View Full Version : Your adventure is in another castle: Keeping players moving on

2019-08-16, 10:31 AM
So I'm running Storm King's Thunder for my group, and there's a lot of travelling about.
I'm looking for general tips on encouraging the players to move on from a location without forcing a railroad.

Specifically this is about those large set-piece cities and towns where it's known a lot of stuff CAN happen, but encouraging the players to not push into those background stories too much out of risk of prompting a module swap.
I barely dodged a bullet with Neverwinter and the huge chasm connecting to the Underdark last session (the answer was a sewer dwelling Florida Man), and next session I'm expecting them to get to Luskan with all its pirates, openly criminal leadership, a giant arcane tower in the middle of the city, etc.
I want them to get to some towns, feel like they are part of a larger breathing world, but know that not ALL the events in the world are there for their exclusive involvement. I want a lot of the extra story stuff I do to be laying groundwork for future stories and slow boiling tensions. Enough to have them take notes and ask for gossip in taverns, but still prioritise the giant stuff.

I know at some stage my group will cross paths with Waterdeep, so I'd like to practice on a few towns before that session.

2019-08-16, 10:01 PM
The main thing to do is Focus. You want THE Adventure to be front and center in the players thoughts and minds.

You want THE adventure is be so great, so omnipresent that everything else in the game world is just a pale second to it.

A huge part is the player buy in: they have to want to do the adventure. Of course, a lot of this is all up to the players.

Though just as big a part is the DM making the adventure ''just right" for the players. After all, it's easy for the players to like an adventure when the adventure IS something that they would already like.

So some simple, general ones:

1.Great reward. This is simple enough: the adventure has a good, great reward. It can be anything...as long as the players want it.

2.Unique rewards. The characters can only get X from y...and that is it. If the players want x, they are sure going to go after y and only y.

3.The boring world. Sure there is a lot of other ''stuff'', but it's boring.

Example: The giants and their allies all have clay orbs of giant enhancement. The orb, when crushed, gives a +10 untyped bonus to a single roll of the players choice.

The typical player will love an item like that....and will stay very, very, very, very focused on ONLY doing things where they can get that item.

2019-08-16, 10:14 PM
Well, sitting down and telling them this is a good first step, because then they aren't walking around going after the "plot hooks" that are just window dressing. Also, maybe let them go on a side quest once in awhile. Its not a big deal and any level disparity will rectify itself in short order

2019-08-17, 04:52 AM
General tips on keeping players moving?

The local populace is a bit xenophobic. The players aren't welcome there, and are clearly being price-gouged as outsiders, mildly harassed by the guards, and given the side-eye in taverns instead of plot hooks.

If there's a reason why the big, cool thing that they want to look at would be barred to them, introduce it. Giant arcane tower? Sorry, the wizard isn't home/is performing an experiment and can't be interrupted unless you want the city to be sucked into another plane, where it would be a race between the pissed-off locals who just had a city dropped on their heads and the pissed-off city dwellers as to who could remove the party's heads first.

Give them something to chase. Hand them a quest item that fairly promptly gets stolen by a thief who realizes just how far in over their head s/he is, and books it for wherever the next bit of plot is in hopes of protection from someone there. Or just have the thief steal their boots and then run away.

Show consequences for dawdling; if they putz around too long someplace, the next town they get to is stomped flat by giants, some of whom are still hanging around and only too happy to attempt to flatten the PCs, too. If you want to rub salt in the wound, make it clear that there were a lot more giants here before, and the ones that they kill have some minor bits of cool loot, with the implication that they missed out on some rather good stuff by ******* around rather than getting after the stuff that's currently important.

Have an NPC bluntly tell them that they have more important things to be doing. If they want to mess about with the pirate kings, have the pirate kings tell them to piss off until the giants are dealt with. After all, rampaging giants are bad for business.

2019-08-17, 09:53 AM
STK page 16:
Storm King's Thunder is not a "ticking clock" adven* ture, meaning that the characters are under no pressure to end the giant threat quickly. The plots of the giant lords take months to unfold, giving the characters time to explore the North, travel from place to place, and en* tertain distractions.
Some players might feel a sense of urgency and stick to the main story line as much as possible, missing out on many elements of the adventure. Others might be willing to follow loose threads and stray from the main story, hoping to take the adventure in interesting new directions. The adventure allows for a fair amount of wandering. If you begin to think the party has wandered too far away from the main plot, you can use Harshnag (see chapter 3) to help steer characters back to the main story. You can also have the characters meet faction members (see the "Factions in the North" section) who can provide a sense of growing urgency and point char*acters in the right direction.

In short, they can totally get distracted and that's okay. You've got some tools to drag them back in suggested. And of course, if they ignore the problem too long (enough months) they'll start seeing consequences. Of course, if they completely off the rails either you're find yourself having to design adventures yourself, or they'll find they're pretty basic (as winged adventures typically are). And eventually they'll be learning how to say "I for one welcome our new overlords!" in Giant.

2019-08-17, 09:59 AM
Specifically this is about those large set-piece cities and towns where it's known a lot of stuff CAN happen, but encouraging the players to not push into those background stories too much out of risk of prompting a module swap.

Some general ideas:

1) don't force the players to keep moving. Maybe their characters want to hang around town A for longer, chase down some leads, and the players will move on if/when they want to. Yes this might mean running a short adventure you hadn't originally planned, but that means that when they finish they come out to find that the giants are much cost to winning the Greatest Snowman in All The Realms contest or whatever it is they're trying to do.

2) Emphasise the ticking timer. Everything time they run into something related to the giants it becomes obvious that they're edging closer and closer to finding the hidden vein of True Coal (the coal equivalent of Mithril) and the hiding place of the platonic ideal of carrots.

3) Ask nicely for them to remain on the train. If the choice is avoiding the obvious chasms of No Prepared Plot and not having an adventure to play many players are fine with being asked to accept lighter levels of railroading.

4) Place something the Players want at the end of the adventure and let them know it's there. If they beat up the giants and steal the carrot then the prestige of winning the contest can be theirs'!

5) Have a giant thief steal their stuff. Players will travel to the ends of Faerun to reclaim the stuff that they stole from the nonsters! Bonus points if the players already have the Carrot to end all Carrots.

2019-08-17, 08:01 PM
My big concern is getting to the major plot points within a certain time frame.
A few of my players live out of town, and are only gong to be here for the uni semester.
Assuming I can get then through a chapter in a 4 hour session, I can afford to have an session in between each chapter as a screw about session so long as it ends with them heading towards the next chapter's set piece.
Adding more sessions is mostly off the table as coordinating time availability has us pinned down to one night a week, and while I'd happily migrate this to a home game after exams, not all the players will be within travel range.

I'm perfectly fine with running side quests and introducing content to suit the pursuits of the players. I'm just wanting to have a few tools in the kit for making sure those screw about sessions don't overstay their welcome. Storm King's Thunder was selected as a vote from my players (was everyone's either first or second pick), but being the good players that they are they have not read the module ahead of time (maybe one of them has, but they're fairly reliable to not meta game). I'd like to get the main story thread unfolded before the game wraps up for the year.