Content of the article: "Sometimes Railroading is a Useful tool (Long)"
I want to start off by saying the railroading your party to the point where their creativity means nothing is not what I am supporting. That disclaimer being said:
I am a relatively new DM, only been doing so about 5 months. However, I currently run two campaigns with two very different groups. One being a group comprised of a group of my graduate school friends the other comprised of my college and "gamer" friends. I am running both of them through a Homebrew world and campaign I set up with as much of an "open sandbox" feel as I could give them. Giving that freedom has led to times where the party goes completely divergent from any major or side quest line. For example, around the third session with one of the groups they completed a quest for the local town to help open a port back up. After battling through bandit infested woods and slaying a few monsters, the port was clear and the group returned to receive their reward.
Upon receiving their reward, the group immediately ignored several quest lines to search for a giant beaver in the land to the north. (side context the campaign comprises of 4 very different continents) I was completely unprepared and only had a vague set up of settlements and some very loosely connected encounters. The group proceeded to aimlessly go through this tundra continent with no goal other than finding a giant beaver for our Canadian player to ride as a mount. That is when I came up with an idea for a quest line that allowed them to search for "rare mounts" and weave in subtleties of the main story. The old "you and the party get knocked out by poison darts" cliché.
It worked beautifully as I got the party into a small town which had a variety of issues, most of which were small and easily solvable by the group. Then I tempted them with an item which required them to slay a Boss I had previously created for the region. They set off immediately to clear out the mines and find this boss. I won't bore you with the details, but through the next 7 sessions the group battled, investigated, solved puzzles, learned to inspect magic items, and etc. At the end of it with only on PCK, the group had a sense of finality where they learned some details about the main quest without forcing them to do the main quest.
Now they are debating their next course of action, but the point is that while you do not want to ruin their creativity sometimes railroading onto a side quest is necessary. You can artfully use it to introduce teasers, items, new quests, and more all the while allowing your players to achieve whatever random goal led to their deviation (I gave them a celestial moose mount for the Canadian)
- Variation of the “Quest-Giver NPC”
- Unpopular Opinion: Railroading is okay.
- Ideas for a quickly thrown together adventure/campaign
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