Weekly GMing – Of Course They Did That

You know how as the GM you think you know what the players are going to do – and then you’re so wrong that you need a short break right at the beginning of play to figure out what the heck you are going to do next?

Well that was me.

Honestly, I should have known better. In fact I blame myself. I over-prepped it. Figured out what everyone would be doing and put a timeline on it. Stupid. There must be some law of GMing that the chances of the players doing what you think is inverse to the amount of prep you put in. The more prep – the more unpredictable.

I’m not complaining (much). The entire group was having a lot of fun. It’s a story told by the entire group, not just a few players (or me).

You can see the details in the spoilers below, but what do you do when players surprise you, take off in another direction, pull a Leroy Jenkins.

There’s always the “stop it and get back on my rails” approach. In general you just keep saying NO until they do what you want. I call this the “me at age 15 approach”. Does it work – yes. Is it fun – no. Since the goal is fun, I’ll stop talking about this option except to say don’t do it.

Beyond that, there are multiple variations on the roll with it option. My favorite, and what I went with in the last sessions is what I call the “Huh, well OK” option. In this case the players have done something so far from what I was planning that the only real goal is to keep the look of surprise at least partially hidden.

There is a case to be made for more prep. The more you know about the world, the easier it is to roll with punches like this. I guess that’s balanced by the fewer places the players can add their own flavor to.

So a new plan must be made for next week. But just like my Big Bad, I’m only going to give myself a few minutes to prepare – just like he would have had when the players pulled a fast one on him.

Spoilers!

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With the players safe in their hiding place (mostly), I started dropping hints that things were happening. First just noises, then the lights go out, and then dragon breath in the lair below them. Nothing – they stayed put. When their long rest was up, the monk poked his head out and saw the cap on the top of the tunnel (they were hiding in a cavern they made half-way down) and the flag of the ship they used to get there on the ground at the bottom. Proud of myself for thinking of that. It may have worked too well, because the party decided to go back up and negotiate (NEGOTIATE!!) with the dragon.

The best place for this – they decided – was the treasure room with the display ship. It is really cool, and it has cannons (maybe not – but who can resist players that want cannons). After fighting a troll and blocking a few others off with fabulous monk ice powers, they made their way to the chamber. Negotiations with the dragons representative (an Ice Toad) began, and progress was actually being made, thanks to the offer of a missing players magic item, when fighting inevitably broke out.

Trolls attacked. Cannons were fired. Fireballs. Lighting.

We finished the evening with the sound of dragon footfalls in the corridor outside.

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