- How to open players up for this kind of campaign
- Points that should not be forgotten to convey
This will be a rather short article, but an important one nonetheless.
When I ran my first session of complete freedom (including a hook adventure and an intricate plot), it completely went down the drain. The reason for this is simple: So far, my player had only experienced railroaded, linear adventures where what they were expected to do next was always clearly communicated. This has been, I have to admit, also my fault – at least partly. But what it created was players that just waited for the next clear path to walk, with every autonomous action discouraged. Not only was this dissatisfying for the players, it was also quite a desperate situation to me, as I didn’t know what to do to further encourage them (I had not yet developed the Gunmen technique back then).
So, in order to prevent a similar disaster from happening to you, always make sure that these concrete points are always clearly communicated to and agreed on by your players:
- There are no wrong decisions: Make it clear to them that whatever their characters are going to do, you will roll with it, as long as it doesn’t interrupt the fun for anyone else at the gaming table. Encourage them to stay in character and just let the story unfold.
- There are no wrong (or right) directions: They are free to pursue or ignore each and every hook you present to them, as long as they are prepared to face the consequences of their behavior. There is no expected behavior, so they should ask themselves what they want to do instead of trying to figure out what they ought to.
- Nothing is really over: Even if they have the impression an element of the story is dealt with for good, all their actions will still have consequences (and could eventually come back at them).
- Everything is Connected: They have to be aware that whatever they do, it will probably yield more than the obvious, immediate consequences. All elements of the settings are connected in one way or the other, so every action against or in favor for one of them will always also affect the others.
- Everything Happens For a Reason: However random or disconnected the things happening to the PCs seem, every acting entity has a reason for what they do, and eventually they will get a sense of the broader picture.
- Just Play: The game is about having fun and have a good time with your friends, so this is exactly what they are asked to do. They have another world ready for them to explore, so what are they waiting for?
Once these cornerstones are communicated to the players, you are much less likely to be forced to end the game in a dead end (or with overly confused players). It guarantees you and the players are on the same page, and not stuck in the rigid straitjackets of railroad adventures.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever experienced players who were not prepared for the kind of game you ran? Tell us in the comments!