Dungeons & Dragons Online

How can I predict and plan what to prepare?

Content of the article: "How can I predict and plan what to prepare?"

So I used to be purely an AL DM, which made things clearly a lot easier as I only had to worry about modules, or a pre-planned story. However, I'm running a Discord-Shmeppy homebrew in my own setting for some friends.

I've improved the last 4 sessions purely because my players never go where the plothook is. The original plan for them to be caught up in an unofficial assassination, and find out about a large overarching plot by one of the continents empires. This went fine for the first and second session where they generally went where I planned and it was all good. However, a lot of these are new players who want to figure out their own path, so when they reached the wizards tower in a city, they didn't take the side quest that I had planned, and instead decided to do the trivia in the bar (that I also made up on the spot) and ended answering one very tough question right, and got the attention of the archmage and took on a new massive overarching quest to steal from some 5 ancient dragons.

However, as some of the party had been missing, they didn't leave the town (if 2/4 players are missing they don't do any major story changes) and I gave them one plothook, which they ignored, so made up some gladiator fights, which on their way to one of the new players decided he didn't want to do it and went in the opposite direction, and ended up spreading a plague to the city and breaking his cleric ties with his god. So I prepared for them to leave the city ASAP. Nope. They did plague control while the now godless cleric formed a cult around an evil God and got his powers back.

Read:  Is it ok to make a battle that my players have to lose?

Then this session I prepared for them to leave the city but they stick around a bit and only barely got to the portion I had planned. So I'm finding that generally planning random small encounters and plot points and improving everything in between works apparently well, as they seem to love the improvised stuff I do.

Is there any better way to prepare things or less my players? I don't wanna railroad them into doing something as I'm giving them a lot of agency in this world, as long as they stick to their main quest (they have a soft time limit on that).

Source: reddit.com

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