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I messed up at the beginning of the campaign by introducing an element of urgency to the plot, and the party was recently split. All that's on their minds now is getting the party back together, even though I had a series of sidequests planned to level them up/tide them over for adventure while they're split up, and they don't want to engage in those sidequests.

They've also had a habit of turning down rewards for completing quests, which becomes a problem because now 7 months into the campaign they don't have any money to buy things they need.

My question is not "how do I force my players to play by my rules", but it's "how do I fix the mess I made and encourage (not force) them to pick up rewards and take sidequests when they see them"?

Edit (7/9/18): Good news everyone, they somehow convinced a vampire to pay them 80 gold to leave him alone and let him nap. So they've found a way to solve their money problems temporarily, they've become pretty frugal bunch now when it comes to buying road rations and equipment, but I'll take your other answers into consideration. Thank you all for your advice about plot hooks too :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ While turning down sidequests is semi-logical because of the urgency you introduced, turning down rewards when being a hero is your full time job is objectively stupid. How unforgiving did you as a group decide to be during your session zero? \$\endgroup\$ – DonFusili Jul 2 '18 at 8:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rather than editing your update into the question itself, you should either leave it as a comment on the answer whose advice you followed, or leave it as a separate answer to your own question if what you did was not particularly similar to what one of the existing answers suggested. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 10 '18 at 1:20
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If they want to get the party back together so badly, come up with sidequests that will help them do so. It doesn't need to be something they go out of their way to accomplish. If they're separated by a geographic obstacle, like a mountain, drop hints about a tunnel shortcut that is potentially dangerous, but will reduce their travel time considerably. The sidequest doesn't actually need to help them get back together (like if they follow false rumors, or an NPC lies to get them to do something), but they will be more likely to follow leads in that direction. They seem to have a clear party goal at the moment. Work with that.

As for their habit of refusing rewards, there are a few ways of handling this. You could make the relevant NPCs a little pushier ("we insist, it would be a great dishonor to us if you left without payment"), or maybe just have word of their altruistic nature spread. They could become widely-known folk heroes. Merchants might give certain goods for free, taverns and inns might refuse payment, and local craftsmen might fall over themselves for the chance to provide services. Of course, this could also result in people taking advantage of the PCs' generosity, and nefarious groups might become concerned by the group of famous goody two-shoes adventurers. It would be a different dynamic than is usual, but could be made to work.

If this doesn't work for some reason, they could acquire what they need through different means. Simple items can be crafted, and rarer ones might be found in monster dens or in dungeons. Liquid wealth is less important in this edition, especially because magic and masterwork items are harder to come by.

If all else fails, make their lack of resources an increasing issue. Every town they visit saps their resources, and if they don't find a paying job soon, they won't have enough money for food or lodging. If they can't afford a place to stay, NPCs might start treating them like the dirty vagabonds they appear to be. Even the most altruistic of parties will eventually accept payment if they are desperate enough.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Another way to address the reward issue is to have them get the rewards from the quests themselves (e.g. they kill the bad guy and find his stuff in a chest nearby) rather than having to be given the rewards by someone else. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 1 '18 at 21:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast: Should make for a decent partial answer in its own right. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jul 1 '18 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TuggyNE: My suggestion doesn't really answer OP's question directly, though I suppose it could be suggested as part of a frame challenge or something (since OP's asking "how do I encourage them to play this way" rather than "what can I do differently to work with their playstyle"). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 1 '18 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oops. Didn't notice your comment while I was editing, now it looks like I stole your input without attribution. \$\endgroup\$ – McNutty145 Jul 1 '18 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @McNutty145 No worries! :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 1 '18 at 21:26
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All that's on their minds now is getting the party back together, even though I had a series of sidequests planned to level them up/tide them over for adventure while they're split up, and they don't want to engage in those sidequests.

Getting the party back together should also be your first priority. RPG sessions with a split party can be really annoying, because you always need to switch focus between different locations. While you focus on one location, those players with characters in a different location have nothing to do and get bored. Your players seem to realize that, which is why they ditch all the distractions and try to get back together. Take that hint! Once reunited they might get far more cooperative with plot hooks.

They've also had a habit of turning down rewards for completing quests, which becomes a problem because now 7 months into the campaign they don't have any money to buy things they need.

I agree with SeriousBri and McNutty145 here. Generosity and modesty can earn them something even more valuable: People who owe them favors. They can call in those favors to obtain what they would otherwise have to pay for.

You can also arrange for them to find what they need during their quests.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer saved me from writing one. I'd recommend a header "get the party back together" for organizational purposes, and emphasis on the core point. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 2 '18 at 12:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ yeah i hate split party games \$\endgroup\$ – WendyG Jul 2 '18 at 13:56
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I see 4 issues highlighted here, 2 playstyle issues, and 2 gameplay issues. I will deal with each group separately.

Caveat: There is a lot of additional information which would help this answer, a lot of the below i relying on you knowing more than I do.

Playstyle issues

  • Not accepting plot hooks
  • Not accepting rewards

The above indicate that there is a disconnect between how you are running the campaign, and the expectations of the players. Maybe you are wanting a tangled web of quests and they are just looking to get to the end of the dungeon and kill the boss.

Whatever the cause of the disconnect there are 2 potential, different, solutions:

  1. Work out why, and roleplay around it

This is assuming that the players are stuck into playing their characters counter to your style, rather than simply not liking it as players.

You need to work out what is motivating the characters to act in this manner, and work around it.

Example 1: If they are not accepting side quests because the main quest is more urgent then you can add in a natural delay to the main quest (I recently blocked a road for example and the party knew they had x days before it re-opened an no other path around it).

Example 2: The party might not be accepting rewards because the Paladin feels it is wrong so some NPC follows the party until the Paladin is busy and then says "I know (s)he didn't want to accept these rewards, but please take them, I know you will put them to better use than I". If the whole party feels wrong maybe an entire community comes together to craft a special set of plate armor which is absolutely useless unless given to the party "We appreciate you are our protectors, this will help you defend us from greater dangers in the future, please take it because we know providing this assistance to you is the best use of our resource".

Unfortunately without more information on WHY the party are acting this way it is difficult to come up with better solutions, which brings us onto;

  1. Talk to your players

Admit your mistake, tell them your problems and struggles and ask them what they are looking for and why they think the situation has developed.

You need to go in with an open mind for options ranging from the players realising how they are playing counter to your intent and immediately getting back on path, to them telling you they hate how you are running things and asking you to change your style to match their expectations.

I can't really advise any further until you know how this conversation goes, but I think this is your best option.

Gameplay issues

  • Poor
  • Split up and need to get back together

The above is a consequence of the playstlye issues, and there is little point in trying to solve them until you work out how to handle the playstyle issues. Even if you manage to fix the current issues if there are large playstyle or expectation differences more gaps will appear and you will constantly be on the defensive.

So, once you are certain that everything is sorted and you simply need to a short term fix to get everyone back on track you have a few options:

  1. Treasure falls, everyone is rich

This one can work in a lot of ways. It doesn't have to fall from the sky but anything from finding an unguarded dragons hoard to having a rich relative die and pass on an inheritance. Just find some way of putting money or items immediately into the groups hands.

FYI on the above, unguarded Dragon's hoards are plot hooks, not just mechanisms to enrich the party. Now they have an angry dragon after them!

  1. All the people the party has helped come together to reward the party

This is a slightly more roleplay focused version of the above, the good people who have tried to reward the party all started talking about how the party really should be rewarded and they get together with an offer the party cannot refuse. Maybe they hold a celebration in their honor and present them with x, y and z which they need to get back to the right equipment level.

  1. Adjust encounters for the current wealth level, and increase rewards for the next few levels

They are poor now, so drop the xp threshold of the next few encounters, but each enemy they drop is 50% richer than they should be and the party gets a more organic method of acquiring treasure.

  1. Party gets back together

If you have talked to the party I am fairly sure they will find their own reasons to get back together, but otherwise work out why the party is split, what is motivating each group and drop both objectives (Slyly) in the same place. Group A reaches an ancient ruin and goes inside. Group B finds a trapdoor under the inn. Maybe you need magic portals, maybe geography is more convenient, but somewhere inside the party meet up and their objectives align once again.

In a few sessions time the party will hardly remember how mysteriously convenient it all was. Also in the same vein as a Dragon hoard, if you needed portals now you may have made an enemy of the wizard who created them and he is looking for you!

TL/DR

Work out WHY this is happening before you work out how to fix it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ SeriousBri, I think that the TL/DR will be better placed at the top, with your thorough exposition as the detail for implementing the fix. A suggested organizational improvement. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 2 '18 at 12:47
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How do I encourage players to take plot hooks

No new insights to offer here, but basically if the "main quest" is urgent, it's natural and "correct" for side quests to be ignored unless you make those side quests necessary for the main quest. An example of this can be:

  • Main quest: Meet person X on the other side of this ocean.
  • Side quests: Countless of ways to earn enough money to pay for a ship. And/or maybe an option to get married to the daughter of the pirate king. Who knows? 😏

They've also had a habit of turning down rewards for completing quests, which becomes a problem because now 7 months into the campaign they don't have any money to buy things they need.

One game I wasn't a part of run into exactly this issue and the GM proposed a system where players collected goodwill through those acts and they had a fixed rate at which goodwill could be used in place of gold. This came with a couple of limitations though.

  1. They ended up having two 'types' of goodwill with two different groups. In their case this was the nobility and the common folk.
  2. A merchant will be fine giving one item "for free" to the heroes (in story it's free, on the meta level it costs goodwill), but won't give away all his best items "for free".
  3. I don't know whether they ended up doing this, but the "exchange rate" could be different at different points in the game. The idea was that if they visited a village they had never been to the rate was a lot worse than in a place where they saved the city.

Anyway, the basic idea was that taking gold was the more profitable choice 90% of the time, but in their game it made the PC's less "heroic" and "good".


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