One of the hardest parts of running a role-playing game is when the players do something completely unexpected. This can happen for a bunch of reasons – but it always means that the game master is stuck improvising in the short term and potentially having to rethink the plot of the campaign.
In my current campaign, I had the characters targeted by assassins due to asking a few too many questions. First, they were attacked by thugs in the city of Free Port. Rather than investigating the attack, they fled the city and went to search for their employer’s boss. I dropped in an NPC that suggested the player characters confront the gang’s leader, but she was ignored. When they were unable to get an audience with upper management and attacked yet again, the characters decided to put even more space between themselves and whoever was attacking them. They headed to a nearby port city and took the first job they could find – forcing me to quickly come up with some adventure ideas that would give them something new to do, but keep open the possibility of me getting them back into the main campaign arc. Now rather than discovering who was trying to get them killed, the characters are busy defending a distant city from an invading army. Hopefully, I’ll be able to lure them back to the main story I had planned.
I’m also looking into ideas for how I can do a better job keeping my players on the planned campaign arc. One change I’m strongly considering is giving out “quest cards”. For example, when they were first attacked by thugs, I could have given them something like the following:
Thugs in Free Port
Level 3 Minor Quest
You were attacked by thugs while in the city of Free Port. They seem to have specifically targeted you, but you’re not sure why anyone would want you dead. You should investigate who is behind the attack.
Anyone have experience using quest cards in a game? Did it work well?