't allied with the kidnappers, sending the PCs off the trail?

Or maybe there's something I'm missing?

What do you think?
I think it sounds like they are trying to solve a mystery, not a political scenario, because the central problem is the mystery, not the politics. Typically, a mystery means they are expecting to find various clues that they piece together that will lead to the location of the kid and/or the identity of the kidnappers. While some of those clues will come from people, the investigators aren't going to trust information that someone steps up and tries to sell to them.

So, I'd suggest re-framing this as a mystery. Whenever you have a person in that mystery, make them a part of, or linked to, one of your factions. This means working out who did it, and how, in detail, so you can work out what kind of evidence was left, and who may have seen what. It is not enough to know "faction X took him" - did they get him with a much of rouges who creeped in mundanely during the night, or did they have someone on the inside using a teleport circle? And so on.
 

S'mon

Legend
Give them a decent shot at #3. I can't stand it when plot threads drag out forever!

If you want them to stay in your cool city, have a bunch of short adventures set in and around the city. Don't start off with a massive overarching plot thread - let any such develop over time, like how JMS did it in Babylon-5.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
The players are clearly signaling where their current interest is. Forcing them to do something else would be contra-fun.

I'm sure part of this is that we're wired to protect children. So regardless of "he's not in immediate danger", this is the most important thing to them. Just the idea of a child forcibly kept from his family is causing the child harm - no wonder they see this as urgent.

Making a home base city and then putting their most important mcguffin outside that city seems to be counter productive. If the kid was known to be at one of the factions in that original city, but the characters couldn't prove it and/or local authorities wouldn't move on them without the balance on intrigue shifting then you could channel all of that into intrigue and "stay here".

But really, you see how they take rescuing the child as urgent - I would let them advance that and afterwards try to settle around a city again - perhaps one that you have already details where they now have support from some factions (with the kid being held for political purposes his return would give the party political supporters), and other factions annoyed at them. Now it's dynamic.
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
They apparently had reason to believe the kid was elsewhere, or at least no reason to believe he was in the city. So they left the city and went "elsewhere." If you want them to stay put, make sure not to give them motivation to go elsewhere. Give them only hooks that are clearly *not* leading out of the areas you have planned your materials around.

*Then* if they run off anyway you can stop and have a discussion to figure out why they aren't staying put and interacting with the intrigue-focused campaign you thought you were supposed to be giving them.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm wondering if I should save my campaign by 1) killing the kid
Based on what you've posted, I would very strongly advise against this. The players' main goal seems to be to save the kid. GM-fiatting that they fail would look like "rocks fall" to me - ie killing, not saving, the campaign.

Numerous plot threads are left dangling. Work is going unused.

<snip>

I introduce factions that offer to help the group if the party agrees to do a simple mission for them. Their response is "we don't have time-we have to find the boy!"
From my perspective, this looks like your problem. The players want to save the boy, but you are trying to get them to ignore that element and go on fetch quests instead.

I'd suggest presenting situations that actually involve their attempt to rescue the boy. Whether you do that in the pre-planned way that [MENTION=177]Umbran[/MENTION] suggests (I seem to recall that Umbran GMs a lot of GUMSHOE) or the improv way that I personally would approach it seems secondary. The primary thing is to actually engage your players with the thing they care about.

You may be able to do that using one/both of your cities, or not - but again that seems secondary from the point of view of saving your campaign.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'd suggest presenting situations that actually involve their attempt to rescue the boy. Whether you do that in the pre-planned way that [MENTION=177]Umbran[/MENTION] suggests (I seem to recall that Umbran GMs a lot of GUMSHOE) or the improv way that I personally would approach it seems secondary. The primary thing is to actually engage your players with the thing they care about.
To be clear - the action/rescue scene can be totally improv, no problem. I do run a lot of GUMSHOE, as the main game I run at home is Ashen Stars - and there what I plot out is the mystery. Folks tend to overestimate their ability to create a sensible mystery by improv - when you just make up mystery elements on the fly, without time to *think* about how they fit together, you tend to have plot holes and an incoherent mystery. The action sequence at the end where one typically deals with the BBEG, those you can totally improv.
 

Derren

Adventurer
I wonder why you introduced a kidnapped boy who needs rescuing in the first place when you want to run a political intrigue game.

Imo you should really ask yourself what kind of game you want to run and present it as such. Here you started with a typical adventuring plot and now wonder why the players act like typical adventurers.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
I wonder why you introduced a kidnapped boy who needs rescuing in the first place when you want to run a political intrigue game.

Imo you should really ask yourself what kind of game you want to run and present it as such. Here you started with a typical adventuring plot and now wonder why the players act like typical adventurers.
I think my idea was that it would embroil the party in a political issue they normally wouldn't care about - largely involving trade disputes. Simplified explanation: Country A was trespassing in Country B's territory, so Country B took the crown prince captive. Country A sends party into Country B to find what happened to the boy. Rival groups and factions within Country B offer to help the party if they get something out of it. Party keeps traveling to find a "better deal" (i.e. an "easier" mission) to get the information they want.

This is the basic setup. And even though I tried to take care when creating this campaign - and I've been running games since 1989 - I still make mistakes. I think the setup has been a mistake. Just trying to get it pulled back to a normal level.
 

S'mon

Legend
Political games IME work well when you have multiple competing factions and the PCs can choose who to ally with and who to oppose. Works best with ambitious & self-aggrandising PCs, so not the reactive superhero model - that means not the Three Musketeers model either, even though that may look ostensibly like a political/intrigue setting.
 

pemerton

Legend
Have you told the players what you want them to do?

I'm not talking here about plot elements and story colour. I'm talking about the practical play of the game - some of the stuf you've posted in this thread, like:

I think my idea was that it would embroil the party in a political issue they normally wouldn't care about - largely involving trade disputes.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
Have you told the players what you want them to do?

I'm not talking here about plot elements and story colour. I'm talking about the practical play of the game - some of the stuf you've posted in this thread, like:
Yes. I made a sheet detailing the central themes of the campaign, and we discussed at Session 0 before they voted on which campaign they wanted to play.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
Yes. I made a sheet detailing the central themes of the campaign, and we discussed at Session 0 before they voted on which campaign they wanted to play.
Perhaps they simply got a case of "the grass is always greener" and thought this was what they wanted, but turns out it's really not.

Maybe before making any radical changes to your approach you should have a Second Session 0 and see how the players are feeling about the game. Maybe they're loving it. Maybe they're bored. Maybe they're overwhelmed.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Yes. I made a sheet detailing the central themes of the campaign, and we discussed at Session 0 before they voted on which campaign they wanted to play.
Still, you should probably not used a plot which can be solved by the typical D&D kick in the door way. Assuming your players have played a lot of D&D thats what they have been trained to do.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
Still, you should probably not used a plot which can be solved by the typical D&D kick in the door way. Assuming your players have played a lot of D&D thats what they have been trained to do.
Yeah. I'm realizing this now. :/

I think the only way to handle it is to have a metagame conversation with them.
 

gepetto

Villager
Id have whoever the boy actually belongs to just pay the ransom or whatever. You say its for political leverage? Okay the target caves. Boy is returned. However you can save them as villains by making it apparent that not only should they be punished but since it worked once they will do it again.

Then maybe you can get them to stick around somewhere looking for the best ways to strike at the kidnappers but without a ticking clock in the background.
 

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