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How to Get my Campaign on Track without Railroading?

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  • How to Get my Campaign on Track without Railroading?

    Hi! I've never been here before but I have a question and I don't know any nWoD storytellers. Recently I showed this awesome game to my friends and said we should try it. I didn't want anything to seem forced and I didn't want anybody to be unhappy, so I didn't force them to do anything character wise. I didn't want to make it a Vampire campaign if someone wanted to go Werewolf. However, now I have tons of separate characters that have nothing to do with each other except the general location. I had some characters start together but they all went in different directions, doing different things. I keep having characters intercept but they're not grouping up, pairing up, anything. I have an idea of where the narrative will go and what the antagonists are, but everyone is so worried about their own personal agenda that it doesn't feel like a real WoD campaign.

    Part of me is considering starting from scratch with a few more rules (pick one supernatural, have some sort of history or relation with x amount of players) to make them more intertwined. I love that they're into having individual characters and their interest in lore, but the game is supposed to be cooperative, party based. I feel like one day they're going to get bored of this and quit WoD. Is there a way I can safely get my campaign back on track without going godmode?

    ADDITIONAL CAMPAIGN INFO: I do have a lot of players because I didn't want anybody interested to feel left out. I have 2 soldier-esque hunters, one member of the cheiron group (so, another hunter). I have a vampire in the black market, and one that owns a small bar and wants to find/hunt criminal vampires. A college attending mage who wants to hunt and find relics, a mage who works for the police as an informant, a police officer werewolf and another werewolf who so far has just aimlessly wandered the city looking around for adventure. One or two have intersected (the police officer and the informant, for example) but they are overall very separated. I've planned to have a traveling group of changelings, several "kingpin"-esque characters that the players can align themselves with if they so choose, and bordering-on-war tension between the main 3 (werewolves, vampires, mages) that could cause character interaction. But none of these plotlines have even begun to surface yet.

  • #2
    Originally posted by SpidermanBear View Post
    Part of me is considering starting from scratch with a few more rules (pick one supernatural, have some sort of history or relation with x amount of players) to make them more intertwined. I love that they're into having individual characters and their interest in lore, but the game is supposed to be cooperative, party based. I feel like one day they're going to get bored of this and quit WoD. Is there a way I can safely get my campaign back on track without going godmode?
    Write a list of catastrophic events. Create three plot lines. If the PCs don't get them done within a time frame, said event happens and it turns out very bad for everyone.

    The Big Bad isn't going to wait for you to show up. He's got his own agenda and plans.

    Granted this is mostly for a quick, high action game but it can work for others.


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    • #3
      Step one, first and foremost, is always: talk to your players. Say "hey guys, I'm having trouble getting this to cohere, maybe I should have set down some strictures at the start. Do you think we can come up with some way to merge these stories onto the same track, or would you be okay starting over, because I don't think I can juggle all these balls in the air separately at once." Lots of stuff comes down to being honest and open and feeling out what's best for your specific group, and making sure everybody's expectations are on the same page.

      I expect your best option is honestly to start over with a group template. That template doesn't necessarily have to be a specific type of monster (although if you do mix and match, you should try to make sure a) different characters will have comparable enough efficacies in different areas that nobody overshadows the others too much, and b) the characters you create resonate with similar enough themes and events that they feel like they belong in the same world and story, rather than being disparate, like each character is a cameo from a different game showing up in the other character's game). It does, however, help a lot to have a clear expectation of what it is the characters are going to be doing, and why they, and not any other characters, are the player characters and what they have in common. This is just generally good advice for almost any tabletop game, World of Darkness or otherwise.

      It'll probably feel sore missing out on these character concepts your players were excited about exploring, and one thing that might help to blunt that blow is to talk to your players about ways you could string the echoes of their previous characters' actions into ongoing plot hooks in the new game. Some groups like tying campaigns together like that. Salt to taste, of course.

      Eight players is a lot. You might be able to keep an eight-player party going successfully; if so, good for you! If you feel like it's too much, though, you should say so, and ask the group if it's possible to scale it back to a number you're more able to handle, like if some players might have less time or interest to spare, or barring that, perhaps you could rotate players in and out from story to story in some way. It always sucks turning people down, but friends should understand, and being too widely open can end up to the game's detriment in ways like this. If you can't handle eight players at once, after all, the game will eventually peter out, and then nobody will get to play.
      Last edited by Stupid Loserman; 03-17-2015, 03:21 PM.

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      • #4
        Honestly, you probably should have tightened the games focus from the beginning. I'd suggest having some sort of event that ties all of the players together. Hunters are usually fairly easy to hook in, all you need is some overt show of supernatural activity and the promise of something to hunt down and they'll usually come running. Have the event be so disruptive that it really start screwing with each of the vampires businesses, making it so that they can either go deal with the problem, or suffer serious hits to their livelihoods. Add in the tempting promise of potential relics and artifacts, and get the police involved in the fringes and you can probably draw in your mages. With the police involved, you have an excuse to have one of your werewolves assigned to look over things, and an event of this scale is likely to draw in your adventure seeker fairly easily as well.

        And make it one of those things that isn't going to solve itself, and will get worse the longer your group leaves it to fester. They have the choice is doing something about it now or not doing anything and having the city sink deeper and deeper into a state they really don't want it to be in.

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        • #5
          How adverse are you to splitting the group? 9 players is a lot to handle at the same time, especially if they aren't all on the same page. 2 groups of 4/5 would be much easier to deal with. Off the top of my head, I'd group the hunters with the vampires who hunts other vampires, and then the mages and werewolves and other vampire. Run parallel games in the same world, and if something major happens in one game, make sure to mention it to the other group. If events bring the two groups to odds or into partnerships, run a couple of joint sessions.

          Another option is to introduce an antagonist that will give them all reason to pull together. Maybe a Mummy's cult starts messing stuff up around town. They target the two Vampires' herds for their human sacrifices, and all the extra Sekhem flowing has riled up local spirits.

          The most important thing is to bring up the issue with your players. If they are having fun, they won't want the game to fall apart either.

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          • #6
            I think the advice given so far is good. To perhaps build on what Ashenrogue and Andreamus wrote, perhaps you could do something like this. a villain or villains has an artifact that can cause supernaturals to exchange bodies. I would have this be done by type to make it easier. That way your characters can get a peek into each others lives. As to the hunters, they will notice that something odd is happening with the supernatural. Clearly the Cheiron group member will want whatever it is that can do this to the supernatural as would the soldier-type ones. However, they will need help to find it.

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            • #7
              The quickest way I've found to get a disparate group of PCs working together is to force links during character generation.

              I often tell my PCs that they must have a strong link to at least two other PCs (or three in a big party) as of the start of the game. Perhaps Vampire Bartender and Vampire Blackmarketeer share a sire, or share a common enemy they've worked together against in the past. Perhaps. Black Market Vampire acts as an informant for Werewolf Cop to screw over his competition. Perhaps college mage is a regular at Vampire bartender's bar and wants to get in aimless werewolf's pants after meeting the attractive rogue at said bar.

              It's okay to put some of the effort for worldbuilding on the PCs, especially when it's party-building. Have them decide why they care about one another and work together. That way it'll feel real to them and be an important part of their character. If the werewolves decide they're brothers who haven't spoken in a while because they got in a fight over the same girl, then you get fun B-plot stories coming out of that to enrich your A plot.


              So I'm making God-Kicking Boot, an Exalted webcomic, now. Updates on Sundays. Full-color, mediocre but slowly improving art. It's a thing.

              The absence of a monument can, in its own way, be something of a monument also.
              -Roger Zelazny

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              • #8
                Write a plot of what would happen if the players don't interfere with some of the main plotlines. If the players do interfere it changes of course as it isn't set in stone like metaplot is. If the players intefere make a list of NPC's involved and give all of them motivations and secret agenda's. Check those motivations and secret agenda's and decide how the NPC's would react if the players interefere. Then wait for the players the react again. If they do check the NPC motivations again. If they don't then go back to the plot you wrote if the players don't interfere.

                For example I wrote a plot about a city where the spirit world is restless and more and more spirits coming over through the gauntlet to make a mess of this world. If the players don't do something about it it will get worse and eventually some major NPC's will become ridden (possessed by a spirit). The players could actively get involved in the plot and fight the evil or they can just sandbox and the plot serves as a backdrop in the world.

                You will have to come up with something yourself, because the new WoD settings don't have a history with mayor events which could lead to serve as a plot and/or backdrop. It's not like the Third Imperium for Traveller where there are numerous wars in which the players could get involved or not if they want to sandbox in a world with a confict hanging in the background.

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