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




It is generally accepted that actual freedom is better than the illusion of freedom.
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 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?



My preference is not to play out the lives of the characters day-by-day. Most games I have observed or taken part in, especially the day-to-day games, are dreadfully slow. That's a failure of pacing and framing in my opinion and it can really make games drag. My experience has been that once players realize they don't have to play that way, they choose not to and never look back.

For my money, what separates a good game and a mediocre one is pacing both in terms of the session itself and in the overall campaign.  If there isn't a compelling question to be answered in a given scene, that scene gets no screen time. We narrate the outcome collaboratively and move on. Scenes with compelling questions to answer make for good in-character interaction. Scenes that lack them make for forced, awkward, or aimless roleplay that adds little and eats up valuable session time that could be better spent.

For me, the quest-giver scene is the latter. The outcome is known (most likely the PCs will take the quest... or else, as established by the responses above) and there are no compelling questions to be answered, so there is no reason to play it out. Narrate it and move on to scenes where compelling questions can be answered, whether that's a tense combat scene or a transition scene in which we learn more about the bond between Ragnar and Ailee. What this means (at least in our games) is that there is never a dull moment and we get more "done" in 4 hours than most groups do. In-character interaction is constant and strong, leading to highly-developed characters and intra-party bonds in a very short amount of real time. As I tell my new players, show up with a character sheet and we will turn it into a fully-fleshed out person in just one session.

I am not advocating the removal of choice. Our games are highly collaborative with the players even establishing new elements in the "world" as we go. I don't need quest-givers to get the PCs to do things and so I never use them. The players indicate their interest in a given location or situation for their characters to explore and we do that. We might, as a collaborative exercise, establish quest-givers or important NPCs that have a stake in the outcome of the PCs' adventure, but that is incidental to the players' choices. It simply adds more layers and likely sprang from some interesting tidbit of fiction previously established anyway.

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



That's only assumed by some. I don't adhere to that. I have my preference (no plot), but so do others, and they are not objectively wrong despite what some may suggest. Each group will have to choose a style that works for them.
For my money, what separates a good game and a mediocre one is pacing both in terms of the session itself and in the overall campaign.  If there isn't a compelling question to be answered in a given scene, that scene gets no screen time. We narrate the outcome collaboratively and move on. Scenes with compelling questions to answer make for good in-character interaction. Scenes that lack them make for forced, awkward, or aimless roleplay that adds little and eats up valuable session time that could be better spent.

I used to listen to a lot of "actual play" podcasts from rpgmp3.com. One set was for Rolemaster, which sounds like an atrocious game, but it was one of the DM's favorites, so he made it fun. They once spent a whole session shopping, but the DM made it pretty amazing. It wasn't exactly collaborative but the DM picked up on what the players seemed to want, and gave it to them in spades, never batting an eye. It was a surprisingly cool scene with not a single question to be answered, as far as I can tell.

I'm still not a fan of shopping scenes myself, or of "getting to know you" scenes, but I think the question they try to answer is "What is the world like?" This can be downloaded by those in the know to those without (with all the correcting and blocking that tends to entail) or it can be collaborative. And there are other ways to find out what the world is like. But I think that's what groups are hoping to get at with such scenes.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I used to listen to a lot of "actual play" podcasts from rpgmp3.com. One set was for Rolemaster, which sounds like an atrocious game, but it was one of the DM's favorites, so he made it fun. They once spent a whole session shopping, but the DM made it pretty amazing. It wasn't exactly collaborative but the DM picked up on what the players seemed to want, and gave it to them in spades, never batting an eye. It was a surprisingly cool scene with not a single question to be answered, as far as I can tell.

I'm still not a fan of shopping scenes myself, or of "getting to know you" scenes, but I think the question they try to answer is "What is the world like?" This can be downloaded by those in the know to those without (with all the correcting and blocking that tends to entail) or it can be collaborative. And there are other ways to find out what the world is like. But I think that's what groups are hoping to get at with such scenes.



I think this goes to show the importance of knowing what that compelling question is to be answered in a given scene. A shopping scene can be made interesting, but most groups fail to make it interesting because, well, it's not inherently so. They play it out because the player made a choice for his character and there is perhaps a feeling of obligation to play out the scene. "What is the world like?" could be a compelling question (though it's a little broad for my tastes). A better question might be, "Will the PCs acquire the reagent critical to their goals from the crazy herbalist?" Now we got ourselves a scene worth playing out. "Will Ragnar buy the sword he wants?" ain't. He just does it.
I think this goes to show the importance of knowing what that compelling question is to be answered in a given scene. A shopping scene can be made interesting, but most groups fail to make it interesting because, well, it's not interesting. They play it out because the player made a choice for his character and there is perhaps a feeling of obligation to play out the scene. "What is the world like?" could be a compelling question (though it's a little broad for my tastes). A better question might be, "Will the PCs acquire the reagent critical to their goals from the crazy herbalist?" Now we got ourselves a scene worth playing out. "Will Ragnar buy the sword he wants?" ain't. He just does it.

Yeah, "What's the world like?" is broad but the questions can be "What's the town line?" "How are adventurers treated?" "How are WE treated?" "What's worth fighting for?" "What's NOT worth fighting for?" I think these questions are boiling around duing "interaction" scenes, but they're unspoken and they're not focused on.

Actually, I think the main question that often underlies such scenes is "What can we do?" Talk to people? Yep. Pick fights? Uh, sure. Burn down a brothel? Nope. Ok, question answered.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Yeah, "What's the world like?" is broad but the questions can be "What's the town line?" "How are adventurers treated?" "How are WE treated?" "What's worth fighting for?" "What's NOT worth fighting for?" I think these questions are boiling around duing "interaction" scenes, but they're unspoken and they're not focused on.

Actually, I think the main question that often underlies such scenes is "What can we do?" Talk to people? Yep. Pick fights? Uh, sure. Burn down a brothel? Nope. Ok, question answered.



Right, I agree. I think the group does itself a favor by looking critically at a given scene and seeing if there is a question or questions to be answered like the ones you suggest. This should come from the players in my opinion. "I'd like to know more about this dude who sells magic items. What's his story and how can we get him to back our play?" Now we got something here. We're not playing out the scene to see if Ragnar can get that shiny blade he wants - that's incidental. The real crux of the scene is to flesh out that NPC and see if he can be made an ally. That's a worthy scene and by taking a few moments to frame it, everyone involved in the scene has some direction on where to take it. Throw in some dice if success or failure can both be interesting and we got ourselves the ingredients for a compelling scene.
Yeah, "What's the world like?" is broad but the questions can be "What's the town line?" "How are adventurers treated?" "How are WE treated?" "What's worth fighting for?" "What's NOT worth fighting for?" I think these questions are boiling around duing "interaction" scenes, but they're unspoken and they're not focused on.

Actually, I think the main question that often underlies such scenes is "What can we do?" Talk to people? Yep. Pick fights? Uh, sure. Burn down a brothel? Nope. Ok, question answered.



Right, I agree. I think the group does itself a favor by looking critically at a given scene and seeing if there is a question or questions to be answered like the ones you suggest. This should come from the players in my opinion. "I'd like to know more about this dude who sells magic items. What's his story and how can we get him to back our play?" Now we got something here. We're not playing out the scene to see if Ragnar can get that shiny blade he wants - that's incidental. The real crux of the scene is to flesh out that NPC and see if he can be made an ally. That's a worthy scene and by taking a few moments to frame it, everyone involved in the scene has some direction on where to take it. Throw in some dice if success or failure can both be interesting and we got ourselves the ingredients for a compelling scene.

I have to keep that in mind. "What is the question of the scene?" "Will we survive" and "Will we kill these enemies" tend not to be interesting questions. We play it out anyway, because combat is fun, but whether or not the PCs survive and the monsters die are almost as incidental as whether Ragnar can buy the sword he wants.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I have to keep that in mind. "What is the question of the scene?" "Will we survive" and "Will we kill these enemies" tend not to be interesting questions. We play it out anyway, because combat is fun, but whether or not the PCs survive and the monsters die are almost as incidental as whether Ragnar can buy the sword he wants.



Yes, absolutely! We tend to give combat a pass because sometimes people just want to "pwn stuff with their builds." I get that. But ideally, a group will look at every scene as you say and see what the "stakes" questions are, even going so far as to define them and write them down. (Some compelling questions are more obvious than others.) It should be noted that some questions won't get answered or get tabled for later either because critical elements are missing or the PCs fail. That they are put out there though means everyone has something to work toward in the scene.

This relates to the quest-giver scenes, too. What's the compelling question to be answered there? If it's "Will the PCs take the quest?" then you could probably do with rethinking the necessity of the scene or asking for buy-in up front on accepting the quest and then working toward answering some other compelling question which could be about the quest or NPC (or anything else).
I'm reminded of a pair of scientists trying to dissect a brilliant impressionistic painting while completely missing the point.

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.

It should be noted that some questions won't get answered or get tabled for later either because critical elements are missing or the PCs fail. That they are put out there though means everyone has something to work toward in the scene.

What's an example of a question that wouldn't get answered because the PCs failed? I tend to think of success and failure being part of the question. "Will the party obtain the McGuffin?" is different from "Will the party survive?" and "Will the monsters be killed?" but it's not a great question. How would you reframe it? Maybe two questions? "What happens if they party obtains the McGuffin?" and "What happens if the party fails to obtain the McGuffin?"

Or is the question "What does the party give up to obtain the McGuffin?"?

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

What's an example of a question that wouldn't get answered because the PCs failed? I tend to think of success and failure being part of the question. "Will the party obtain the McGuffin?" is different from "Will the party survive?" and "Will the monsters be killed?" but it's not a great question. How would you reframe it? Maybe two questions? "What happens if they party obtains the McGuffin?" and "What happens if the party fails to obtain the McGuffin?"

Or is the question "What does the party give up to obtain the McGuffin?"?



Just off the top of my head, "What mysterious, shocking truth does the McGuffin reveal?" The PCs may or may not get their hands on the McGuffin which could render the question moot. Let's say they did though but failed to "unlock" it in some way, perhaps by a skill challenge or the like. That question would have to be tabled until something changed or the reveal happened in some other way. It's kind of hard to say without more context, but that's not too bad an example.

EDIT: I should mention that upon rereading, your reframes are better than my example. 
Just off the top of my head, "What mysterious, shocking truth does the McGuffin reveal?" The PCs may or may not get their hands on the McGuffin which could render the question moot. Let's say they did though but failed to "unlock" it in some way, perhaps by a skill challenge or the like. That question would have to be tabled until something changed or the reveal happened in some other way. It's kind of hard to say without more context, but that's not too bad an example.

That example works because it shows how a little bit of leading makes the question more potent. It's not the broad "What happens when you unlock the McGuffin?" but the more focused "[X] happens; what kind of [X] is it?"

It seems to be about change, in knowledge, the world, relationships, etc. Disruption. Changing the routine. I hadn't been thinking of Dungeon World, but most of its levelling up questions are about change. What was resolved, what died, what was obtained, what was learned, what went wrong?

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

That example works because it shows how a little bit of leading makes the question more potent. It's not the broad "What happens when you unlock the McGuffin?" but the more focused "[X] happens; what kind of [X] is it?"

It seems to be about change, in knowledge, the world, relationships, etc. Disruption. Changing the routine. I hadn't been thinking of Dungeon World, but most of its levelling up questions are about change. What was resolved, what died, what was obtained, what was learned, what went wrong?



Yes, that's a clever way of looking at it. In a lot of ways and with some exceptions of course, it's almost unsatisfying to fully resolve a question. The hope is that by framing and leading and digging a little deeper, we can both resolve something and raise another question in the offing. The characters change, the world changes, the goals and stakes change, understanding changes, and the questions change accordingly. It's a beautiful thing and drives action ever forward in ways that quest-giver can never hope to do (in my opinion).
I'm reminded of a pair of scientists trying to dissect a brilliant impressionistic painting while completely missing the point.

+1
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.
I'm reminded of a pair of scientists trying to dissect a brilliant impressionistic painting while completely missing the point.

+1




I don't even get this? They're actually having a good conversation about important things to keep in my mind when planning encounters/quests. I'm sorry if it's not your thing, but it's generally quite useful.
I'm reminded of a pair of scientists trying to dissect a brilliant impressionistic painting while completely missing the point.

+1




I don't even get this? They're actually having a good conversation about important things to keep in my mind when planning encounters/quests. I'm sorry if it's not your thing, but it's generally quite useful.



90% of your problem is the two people you quoted.

The other 10% is that you bother being confused by them.

Please, continue you two, it is actually a good read.

On a completely random note Iserith's work on another topic somewhat similar to this was brought up among the writers for a current LFR epic writing project...
Currently working on making a Dex based defender. Check it out here
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I'm reminded of a pair of scientists trying to dissect a brilliant impressionistic painting while completely missing the point.

+1




I don't even get this? They're actually having a good conversation about important things to keep in my mind when planning encounters/quests. I'm sorry if it's not your thing, but it's generally quite useful.



90% of your problem is the two people you quoted.

The other 10% is that you bother being confused by them.

Please, continue you two, it is actually a good read.

On a completely random note Iserith's work on another topic somewhat similar to this was brought up among the writers for a current LFR epic writing project...



Fair enough.
I'm reminded of a pair of scientists trying to dissect a brilliant impressionistic painting while completely missing the point.

+1


But wouldn't art majors be more likely miss the point in the dissections, while others (like scientists) would be more able to enjoy it for it's own sake?  

Founder - but not owner - of Just Say Yes!

Member of LGBT Gamers

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Why there should be the option to use alignment systems:
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If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

For me, the quest-giver scene is the latter. The outcome is known (most likely the PCs will take the quest... or else, as established by the responses above) and there are no compelling questions to be answered, so there is no reason to play it out. Narrate it and move on to scenes where compelling questions can be answered, whether that's a tense combat scene or a transition scene in which we learn more about the bond between Ragnar and Ailee. What this means (at least in our games) is that there is never a dull moment and we get more "done" in 4 hours than most groups do.



Now I understand skipping things that are of no interest, ie I allow players to do their shopping  for equipment out of game, and skipping mundane travel except for a random encounter or such events as need be there, or periods of time with little to no activity are glossed over, or just plain mundane tasks, but skipping a main quest NPC like this is rather shocking as this is a scene in which there should be "compelling questions to be answered." Even if it is an opportunity for them to ask questions, negotiate rewards and make decisions on how they will go about the quest.

Or in the case of a sandbox game, they may have alternative quests to do other things, oreven other factions that they may work for other then the quest giver. Basically this is advocating railroading rather then dealing with the issue of not having made the original content compelling.

As a side note, my group would probably conclude they were enchanted by the quest giver and emmediately turn around to go back and hunt him down for it, lol
 
I'm reminded of a pair of scientists trying to dissect a brilliant impressionistic painting while completely missing the point.

+1


But wouldn't art majors be more likely miss the point in the dissections, while others (like scientists) would be more able to enjoy it for it's own sake?  



Haha the pretentious ones, yes.

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.

Now I understand skipping things that are of no interest, ie I allow players to do their shopping  for equipment out of game, and skipping mundane travel except for a random encounter or such events as need be there, or periods of time with little to no activity are glossed over, or just plain mundane tasks, but skipping a main quest NPC like this is rather shocking as this is a scene in which there should be "compelling questions to be answered." Even if it is an opportunity for them to ask questions, negotiate rewards and make decisions on how they will go about the quest.



As I put above, it can be made compelling, but if you as DM are writing or framing the scene around the compelling question: "Will the PCs take the quest?" you've probably messed it up already. There needs to be some other purpose for the scene. You can just ask the players for their buy-in on the quest up front, then the scene becomes more about those other things rather than "Will they or won't they take the quest?"

Or in the case of a sandbox game, they may have alternative quests to do other things, oreven other factions that they may work for other then the quest giver. Basically this is advocating railroading rather then dealing with the issue of not having made the original content compelling.



It's not railroading if the players have already bought in. It's railroading when they turn the quest-giver down and then "all roads lead to Rome," for example. Or if the threat of no game means they must take the quest. Or you make it so they quickly "tire out other options" (because you made them boring or punitive or increasingly limited their options) to get them back on the path. I'm advocating getting their buy-in. ("I got this cool quest prepared - you guys are in? Then we'll use the scene to discover more about the NPC and situation as it relates to Ragnar's background, okay?")

Primarily, I'm advocating not using quest-givers as primary motivators at all and letting the PCs do what they will while working with them to frame what they want to do in interesting ways that drives the action forward.
Fair enough.



Liberal use of the "block" feature helps. Though Sir_Joseph gets a pass in my book because he's sometimes funny.
As I put above, it can be made compelling, but if you as DM are writing or framing the scene around the compelling question: "Will the PCs take the quest?" you've probably messed it up already. There needs to be some other purpose for the scene. You can just ask the players for their buy-in on the quest up front, then the scene becomes more about those other things rather than "Will they or won't they take the quest?"



We have different view on "buy in" in my own view that means knowing the players and their characters and creating plot hooks that will interest them, "buy in" occurs by their actions in game. I don't have quests where the PCs not taking it is a problem and will follow the player's lead, this is where I ask them what they are going to do and where "buy in occurs"

PCs often have good reasons to not take a quest, perhaps they are suspicious of the quest giver's intentions, they have something they feel is more pressing, or they are holding off for something better. I will follow their chosen paths and play them out.

It's not railroading if the players have already bought in. It's railroading when they turn the quest-giver down and then "all roads lead to Rome," for example. Or if the threat of no game means they must take the quest. Or you make it so they quickly "tire out other options" (because you made them boring or punitive or increasingly limited their options) to get them back on the path. I'm advocating getting their buy-in. ("I got this cool quest prepared - you guys are in? Then we'll use the scene to discover more about the NPC and situation as it relates to Ragnar's background, okay?")



"All roads lead to Rome"  is an important point that you shoudl listen to. All roads did lead to Rome because it was the capital of a multi-contenent spanning empire and the most important city in the world. The same can happen in the game. If the first NPC's quest was for the PCs to get an artifact from an Evil Wizard's who is raising an army of Orcs to stop his plot to invade the country. If the PCs say no, then the Evil wizard is still there, still raising an army of orcs to invade and still using that evil artifact.

So they will hear about Orc raids, the roads being closed to the south, strange happenings, and possibly be given similair quests by others, local militias recruiting, refugees moving in, rumours about the evil Wizard etc etc. These events are playing themselves out, they don't just go away because the PCs said no.

As for limited returns, or boring options if they do somethine else, well i've offered them an epic quest to storm an Evil Wizard's tower in a fight for the world, and they chose to go chop firewood, as an example, your question should be "What do you do when your players are boring?" Well I hope it isn't as boring as chopping firewood, but the players are choosing between earth shacking events and, well something unimportant when put in scale. I mean when Nazi tanks swarmed through Normandy and into France, the French didn't start squabbling with the Spanish over minor border disputes.

My point is that the PC's are the most important thing in the game, their plot is consequently the most epic, adventurist thing going on. So what if they decide to do something boring and inconsequential instead? I am not talking about the DM making the game boring as punishment, i am talking about the PCs making the game boring, for whatever reason.

And ussually what they want to do instead isn't as extensive as your plot, ie they do something that takes under an hour rather then your plot which takes 6 hours, or as important, it is as much to do with the players limiting themselves as it is the DM.

Then you mention that you've prepared an awesome game and the PC walk away from the plot hook. Now you are goin to ablib something on the fly. Is it going to be as good as what you've prepared? The answer is that no matter how good you are at winging it, what you've prepared will be better (unless you are preparing wrong) The DM digging through books to toss a random encounter together isn't going to be anywhere near as satifying as a well planned encounter. This is a Player made issue, noone walks away from a plot hook without realizing they have just tossed the DM's work away for something quickly improvised in a rush.

  
What I like about improvising is that improvising along the lines of something the players specifically decided they wanted to do is almost always far superior to trying to force them into doing something I guessed from my understanding of them that they would want to do. It's because I don't have to get them to buy-in to the idea, because it's their idea. They are eager to make it happen, so I neither have to lead them nor struggle agains them to make cool things happen.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

We have different view on "buy in" in my own view that means knowing the players and their characters and creating plot hooks that will interest them, "buy in" occurs by their actions in game. I don't have quests where the PCs not taking it is a problem and will follow the player's lead, this is where I ask them what they are going to do and where "buy in occurs"



Why bother creating content you're not sure they'll want to experience? That seems like a waste of the DM's time. You can just ask the players what they want instead of guessing.

"All roads lead to Rome"  is an important point that you shoudl listen to. All roads did lead to Rome because it was the capital of a multi-contenent spanning empire and the most important city in the world. The same can happen in the game. If the first NPC's quest was for the PCs to get an artifact from an Evil Wizard's who is raising an army of Orcs to stop his plot to invade the country. If the PCs say no, then the Evil wizard is still there, still raising an army of orcs to invade and still using that evil artifact.

So they will hear about Orc raids, the roads being closed to the south, strange happenings, and possibly be given similair quests by others, local militias recruiting, refugees moving in, rumours about the evil Wizard etc etc. These events are playing themselves out, they don't just go away because the PCs said no.



Nobody's suggesting that it should go away because the PCs said no. But if all of your in-game content points back to your plot, you're probably railroading or trying to. Why waste all that time and effort? Get the buy-in from the players before you go through all that.

As for limited returns, or boring options if they do somethine else, well i've offered them an epic quest to storm an Evil Wizard's tower in a fight for the world, and they chose to go chop firewood, as an example, your question should be "What do you do when your players are boring?" Well I hope it isn't as boring as chopping firewood, but the players are choosing between earth shacking events and, well something unimportant when put in scale.



That seems like a rather binary assumption. What if they choose not to storm the Evil Wizard's tower but come up with an equally interesting quest for themselves, one that you hadn't prepped?

My point is that the PC's are the most important thing in the game, their plot is consequently the most epic, adventurist thing going on. So what if they decide to do something boring and inconsequential instead? I am not talking about the DM making the game boring as punishment, i am talking about the PCs making the game boring, for whatever reason.



Their plot or your plot? It sounds like you're talking about the latter. And that's okay, but call it what it is. And know that when you're pushing them back to your plot, you're railroading them. And that's also okay, if you have their consent to do that. Some players don't mind. Some even expect it.

Then you mention that you've prepared an awesome game and the PC walk away from the plot hook. Now you are goin to ablib something on the fly. Is it going to be as good as what you've prepared? The answer is that no matter how good you are at winging it, what you've prepared will be better (unless you are preparing wrong) The DM digging through books to toss a random encounter together isn't going to be anywhere near as satifying as a well planned encounter. This is a Player made issue, noone walks away from a plot hook without realizing they have just tossed the DM's work away for something quickly improvised in a rush.



I don't prepare content the players haven't already bought into and so quest-givers are superfluous. I also don't prepare plots. And again, your suggestion that prepared content will always be better than improvised just isn't true. Or rather, perhaps it's true for your skill level, but not for the skill level of all DMs. "Preparing wrong" is preparing content that you're not sure the players will be interested in.
Prepare multiple quests and plant several different plot hooks. Problem solved.

If they pass on all of them, then you have no idea what kind of things motivates your group. Get to know your players and their characters better.

And also, I'll just say, that if you spend time making content and feel it's a waste simply because you didn't get to use it on "X" night, then you're wasting your time altogether as a DM. There will always be content you make or prep that you don't get to use. The solution, is to use it later on the same group or a different one. There's nothing wrong with using old content or replaying a story and seeing if it will play out in a different fashion from last time.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Also, prepared content is way way better than improvised content. Any day of the week.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
The key thing that I hope people keep in mind is that all the preparation in the world is worthless if no one is interested in the end result.

Edit: Actually, the result might be worthless, but the preparation might still be worth something, especially if it gives one ideas that can be brought out during improvisation.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Prepare multiple quests and plant several different plot hooks. Problem solved.



Maybe. Maybe not. What happens if the players turns down all of your plots that session? What do you do then?

If they pass on all of them, then you have no idea what kind of things motivates your group. Get to know your players and their characters better.



That's actually a good answer. Keep it up.

And also, I'll just say, that if you spend time making content and feel it's a waste simply because you didn't get to use it on "X" night, then you're wasting your time altogether as a DM. There will always be content you make or prep that you don't get to use. The solution, is to use it later on the same group or a different one. There's nothing wrong with using old content or replaying a story and seeing if it will play out in a different fashion from last time.



Sure, though some DMs value a favorable ratio of prep to actual playtime. If you can get the same or better game experience with less prep, what's the downside?

Also, prepared content is way way better than improvised content. Any day of the week.



I'd put both my prepared content and improvised content up against your prepared content any day of the week. Perhaps your improvisational abilities simply aren't that good. And that's okay. It's a skill and talent like any other. You have to work at it.
The key thing that I hope people keep in mind is that all the preparation in the world is worthless if no one is interested in the end result.



That's why getting to know your players is important.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
/me goes to the cupboard to finds popcorn and finds that it's stale.

It's almost like we've walked these circles before...
Back to Basics - A Guide to Basic Attacks You might be playing DnD wrong if... "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." Albert Einstein
/me goes to the cupboard to finds popcorn and finds that it's stale.

It's almost like we've walked these circles before...



Well, walking the circles IS supposed to bring you closer to enlightenment ...

Prepare multiple quests and plant several different plot hooks. Problem solved.



Maybe. Maybe not. What happens if the players turns down all of your plots that session? What do you do then?

If they pass on all of them, then you have no idea what kind of things motivates your group. Get to know your players and their characters better.



That's actually a good answer. Keep it up.

And also, I'll just say, that if you spend time making content and feel it's a waste simply because you didn't get to use it on "X" night, then you're wasting your time altogether as a DM. There will always be content you make or prep that you don't get to use. The solution, is to use it later on the same group or a different one. There's nothing wrong with using old content or replaying a story and seeing if it will play out in a different fashion from last time.



Sure, though some DMs value a favorable ratio of prep to actual playtime. If you can get the same or better game experience with less prep, what's the downside?

Also, prepared content is way way better than improvised content. Any day of the week.



I'd put both my prepared content and improvised content up against your prepared content any day of the week. Perhaps your improvisational abilities simply aren't that good. And that's okay. It's a skill and talent like any other. You have to work at it.



I'm fairly certain you're trying to bait. And I think it should be reported.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
/me goes to the cupboard to finds popcorn and finds that it's stale.

It's almost like we've walked these circles before...



I know, right?

popcorn.gif 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I'm fairly certain you're trying to bait. And I think it should be reported.



If you think it should be reported, go ahead and report it. My intent is to ask a question. A lot of DMs will admit to being terrible at improvisation. I was in that category at one point, but I worked at it, and now I'm comfortable doing it. Good at it even.
I'm fairly certain you're trying to bait. And I think it should be reported.



If you think it should be reported, go ahead and report it. My intent is to ask a question. A lot of DMs will admit to being terrible at improvisation. I was in that category at one point, but I worked at it, and now I'm comfortable doing it. Good at it even.



Lunar is still a bit stung from having several of his posts scrubbed earlier in the week.

I'm fairly certain you're trying to bait. And I think it should be reported.



If you think it should be reported, go ahead and report it. My intent is to ask a question. A lot of DMs will admit to being terrible at improvisation. I was in that category at one point, but I worked at it, and now I'm comfortable doing it. Good at it even.



I don't report. That's tattling. We don't need the ORCs playing mommy and daddy on us. That said, I'm sure someone else might agree with me that doesn't care about Internet honor.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I'm fairly certain you're trying to bait. And I think it should be reported.



If you think it should be reported, go ahead and report it. My intent is to ask a question. A lot of DMs will admit to being terrible at improvisation. I was in that category at one point, but I worked at it, and now I'm comfortable doing it. Good at it even.



Lunar is still a bit stung from having several of his posts scrubbed earlier in the week.




Actually, I really don't care. I think it's funny how thin skinned some of you can be when a poster is blunt or honest about what he/she has to say.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
The question stands: Do you consider yourself good at improvisation? If you do or do not, how do you suppose that colors your perception as to the quality of prepared and improvised content?
The question stands: Do you consider yourself good at improvisation? If you do or do not, how do you suppose that colors your perception as to the quality of prepared and improvised content?



My improv skills are fine. I winged an entire game a couple of weeks ago. The players enjoyed it. That said, if I had prepared something, the game would have been much better.

Improv content from anyone is horrible at worst, and mildly interesting at best. Prepared content (assuming the DM knows what kinds of things his players will enjoy), ranges from mildly interesting at worst to completely immersive at best.

The only time prepared content can be bad, is when the DM doesn't know a damn thing about his players. 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/