Ask a Pro: Question Seven

Thursday, July 9, 2009

7. You are running an Adventure Path, and one of your players is ignoring the obvious hook. Do you gently nudge him in the planned direction, or do you go with the flow and see where this digression might take you?

Lisa Stevens: Basically I try to nudge, or I may come up with a different hook. For example, in Shackled City, there is an adventure where the players need to be convinced to go to an evil plane, and I just knew the hook as written would not work on my players, so instead I had the NPC seek out one of my PCs who was a rogue, and basically had the NPC convince him that great wealth and power were to be had there, and then I just let him convince the rest of the party. But in one of my early D&D groups, my players made me a sign that read "HINT HINT," and they told me to hold it up whenever they were being too dense. So basically I would be like, "The bartender begins telling you about an old abandoned mine..." (holds up sign).

F. Wesley Schneider: I think the most interesting thing about being a GM is the art of getting the players to do exactly what you want but making them think it was their idea. There is nothing more satisfying than having your players come up with this really brilliant and clever idea, and it's exactly what you wanted them to do from the beginning.

James Jacobs: I let the players do their own thing, but they eventually end up where I want them regardless. Basically I just remain flexible and adapt.

Erik Mona: I just let them go wherever. I'm perfectly happy allowing them to dictate the action.

Jason Bulmahn: Depends on the group. Sometimes you'll get a bunch of chaotic players who want to be the embodiment of mayhem. In those situations you have to make a decision: do you keep slapping them with plot hooks or do you just wander off aimlessly into the woods?

Sean K Reynolds: I don't plan too far ahead, so I can remain flexible to my players' actions.

Joshua J. Frost: I try to gently nudge them back, usually with an NPC. But if they insist on running off, I'm pretty good at improv.

James Sutter: It depends on the type of game I'm running. A lot of the time I'll just play a sandbox style of game, where I'll show up with some sticky notes and that's it. If it's an AP, I generally try to weave and nudge them in the right direction. But I also tend to play with big groups; my last campaign had eight players. In those situations, I really feed off of what my players give me, and in a lot of ways depend on that. I'm a big fan of using experienced players to my advantage, too. I rely on the more experienced players to help coach the novices.

Chris Self: If the players are following something that might actually lead somewhere, then I'll let them do whatever, but if they're just sort of spinning their wheels, I'll try to nudge them in the right direction. I actually once played in a campaign that fell apart because the GM gave us too many hooks and not enough of a nudge in any one direction.

I've never minded players wandering off. I'll kill them wherever they go, one way or another.

Hank Woon
Editorial Intern

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