Nah, We'll Pass...

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You've spent a non-trivial amount of time preparing an adventure for this week's game. You've got some set piece encounters with tough monsters, maps and handouts, some quirky NPCs, and (you hope) an engaging plot that should carry you through this session if not the next one, too.

It's game day. Your NPC quest-giver provides some context for adventure and begs the PCs help him resolve the situation in exchange for a reasonable reward. The players decide they're not interested in that and turn the quest-giver down.

What do you do?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I’v had this happen to me before (twice if I remember). 2 outcomes.


1) When this happens I just tell the table that, that’s it for the night, and I will need a week to come up with something else. ((not best choice))


2) The next time I just asked “What do you do now” and the players basically indicated (after some group rp)they wanted to rob an npc who was mean to them, so I improvised some skill checks and a minor encounter in robbing the merchant hall.


It is kinda a pain, but I am not big on forcing the players on a quest; if they say NO then it’s best to call it an evening to give you time to think of something, or just improve the rest of the night. You don’t want to force them on something they really don’t have their heart in.


Good example; I am at a table right now where the DM is very insistent that we play the Ashen Crown adventure; even though our party IC has said to every NPC “NO” and that we wanted to do something else.


Each time it is a hassle because the DM gets upset and basickly hijacks the story so no matter what we do it leads into the quest we said NO to anyways.


It’s annoying to us as players; and it irks him as a DM (That we are not in love with his baby and "playing along" with his story) so both sides are not winning (not surprising, but the mentioned game I don’t for see lasing much longer)  


Bottom line- let your players do what they want, they will have more fun, and you as a DM will feel better knowing you enabled their fun having.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/1.jpg)

You've spent a non-trivial amount of time preparing an adventure for this week's game. You've got some set piece encounters with tough monsters, maps and handouts, some quirky NPCs, and (you hope) an engaging plot that should carry you through this session if not the next one, too.

It's game day. Your NPC quest-giver provides some context for adventure and begs the PCs help him resolve the situation in exchange for a reasonable reward. The players decide they're not interested in that and turn the quest-giver down.

What do you do?




Why are you even prepping a plot and/or encounters?


In all seriousness, i've solved this by doing it  the opposite of how you describe. For example the players meet a quest giver(s) at the end of the session. And before they leave the table they have to tell me what they will be doing next week. This way i know what to prepare.
Next game we can start in media res, and after (whatever it is) is over, they can move on to do other things - as long as they tell me what those things are (before game session ends).
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis

I do a few things. First and foremost roll with it. Don't force them into it, and be prepared to throw away all your hard work. You are the DM, you need to be selfless and willing to waste hours of your time to provide minutes of enjoyment to your players. If you aren't down with this, don't DM. 


Second - Attempt to salvage what you can. Just because you are prepared to throw away your binders full of notes doesn't mean you have to. Some of that is helpful. Try to reskin some stuff, and keep some for later. Maybe you add a couple of fighter levels to the bandits and bring them back next adventure. Maybe you find some other reason for the PCs to go into that dungeon during the same session. You just swap out what the dragon is guarding. Not interested in a pile of loot? What about the princess he also kidnapped? No... uhhh hes also..... burning crops.... and eating trade caravans.... and said your moms ugly. 


Third - save stuff for a future campaign. Maybe this group of players isn't interested. File that away, and break it back out 3 years from now for some other players.


Lastly - Learn from your players. Find out what they are interested in, and in the future prep things that you think they will be more interested in. You can seriously tell them when they say no then and there "Ok, well I had a whole thing prepped on that. What isn't interested in about this adventure. What can I do in the future to make this more interesting for you?"


Last resort - End the session. "Hey guys I had prepped for you to go on that adventure. I'm not comfortable winging a session right now, and so I don't have anything to run. Can we put the session on hold and come back next game. I'll have something awesome then, but just in case can you tell me some stuff you do want featured and I'll try to work it in. In the meantime lets play smash brothers." 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"

While I disagree with Onikani about prepping plot and encounters I do agree with his stance of having players decide what they are going to do in the coming weeks at the end of the last session.  This means that you always know what your players want going into the game instead of having to try and figure it out as you plan.
You've spent a non-trivial amount of time preparing an adventure for this week's game. You've got some set piece encounters with tough monsters, maps and handouts, some quirky NPCs, and (you hope) an engaging plot that should carry you through this session if not the next one, too.

It's game day. Your NPC quest-giver provides some context for adventure and begs the PCs help him resolve the situation in exchange for a reasonable reward. The players decide they're not interested in that and turn the quest-giver down.

What do you do?



Non-trivial amount of time? Non-issue.

Players decide they don't want to do something someone asked them to do? Non-issue.

What do I do? Continue playing the game and running the world as the players characters decide what they'd like to do.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

While I disagree with Onikani about prepping plot and encounters I do agree with his stance of having players decide what they are going to do in the coming weeks at the end of the last session.  This means that you always know what your players want going into the game instead of having to try and figure it out as you plan.



What do you disagree with? Unless you are misreading my joke regarding Iserith's signature...

When did i EVER talk about how prepping plot or encounters?  
It seemed pretty clear to me, *my players* tell* me* what they are doing next week, and i respond accordingly.
So are you saying that if my players say "we are gonna fight a dragon", then i shouldn't start prepping an encounter with a dragon?


FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
You've spent a non-trivial amount of time preparing an adventure for this week's game. You've got some set piece encounters with tough monsters, maps and handouts, some quirky NPCs, and (you hope) an engaging plot that should carry you through this session if not the next one, too.

It's game day. Your NPC quest-giver provides some context for adventure and begs the PCs help him resolve the situation in exchange for a reasonable reward. The players decide they're not interested in that and turn the quest-giver down.

What do you do?



"Well, guess that wraps it up.  See you guys next week."

I consider it the player's responsibility to take up plot hooks, unless they are COMPLETELY ludicrous.  It's very, VERY difficult to come up with a good plot, and a good hook is even harder.  As D&D is a cooperative game, the player should cooperate with the DM to keep the game moving.
I would take a nap

I generally don't get a ton of sleep right before running a game because I can't stop thinking of things that might go awry, so a nap would be pretty enticing
I generally don't do extensive preparations.  History has told me much like th op that a lot of preperation can go for naught just on a whim.  I've had pcs ignore what I thought were pretty interesting plot hooks only to go charging off in another direction based on an offhand improvised comment that took their fancy. 
  I have more recently researched interesting cr mosnters that would be fun and have a few monsters  or challenges in mind when approaching game time.   If they aren't interested in one leave that one behind and see if something else takes there interest.

I try to have a couple loose ideas in mind.  Keeping in mind the overall direction of the game I may prepare more in depth or less based on previous game sessions 
I just ask them what their characters are going to do and run with it, they will eventually come back to this path after they tire out other options. This works best if the setting has been fully developed so the options that the PCs make are already existing, otherwise the DM has to improvise.

Optionally, the DM can off the same content that he has prepared via other plot hooks, if they don't bite the first hook, he can always reoffer it with a different NPC or have them uncover the plot. That may sound like railroading, but it is a living world and any plot worthy of the PCs is likely to effect others on a wider scope. There will be more then one party worried about the outcome and other events related to that plot happening, any of which could draw the players in, and it is likely best to create multiple paths to the same end in advance if you want the PCs to stumble into the plot (rather then be pointed at it with an NPC) 
You are the DM, you need to be selfless and willing to waste hours of your time to provide minutes of enjoyment to your players. If you aren't down with this, don't DM.

As much as I hate it, yes.  A thousand times yes!  We're the few, the proud, the Dungeon Masters. 

Though hopefully you don't literally spend HOURS prepping for MINUTES of enjoyment.  I can work smarter than that, and make it happen.  After all, as a DM, my fun is important too!

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

You've spent a non-trivial amount of time preparing an adventure for this week's game ...

What do you do?

Start drinking heavily?

Alternatively, whip out Cards Against Humanity and go for it? 

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

Why are you even prepping a plot and/or encounters?



Hey, this hypothetical is about you, not me!

This actually happened the other night in a game I was playing in. I wondered what that DM would do if we turned down the quest-giver. We took the hook since our buy-in was presumed, especially as it was a one-shot. I'm curious to see what DMs in his position might do in a longer running campaign, for example.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Yeah, some degree of buy-in is pretty much expected in a one shot.

Honestly tho, i kinda enjoy that; I'm currently a DM for 4 different games that rotate in such a way that i typically have 3 sessions a week.
It's a pretty nice change of pace when a player decides run one and i get to sit on the other side of the screen...



As i eluded to, all of my campaigns are sandbox, players will meet loads of npc's and those npcs have hopes and desires, and problems they need solved. It's up to the players to decide which (if any) they choose to help, and how they choose to do it.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
You've spent a non-trivial amount of time preparing an adventure for this week's game. You've got some set piece encounters with tough monsters, maps and handouts, some quirky NPCs, and (you hope) an engaging plot that should carry you through this session if not the next one, too.

It's game day. Your NPC quest-giver provides some context for adventure and begs the PCs help him resolve the situation in exchange for a reasonable reward. The players decide they're not interested in that and turn the quest-giver down.

What do you do?



Non-trivial amount of time? Non-issue.

Players decide they don't want to do something someone asked them to do? Non-issue.

What do I do? Continue playing the game and running the world as the players characters decide what they'd like to do.


At this point in my DMing life, I'd do it almost like this.  If you asked me about this a few years ago (when I'd be new to DMing), I would likely have panicked the exact same way I panicked when I ran The Night I Called The Undead Out in LFR, grabbed whatever stats I could find for the monsters, looked at the existing scenario and then rolled with the punches, improvising it all, while either trying to bring back everyone to the adventure (in altered form), or making sure that I don't faint from the panic attack.

To call it a night so early? Hmm, a possibility too, buuuuut not likely, given my personality.  More likely I'd end up asking everyone to take a breather while I figure out what to run, then continue once everything's set up.
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If I actually design something as a set-piece it is because the players have already taken the buy-in.  And then I only spend time pre-planning combats and set pieces if  want it to be an encounter that is a true challenge to the players.

So if the players decide "we want to hunt this dragon down" I start building the dragon encounter.  Maybe they won't get to it any time soon, but if that is what they want to do, they will get to it.

Most of my encounters are a post-it note worth of details planned prior to initiative and the DM cheat sheet.  Everything else is improv.  I do, however, want 1-2 fights per tier that are what I call "On razor's edge".  Where I want to test my player's combat prowess in a toe-to-toe last man standing combat.  All of the other combats have alternative goals or win conditions, are part of a skill challenge, or are fulfilling in some other way that isn't difficulty. Those style of combats are the hardest, numbers wise, to get the right balance to so I do preplan them to a pretty large degree.  Although, again, only with player buy-in already assumed.

Example:
My Saturday game is playing the same campaign that I've run 9 times so far.  Basically it is just the setting that stays the same, a lot of details and stuff changes depending on what the players want.

One group really played up an evil temple NPC that they wanted to take out.  That group had their razor's edge encounter be the high priest of that temple.  I knew that was what they wanted to be challenging, so I made that their challenge.

Another group wanted a mage who was pulling a lot of strings in the political scene to be their focus, so he became their razor's edge encounter.

A third group decided to make a big deal out of "the wilds" being incredibly dangerous and liked the idea of the world being really deadly away from civilization, so their razor's edge was a fight against an insect queen on the road between two towns.

The fourth group really liked the idea of "the corruptor" which existed in the world.  So their BBEG was that guy.

I bring up the saturday group because they have fought all 4 of these encounters.  The first one they were treating the evil temple as a stop on a greater mission, so it wasn't razor's edge.  The group was going to fight the mage in the lighthouse and had set him up as their BBEG, so that encounter was very hard for them.  They then traveled around in the wilds and fought the encounter in section 3 at some point, but as they liked the ideas of the cities and people being more dangerous it wasn't their big fight.  The group spent mid-heroic searching for and uncovering info on the corruptor and spent a ton of time preparing for that matchup.  So I made that guy the hardest BBEG razor's edge fight I've ever thrown at the PCs in any game.

TLDR: Don't prep set pieces your PCs haven't already bought into.  Unless you like wasting time. 
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While I disagree with Onikani about prepping plot and encounters I do agree with his stance of having players decide what they are going to do in the coming weeks at the end of the last session.  This means that you always know what your players want going into the game instead of having to try and figure it out as you plan.



What do you disagree with? Unless you are misreading my joke regarding Iserith's signature...

When did i EVER talk about how prepping plot or encounters?  
It seemed pretty clear to me, *my players* tell* me* what they are doing next week, and i respond accordingly.
So are you saying that if my players say "we are gonna fight a dragon", then i shouldn't start prepping an encounter with a dragon?





Your first line.  Smily faces have been so diluted on this forums that I can't tell if they are being used to point out a joke or soften a disagreement.  On second read, methinks it was a joke.  Sorry
You've spent a non-trivial amount of time preparing an adventure for this week's game. You've got some set piece encounters with tough monsters, maps and handouts, some quirky NPCs, and (you hope) an engaging plot that should carry you through this session if not the next one, too.

It's game day. Your NPC quest-giver provides some context for adventure and begs the PCs help him resolve the situation in exchange for a reasonable reward. The players decide they're not interested in that and turn the quest-giver down.

What do you do?


A really good question!

I had this happen in miniature in my last session where I spent a few (fun for me) hours crafting some evil baddies designed to raise the hackles of the party for having good goals but evil methodologies. What was intended to be a introduction-->combat session turned out different. Instead of attacking the baddies and clearing the dungeon they were diplomatic and walked through the base, spent some time talking to the individuals and scheduled a meeting with the leader. After failing to convince the leader to change tack, they left peacefully. I now have an evil group still acting the in the world to create some chaos.

The session before that I had expected them to race to the baddies but instead they decided to explore a nearby city (they wanted to sell stuff and got distracted). They wanted to know where to sleep for the night, so I pulled out the relevant Campaign Setting and read out a random suburb in the city. It mentioned that there had been a recent spate of murders and the players decided this session they would explore it. That session was pretty much 100% winging with some shadowing for the evil group (they were the murders).

In general: When I spend time to make a cool thing and the players aren't interested in it, I try to use what I have, but pad it out in different ways. So the rough idea I had for a base and a boss turned into the focus of a session with a lot of winging it on my end. It wasn't as polished or as complex as I would have liked it (NPC characters falling into my generic NPC personality types etc), but the party seemed to enjoy it enough.

I guess in short similar to what Krusk does; try to salvage what I can, but not forcing them to go in.

In all seriousness, i've solved this by doing it  the opposite of how you describe. For example the players meet a quest giver(s) at the end of the session. And before they leave the table they have to tell me what they will be doing next week. This way i know what to prepare.


My DM tends to do this for us, or whenever we are getting towards the end of a story arc he'll ask us to revist our plot hooks and tell him what interests/motivates our characters.

Last resort - End the session. "Hey guys I had prepped for you to go on that adventure. I'm not comfortable winging a session right now, and so I don't have anything to run. Can we put the session on hold and come back next game. I'll have something awesome then, but just in case can you tell me some stuff you do want featured and I'll try to work it in. In the meantime lets play smash brothers." 

I had this happen once when I went to D&D Encounters. It was frustrating that the DM wasn't willing to just do something (anything) so I'd wasted the last 30 minutes of driving.

Optionally, the DM can off the same content that he has prepared via other plot hooks, if they don't bite the first hook, he can always reoffer it with a different NPC or have them uncover the plot. That may sound like railroading, but it is a living world and any plot worthy of the PCs is likely to effect others on a wider scope. There will be more then one party worried about the outcome and other events related to that plot happening, any of which could draw the players in, and it is likely best to create multiple paths to the same end in advance if you want the PCs to stumble into the plot (rather then be pointed at it with an NPC) 


I think this is fine myself, but I try to only offer the same event a few times to them in different ways. They might not like the context motivation of version 1, but version 2 can tickle their fancy.

What do I do? Continue playing the game and running the world as the players characters decide what they'd like to do.


How do you do this? Entirely improvised, or do you reference something?
The problem I have, eluded above, is that the stuff I improvise isn't as good as the stuff I spend time on. NPCs are less exciting, combat less complex or plots less involved.  How do you get around improving = simplified?

I've had this too with my group, they were not really interested in the town they got into and just wanted to leave as fast as possible. For such situations I just toss the ball to my players, aks them what they want to do and improvise further NPCs and dialogs. Sometimes my players just wanna stay in an Inn, eat drink and talk around which is fine. If they set out again I always have some monsters ready to jump out and "ambush" the group, or they see a merchant who is under attack by a group of villains. It just takes 15 minutes to prepare such an encounter and the evening is safe.

After this happened to me I dont really prepare plots and whole stories. I prepare different situations and my players decide what to do, how to approach them (if at all) and when to just leave.

Always have some sort of an idea what else could happen in their surrounding. I once made a wizard contest in a bar and an armwrestling contest. Maybe 10 minutes to prepare including the NPCs and we had fun for 1.5 hours   
Wow this is...illuminating.

Makes me feel better about saying that the way I do things and prepare is objectively better than the way of others that can't cope with this sort of situation though.

I find it really interesting that so much time and effort has to be put in to preparing "interesting" encounters and the like. Seems very much like the tail wagging the dog.

Perhaps the PCs expect such overwrought interesting encounters because it is the only place they can exercise real decision making with their agency? Hmm. Especially for those with a DM that has a "take it or leave it" attitude...

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

You've spent a non-trivial amount of time preparing an adventure for this week's game. You've got some set piece encounters with tough monsters, maps and handouts, some quirky NPCs, and (you hope) an engaging plot that should carry you through this session if not the next one, too.

It's game day. Your NPC quest-giver provides some context for adventure and begs the PCs help him resolve the situation in exchange for a reasonable reward. The players decide they're not interested in that and turn the quest-giver down.

What do you do?




Why are you even prepping a plot and/or encounters?


In all seriousness, i've solved this by doing it  the opposite of how you describe. For example the players meet a quest giver(s) at the end of the session. And before they leave the table they have to tell me what they will be doing next week. This way i know what to prepare.
Next game we can start in media res, and after (whatever it is) is over, they can move on to do other things - as long as they tell me what those things are (before game session ends).



This is very much what I do... each session is its own capsule, and together they form the story. I get a lot of feedback from players both during and after the game to see what direction they are wanting to go, and then I build the framework of an encounter from that. It was a big shift in philosophy for me to not play the game in my head between sessions and then have the players catch up to what I'd already envisioned. It has lowered the frustration level for both myself and the players considerably, and we are all having a lot of fun.
Wow this is...illuminating.

Makes me feel better about saying that the way I do things and prepare is objectively better than the way of others that can't cope with this sort of situation though.

I find it really interesting that so much time and effort has to be put in to preparing "interesting" encounters and the like. Seems very much like the tail wagging the dog.

Perhaps the PCs expect such overwrought interesting encounters because it is the only place they can exercise real decision making with their agency? Hmm. Especially for those with a DM that has a "take it or leave it" attitude...



Oh, I still build interesting encounters. I come up with cool twists and challenges to throw at the players. Really my play style is a combination of things you, Yagami, advocate and the playstyles of Iserith and Centauri. I'm living proof there is a very happy middle ground

Btw, I know your comment wasn't directed at me, I just didn't see it until I had posted.

I used to prepare games like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee.
After several years, I grew bored by this approach and my players were tied to the railroad.
They couldn't think by themselves anymore, zombified by my preparation.
They would brain-freeze when presented a choice, thinking to themselves, but what if the DM didn't prepare this or that, shouldn't we stick with what is presented to us? After all, a railroad game is better than no game at all.

Nowadays, we do it Skyrim style, I provide basic background and describe several possibilities as gossip, rumors, stories and let the players act on it.
I have a basic timeline of events in my head and depending on character involvement and interactions I adjust the story on the fly.
As far as encounters go, I have a list of level-appropriate monsters and motives at hand, terrain set-ups, along with a few npc names just in case and I liberally mix them to create something that fits where we're at.



How do you do this? Entirely improvised, or do you reference something?
The problem I have, eluded above, is that the stuff I improvise isn't as good as the stuff I spend time on. NPCs are less exciting, combat less complex or plots less involved.  How do you get around improving = simplified?



Improvisation is a skill (practice makes perfect) and I find complexity and mystery (even to the DM) comes about through collaboration with the players. I ask a lot of questions and listen to what they say, then turn around and use it. If you're using "Yes, and..." it ends up being a situation in which multiple people have built onto a single seed of an idea that someone proposed. The end result is surprisingly complex and interesting, even to the DM. The dice make it even more interesting.

I used to prepare games like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee.



Just to be clear, I don't prepare games like in the original post. But I know that's a common approach and I wanted to see what DMs would do if the players decided to have their characters snub the quest-giver.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Just to be clear, I don't prepare games like in the original post. But I know that's a common approach and I wanted to see what DMs would do if the players decided to have their characters snub the quest-giver.


And my allusion to this fact confused people.


But when it really comes down to prep - Matyr's post pretty much nailed it.

There is always going to be some encounter prep (especially if it is a higher level or high op game) and the dm wants to ensure that certain battles are particualry challenging.
And this goes doubly so if you are actually adding in alternate conditions and/or skill challenges or even playing online.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
And my allusion to this fact confused people.



I guess jokes among the regulars risk being too inside.

So, this particular scenario appears to be pretty common from what I'm seeing anecdotally in D&D games. The quest-giver offers the quest and there's an assumption that the PCs will take it otherwise [no game, improv, railroad, etc.]. My question then becomes: If there isn't really a choice (not really), why do DMs feel compelled to go through the motions of info-dumping the quest and then asking for the PCs to choose? Why not just say, "This is the quest you're on and here's why. Let's get to it." What's the upside to playing out the quest-giver scene if the outcome is already known (or at least assumed)?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Try to end a session with the quest giver.  That way if the party passes, you can throw a different quest at them and see if it sticks.  Then you still have the week to write it out.
And my allusion to this fact confused people.



I guess jokes among the regulars risk being too inside.

So, this particular scenario appears to be pretty common from what I'm seeing anecdotally in D&D games. The quest-giver offers the quest and there's an assumption that the PCs will take it otherwise [no game, improv, railroad, etc.]. My question then becomes: If there isn't really a choice (not really), why do DMs feel compelled to go through the motions of info-dumping the quest and then asking for the PCs to choose? Why not just say, "This is the quest you're on and here's why. Let's get to it." What's the upside to playing out the quest-giver scene if the outcome is already known (or at least assumed)?



Generally the motions are gone through so the players might feel as if their decision-making matters...or to provide a pretty little segue into the DMs next My Precious Encounter. It is the gaming equivalent of casting Megan Fox in Transformers...a pretty transition piece that can distract between the various bouts of explosions and CG, but ultimately vapid and useless.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Wow this is...illuminating.

Makes me feel better about saying that the way I do things and prepare is objectively better than the way of others that can't cope with this sort of situation though.

I find it really interesting that so much time and effort has to be put in to preparing "interesting" encounters and the like. Seems very much like the tail wagging the dog.

Perhaps the PCs expect such overwrought interesting encounters because it is the only place they can exercise real decision making with their agency? Hmm. Especially for those with a DM that has a "take it or leave it" attitude...



Oh, I still build interesting encounters. I come up with cool twists and challenges to throw at the players. Really my play style is a combination of things you, Yagami, advocate and the playstyles of Iserith and Centauri. I'm living proof there is a very happy middle ground

Btw, I know your comment wasn't directed at me, I just didn't see it until I had posted.




And I build interesting encounters too.

You and are do not stand at opposite shores, of that I'm pretty sure.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

 
1) If there isn't really a choice (not really), why do DMs feel compelled to go through the motions of info-dumping the quest and then asking for the PCs to choose?
2) Why not just say, "This is the quest you're on and here's why. Let's get to it."
3) What's the upside to playing out the quest-giver scene if the outcome is already known (or at least assumed)?




1) the illusion of choice matters to people.
2) to this day, this is my still my preferred method of one-shots (or even short term things like a module). 
3) Again, the illusion. Also for some people it represents a way to get some RP in. 

It's honestly is pretty simple: you have to start somewhere.
The reason this is so common is because it's how new most DM's start off. They read the DMG, maybe some articles or blogs, and start with those basics. 
Somewhere they learned that it's not good to 'railroad', but they know that 'all roads lead to rome'. If the first npc doesn't hook the pc's into going to Mt Doom, maybe the second one can get them a few cities closer, where they meet another npc...
Eventually the players are going to end up where they need to be, but as long as they made their decisions along the way it's more collaborative than a 'true' railroad. This style of gaming is extremely easy to do, for both players and DM, and fills the players' needs to make their own choices along the way. Everyone is basically happy, and the game continues on. IMO, this is the type of game most people expect.

In theory, the DM gets more experienced, and may eventually get to the point where he can run a true sandbox. But unfortunately (for whatever reason) many never graduate to that level.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
 
1) If there isn't really a choice (not really), why do DMs feel compelled to go through the motions of info-dumping the quest and then asking for the PCs to choose?
2) Why not just say, "This is the quest you're on and here's why. Let's get to it."
3) What's the upside to playing out the quest-giver scene if the outcome is already known (or at least assumed)?




1) the illusion of choice matters to people.
2) to this day, this is my still my preferred method of one-shots (or even short term things like a module). 
3) Again, the illusion. Also for some people it represents a way to get some RP in. 

It's honestly is pretty simple: you have to start somewhere.
The reason this is so common is because it's how new most DM's start off. They read the DMG, maybe some articles or blogs, and start with those basics. 
Somewhere they learned that it's not good to 'railroad', but they know that 'all roads lead to rome'. If the first npc doesn't hook the pc's into going to Mt Doom, maybe the second one can get them a few cities closer, where they meet another npc...
Eventually the players are going to end up where they need to be, but as long as they made their decisions along the way it's more collaborative than a 'true' railroad. This style of gaming is extremely easy to do, for both players and DM, and fills the players' needs to make their own choices along the way. Everyone is basically happy, and the game continues on. IMO, this is the type of game most people expect.

In theory, the DM gets more experienced, and may eventually get to the point where he can run a true sandbox. But unfortunately (for whatever reason) many never graduate to that level.



I think it is worth exploring those reasons...so that they can be overcome. A community should be structured to help its members improve.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I honestly think that one of the reasons dm's don't advance beyond that 'midpoint' that i described is that it meets expectations. The players learn to play with a similar structure, they come to expect it in gaming, they join a new group that functions similary, and (the same) expectations are reinforced on both sides of the screen. 

People don't see a reason to improve, and don't know how to (since they've only ever seen the same things). 


This forum would need to teach people to break the cycle. Which is a difficult task, since half of its regulars won't even acknowledge that the cycle exists.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
I always have a set of non-plot related encounters ready to go. They just consist of basic stats for some monsters without names and they can be retooled on the fly. Goblin Archers can become Drow Wizards at the drop of a dime and life goes on. 

I also have an idea of inter related effects and terrain that can provide a good challenge so when the Drow Wizards become Giant Snakes then there might be some sliding and pits around as well.

Usually I do very little prep and just roll where the players go. I will however move npcs around if the overarching plot calls for it. Maybe a sage wizard was waiting to meet the players in a tomb, but instead they find him outside of a goblin warren. 
I honestly think that one of the reasons dm's don't advance beyond that 'midpoint' that i described is that it meets expectations. The player's learn to play with a similar structure, they come to expect it in gaming, they join a new group that functions similary, and (the same) expectations are reinforced on both sides of the screen. 

People don't see a reason to improve, and don't know how to (since they've only ever seen the same things). 


This forum would need to teach people to break the cycle. Which is a difficult task, since half of it's regulars won't even acknowledge that the cycle exists.



I sympathize.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

My question then becomes: If there isn't really a choice (not really), why do DMs feel compelled to go through the motions of info-dumping the quest and then asking for the PCs to choose? Why not just say, "This is the quest you're on and here's why. Let's get to it." What's the upside to playing out the quest-giver scene if the outcome is already known (or at least assumed)?

I don't generally care for scenes like that, but there's potential for them to be interesting, at least in theory. Players state their character's reasons for wanting to pursue the quest. This is a form of giving their buy-in which, yes, is assumed, but might offer some interesting ways to twist things down the road, for DM and players.

Some people use the "quest-giver" scene as an opportunity to drop clues about what's really going on. I like this as a narrative device, and a wink-wink with players who know what's going on (say, if they collaborated on the adventure). I don't like it as a test of players' monster knowledge, or of their recognition of when to roll monster knowledge checks. "Can't I roll a knowledge check to find out what these rumored bat-creatures might be and what defenses against them might be available in town?" Just kill me now.

West End Games' Star Wars RPG used to have scripts at the beginning of their adventures. It was assumed they'd taken the hook, but the script laid out some of the background that might have come out of such a scene. I don't exactly care for that approach either, but I'd dig starting off with the players on the quest and then talk over what happened in the "info-dump" scene.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

First, normally, if I prepare anything, it will be two or three quest givers/plot hooks.  That greatly increases the chances that the group will want to do something I have prepared.

Second, plot hooks I prepare are generally in the same direction as player character created/driven quests, so the party has more than one reason to go in a particular direction; "we're headed in that direction anyway..."

Third, worst case, roll with it and improvise.  And I never scrap prepared material, I store it for a later date.  All it takes is some tweaking and the hook and encounters still work.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
1) Decide if an NPC takes on the 'quest' that they snubbed and whether they succeed or not. Adjust world accordingly. Ignoring the quest entirely is a valid choice. Like any valid choice, there are consequences to the decision. Even if that means when they go to the local tavern and some NPC they've never heard of before is getting all the free drinks and adventure gossip.

After that, I have some choices.
a) Wing it. Improvise something else. Save the adventure for later if it can sit. A tomb that's been hidden in a faraway land for 3000 years can probably sit. An assassination attempt to be investigated, probably can't.
b) Play a different set of characters. I generally have 2 or 3 campaigns going at the same time, within the same world. We all vote on which characters to play at any given session.
c) Or someone else can DM. Doesn't usually happen, though.
----
This scenario happened once last summer: There was a fire cult intent on burning down the city using a gate to the fire plane, thinking that the city would rise from the ashes like a phoenix, better than ever. The players, who had several spellcasters amongst them were asked to close this gate. One player decided to have his character go shopping for a little while, and then decides to play his high level guy and ALSO go shopping... The river of fire ran straight down the market, killing both the shoppers. The other players were standing behind the gate on a high hill, so they were spared fiery doom, thankfully. But the shopper...it may have been the first time I'd ever seen a player lose TWO player characters in the same round before.

If all the players had been shopping... I guess they'd all have been in the lava path. If they decided to evacuate rather than risk it, they might have saved the populace and been heroes there at least. If they'd ALL been on the quest, they most likely would have succeeded... with only 3 members of the party they all but closed the gate, but having another wizard with another scroll would have assured success. (The scroll was protection from evil, which the players were told would shut the gate). They ALMOST did it without the 4th member.

I just lay out what the characters know and let them act (or not act) on it and making sure that whatever their fate, they have a chance to control it.

I'd wing it. Come to think of it... my entire prep time consisted of making a level 1 priest with a fire theme and deciding he belonged to a cult hell bent on destruction. So I guess I was winging it, anyway.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Presenting players with a quest giver at the end of the session is a great idea if you can be that organized. Or at least ask them, out of character, what their general inclinations are for the next session. Players understand that a ton of work goes into DMing and your desire to stay ahead of them.

If they reject your quest, save it. You can always recycle or repackage it later. I let a group skip past an essential NPC in their haste to get to the dungeon, then had him show up as a prisoner inside the dungeon. They still got his important info and aid, but did it on their own timeframe.

I also suggest (as others have) winging it. Letting the players run away from a quest and do whatever they want gives the DM a prime opportunity to see the game from their perspective. Maybe they're not intent on the adventure you think they are. Maybe you've crafted the perfect subterfuge-heist encounter for a group who really wants to hack and slash. Remember, the campaign is only as good as the players' stories. 
Why are you even prepping a plot and/or encounters?


In all seriousness, i've solved this by doing it  the opposite of how you describe. For example the players meet a quest giver(s) at the end of the session. And before they leave the table they have to tell me what they will be doing next week. This way i know what to prepare.
Next game we can start in media res, and after (whatever it is) is over, they can move on to do other things - as long as they tell me what those things are (before game session ends).



I have spent hours and hours establishing the starting city and opening to the campaign I plan to begin this coming Saturday and this is, hands down, the most valuable piece of information I have happened across in trying to get everything pulled together. It just hadn't occured to me before reading this that I don't have to pre-plan every little detail to make sure that the world is engaging. Where I have been trying to plan for every contingency, this is a much simpler and, unless I greatly misjudge the wisdom of this practice, more effective way of prepping the next round. 

So far, I have about fifteen different quests planned for levels 1 through 7 with the assumption that not all will be done so there are several level 1s, several 2-4s, several 3-5s, several 4-6s, so on and so forth. This approach should easily cut my prep time down by well more than half. I am so glad I randomly checked out this topic!
So, this particular scenario appears to be pretty common from what I'm seeing anecdotally in D&D games. The quest-giver offers the quest and there's an assumption that the PCs will take it otherwise [no game, improv, railroad, etc.]. My question then becomes: If there isn't really a choice (not really), why do DMs feel compelled to go through the motions of info-dumping the quest and then asking for the PCs to choose? Why not just say, "This is the quest you're on and here's why. Let's get to it." What's the upside to playing out the quest-giver scene if the outcome is already known (or at least assumed)?

I think starting the story at "you've accepted this quest" could work great with One Shots and the "highlights" type of campaign. My understanding is that you prefer to skip ahead weeks/months/years between sessions so the characters are at the start of a new story? However, I'm not sure if this would work for the 'day by day' type of campaigns. Robbing their characters of an RP scene(non-fighting focused, non-rolling focused) might raise hackles, and seems to rob players of their choice. Instead of the DM saying "let's not play" or "lets improvise," you are advocating "well too bad, you've got to play this"? Unless I'm misunderstanding, but assuming they accept isn't it just forcing them to play a story they might not be interested in?


In theory, the DM gets more experienced, and may eventually get to the point where he can run a true sandbox. But unfortunately (for whatever reason) many never graduate to that level.

Why is it assumed that a sandbox is better than a somewhat directed story/plot/scenario?

I always have a set of non-plot related encounters ready to go.


Aah, I see! You prepare by generalising the monsters so the monsters can be reflavoured/tweaked?

So far, I have about fifteen different quests planned for levels 1 through 7 with the assumption that not all will be done so there are several level 1s, several 2-4s, several 3-5s, several 4-6s, so on and so forth. This approach should easily cut my prep time down by well more than half. I am so glad I randomly checked out this topic!

I've personally never planned more than 1 dungeon ahead, as I was never sure what direction the players would want to take. It's become less of a survive-or-die campaign like I first envisioned and more of a save-the-hometown.

Still - did you have fun creating the world? If you did, it wasn't wasted time.