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I've been planning on running my 1000 point Wild Talents campaign for some time now, and I think it diverges significantly in how it will be played from campaigns we've run in the past. My group has usually played various D&D 3.5 campaigns with a fairly well defined plot; the campaign I'm trying to run is one in which

  1. The PC's are proactive and all have their own agenda
  2. The only real threat to them are the other NPC's
  3. Solutions to the opposition of opposing NPC's usually require creativity as opposed to combat.

What I want is twofold: first, how do I properly communicate these expectations to my players, and second, how do I set up a campaign so these expectations are the most natural choice of play-style for my players?

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This can be a tricky thing, if a group is used to a certain playing style, for example following quests along a more or less straight plotline in which the next step is somehow obvious and usually agrees on using violence with slightly hostile characters it may be difficult to transform that group to a more open environment where the player's decision is as important as their actions.

I see some means to communicate this to the players:

Outside of the game; as Sardathrion pointed out simply tell them that you are planning something else, something new. As you are introducing a new system it may be obvious to some players that it involves another sort of playing. Maybe ask them to formulate a goal that the character wishes to pursue during the next campaign or involve every character individually to a certain aspect of the plot (for example opposing NPCs) - this will help to engage them in a proactive playing style.

Inside the game; to address your point of hostile NPCs that shall not be met in combat: put a network of connections around these NPCs. The world they live depends on them to some degree and simply taking them out of the system (by murder) creates more trouble than it resolves. Make the players feel that the NPCs are important - let other NPCs or even another PC tell a story, connect them to a community that has a wrong impression of one of the NPCs and so on. The links of these connections / network may also act as a plothook or an entry point for actions of the PCs. I would communicate this ingame rather quickly (a small story before the actual session, a meeting with one of the NPCs) so the players know immediately that different tactics are required to address the problems in your campaign.

Still be prepared for your group to take a different path and think about how to get them back on track, for example: what would be the consequences if they would just kill a NPC?

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It's not so much that they shouldn't hurt the NPCs as it is that it's extremely difficult to do so. Most of the opposing supers have some extremely strong personal defenses, so shenanigans are required. A lot of these NPCs have friends of their own who won't be happy that one of their allies is dead. In terms of normal humans, there isn't any in-game consequence for just killing them outside of looking like a sociopath. –  shatterspike1 Apr 25 '13 at 16:10
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It is always best done in an assertive way. To be honest, pointing the players to this question would not be a bad starting point. You could give examples from $media that you like and want the game to be similar to as well as $media that you do not wish to emulate.

For example: I want to run a game set in the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem based on a historical setting where evil is what men do and neither pre-ordained by God nor Devil created. Paladins (Templar knights really) can be good and evil but mostly are just men. The films Arn: Knight Templar and El Cid would capture what I want well. Ridley Scott's aberration named Robin Hood is a summary of all things I do not want to see in the game...

As a side note, you could ask the players for advise on which system to use to best model what you wish the game to be. Because system apparently matters or something... In addition to that, the players could help design some of the NPCs that they will face thus creating NPCs they will care about -- or love to hate, or both!

You second part ([...]the most natural choice of play-style[...]) is trivial once you get player buy-in into your game. Clearly, your game must support a setting that conforms to your own rules as given above. In my setting above, killing large amount of Muslims bandits as Templar knights is clearly a very foolish thing to do. So is, as Muslims, killing Christian pilgrims. In this setting, the only thing violence will do is generate more violence. If all your in-games problems could be solved by klling it with fire, then as a GM you have failed. ^_~

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You may want to back up a bit and involve the players in a discussion of why you are interested in making some changes for this new campaign. It may begin with something as simple as, "Hey, we've been doing things the same way for a long time, and I'm interested in shaking things up. What do you think of doing X, Y, and Z for a change?"

If they're involved at that early stage, it will do two things:

  1. Identify potential difficulties with your plan. If any of the players are opposed to playing the style you suggest, it's better to know about it early and revise the plan accordingly.
  2. Make them co-creators. If they sign off on the new approach, it will become a shared concept. Assuming your group meshes well, they'll remind each other of the new approach during play and encourage each other to play their characters accordingly.

It's important to be explicit about the new approach, but if you impose it by fiat you may make the players feel straightjacketed.

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+1, if only for the last sentence. Something I should have mentioned but did not. Thank you. –  Sardathrion Apr 25 '13 at 19:28
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