Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Meaningful choices and rewards

How do you avoid gaming on rails?
This is a common question, and one I have asked myself far more times than I can keep track of. The answer I keep coming back to is this: Choices. Meaningful, world-impacting choices. The choices may be small, but anything which changes the world around the players will help break your game off those rails, and -at least seams to- increase player enjoyment.

I have been guilty of accidentally forcing my players down rails in the past, a habit I am trying to break. To this end I put together the example which will be presented next, and it seems to have worked out fairly well. In this case experimentation has payed off.

How to work choices into a game - Rewards
I recently was rewarded by seeing my players spend at least half an hour debating whether or not to accept a reward which they have been working towards for a few sessions.

The players have been helping out around a small border town for quite a bit of their heroic career. Now returning at Paragon tier, they have been asked to clear out the same keep they first adventured in. Having done that, they were offered the keep, and support as knights in the mayors service. This gift came with a caveat, their influence was likely to be used by the mayors political games throughout the region. So, was the chance to be landed knights worth the inevitable political requirements? Unfortunately we will have to wait until next session to know, nonetheless it was great to see real thought going into a game, and some mighty roleplaying on their part.

The first part was to use a non-monetary reward as the pivot point. While I have not tried it firsthand, it seems that the draw of gold is too ingrained into character power and level. Using the Keep allowed the players to look at it from their characters perspective, rather than their characters pocketbooks.

The second part was to tie it into an existing storyline, easier said than done. Since I had not planned this side-quest and related choice into the main storyline, it took some tinkering and liberal use of a hammer before i figured out how to do it. If the choice seemed arbitrary and capricious, i worried that my players would rebel or check out and simply go for power.

As it stands, and as the players saw it, the acceptance of the reward would result in the characters taking more of a stance in the political skirmishes surrounding the local cities and states. It also makes it harder for them to travel abroad at their whim, which is a very real concern I had not considered. This choice could very much affect the future tone of the campaign, and whether the players face coming danger as intrepid hero's, or as powerful guardians and leaders of men.

I personally can't wait until our next session, and seeing where the players choices take the game. Handing some story power over to the players has been hard, but I believe it will be more than worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment