The Game Master Foundation
Where good GMs become legendary.

Your player’s are ruining your story

Ever find yourself staring blankly over the GM screen at your players while wearing a dumbfounded look your face? All of a sudden your players have destroyed the story arc that you spent weeks perfecting simply because they accidentally stumbled upon the epic quest item that the king sent them to retrieve, or perhaps in their first encounter with the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Genius) they got lucky and rolled an endless line of critical hits that made your Level 10 Death Knight crumble like a piece of toilet tissue in the rain. No matter how well you plan and lay things out eventually your players will surprise you with something so far out of left field that you will think it came from the right. Just remember that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Now I don’t want you to think of your players as your enemies, but in a way you have to think of them as your competitors. Its your job as Game Master to provide them with enough challenge to keep things interesting yet easy enough as to not upset them and make the game seem like a player hunt. Its a fine line we game masters walk with this. (I will discuss later techniques to help you with these situations.)

So how does one prevent this from happening? The short answer is that you can’t. But have hope for there is another way. Alas too many GMs learn far too late the Art of Winging it. Now despite the title of the article winging it does not mean making everything up on site. It requires a good amount of time before hand to be prepared for a catastrophic event such as one I mentioned above. I suggest you take at least a day of your prep time and dedicate it entirely to contingency plans. This means developing other story arcs or an unexpected twist to your story arc. Create another BBEG who your original BBEG was working for. You don’t have to flesh them out completely at this point, just enough information that you can throw them into the storyline with minimum effort. There’s nothing that makes a group of players drop their jaws like giving them an enemy who is bigger and badder than the first one they barely defeated.

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2 Responses to “Your player’s are ruining your story”

  1. So, your reaction to being outwitted is to plan more?

    I go pretty much the opposite way. I assume my players will always surprise me and build the situation so that they can. I have no idea where they will take it. Building a story is work; I prefer to go the surprising and fresh way of not planning events, only situations I can spring at the game in case it slows down.

  2. I find that, like writing a story, the trick is to know the background. Then the players can bust up any local plot but you still have ‘the big picture’ up your sleeve. The background must always stay in the background. If your players suspect that you have a super plot they will probably rebell and bust it on purpose. But if you know what is going on behind the curtain, you can continually wing it and still catch them in unpleasant surprises.
    What I mean here is the political and economic background. Sure they defeated a powerful foe by lucky chance, but that powerful foe didn’t materialise out of a vacuum. He got that way after years of building his powers, his political or economic power, and by building a powerful network of friends – or at least people who take a close interest in his activities. When he goes down he doesn’t just disappear back into the void. The rest of the web he created pulls back. And now the player characters are the focus of that attention.
    It doesn’t save the immediate adventure, but it does make a live campaign.


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