View Full Version : Roleplaying Finding meaning in a published adventure path.

2015-11-04, 03:41 PM
In all the years I have played ttRPG's, I have never played in a single published adventure path. About a month ago, I joined a 5.0 AP-something about rise of the dragon queen or something, and I am pretty meh about the whole thing. I like my group, the system, and the DM totally fine. However, I struggle to find any meaning or purpose in doing anything. Not that we don't have choices or are being railroaded, but simply that the party does not matter.

We are a bunch of cogs in a machine, that could be replaced by literally anybody else. Our backstories, alignments, or anything that is not our stats on paper seems to have no bearing on the story. We could all be half orc bards, or human monks, or elven barbarians and the story would not care one bit. We could be all LG or CE, all siblings, childhood friends, bitter enemies, aliens, merchants, or deathly afraid of water. Our backstories or who we are has no impact whatsoever, so long as we sit down, buckle in, and go around pressing the buttons.

Not a damn thing about who we are as characters or players seems to matter. Since this is my first AP, is this how they all work? Is this a table specific problem? To those who have played AP's, how do you make your character matter besides that they are the right place right time hero ready to go on the adventure as written?

To be clear, I am not asking for a 200 page novel about the life history of my character and their people to be seamlessly integrated into a published world and then get fan service and sidequests. I just want to play out a bit of the 1 paragraph bio I wrote, and maybe even have it affect the world around me.

2015-11-04, 04:48 PM
Are you playing in a organized play situation or is it at someones home? The difference between the two is pretty dramatic.

Adventure League games have players who's attendance is dependent on their schedules, making it very difficult for a DM to interweave their backgrounds into the game when they might not be there next week. Add to that limited play time each week, the chance of a DM being sick/at work/at another social event, and it a AP can feel very impersonal.

If the attendance and makeup of the group stays consistent throughout the game, things change. The DM feels more connected to players and their characters. Backgrounds have a much larger chance to become relevant, and games feel more personal.

It takes a lot of work for a DM to make an AP more than an <insert character name> type of adventure, believe me.

2015-11-04, 05:12 PM
It is an adventure league situation, and I know that is a factor.

However, I know nothing about the other characters, nor do they know anything about mine. Except the name, race, class, what you are good at doing. I don't think the party has had more than 5 minutes of time together where we were not fighting, sneaking, or being told what to do by NPC's. I still like the game, so hopefully it will settle in and become more personal.

Milo v3
2015-11-04, 08:33 PM
This hasn't occurred in my Adventure Path sessions, players had their reasons to do stuff and people learnt each others flavour and stuff relatively quickly (with a lot of paying out of the guy who spent his whole life as a farmer), and people have done stuff relating to their backstories. For example, the boss of two players is a major character in the first chapter of the AP (though they didn't know he was a major character during character creation) came into the bar they were drunk in and started being rude to the owner, so they threw him out of the bar and got fired. Next day they went to his house to apologize, which lead them further towards the AP's plot. The above mentioned farmer character has also been doing things like sending letters to his mother who is still at the farm, and in the current chapter actually has an adventure set at a farm house so I'll probably make it so that his family owns it.

2015-11-04, 08:57 PM
If I'm a GM using an AP and the players 'go off the rails' which is going to happen a LOT with an AP, what should I do?

2015-11-05, 01:11 PM
If I'm a GM using an AP and the players 'go off the rails' which is going to happen a LOT with an AP, what should I do?

If you feel like you can manage, I'd say let them take it off the rails. My favorite experience as s DM involved me creating an entire flying-island with tons of NPCs and a unique snake-dungeon. Within five minutes of starting the game, my players mutinied against the captain of the flying-ship they had arrived on, and flew off into the blue to start their careers as sky-pirates. I hadn't planned for it, but that's the way they wanted to go. I turned into a madcap adventure that never returned to the starting island...

2015-11-05, 01:21 PM
It is an adventure league situation, and I know that is a factor.

However, I know nothing about the other characters, nor do they know anything about mine. Except the name, race, class, what you are good at doing. I don't think the party has had more than 5 minutes of time together where we were not fighting, sneaking, or being told what to do by NPC's. I still like the game, so hopefully it will settle in and become more personal.

You could speak to the DM and/or the players about your desire to involve backstories more. Some players are just there to kill half-goblin half-kobold abominations each week, and some DMs just can't or don't care about the characters backstories. As far as their concerned, THIS is the cool backstory.

Or you could make an effort to include your backstory more in-game. If your character has a choice in front of them, have them succinctly explain why they are choosing to let the teenage mutant ninja kobolds go free rather than imprisoning them... Don't make it too long, but work it in there when it seems appropriate.

2015-11-05, 01:22 PM

Those kind of APs or Mega Adventures are a bit of a tight-rope act. On one hand, the player himself most bring the motivation to the table to play it and play through it. So motivation should be based on that knowledge and rewarding that behaviour. On the other hand, the material is not a fixed script, an experienced gm can allways alter or incorporate, if not outright "wing it" things to fit with players and characters, insofar the stuff that happens will allow that.


Do an on-the-spot evaluation if it is destructive or enriching to the game. Then act based on your evaluation. If your players have fun with what they're doing, improvise and cater to it for a while, but try to lead them back on tracks. Do remind your players that you all agreed on playing a certain AP and mention that you want to stick to it.

Kol Korran
2015-11-07, 09:40 AM
I don't know what is adventure league gaming, I assume it's some sort of a convention meeting? Do you know the other players and DM in advance?

I'm on my first try to run an AP (Wrath of the Righteous, I keep a detailed log of this attempt, in my sig if interested, though it's maybe... too detailed, you've been warned) and here are my thoughts on the problems, and possible solutions:
1- APs are designed to fit anyone, as such they are not specific to any sort of character, class or... personality (Other in very vague terms such as "heroes/ Come from region X". The APs go a long way to try to fit all character concepts, and thus provide very little actual connection.
2- For the most part, the APs deal with action scenes, mostly combat, though a few other ideas as well, such as infiltration or so. When they do detail a roleplay scene, it cannot fit particularly to a specific character, and it's up to the GM to do so.

Our group decided to try an AP because we thought it would mean most of the work will be done for us, which we needed due to a lot of RL obligations ,and little spare time. But... I came to realize that APs are not full adventures, but the skeletons of ones. In order to make a worthy game, you'll have to adjust considerably the content, to fit the group:
- The layers need to have some familiarity with eh main concept of the campaign, include hooks for their characters in the campaign's story, and ACTIVELY seek out more motivations as the story goes along.
- The GM needs to take the desires of the players, their characters, and interwove it in the campaign, even if that may mean s/he will need to remake considerable parts of it. Take the modules of the AP as inspiration and chasis to improve on and tweak to the groups preferences, not a straight jacket that the group must conform to.

That said, I have no idea how that could work if this league adventuring game incorporates players who don't really know each other...

Below I give some examples from my campaign, but it's not necessary for he discussion (Hence the spoiler)
I'll talk just about one of my players, who played a cleric crusader. The guy really wanted to be part of an order of knights, and went a bit on detailing it, and also it's commander, who was his personal mentor. The guy wanted to explore the relationship with this mentor, and this order, and perhaps a military capacity.

So, in the campaign I built his mentor, they met, fought together, and the relationship with his mentor, including his past secrets, surpassing the mentor, and coming to lead his order, which I made up from scratch, were integrated.

There was a point of resolution to this plot however, in which the character might have retired, but the player actively made a development in character, which made him more focused on revenge on the campaign main antagonists, up to the point of obsession, which gives him a fantastic motivation, and an escalating change in his character. I try to give his character opportunities to play his struggle and change, usually either through changing some context of existing encounters, or coming up with new ones.

I have quite a few talks with the player in between sessions, in order to understand what sort of experiences and developments he is looking for.

2015-11-07, 09:46 AM
Would APs or setting books (which don't dictate a specific path, but detail the environment, culture, NPCs, etc) be better for enabling the GM to suit the world to the PCs and the players?

2015-11-07, 11:14 AM
APs are not designed to cater to specific characters by default, how could they? If the DM so chooses, they can modify the adventure to make it more personal, or ask the players to make characters with specific elements in their backgrounds which will fit them into the adventure.

It sounds like your knowledge that you are playing an adventure path may be adding some bias to your perception of the experience. You might be anticipating the fact that there is a specific path you need to take, and your meta knowledge that the adventure can be used with any characters is affecting your perception that your character isn't special.

I agree, I don't like railroad adventures either. To get through it, you just need to throw yourself into it. Decide to give your character a motive to enthusiastically participate, that's the one thing you can control. The DM really should have given you guidelines regarding what sort of background elements will be appropriate for the adventure before you made your character. Now that you have an idea what the adventure is about, retroactively fit your character into it. Decide that your character has a reason to want to investigate the dragon cult, or save the world, or whatever.

Or just embrace your position as a wandering adventurer that has no meaning in life until someone gives you a quest to embark on. That's really the best sort of character for an adventure path, if the DM doesn't give you any guidance beforehand. Whatever happened in your character's past prior to the game starting is and should be irrelevant.

By default, an adventure path is for a DM that doesn't have the time to prep their own game. Don't go into it expecting some deep, character driven role playing. It's a series of encounters and challenges which the players should hopefully find fun, linked by a story which you might find interesting if you're invested in the setting.

If you are running an adventure path, you need to make sure the characters are built with specific motives to engage in the adventure and see it through to the end. Give guidelines to the players prior to starting with ideas for appropriate backgrounds and personalities. Otherwise, you will likely have characters that don't see a point in the adventure and will want to do something else. When this happens, improvise. Start modifying the adventure and try to introduce elements of it into your players' activities in a way that is organic to their motives and behavior.

2015-11-07, 11:30 AM
Would APs or setting books (which don't dictate a specific path, but detail the environment, culture, NPCs, etc) be better for enabling the GM to suit the world to the PCs and the players?

APs, by their nature, are made to be generic and not specifically suited to any group of characters. Setting books give you the information you need to present a detailed setting to your players. Setting information is what the players need to be able to make characters that will fit in your game. You don't make the world to suit the players, the players make characters that suit your world. Then you can design some adventures which suit the characters in the context of the setting.

2015-11-07, 12:11 PM
@Kol Korran:

Adventures League gaming is part of overall WotC organized play.

For example, they take the whole Rise of Tiamat campaign and break it down into small 2 hour sniplets that are suitable for playing at concentions or with random strangers at a friendly local store.
By doing this, they leave out some of the things heaving to do with the oberall plot and campaign happenings, as these kind of things don't tend to bother a random group.

2015-11-07, 01:13 PM
Make a party face type character. These guys are like adventure path kryptonite. Intimidate and diplomance your way into the motivating factors of the quest givers and NPCs. Your adventuring impact should feel less generic when the DM has to take into account how you made the duke hate you, and how you successfully bribed the dragon to target goblins for the next month instead of humans.

Leaving things alive is another way to break the rails of an adventure path. Take prisoners and don't be surprised when something catered specifically to your group arrives to free those prisoners.

This isn't advice to disrupt the campaign. These are meta-tactics to make yourself feel more immersed in the game play.