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In the one-on-one campaign I'm running, the player's rogue wants to steal stuff. All the time. His goal is to become the Greatest Thief of All Time. I prefer good stories, but the player seems more concerned with the challenges associated with swiping stuff. So I have no idea how to build a campaign that will let the character reach his goal that's also an interesting story.

How can I create a campaign that will satisfy us both? If it's any help in focusing the answers, I've developed a scenario wherein the character's to rob two small banks, but I don't know what to include in that scenario to make it fun for both of us.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I changed the title as it seems to me that the problem's about designing the adventures, not that you think the player is actually a problem. Feel free to roll it back (click on the "edited XX ago" link) if you think I've changed your meaning. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Apr 16 '16 at 16:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I made a much more serious edit to this question in hopes of staving off closure. I still think it might be a bit too broad, but if you included more details about the campaign world you're using and the PC involved, it may be sufficiently specific. (Also, if the question is no longer true to your vision, go ahead and roll it back like @nitsua60 suggests.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 16 '16 at 18:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another reminder: Do not wildly speculate in your answers. Back up your reasoning with experience or point to a resource that shows that experience \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Apr 16 '16 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ A directly related answer that would be part of an answer were this question still open. The key cross over is the element of stealing to earn the right to join the thieves' guild. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 17 '16 at 23:04
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A game about stealing-- and nothing else-- is a puzzle-driven game.

And there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a puzzle game, if this is what you and your player (solo, in this case) both want. It would be roughly analogous to a story-lite or story-free sequence of dungeon crawls, where the focus is more on the tactics of hacking and slashing and monster killing, than on the lead-ups and aftermaths.

This is a perfectly fine game if everyone is on board.

A game about the consequences of stealing can be a story-driven game.

In this case, consequences do not necessarily mean ethical dilemmas, or being set up to steal gold from the Orphans' Relief Fund of St Cuthbert or some such. It simply means that, though the game is set around a sequence of thefts, heists, rackets and con-jobs, the world takes note of these actions and under the guidance of the GM provides a unifying theme. Some examples are:

  • Professional conflict: The greatest thief of all time implies that there are other thieves out there, and criminals have been known to get territorial about such things. If someone is paying the local crime organization protection money, and the PC waltzes in to steal something under their protection, they should notice and react.

  • Personal conflict: It is always possible that someone the thief knows is opposed to their activities-- a sibling or cousin or elder might view the PC actions as bringing shame upon their house, a childhood friend might have as his ambition becoming the greatest law-man in the world, etc. Or another more established thief might consider him a rival... or even the opposite: younger rivals take aim to establish their own credibility.

  • Moral conflict: I said the PC doesn't need to get caught up in ethical dilemmas, but it is certainly an option. If the player is taking contracts, and later learns he stole something unique, and powerful, which is being put to terrible use, he might need to steal it twice... with effects on his reputation.

  • Political conflict: If the player is really just that good, he might eventually end up being used (again, if he is taking contracts) for political purposes. Even if the player is relatively a-political, this can provide a lot of connective tissue.

Which is right for your game?

Right now, we (and you) know where you stand: You want more story to connect the dots between capers. It sounds as though your player will at least be on board with this, and will probably be enthusiastic about it. I base this on your description of him as enjoying role-playing, being good at it, and being good at integrating his characters into the world.

So it sounds like any of these approaches (and there are others along the same lines) would work. It might be worth sounding him out about the prospects, though, just to make sure.

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The Essential Requirement for Adventure is Conflict

In most campaigns the conflict is obvious: "Here there be monsters". For your campaign you need to invent something a little different. Just stealing stuff does provide some conflict automatically. The PC has to get around guards, pick locks, fence the goods - but these are fairly static challenges that won't, by themselves, make for an gripping campaign.

You find a bigger, grander source of conflict. Create an NPC or organization and figure out how they are at odds with the player. You don't need to be terribly elaborate or imaginative - you just have to be relentless!

Right off the top of my head, here are a few ideas: - an NPC detective, determined to end the PC's "crime wave". Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Javert, Eliot Ness . . . pick one an re-imagine them in your campaign. - a "thieves' guild", determined to rub out the competition. In this case, you need to present the PC with targets that the guild is also after. - a spymaster who blackmails the PC into doing his bidding. The PC must struggle to both complete his assigned missions and release himself from the control.

The more personal you make the conflict, the more the player will respond to it. And as the campaign progresses, look for opportunities to amplify the conflict. Raise the stakes whenever possible and allow your antagonists to evolve and improve even as the PC advances.

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Adding an overarching plot may be a good place to start.

Make it feel like there is a story with some progression to it, as opposed to a random string of robberies that don't have any end to them. The important thing is to make sure your character feels a sense of progression, and like he is being challenged and growing. In the end, it probably won't be that different from the structure of any old tabletop game.

Given that this is a solo campaign, you have a lot of opportunity to really develop some NPC characters for him to interact with. I'd create some reoccuring characters that he could come to know and appreciate.

A sample plot:

I really think you should run with him wanting to be the greatest thief of all time. Perhaps a thieves guild takes note of his exploits after he robs a particularly notable establishment. They can then attempt to recruit him to their ranks. Because you said the player wants to be "the greatest thief of all time," maybe the story could be able him slowly climbing the ranks in the guild via going under more and more perilous missions.

Some obvious antagonists could be the authorities of whatever civilization who could eventually put wanted posters out for him. You could even throw an Inspector Zenigata type person after him who makes it their mission to catch him and throw him in jail for good. Having some higher ranking members of the guild who want to protect their seats of power within their underground society would work, too.

Some of the earlier missions that the guild sends him on could be his initiation rites to prove that he really has the moxie to be part of such a group. Later on, he could be sent on some group missions to steal some really valuable stuff that is highly guarded. When he's really well know in the guild, you could even put him on a mission where he has to steal something before a rival in the thieves guild does themselves! At the very end of the story, he could sit high and mighty as the leader of the guild and properly feel like he's earned that title.

Final thoughts:

Playing through this he'll feel as though he's really earned the title, and not like his character started out as that. Good stories have growth and struggle in them, and if you create some NPC who directly challenge him and force him to grow, he'll remember them as fantastic characters in your story.

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