I'm planning to do a DSA (The Dark Eye) campaign. I told the players what characters I need in the campaign (at least one character strong in fighting, one in socialising with royals, and so on).

The problem now is that the players presented their concepts to me and I know that they don't match the fundamental requirements for this campaign. I said that to them, and they said I should then change the campaign so they can play what they want. But these changes would change the campaign in a way that changes everything inside it, which is not possible (at least not for this campaign).

How can I deal with this situation so that everyone is happy?

Problem fact is, the "normal" playing time is about 5 years.

I do the answers to the questions in answers or comments here:
First: yes, the average time to finish the campaign is about 5 years.
Second: I have talked to my players to find a consens. They want to play this campaign, I want to play it with them, so we decided to do a meeting to clarify what I need to play and maybe find ways their favorite characters can be played. I know that not everyone can play their favorite characters, but I think everyone can find a character they like to play. I also asked them to think of alternative concepts which are completly different to their actual concepts so we can take one of their concepts.

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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "Problem fact is, the 'normal' playing time is about 5 years[.]" Does this mean your average campaign lasts five years? If so, that's amazing. Respect. If it means something else, can you clarify? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2016 at 12:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Knowing DSA I guess the 5 years refer to the estimated play time the Campaign will take. What Campaign is it, @Martin? This might help Potential answers \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Oct 19, 2016 at 12:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depending on what is missing and how many players you have, it may be possible to either add a specific npc resource and/or group member or even allow each player two characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thaylon
    Nov 18, 2016 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is that the DSA 3 or the DSA 4.1 Borbarad Campaign? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Jun 25, 2020 at 19:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey there! We're working on potentially relabeling some questions related to The Dark Eye. In order to help us out, can you tell us what edition of DSA this question is about? Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 29, 2020 at 17:49

7 Answers 7


Plan A: Preparation and Communication

Published adventures for DSA often tend to be very linear. Some challenges are unavoidable in a manner that the story collapses when they are missing. DSA focuses on the story, not on the characters. It's a lot of hard work to shape such huge campaigns to your characters.

  • First read the whole adventure. It's the key requirement to change parts of it. After you know what will definitively happen you can estimate how much and what you can change.
  • Ask your players how willingly they are to completely change their concepts.
  • Then compare how far the concepts your players gave you deviate from this frame. If a gap is very large try to think of a way you can replace/modify scenes. It's (unfortunately) not uncommon for DSA that there are some NPCs or mysterious beings who are the only one who can overcome an obstacle. Or maybe you can merge some scenes. For example if there is an item to find, maybe you can locate it somewhere else. Think of special qualities those concepts have. Priests will have the support of their church and maybe even their gods.
  • Now it's time to talk to your players: Take them all together and try to close the remaining gaps. If you for example only have a lesser fighter like a hunter tell them that some fights will not be doable even if you scale them down (if that is even possible). Maybe someone is ok with modifying his concept to fill in the gap. The hunter for example might change to a mercenary who is a former hunter or someone else might like playing some competent fighter instead of his other concept he had before. Do not force someone. This can very easily ruin the fun for everyone.

Plan B: Pull the brake

If you and your players cannot adapt to this adventure then don't play it. DSA books are quite pricy but don't make the mistake to play this campaign and waste your time. If it's not fun to play ~5 years or you abbandon it in between, then in the end you will be sad and maybe quite frustrated (I know this, it happended to me as a player).

Find some other campaign. Maybe even one which is shorter. You can keep this campaign for later. After your first campaign your players might agree on making new characters for this campaign.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1ed. This answer addresses DSA directly rather than gaming generally. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2016 at 16:49

There seems to be a problem because you and your players don't want to play to the same game. They want to play a campaign around their characters, and you want to run a campaign that is not compatible with them. I suggest one of the following solutions:

Run your campaign with compatible characters

Maybe you can play with other players who have compatible character concepts, or maybe your friends can play theirs on another campaign while they get new ones for yours.

Run another campaign

You can simply run a game which their characters will be compatible with, saving this campaign for later. It doesn't have to be a 5-years campaign, try to make it short so you can switch to your first idea when it will end. The players will have new ideas for their characters. Let's hope it will be better.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or one of the others could run a campaign for the current characters and you can run yours after that? Ask your players if that's a compromise. \$\endgroup\$
    – Umbranus
    Oct 19, 2016 at 12:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Umbranus: I see that as a variation from the second point. It could be valid or not, depending on the OP's gaming group. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2016 at 13:10

Contrary to popular belief, running a role-playing campaign is a communal effort. Everyone, players and GM, need to be on board with the general direction of the game, or it will only end in tears.

Just because the GM has wide latitude to make rulings during the course of the game does not mean he can dictate what characters the players should play, for example. He can ask, of course, but if the players say "no" then that's that. Forcing the issue is only going to result in a game that drags on forever, that no one really enjoys and that eventually falls apart as players get bored and quit.

It sounds like the OP has already asked if his players could pick more compatible characters, and they have expressed an explicit desire to play these. At this point, the GM should either pick a different campaign to run, or step down and let someone else (who is willing to run these characters) be the GM.

Alternatively, you could run with these characters and use DMPCs (ie: DM controlled NPC party members) to fill the gaps and bridge the scenes that the party is not equipped to handle by themselves. I suggest this as it is an option, although I personally have never been fond of DMs who make use of DMPCs, and it always ends up feeling to railroad-y.


Fundamentally, both sides want to play, but neither side wants to play in the same game. The only possible outcomes here are concessions by one or both sides (including total capitulation) or a breakdown in negotiation leading to no game at all.

Generally speaking, whichever "side" wants the bargain more will end up conceding more. Which side this is, or should be, is far beyond the scope of this discussion, because it depends on things like the availability of GMs, of players, and of the personal qualities of the people involved.

But generally peaking, gaming is supposed to be fun and feeling like you've been brow-beaten into gaming via hard negotiation tactics aren't going to be fun for very long, much less for five years.

The only fruitful path, as I see it, is to figure out a set of minimal concessions on both sides that would make this game work, such as changes to some PCs, addition of NPCs, surgical changes to the adventure in the light of that, etc. As GM with knowledge of what the scenario actually is, though, you have an advantage that can very often present itself as a burden: You are the person with the best knowledge of what concessions are necessary, so this whole process is guided by the players' personal trust in you. I might suggest that if you cannot get them to trust you through this process, you probably cannot run this game for them, either.

(Over the longer horizon, you might also ask one of your players to take up the GM mantle for a while. See how they like uncooperative players, and whether you'll submit to GM demands over your character.)


Next time, do it differently

Your mistake was having your players separately come up with concepts. Next time, get them together in the same place and collaboratively discuss the characters and the roles they need to fill so that you get a coherent party.

This time, talk to your players and collaboratively decide

Get everyone together with their character concepts and discuss what they want to and whether anyone is willing to change it up. Otherwise, you need to be flexible in the game you run.


If your campaign running five years. You have plenty of time that your characters develop.

One advantage of dsa is that your characters are very flexible. As long you give them some time.

We are playing a campaign for about 7 or more years. We had a drafwn smith. Who became a good fighter and cleric. An eleven pathfinder who also become a decent fighter. And some characters died and got replaced.

The characters will adopt to the campaign. But you should not force them. The important part is have fun. And if the characters have a good idea to overcome an obstacle that the campaign did not see, let them use it.

For example, if yor characters have to kill a mage on top of an old tower filled with enemies and have not the fighting power, maybe they can just destroy the tower.


Firstly, avoid designing campaigns with such weaknesses.

Secondly, be open to creative ways from the players to overcome or avoid obstacles. If you’ve already decided that there is only one way to skin any particular cat, you’re taking away one of the hugely important aspects of being a player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ “I'm going to run X campaign, please make some characters who would participate in that kind of campaign.” is a totally valid campaign pitch for a DM to offer and is a recommended best practice for getting on the same page at the start of a long campaign, so −1 for that. Players saying “OK!” and then coming back with incompatible characters isn't the DM's fault. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2016 at 19:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, DSA-Campaigns are explicitly designed that Way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Patta
    Oct 20, 2016 at 6:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Patta You are absolutely right. This was one of my main reasons to stop playing it. It's not the right game for everyone. But that's true for most games. \$\endgroup\$
    – Umbranus
    Oct 20, 2016 at 7:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand the complaints with this answer. I don’t even necessarily disagree with the downvotes. But I do think this is a valid answer to the question. Maybe not the answer, but an answer. (And even if the published DSA adventures & the advice in the book says otherwise, you can play it this way.) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 31, 2018 at 15:24

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