Where to get my campaign criticized before I run it?


Advice


Hey,

I've written a 6-8 week campaign, and run the first week of it. The party found loads of plotholes, found the main quest hook to be 'meh' and had trouble progressing.

Where should I post in these forums to get my campaign torn to shreds to that I can run something much better?

(All the faults with the campaign are mine, not the players.)


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Right here works. Start by discussing expectations with your players. Understand what their expectations are, because it sounds like they were pretty ungrateful, and it won't be fun to write another adventure for a bunch of players who would critique a game like that.

But people here will give you good and valuable advice about plots. I think key advice for running a home game is to be the opposite of an AP, in the sense that any adventure should be organic. Create your world, your enemies, and your backstory and let the characters and NPCs create your story as they interact. You can have a sketch of where things can go, but interactive storytelling is an iterative process. Feel free to post your ideas and I, and a bunch of others, will be happy to give you suggestions.


I think possibly the place it went wrong is your expectations as a GM not meshing with the expectations of the players for what kind of game would be run.

You had this story you wanted to tell, and you wrote it out. Then you let some other people create the main characters for your story, and they had only the slightest reasons to be in that story and would have maybe suited another story better.

The best GM I ever had for homebrew campaigns didn't write anything out really before we built our characters.

He had a world setting that they had played in with 3 rotating GMs for so long that the world was in motion.

He typically sketched out 3 very vague plotlines that would happen in the world, and then asked people (usually while another game was still running) to build characters for this one. Once they had characters made, he would have an idea of which plotlines they would likely take. He fleshed out the most likely more, and the other two a little.

In the first session or two, we would run across hooks for all 3, then get in some random encounter that lasted the remainder of the session once we had chosen the one that we wanted to jump on.

That bought him more time to flesh out that one.

In my experience, players do one of two things, depending on the group dynamic. The all make special snowflakes that have no ties to each other, or they make a decent team because they have all played together before.

The first is a nightmare to homebrew for, you are best off having a vague plot, running some generic encounters out of a pre-made adventure until they "gel" as a party, then you can actually get them in the story once they are in with each other and you know how to hook them in.

The other, is hard to start but easy later, as you can see the way this team is built out so once you get them hooked into the story as a team, they will run with it.

This is why so many APs are sub-par, because lots of them don't have any other branches once you are on the railroad, and very little time to justify why you would have gotten on it in the first place.


Create Mr. Pitt wrote:
Start by discussing expectations with your players.

They were expecting an open world, where they have acess to almost all rulebooks, if they wanted to have complex characters. They were also expecting a highly digitized campaign (Projector showing maps, Digital character sheets, and assorted software tools), as this speeds up gameplay.

As for quest structure, beyond "Open" with a Fey based antagonist/s, not much was actually defined. Hmm.

"Create Mr. Pit wrote:
Create your world, your enemies, and your backstory and let the characters and NPCs create your story as they interact.

I've got this. It's layed out like this

NORTH - Ice Dungeon

WEST - Forest 'Dungeon' EAST - Fire dungeon
CENTER - City

DOWN - Dungeon

OUTSIDE AREA - Introduction Area, goes to city. (Ship)
OUTSIDE AREA - Final Dungeon, story resolution.

Moving between these primary areas caused random encounters. Staying in one area more than a day, causes a different set of random encounters.

Players must learn of the four dungeons, defeat them and then advance ot the final area, now accessable. Here they defeat the final dungeon, and are rewarded with gear and gold. A bonus session is to be played after this, where they get to use their rewards.

The Story:

Mengekere the great golden Dragon of Hermea, has invited the party to come to his legendary island to solve a mysterious problem. Hermea is a Utopia of scientific and Magical discovery, and is the personal project of Mengekere.

There is a fever, where the inhabitants are no longer working hard at their jobs. They are getting drunk, having fun and spending their time on song and dance instead of their professions.

How to Resolve 1:
Hermes, an Ipotane demi-god trickster, has lived on this island for thousands of years, and considers it a free place. Mengekere showed several hundred years ago, to start his experiment and destroyed much of the natural wild beauty of it in the process. Offended, he began undoing Mengekeres hard work, in subtle and massive ways.

Hermes has created planar breaches into the First World, causing life and Fey to spill into the city, making the people whimsical. Order has spilt into the First World, making the people thoughful and practical.

When the inhabitants of the First world figure this out, they will destroy Hermea utterly, the simplest and most thorough way to close the breach.

How to Resolve 2:
Deep under the earth of Hermea, the fey magics have brought life and imbued the metals and gemstones with great power as the magic has settled deep into the earth.

Evil Dueargar exploring near the surface of the UnderDark discovered this several years ago, and built a settlement beneath Opus. Greedy for more of these wonderful fey imbued ores and gems, they have ventured near to the surface, but have not yet discovered the city.

If the Dueargar are allowed to continue, they will overrun Hermea and destroy the inhabitants along with Mengkere, greedy for the wonders above. They must be stopped.

How to Resolve 3:
There are signs around that Hermea is not what it seems. Artwork older than the 150 years Hermea has existed for, ancient ruins. Uncovering this mystery may destroy Hermea.

This is not the first Opus Mengekere has built. It is not even the third, there have been between 4 and 7. Hermea is meant to be a Utopia of discovery, and human enlightement. But every so often the short lived humans do something to destroy it. Once an undead plague caused by a newly discovered branch of magic, once helpful constructs had a blood thirsty bug in their runes.

When Hermea fails, Mengekere destroys it, buries it and leaves for 100 years. When nature reclaims the island, he begins anew. Mengekere is doing his best, and will not give up. Every new Hermea is better and safer than the previous one.

Does the end justify the means? Can Mengekere treat humanity as we treat a colony of ants? Should Mengekere be stopped or helped?

-------

The party can win the campaign by solving either of these three problems. If they discover more than one, they can solve them. An arc that is uninteresting, will be downplayed.


Here's what I think my problem is:

The story is far too open, and the players are used to linear campaigns.So when in this world, they can't find a starting point, as every NPC has a lot to say, but nothing simple and direct.

Furthermore, they are adventurers. They won't do anything without the lure of treasure. But no-body knows of the 3 problems with the island, one must *explore* to find out about any of the story arcs. It's easier to stay in the Tavern and pick fights with the town gaurds!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What you need to do is take a good hard look at a Paizo campaign that does a really good job of "anchoring" the players in the setting. Players begin by RPing with a whole cast of townsfolk characters, then defend the town itself, then deal with a number of challenges and intrigues within the town itself.

Your characters need to have a vested interest in the setting. Who are their parents, their siblings? Where are they? What are their problems? Where are the PC's hearts? Do they have a potential love interest? What are they willing to do to win the heart of that beautiful maiden or dashing prince?

Your setting sounds interesting. But make it even more real by preparing a couple dozen NPC files, with pictures, speech mannerisms, weaknesses, goals and so on. Who is a traitor, conniving with one of the evil forces nearby? Who has their own agenda, which may work at cross-purposes with one of the quest goals? Who looks weak and threatened, and needs protecting?

Sure, adventurers need "the lure of treasure". But why can't they also be complex people with their own needs and desires, above and beyond acquiring phat loot?

Grand Lodge

Yeah - there needs to be motivation. It can be gold, it can be personal.

Start them off on a pirate hunting raid (Hermea is an island, presumably the dragon can't be everywhere... hence pirates - or better yet, slavers who want genetically more beautiful slaves) - hit the island. The players are involved in the rescue mission.

Have the rescued inhabitants be very err.. physically grateful... for the rescue. They offer to let them be the village leaders (as part as the local committee at any rate) who will enjoy the benefits of station etc.

Now the players are invested - they got something.

And now? Take it away from them.

Have a duegar scouting party make a raid or even monsters fleeing the approaching dark dwarves... or a fey uprising etc.

Now they are the leaders of a dead village (or at least a reduced village)... and there is a dragon that wants answers, a dragon that is interested in results, a dragon that promises them wealth and position for success and certain agonising fiery death (or worse... "I believe in pursing perfection for my people. One aspect that I prefer not to advertise is that I, on occasion, hire certain specialists to test my people - the priests of Zon Kuthon who reside here are VERY good at their trade. You would find the price of failure to be... exquisite")

Now they have a) lost something they care about b) have a motivation to look for solutions (both stick and carrot)

Silver Crusade

Mulet wrote:

Here's what I think my problem is:

The story is far too open, and the players are used to linear campaigns.So when in this world, they can't find a starting point, as every NPC has a lot to say, but nothing simple and direct.

Furthermore, they are adventurers. They won't do anything without the lure of treasure. But no-body knows of the 3 problems with the island, one must *explore* to find out about any of the story arcs. It's easier to stay in the Tavern and pick fights with the town gaurds!

This is worth underlining twice. A lot of people on the internet will write as though, "sandbox," "open world," "player driven plot," or whatever buzzword they're using for it at the time is the One True Way to Play (TM) and that anything else is inferior, railroady, or whatever negative buzzword is in vogue. The discussion is one-sided enough that even players who don't really like such games may say that they like them because they know that "open world" or whatever is what apparently knowledgeable people call good games and they want a good game not a bad one.

However, the truth is that not everyone is cut out for an open world game. Some players will find themselves in the open world and, not seeing any obvious plot-hooks pick fights with the town guards in taverns because they don't see anything better to do. Others will wander around talking to NPCs until they find the vaguest hint of a plothook and jump on it like an alcoholic drinking hand sanitizer in a hospital to get his fix. For those players, you need to drop some definite plot-hooks in their path and structure the adventure to provide clear motivation for them to get from point A to point B.

Also, open world games are not necessarily better than plot-driven games. A certain level of freedom and player agency is good but all open world games will necessarily have limited depth to the available quests. Plot-driven games can provide stronger motivation and more intricate interaction as well as more interesting stories since you have more time to plan and prepare. Think of it as the difference between Elder Scrolls Oblivion (I'd use Skyrim as the example but I never ended up playing that one) and Neverwinter Nights or Baldur's Gate. You can enjoy both games, but you're not going to go for Oblivion if you want a deep storyline and interesting NPCs. The plot driven games do that better.

Liberty's Edge

Sometimes, despite the work that a DM puts in, gamers can be an ungrateful lot.

Grand Lodge

Amen to that


In my experience about 95% of players need railroading. Some more, some less, but all of them want it to some extent. I believe this is due to the fact that players want to experience a story which the DM presents, which is his job. So he has to set them on the track.

So far, so good. Now it can - and hopefully will happen - that the players wish to try things of their own within the campaign. It was always good to react to their wishes at that point and pick up the pace only after they are done. Mine wanted once to try their hand at ruling a barony after they defeated a black knight and his band of cut throats, which wasn't on the script. But it worked out great with some improvising. But you cannot plan for that, it happens or it doesn't.
Many players want just to follow your plot and won't try to initiate something besides, even if they have the time to do so.

A open world game happens only if the players and DM know each other well and the players are assured that the DM will play along and not throttle them off.

So my 5cp are:
- write up the houserules for the campaign and hand everyone a copy; that should include things like allowed books and classes, deities present and whatever other rules will be in force
- write up a railroad and a hook or two to get your players interest
- hand them occasionally tidbits about your world; if they don't know anything, they cannot do much on their own
- prepare to react, if someone wants to go off the road and follow their lead
- have a few small adventures/fledged out encounters/events on hand to bridge a gap or two
- and as someone said, gamers are not always mindful of your efforts :)


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yes
if you are looking for endless criticism
you have come to the right place


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

First thing is even with 'Open' you need enough of a unifying theme among the characters to have party coherence and give you things to hook a plot to. For example, all your basic plot points seem to require characters that are pretty heroic, motivated by doing good and protecting the community. If your players characters are staying in town picking fights, they probably don't fit that mold.

Secondly, 'Open' doesn't mean their are no hooks to adventure, rather it means there is a lot of them. A shopkeeper advertise to hire adventures to take care of a problem in his sewers, leading to information about the Duegar (and several other adventure hooks could be made that lead to the same info, meaning that although the PCs can choose what job they want to do, in several cases it will lead to the same 'hook' to get to the next step.) An archeologist scholar could hire a group to investigate a ruin, uncovering info about previous colonies. Etc. Etc.

Making an open world means building in lots of obvious ways for characters to find adventure, it doesn't mean expecting them to have to find it for themselves.

They can choose what to do, because there are a lot of choices.


One important thing I find is like what Paizo does with Player Guides for campaigns.

Explain to players the basic premise of the setting and ask them to create characters that mesh with initial premise and ask them to make characters that buy in.

I just started Hell's Vengeance. A campaign about backing House Thrune and trying to stop the Glorious Reclamation's work to liberate a city from their control. As a player, you have to make characters that works with this story. So characters that aren't motivated to work for House Thrune, even if it's just for money, noble titles, or power (or other reasons) just means the player wrote the wrong type of character for the campaign.


Haha!

The fault is a complete and utter lack of motivation. Instead of a big fat open world, it should be structured more like a tree. One railroad branch, that splits again and again.

I need a lot of hooks, of multiple themes. Many will be missed, or be un-interesting. Good themes are:

1) Loot

2) Leadership/owndership of a town

3) Protect a likable NPC

4) Harm a bastard of an NPC

5) Provide a sexy themed NPC/s

6) Provide 'Work'. Each of the temples needs to be visited, so have a set of jobs with rewards. Archeoligist wants a dragonlance, Alchemist was a vein of fossilized flayleaf etc...

7) Give a massive reward, and take it back. The party has their own ship now, left over from the initial session. Show them it, fixed and ready to sail. Then have someone steal the bloody thing from right under their noses. (They even have a converted enemy aboard they like)

I'll remove all the freedom, turning the campaign into a corridor. while in the corridor, I'll throw hook after hook after hook. When they catch one, I'll build on it.

Then I'll re-introduce the freedom branch by branch. Each time, they must make a decision, which branch to take.

I've also begun writing up two Props I will hand out. The first is the initial invitiation letter, which will clearly detail the fever sweeping the island, and the promise of treasure and riches. The reason why they are here.

Second, I'll write up a "Hermea Gazzette" newspaper. This will advertise the local shops, and locations they can visit later (Desert, mountains and forest).

Good good. I also should read some existing modules by Paizo. Any suggestions?


I don't have an module suggestion, but I think it might be wise to offer a small course correction regarding item #7.

It is far better, in my opinion, to threaten a massive reward than it is to directly take it from them without option.

Like with the ship, have someone unleash a raging fire elemental at the docks, and then have the NPC responsible try to slip away while the players rescue their ship, but with evidence and clues to be found indicating a cult associated with the fire dungeon to the east (or whatever you choose to do.)

Put another way, the players are going to be at risk whilst they have the attention of an Antagonist. Antagonists should therefore have to take risks to strike at them, even if that risk is to send a minion of a minion to summon a monster.

That's not to say that the dragon can't sink the ship while the players are inside a dungeon after they pick a fight with him but don't leave any kind of security on their ship. Just don't use a railroad plot that inherently involves a punishment that smart roleplay and a little luck couldn't avoid.


Open world doesn't mean blank world. Your base plan is nice, but who are their characters? Why did they come here? Sometimes you can build in plot hooks that way.

The branching system works well. But here's another question: how will all of your plot hooks interact? How will they interact as the PCs get to them? Do you have a good set of NPCs involved in the island? If not give them personalities and motivations and the story will help build itself. Don't be afraid to use NPCs or events to pressure the party to choose a path. A story is a story because sometimes interesting events happen. You can have a simulation with interesting characters and cultures.

The technology demands sound like a bit much, but if you can do it, by all means do it.


Anonymous Warrior wrote:
Just don't use a railroad plot that inherently involves a punishment that smart roleplay and a little luck couldn't avoid.

That's a good point, I do NOT want to enter into a Party vs DM type encounter. It sucks ass to have the universe against you. Turning something they value, like the ship, into a vulnerability they must protect, gives the antagonist a focal point. A way to reveal themselves in a way the party will react to.

Create Mr.Pitt wrote:
Your base plan is nice, but who are their characters?

Every building I create, has a table with at least one NPC. It goes something like this:

--------------------------

The Adventurer's Inn

Tavern (Moderate quality, large size)

Jaxxon Stone

26 M Humane, Magus (L19)

"Based off the character Kvothe from the Name of the Wind, he is an intelligent, sharp tongued man who is in hiding. He is an excellent source of history on Hermea, but his occasional jibes may provoke aggressive players into a combat they have little hope of winning. He will hand out a whooping, good ale and assistence in equal parts."

Speaks with a gruff, tired voice.

--------------------------

18 months ago, to become a better DM, I ran an arena. Using hero lab, I made close to 20 character sheets with backstories, of different classes, and fought them against each other in a tornament.

I often use these characters, along with recurring characters from older campaigns as townsfolk, traders and off hand if an innocous bit of roleplay needs a bit more depth.

However you've pointed out a fault. "Why are they here?" is not covered. They are like disparate parts sitting alongside each other, and this becomes obvious when they are questioned. I'll add this to their base descriptor table.

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