Content of the article: "An OoC discussion between players can fix problems before they get out of control"
tl;dr;tl;dr; DM and players should all talk to each other
tl;dr A meta discussion between players about what their characters want and where the story is going may be what you need to get your campaign back on the rails
Maybe this doesn't need to be said, but I only stumbled upon this solution to a growing problem I was having in my campaign and I thought it was worth sharing.
Our campaign has always been presented as sandbox-y but with me gently nudging certain events into prominence, or retroactively giving the party's more random misadventures significance in what I would term "the main plot".
I had noticed in our past few sessions that a divide had started to grow between the characters in the campaign. Broadly speaking the conflict was that two of the characters were happy to go along with what was obviously the main plot – "save the town". But the other two characters felt they had been ostracised by select individuals in the town and therefore felt it deserved to burn. Initially, this seemed like a good thing and a good opportunity for roleplay and character development.
As much as I personally was hoping for the dramatic and satisfying completion of the "save the town" arc, I was completely open to the group just ditching it and moving on to some new adventure. The problem was that the party was being pulled in two directions and just not really moving at all – their actions becoming more and more nonsensical and difficult to tie with a narrative throughline.
So, somewhat exasperated, I put a short message in our group chat – framed as a way to help my preparation. I explained that I wasn't sure where things were going, and that it might be a good idea for everyone to think about their characters and what their goals/motivations were.
What followed was a huge discussion between all the players about what their characters feelings and frustrations were and why they were acting in whatever way they were. It was more of an opportunity for players to vent on behalf of their characters. There was no agreement that anything or anyone would change, only that they were better sticking together from both a character and player perspective.
Yet when we had our next session, suddenly the vibe was so much better. Everyone was communicating in character, discussing what they thought the group should do, moving more as a unit. In a way it was like the OoC discussion had been like a rehersal for the next session and a lot of the characters had break-throughs and heart-to-hearts tied to what had been discussed.
After the session, everyone messaged to say how much they'd enjoyed the latest session, and the funniest thing is that I barely had to DM because so much of the content was generated by them.
To sum up, I would say that if you sense things aren't quite right – don't wait for things to become a horror story. Engage your players, remember that its a collaborative experience and work together to make sure everyone is still having fun.
- I was exiled from my first DND experience.
- Railroad, sandbox, agency, no agency
- Consider having a side campaign
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