68

Gating One simple solution to your problem is sometimes called gating. You simply require something for an interaction, and your talker (below, assumed to be a Human Fighter) doesn't have it. Here are a few examples: The inscription is written in Dwarvish, which the talker can't read. Pass a note to the party's dwarf. The party needs to talk to the Archmage,...


64

You've run into one of the dangers of pre-planning a plot. I'll give some ideas at the end about how to plan campaigns so this doesn't happen as much in the future, but first we have to deal with the current situation. Other answers have dealt nicely with the "stay on the rails" and "take a short detour" options, so I'd like to talk about a third choice: ...


60

Tell it to them straight I see no reason not to just say: "These characters won't be around long, don't sweat the chargen too much". You can go hush-hush all you want, but it will all go down in the first session anyway. You do not even give out spoilers with this. You do not have to say what happens to them or why. Revealing it will also let them know why ...


50

Forget the disposable characters “You have a long and trusting relationship with the Flaming Skies Mercenary Company. Here’s a summary of them. Work it into your backstory.”


47

You're not being as obvious as you think you are Something that is obvious from your side of the GM screen is not necessarily so from the other side for all sorts of reasons. I refer you to selective attention for an example. The three clue rule You have to give your players at least 3 clues if you want them to follow a lead because they will overlook one,...


45

This blog defines a plot hook as: an in-game element that inspires a strong motivation to pursue a course of action that furthers the plot or enriches a narrative in a game. Which sounds about right to me. All of what you listed are plot hooks. They are in-game elements (events, info, whatever) that inspire (or at least, attempt to) the PCs to take some ...


39

I think this is because fantasy roleplaying games were influenced by pre-existing literature. As from TV Tropes: Though not at the beginning of the story, Frodo and friends meeting Aragorn in the Prancing Pony in The Lord of the Rings likely influenced many later examples. and all the characters meet at an inn before starting their pilgrimage in ...


38

To me it sounds like this is the start of the campaign, so simply do that - start it off with this scene of them getting that thing, maybe even before character creation, so that they know they need to make a character that would make such a decision. Or talk to your players. For a more concrete answer we would probably need information like who are your ...


37

I would strongly suggest you to use famous Same Page Tool. Sit together, read the questions, discuss them. Now it looks like you all are trying to play different games, and no one is happy about it. Your assassin has no goal, no connections, and why would she ever stick with someone she doesn't trust enough to reveal herself? Jeweler's son has no goal, but ...


37

A friend of mine actually has quest logs. So as soon as the party finds a quest (= pointer to the plot), or they make one up on the fly, they write the quest on an index card* and hand it to the players, just like you might have a quest log in a computer RPG. Find the location of the Eyrie, Recover the diamonds from the mountain lair, and so on. I seem to ...


34

The Comeback Inn played a prominent role in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign: From the day the walls started to go up, the establishment was an important landmark in the North. Few who stopped in Blackmoor failed to make an appearance there. As a result, the inn soon became an informal labor exchange and information market. Whether a person ...


32

It's called Xorvintaal. Monster Manual V (3.5) has some information on it, and there may be more in certain 4e books. The actual rules for the game are enormously convoluted, taking "years to learn, and centuries to master". One would be forgiven for thinking they'd fit right in with published sourcebooks on that score, but instead the designers left the ...


29

Everything is okay In the question title you claim that you have a problem having the players do stuff; this is clearly not the case, as they are doing precisely what they should be doing in a sandbox game: They have set an objective and try to accomplish it, while ignoring unrelated hooks. This is good and effective play; I am happy when my players manage ...


26

You ask about tools you can use in this and similar situations. Other answers have alluded to or mentioned these tools, but I think it would be useful to name them here so you can understand more clearly what your options are. I'll also give the advantages and disadvantages of each tool as I see them. Tool 1: Railroading You push ahead with your planned ...


23

Do you really have to kill these characters? Since the players are already invested in them, it seems a shame to waste such a powerful hook. Rather than killing them, putting them into some sort of long term peril rather that the main characters have to rescue them from gives you a ton of leverage for adding drama. They'd still be removed from the game ...


23

0. Nobody can force players to do anything. Unless it's part of the campaign premise, anyway. No matter what you drop in front of them, if they have a choice in the matter, they can take it. Whatever approach you take, keep this in mind - they might just decide to pass on this, and there's nothing you can do about it. 1. Make it look appealing. If your ...


21

Use Pregens Pitch the doomed party as a 'session 0' of sorts and provide the players with pre-generated characters. You want to invest your time in a tangent to establish trustworthiness of an organization? Invest your time, not your players' creativity. Players won't develop as much of an attachment to pregen characters and you can ensure that none of ...


21

Ask for a travel-friendly backstory I actually just kicked off a campaign where a requirement was that my players' backstories revolve around the idea that they were being chased in some way. The idea was that they had got so desperate to escape their past that they were willing to make a deal with a god, and that deal and its fallout is the actual plot. One ...


19

Use aspects that relate to the backstory rather that direct references to the backstory I find that backstories are generally driven by events, personal trauma, people and objects. What you need is to push some aspect of these to the place they're visiting that each character can relate to or can use to resolve some aspect of their back story that moves/...


19

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 ...


18

Players miss plot hooks because they don't know they're plot hooks. For all they know, this is how the whole thing was supposed to go down! You can't force players to bite on the hooks; they might or might not, but either way you have to have a plan ready to deal with it. If you want to continue with that storyline, you can either dangle the hook again in ...


16

Inns were the places where travelling merchants and other (wealthy) travellers stayed for the night. This made inns the source of news (a.k.a. rumours) from afar. Local villagers would come to the inn after work for an ale (given that they could afford it). This makes the inn an hub of local rumours. The caravan merchants might need guides, hired swords ...


11

All of these factions are trying to stay secret, that doesn't mean they leave no marks upon the world or cannot be interacted with by outside factions like the PCs. Know What's Going On First, it's important to keep track of characters within the secret societies, what they are doing, and what they know. GMing often involves some degree of abstraction and ...


11

Provide clues and context As you have described this set up, what is currently lacking is the combination of context and clues. Context Based on the overall structure of your adventure or mission, there are a variety of things that the PCs are currently aware of, and things they are currently not aware of. If you want the players to be moved to take ...


9

Tailor the quests to what players want Instead of trying to motivate PCs, you should be focused on your players. What do they want out of a game? The biggest red flag that I saw in your description was: I'm hoping the PCs want to... You should have at least some idea of what the PCs want to do already. As you can see, if you don't, you run into ...


9

Play to the party's motivators If one party member is a greedy fella and another is a do-gooder then if "the job" is blowing up some evil corp, then the party may be on board. If the job is stealing billions of credits, then the party may want to join in for a cut. Have the party know that Dave can't do it For example, if the party just saw Dave as he was ...


8

In their answer, BESW advocates to "Go along with the PCs' choices and look for opportunities to introduce the interesting people and ideas you have". This is what I would recommend also: work with your player's ideas to craft the story. One such idea sprang to mind in this particular case. It is taken from A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick. Sadly, if you ...


8

Don't get all esoteric about it; its a two word English phrase and the definitions of the words give you pretty much all you need: plot the main events of a play, novel, film, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence: "the plot consists almost entirely of a man and woman falling in love" hook a piece of ...


7

The issue you have is that you want them to be prepared to lose characters, but don't want them to know that they will be losing characters. By what little I can infer, your group rarely suffers from character deaths, so it would probably be very safe to say something like the following: "This campaign will be a lot more dangerous than previous ones I've ...


7

What is a good way to motivate people to risk their life? Put their life to risk. There are several classic and not so classic hooks that would put them in danger, especially in a barely magic, medieval world. A case of mistaken identity, getting into things over their head. Being framed for something and having to prove their innocence. Somebody in higher ...


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