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Thread: Plan vs Improv

  1. - Top - End - #31
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    Have a plan or do improv?
    This is not the issue. The problem was: How would your players know how long to wait? How would they know where to look for the goblins? - You can plan all you want, but to your fellow players that doesn't matter unless you communicate what you are doing. It doesn't matter if you pulled that invasion out of your... brain, of if you had an exacting plan, if your folks can't tell the difference. Your problem is not the content but the presentation.

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Because you're usually fun / sane / whatever to discuss with, and you seem to enjoy these metagame concerns, I'll throw these half-thoughts at you, and see if you can take them somewhere meaningful. Hmmm... apparently, I'm writing at least half of this as though I'm talking to the OP, so my style is random and confusing. So, um, since it's hard to pretend that I'm doing less telling and more asking, maybe pretend that I'm asking you to edit this for sanity before I post it? (I think you get the idea)
    That is high praise in today's world. And quite the responsibility too. Well {rolls shoulders} let me see what I can do...

    As an editor I will pull out: What is the point of your post? Or the main point(s) your post. Is this "layers" classification something you want to hammer out or is it just a tool for getting at some other points? Actually everything beyond this point is really based on guesses about that answer... or just more questions.

    On Layers: From what I can tell we have the following: planned events, planned facts, planned plans (I say this is a subset of planned facts, the facts are just what people are planning), planned information and planned responses (which might just be a type of planned event). Of the non-redundant ones here is how I read each:
    • Planned Events: Things that are planned to happen but haven't happened yet. From anyone's perspective the difference between a planned event and a planned reaction is who will be stating that the event occurred, you or someone else. That thin divide is why I combined them, although maybe that is an important distinction.
    • Planned Facts: Things about the world or characters in it that are true but have not been revealed yet. Hence, in a tree falling in the forest kind of way, they are subject to change without notice. Hin.
    • Planned Information: Things you plan to reveal, as well as when and how you plan to reveal them. The builds off of planned facts, but also brings in a lot of game-concerns about, as an example, planned content (which would be "where are the planned facts").
    That might be a useful system... but first what exactly are we talking about?

    The other point I will address is the one that I feel has the best chance of being your main point.
    IMO, the safest thing to change - without risking Railroading, or Quantum Ogres, or inconsistencies - is the information you give. Now, whether that's the information you give the PCs, or the information you give the players depends a bit on your style, and why you believe that they aren't taking what you believe would be a more fun path for them.

    How open you are to metagame communication will influence the odds that your beliefs about their fun and their reasoning are correct.
    Yes. A quick "but you know the [towns raided by the] goblins are south, why go north" may have rescued this entire adventure. Another thing that may have helped is (going off some other posts) getting rid of the accidental bit of information that the adventure is somewhere else.

    If this is your main point, I think we could hear more about the types of information that could used (we seem to have missing in-world and out-of-world facts in this example) and how to communicate it. For the record I think that saying "Hey guys, [thing]" is a fine way to inform the players about [thing], especially when the thing is out-of-world or is something characters know, but the players forgot.

    And then there is knowing when the piece of information did not get across. Rule of thumb, if people do something that doesn't make sense, maybe they missed something.

    OK hope that helps. I ended up adding some stuff, but maybe that will add some useful perspective.

  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    I think in the end I'd say, don't bring the PCs to the adventure, bring an adventure to the PCs. If they leave town at the wrong moment then suddenly the adventure isn't about protecting the town any more, they're failed at that. Now maybe the adventure is about tracking down the goblin raiding party and rescuing the goblin captives once they realize they've made a terrible mistake. Don't bend reality to match what the PCs do, just get good at making whatever the PCs decide to do interesting.
    I like this approach, when I DM I make sure I know what my NPC's are planning, and unless the PC's do something, how those plans will go. If the PC's weren't there to help defend the town, it will fall to the Goblins. That doesn't mean that there's no adventure, it just means that there is a different one. Maybe some of the milita fought their way free, maybe there were survivers hiding among the ruins that can point them in the right direction, maybe it's time to go all 'three hunters' from LotR and track the Goblin war party and either rescue the villigers, or avenge them!

    Either way, I'd have played it at least a bit like OP did, in that I'd know when and how the attack would come about, and would have changed it depending on what the PC's did.
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  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    Plan vs Improv
    That's actually not the issue here.

    Roughly speaking, we have three main directions when it comes to playing styles:
    - Simulation
    - Action game
    - Story game

    With direction, I mean that this is the main focus of concern that will dictate how the rules are used, how content is used, the basis for pacing, flow of information and how the players are supposed to have their characters act and so on.

    It´s important that this should be communicated between all participants and cleared up, else a mismatch happens and at least one side of the table will be pretty unhappy. I say this because it really ready like this is what happened on your table, you created a simulation and your players want an action game type of D&D experience instead. Neither side is right or wrong here, but that doesn't have anything to do with "improv" at all.

  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post

    So, how could the PCs have known when the date of the attack would be? How could the PCs have known where the goblins were gathering? How could the players have made use of the agency you have them by not just skipping straight to the attack?

    Answer these questions, more for yourself than for us or your players, to see what level of agency and what level of difficulty that scenario entailed.
    Well, I did have a couple ways for them to learn of the attack date: there is a spy in the town, a double agent to plays both sides..naturally his goblin ally told him. There is the goblin spy, disguised as a halfling fishing in the river just south of town. and the five goblin advance raiders east of the town know too.

    But a big part of the problem was the players did not want to explore the town or talk to any NPC. They were just set on doing the attack.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Another layer is planned plans. The goblins planned to attack in 3 days, when their reinforcements (worg riders) arrived. OK, what if the PCs delay those reinforcements? Will the goblins stick to their timetable, or reevaluate the scenario? What if the PCs eliminate the worg riders? Flood the battlefield? Summon visible reinforcements? Will the attack go off in the days, as planned, no matter what? Why / why not?
    There are more forces. The goblin force spread out to attack all the small villages. I though this would have been a good idea myself, but the players wanted to stick with the fight the whole force at once idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    Another two that I'll mention together are planned information, and planned PC responses. When creating the scenario, you planned to tell the players X, and expected that it would be a fun game with them responding with Y or Z. But what if they don't? This is where things get really tricky.
    They might be the first players I've met that did not seek out any information about anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    IMO, the safest thing to change - without risking Railroading, or Quantum Ogres, or inconsistencies - is the information you give. Now, whether that's the information you give the PCs, or the information you give the players depends a bit on your style, and why you believe that they aren't taking what you believe would be a more fun path for them.
    That is the tricky part though? If I just say their are goblins at spot x, that is the same as having the goblins be whereever they are, right?

    How open you are to metagame communication will influence the odds that your beliefs about their fun and their reasoning are correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    ** Oh, and why is it that the Worg Riders, presumably the fastest troops, are the last to the party?
    They were simply coming the farthest away.

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    I think in the end I'd say, don't bring the PCs to the adventure, bring an adventure to the PCs.
    Hummm...food for thought here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Haldir View Post
    Your players plan was garbage, and they deserved to be punished for it.
    I did not like it....but really I don't often see such bad plans. I was thinking they had something up their sleeve....but they did not. Even when they decided to leave town I was thinking they might want to patrol around the town or something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    A quick "but you know the [towns raided by the] goblins are south, why go north" may have rescued this entire adventure.
    I try to avoid asking questions like this, is that wrong? I feel players get the wrong idea from DM questions. I want to give answers, not ask questions.

  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    I did not like it....but really I don't often see such bad plans. I was thinking they had something up their sleeve....but they did not. Even when they decided to leave town I was thinking they might want to patrol around the town or something.
    ...
    I try to avoid asking questions like this, is that wrong? I feel players get the wrong idea from DM questions. I want to give answers, not ask questions.
    Both of these sound like communication issues - really bad plans often come from people having different understandings of the situation, which is only exacerbated when the GM won't ask any questions to try and rejoin these understandings. Remember that the characters have full sensory perception of the world in its details, and the players are getting a single descriptive stream and nothing else - there's a lot of room for critical information to be lost, and a second pass can help here.
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  7. - Top - End - #37
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    To me this isn't a question of whether to plan ahead or improvise, but a question of how much information the players got from you. Something as simple as 'Farmer John saw a band of goblins approaching from the south. He guessed they were a week's march away from here. That was four days ago,' from an NPC when the PCs arrived would have solved the issue. You said that your players weren't interested in talking to NPCs, but you have to remember that D&D NPCs are not video game NPCs: they don't just stand around with exclamation points over their heads waiting for the players to come to them. Town leaders will likely be asking the PCs about their plans, and wanting to provide information so the plans are as well-informed as possible.

    Even if the players couldn't know when the goblins were planning to attack, if I was running and they told me they wanted to wait for the attack to come to them my response would be "all right, how long are you willing to wait for, and what will you be doing in the meantime? How are you preparing the village for the attack?" And then, rather than just saying 'the day passes uneventfully', I'd have a bunch of mini-events in the days leading up to the event. Maybe on day one the local cowardly barkeep is caught trying to flee the town. On day two the PCs could have to deal with an upset villager who doesn't like that a bunch of strangers from who-knows-where have shown up and are basically running the place. Having things like this happen makes the players feel like they're supposed to be there, while 'nothing happens, what do you do next?' makes them feel like they're doing the wrong thing.

    I actually had a similar situation myself in my game a while ago. My players had managed to seize a village from a hostile force, and had found out that the villain was planning to do 'something' on a particular (un)holy day. Initially they wanted to hunker down and wait for the bad guy to come to them, and while they did that I had a few events happen; a villager had a dispute with the paladin about the paladin's unpopular deity, and the barbarian got to train some villagers who wanted to fight like he does. The players were hunkering down because they thought the villain's plans involved retaliating against them, so I had their scouts come back with information that, in fact, the villain was planning to do whatever it is he's planning long before the PCs were on the scene. That made them have an 'oh damn' moment so they got together and headed out to beat up the villain before the day he was preparing for came around. Good thing, too, because if they'd remained in place the villain's plan would have made things much harder for them.
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  8. - Top - End - #38
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    So, if it helps any, I quite like the sound of this set-up. Feverishly building defenses, trying to guess if they have time to spend on special projects and, above all, the tension ratcheting up every hour the goblins don't appear.

    It sounds pretty awesome.

    I just don't think your players quite bought into it - or, maybe, didn't see it was there at all. Which isn't necessarily your fault, or theirs. People do just misunderstand things sometimes, and depending on what your players are used to, the idea of dramatic tension or doing much of anything other than killing things and taking their stuff could be entirely alien to them. Hence they just wander off and start looking for things to kill and loot.

    I also think that your time line and fixed locations were fine, and would do the same thing.


    If there's a mistake you made here, it's probably not clearly telegraphing that the goblins weren't to the north, and making it clear that if they kept going they were going to be too far from the village to help if the goblins attacked. Tell them, clearly, there's no sign of the goblins in the direction they've chosen - if you don't want to tell them that directly OOC (and there's nothing wrong with that), have them find a farmstead that's untouched and the farmer tells them that there's been no sign in these parts. Or there is a sign of the goblins - forage parties and small bands that have obviously skirted the village and gone south.

    What's obvious to you isn't necessarily obvious to the players. Don't be afraid to hit them over the head with it if it becomes apparent they've missed something. And if you're not sure what they're up to, always, always double check they're not working on flawed information.

    I also think you could have done more to get them involved in building the defenses - if they're supposed to be in charge, then have people come to them with questions. We can make more spears, but that means leaving the village to cut spear shafts from the woods and there might be goblins, is it worth the risk? The blacksmith needs more coal, but going to get more will take several days and require an armed guard for the carts, should they go? Should they try and dig a defensive ditch? Barricade the streets? Do they have the people available to finish those tasks in time, and if not, where should they focus their efforts? What do they do about the crops and livestock in the fields?

    Ask, challenge, make them think and get them involved. I might not work - heck, it might be exactly what you did - but at least you tried, and you'll know the biggest problem was just that they didn't care for the set up you presented them. Which is a crying shame.
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  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    I try to avoid asking questions like this, is that wrong? I feel players get the wrong idea from DM questions. I want to give answers, not ask questions.
    Why do you avoid them? Or why do you feel players- get the wrong idea from GM questions?

    I use them because knowing what someone else knows is pretty important to giving them information. It keeps you from uselessly repeating large swaths of information or leaving gaps in important background. And if you are the one on the learning side, it is really hard to ask the right questions. It is hard to know what you don't know, because you don't know it.

    For instance I was able to whip off my reasons for these questions because they are familiar to me. On the other hand my commentary on your reasons amounts to rewriting your statements with question marks at the end. Because that is all the information I have right now.

  10. - Top - End - #40
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    I try to avoid asking questions like this, is that wrong? I feel players get the wrong idea from DM questions. I want to give answers, not ask questions.
    Undeniably yes. It is your job to give them important context and help them know what kind of decisions need to made to successfully navigate your adventures. Giving them agency does not include simply watching them fail without making an effort to direct or aid them in their goals. If you don't ask them questions about their thinking or asking them important questions about their actions, you are denying them important context that their characters would readily be able to do.

    As I said, they definitely had a horrible plan, but you completely and totally failed to properly direct or contextualize their actions. Failing to do so was probably a form of tacit consent for their horrible actions.

    This is not a question of planning or improv, this is a question of your willingness as a DM to utilize both properly.
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  11. - Top - End - #41
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    Well, I did have a couple ways for them to learn of the attack date: there is a spy in the town, a double agent to plays both sides..naturally his goblin ally told him. There is the goblin spy, disguised as a halfling fishing in the river just south of town. and the five goblin advance raiders east of the town know too.

    But a big part of the problem was the players did not want to explore the town or talk to any NPC. They were just set on doing the attack.

    They might be the first players I've met that did not seek out any information about anything.

    That is the tricky part though? If I just say their are goblins at spot x, that is the same as having the goblins be whereever they are, right?

    How open you are to metagame communication will influence the odds that your beliefs about their fun and their reasoning are correct.

    I did not like it....but really I don't often see such bad plans. I was thinking they had something up their sleeve....but they did not. Even when they decided to leave town I was thinking they might want to patrol around the town or something.
    Now that you know these players didn't understand how the game works, you will need to prompt them. You need to help them learn how to play D&D, and that will require out of character communication from you.
    Not just give them answers, but prompt them to ask questions and seek the answers with their characters.

    Also, unless there is some prompt or some motive for doing so, there's no reason to expect them to wander around talking to everyone in town. So there was a disguised goblin fishing south of town? Did they have any clues that there were spies they should be looking for? Even if they saw him, why would they stop to have a conversation with a random fishing guy, unless there was something specific they were looking for?

    In the scenario you described, you could have prompted them by asking things like:
    "How will you all prepare for the attack? Do you know the size of the force or where it's coming from?"
    Or, have an NPC or two approach them, since I'm assuming it was obvious that they were there to help defend the town- who could have offered a rumor about spies or tell them that there are shady people about, or otherwise given them the idea that they need to gather info about the invading force.

    There was clearly not enough or clear enough information about the scenario to prompt them toward useful action. Even if other players in the past might have been more proactive or made logical use of less information, these guys will need more guidance, at first. They might think that the game is just a series of combats that happen to their characters. Even if you need to speak to them out of character, you need to encourage the right type of thinking.

  12. - Top - End - #42
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Sounds like your players were invested but do not know how to play yet or are too use to story/plot protection.

    I once killed half a party because they attack the Tarrasque. This killed that campaign and some players were upset that their story ended and I responded that I wouldn't care if my hero completed their personal struggle if failure wasn't an option. So that is the kind of game I run. Failure is always an option.

    That won't always work with every group. It sounds to me that your players need an easier campaign to get warmed up before they start thinking.

  13. - Top - End - #43
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    So, Cluedrew gave me an awesome reply (one of 2 I've gotten in the past week) but I've been battling migraines, and haven't felt up to giving the type of response something that detailed deserves. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

    Until then, back to the OP.

    First and foremost, your players are wrong - this is not an issue of improv being the "one right way", and planning being wrong.

    There is, however, an issue of a right and a wrong way to implement any given style.

    There was a thread on these forums about the role of the GM. My stance is that anyone can host, anyone can handle rules adjudication, anyone can handle dealing with problem players - up to calling the police if necessary. But only the GM can serve as the eyes and ears of the characters, only the GM knows what is going on in the game world and can serve as the interface between the players, their PCs, and the game world.

    It is that reasonability that the GM must shoulder alone, and that responsibility that you are shirking when you say, "I try to avoid asking questions like <but you know the [towns raided by the] goblins are south, why go north>, is that wrong? I feel players get the wrong idea from DM questions. I want to give answers, not ask questions". The GM is, IMO, uniquely positioned to be the only one to tell players what their characters perceive the world, the one responsible for distilling the input of a while party full of characters' senses and instincts into brief, actionable items, and who can notice when players' statements don't seem to match what they would believe to be reasonable, can inquire as to whether something has been misunderstood, and fix the disconnect.

    So, high level, there's nothing wrong with a "Planning" style. But there are plenty of Playgrounders who will be more than happy to give you critiques of various levels of usefulness on your particular implementation of that style.

    My advise? Change your focus to asking about the specifics of your style - perhaps in this thread, perhaps in a new one. Also, consider telegraphing your style to your players, if your area has as table-flip indoctrination of "Improv or BadWrongFun".

  14. - Top - End - #44
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    I have to agree with Quertus. The problem has been misdiagnosed.

    The issue appears to be that you don't want to ask leading questions. Well enough.
    But your players' actions fully indicated they had too-little information. When my players do something that is blatantly the opposite of a good idea, I need to stop and make sure we're all on the same page. More often than not, they aren't idiots and I just described badly or they missed a single crucial word among the deluge of description.

    (Which, by the way, when it comes to describing scenes it is often better to describe like Hemingway rather than Tolkien. Just the important bits plus a light sprinkling of flavor.)

    YOU should not have a problem telling the players things their characters would reasonably know. If this is their home town, they know who the town priest is. They know who the blacksmith's boy is. They know the rumor that Old Man Bjern cut up his wife with a hatchet and hid her in his taxidermied bear. They also know that's just a story he spreads to keep the children away.

    If they live in this town or have a basic understanding of the local geography, they know what way to go if they want to see the ruined towns. It's ok to remind them that their characters would know all the attacked towns were South of here, not North.

    Also just skip time if nothing meaningful is going to happen in that time. Don't jerk your players around like that. Just go to the time when things are happening, and signal escalation in small ways:

    "Last night, a town guard claimed to see a goblin scout."
    "We haven't heard from Farmer Tom down south since yesterday."
    "Young Bill could hear howling as the sun rose in the distance."
    "You see lines of smoke from the goblin camp, and hear their warchants on the wind during the night."

    That's a lot more tension-building and indicative of a "tense calm before the storm" than saying:
    "Nothing happens on day 2. What do you do?"


    If all the above still fails to help them make good decisions, run a megadungeon and populate it with whatever comes up when you google "puzzles for toddlers."
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    I have my enemies written out, and I know what their objectives and methodologies are.

    That way, I can determine what the enemies should do in reaction to the players, or what advances they should make if the player do nothing.



    However, that doesn't seem to be the problem:
    The problem seems to be pacing and information.

    First off, I am inferring, based on the players actions, that they organized their defenses and then waited. More specifically, they waited one day too long and nothing happened. If nothing is happening and there's no signalling that the battle is coming, you assume that you should be doing something, or you do something because you're bored of waiting. If you don't want to disrupt the timeline, an entirely viable course of action is, one the players have organized their defense, to say "after several days of tense waiting, your scouts report the Goblin army moving over the fields and into range. *being siege*"

    Second, it seems that information was lacking. Given their actions, I'm an inferring that they were given no real intelligence on the enemy force's actions, position, and capability. If you wait around and nothing happens, that telegraphs to the players that waiting around is the wrong course of action. While they're waiting, how long they need to wait at the very least should be telegraphed. Smoke on the horizon, refugees from previous battles, scouts reporting on enemy movement, etc. are all good indicators to the party that they're doing the right thing, and provide information to allow them to make informed offensive decisions.

    To the party, it sounds like they left the railroad and got smacked for it, which is doubly frustrating because they couldn't see where the railroad went so they didn't even intend to leave it. "Bad things happened because we didn't do what the GM wanted, but the GM didn't tell us what she wanted."



    Improvisation definitely would have helped, and presented many opportunities for a fun game here.
    For example, if the party ventures north, they can encounter a group of goblins trying to encircle their position and cut their road to resupply in advance of the siege. Or they find that the goblin army bypassed their prepared strongpoint, and that they're now surrounded and under siege.

    Alternatively, they return, and find their town under siege. The defenses they prepared held, but only barely, and now the goblins are preparing for the second assault, and they arrived just in time to attack from the rear, or bolster the failing defense.

    It may be useful to listen to your players conversations. If they think the enemy's done something [IE: is trying to outflank them, or has a spy in their midst] and act against it, even if you didn't plan on it, sometimes its useful to make the enemy have done just that. It makes the players feel clever, their efforts not wasted, and may lead to an exciting encounter.
    Last edited by LordCdrMilitant; 2018-11-07 at 03:00 PM.
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  16. - Top - End - #46
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    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    To reiterate what a lot have already said this isn’t about improve v planning its about handling of information. I can’t see anything wrong with what the OP has done, and with experienced players this most likely would have gone differently.
    I would change the entire starting concept for new players to try to help them understand what they can do and what is being asked of them….

    As you walk into the main room of the town call you see Durus bend over a table the mayors chain hangs loosely around his neck banging against the table. On the table is a map of DayDale (Player handout 1) as well as several wooden figures representing the townsfolk or goblin units. Durus mumbles to himself as his checks against a list of names (player handout 2) and moves figures around the map. As he hears you approach he looks up. You have never seen your old friend look more tired.
    He smiles in relief as he sees you “Thank the gods you have come; I need your help. The sheriff is off in the war with the main force of our militia. The true Mayor is off with them and the head priest. We are all that is left…” He pauses looking at your faces “I should explain… a goblin war band is headed our way. I don’t know how long before they get here but I do know it will be soon.” Durus looks towards the fighterist character “You were always more gifted than me with this kind of thing. I need all your help, I haven’t a clue where to even start….”


    The players have a nice map of the town.
    The players have a simple list of NPCs in the city with some notes by Durus with his thoughts (as a way to give hints)
    2 Capenters – Could possibly get barriers build. Funnel goblins into kill areas.
    2 game wardens – Great with bow, can use as scouts? Should I risk losing them?
    1 Blacksmith – currently under a sleeping curse (needs potion from witch of the woods) – Do I send a scout to get this, or two. What happens if I lose them ?
    3 Merchants – Need to check if they have anything to help.
    20 people capable of fighting – Only improvised weapons ?? Where can I get more ?
    Lay Preist - trained in healing cant cast spells.
    Etc etc

    Hopefully Durus will be a help to the characters. He cares about the town and wants to save it, he is in over his head and needs help. He will do as the PCs say and help them arrange defenses. Talk over plans and provide a way for the GM to ask questions of the PCs.
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  17. - Top - End - #47
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    @Cluedrew - Thanks! In short, I was combining trying to create a nomenclature and give advice. I think your comments helped me see where I was going. Whether this has any further value or not depends largely on where the OP goes from here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    That is high praise in today's world. And quite the responsibility too. Well {rolls shoulders} let me see what I can do...
    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    As an editor I will pull out: What is the point of your post? Or the main point(s) your post. Is this "layers" classification something you want to hammer out or is it just a tool for getting at some other points? Actually everything beyond this point is really based on guesses about that answer... or just more questions.
    Good call. At the time, I wasn't sure where I was going. I think that it felt to me like there was some confusion regarding what "planned vs improv" meant, because different people were hitting it at different layers maybe? Really, I think my later post told the OP what they most needed to hear, so hashing out the "layers" idea will probably either be academic, or maybe an aid to further communication.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    On Layers: From what I can tell we have the following: planned events, planned facts, planned plans (I say this is a subset of planned facts, the facts are just what people are planning), planned information and planned responses (which might just be a type of planned event). Of the non-redundant ones here is how I read each:
    • Planned Events: Things that are planned to happen but haven't happened yet. From anyone's perspective the difference between a planned event and a planned reaction is who will be stating that the event occurred, you or someone else. That thin divide is why I combined them, although maybe that is an important distinction.
    • Planned Facts: Things about the world or characters in it that are true but have not been revealed yet. Hence, in a tree falling in the forest kind of way, they are subject to change without notice. Hin.
    • Planned Information: Things you plan to reveal, as well as when and how you plan to reveal them. The builds off of planned facts, but also brings in a lot of game-concerns about, as an example, planned content (which would be "where are the planned facts").
    That might be a useful system... but first what exactly are we talking about?
    So, I don't generally like to GM. When I do GM, I hate looking at an encounter, and knowing exactly what will happen. I prefer to generally have a guess that maybe the PCs will do one of 4-10 different things, and sometime be wrong. My favorite moments are the "stump the GM" moments, where I have to stop and figure out how to deal with the players' plans. So, while there's this gear grinding and smell of smoke when players do something completely outside anything I've planned, "unplanned responses", and the subsequent improv I have to do after that, are something I enjoy.

    On a related note, this is why my least favorite PC in combat (from a great player) was a grapple monk, who I knew, every combat, exactly what he would do. Out of combat, however, he had a unique perspective, that often stumped the NPCs, so it kinda made up for it.

    Anyway, that's one reason why I have "planned events" and "planned responses" separated out - because of the value of planned vs unplanned vs stump the GM responses, to me.

    But perhaps there's little difference between the "this is what would happen if the PC's didn't exist"-style of Planned Event, where you adjust what actually happens based on how the PCs manipulate the world, and how much you plan for the PCs responses. Two sides of the same coin, perhaps?

    ---

    Planned facts - I generally discuss as though I'm a huge fan of never changing your planned facts. The reason for this is, telling a twisted web of lies, and getting them all consistent, is hard. Most people, most GMs lack the appropriate skills. It's oh so much easier to just tell the truth. And, if it's easier, it eats less of the GM's precious headspace. So don't tell lies. Just present the world as it is.

    Now, that having been said, sometimes, the players think of something that the GM didn't, and the GM decides, huh, yeah, I should retroactively add that in.

    So perhaps the GM just had 2 groups of goblins - the ones in the ruins, and the worg riders 3 days out. But then the PCs start talking about goblin scouts. It is, IMO, fine (for most GMs, at least) to say, huh, you know, it would be reasonable for the goblins in the ruins to send out scouts, and it doesn't contradict anything I've said, so, sure, I'll add some scouts in because it enhances the believeability of the world. OTOH, it's not OK if they do it because it helps/hurts the PCs. As long as their motives are pure (ie, pure Simulationist), it's fine.

    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

    Oh, right, relevant to this thread - yes, the GM/OP could have just randomly changed the facts of the game, like the players apparently wanted. Yes, that would have resulted in them engaging "the game". But I think Koo said it best (and I'll paraphrase, perhaps poorly, here) - give them a game, not the game (I hope that's true to Koo's intent).

    So, um, I think that, like me, the GM/OP wants the game to stay true at this layer, and I think my point is that one can absolutely run a successful game while keeping facts Planned. However, to do so, one may need to improv at other layers if the players behave in ways that you did not expect.

    Which is not entirely unlike what I eventually said. However, I think that someone more coherent than me could have used the layers concept to explain that much more clearly and concisely than this rambling reply.

    ---

    Planned Information is the layer where the Rule of Three (did someone rename that?) comes up. That is, if you're going to plan how to give players information, the "best practices" way is to plan three sources for any given bit of information, and three bits of information that lead to any desired action/conclusion. I'm not saying this well.

    Anyway, point is (well, relevant to this thread, at least), that the OP only planned one style of information, as evidenced by reading between the lines of these excerpts: "but the players never even looked", "But a big part of the problem was the players did not want to explore the town or talk to any NPC."

    Some of this information could easily still have been imparted to even the most antisocial of characters - from knowledge they had before the start of the session (like, how Townsville and Thorpville and Villeville a) had all been sacked by goblins, and b) were all to the South, or a map of the area, that includes both the town and the ruins (and as much other "red herring" information as appropriate for your style)), or from overhearing NPCs talking to one another ("I hear that the goblins have wolves with them, but I've not seen or heard anything with 4 legs around here", or even, "I can smell the goblins from here - why haven't they attacked yet?"), even if the PCs are somehow so scary that the NPCs don't approach them directly.

    This is where I advise GMs who care about the adventure (ie, unlike me or Koo) to Improvise their delivery - to find a way to make sure that the required information (or, at the very least, hints that the information is out there, and that maybe the PCs should look for it) makes it to the PCs, no matter what they do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    The other point I will address is the one that I feel has the best chance of being your main point.
    Yes. A quick "but you know the [towns raided by the] goblins are south, why go north" may have rescued this entire adventure. Another thing that may have helped is (going off some other posts) getting rid of the accidental bit of information that the adventure is somewhere else.

    If this is your main point, I think we could hear more about the types of information that could used (we seem to have missing in-world and out-of-world facts in this example) and how to communicate it. For the record I think that saying "Hey guys, [thing]" is a fine way to inform the players about [thing], especially when the thing is out-of-world or is something characters know, but the players forgot.

    And then there is knowing when the piece of information did not get across. Rule of thumb, if people do something that doesn't make sense, maybe they missed something.

    OK hope that helps. I ended up adding some stuff, but maybe that will add some useful perspective.
    Yeah, I think you've hit on what my main point would be, if what I wrote were taken as having a point (since it could also be taken as a guide to communication about this issue - my "layer" discussion was, I suppose, hitting this discussion at several layers). That bolded bit is, I believe, quite related, and is, itself, looking at the issue at a different layer than my "layers" explanation. So, you know, since yours is more concise, if it gets people to the same place, use that.

  18. - Top - End - #48
    Halfling in the Playground
     
    BardGirl

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    May 2011

    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Why do you avoid them? Or why do you feel players- get the wrong idea from GM questions?
    As soon as the DM asks a question to a player like "Are you sure you want to do that?", it's a huge red flag to the player that they should not do it. If a player is doing something within the rules and fine, the DM has no questions. But anything else, like crazy stuff, and the DM asks a lot of questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Haldir View Post
    If you don't ask them questions about their thinking or asking them important questions about their actions, you are denying them important context that their characters would readily be able to do.
    I think that should work both ways, don't just put it all on the DM.


    Update Game two went much better. I was ready to go with the idea of hunting down the goblin raiders, but all the players just wanted to do an Do Over. I'm not a fan of that, but it's what the players wanted.

    So same adventure. I did not even change the three days before the goblin attack...but, of course, the players did not know that. The players were much more open to talking to the NPCs and trying to learn more about the town and area. They fortified the town a bit, but never considered the idea of just sitting their and waiting for the goblins to attack. They found the spy and the advanced raiders, and when right for the goblin army. They moved around in circles using gurella(sp?) warfare against the larger force. We left off where they had learned of the worg riders, and decided to go intercept them.

    I'm not really sure what changed. The only thing I did a bit differently was to have NPC just say stuff without being asked directly.

  19. - Top - End - #49
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    Astofel's Avatar

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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    I'm not really sure what changed. The only thing I did a bit differently was to have NPC just say stuff without being asked directly.
    Bingo. It might not feel like much to a DM, but there is a huge difference between being dumped in a city as a player and told go without much to actually go on, and being dumped in a city where you meet an NPC who can tell you what's going on and give their own thoughts and opinions about how the party could achieve their goal.
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  20. - Top - End - #50
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    I'm not really sure what changed. The only thing I did a bit differently was to have NPC just say stuff without being asked directly.
    You mean that their childhood friends, people they’ve known all their lives and are now trusting everything they have to the party have finally decided to speak up?

    The party have lived all their lives in Daydale. They would know when smoke from cooking fires is coming from the wrong direction. They would notice birds and animals being flushed out by activity. They would know that person [X] is completely untrustworthy. They would think it strange no one has come down the path from [next village] for 2 days.

    What you’ve done is give them the information that would have been available to them in a realistic manner. Maybe if they were an unknown bunch of dangerous strangers the townsfolk could have been shy, but this party are people the townsfolk can and should be talking to.

  21. - Top - End - #51
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    It sounds to me like your players also spent the time in between sessions reflecting on what they did wrong as well and decided to approach the game slightly differently.

    And yes, having the NPC's be a bit more proactive does help the players out a lot, it's the difference between navigating the sea with no cloud cover and having the stars to navigate by. If the NPC's aren't taking initative, it's a clouded sky, but by having them approach the players, tiny gaps in the cloud cover can be spotted and the more experienced they are at navigating, the faster they'll be able to steer accordingly. Just be aware you don't need to be a clear sky, most players still appreciate some clouds for the challenge (also prevents the game from feeling like it is on rails)

  22. - Top - End - #52
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    I'm not really sure what changed. The only thing I did a bit differently was to have NPC just say stuff without being asked directly.
    I think the fact that you now have actually informed them in advance that you run a different playstyle than they initially expected might be a small factor as well.

  23. - Top - End - #53
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    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    I'm not really sure what changed. The only thing I did a bit differently was to have NPC just say stuff without being asked directly.
    That's a pretty critical difference right there, which is why about half the thread before this post was people saying that the NPCs should have been more proactive. You didn't withhold information they should have, and that made the difference.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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  24. - Top - End - #54
    Orc in the Playground
     
    DruidGuy

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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Pippa the Pixie View Post
    As soon as the DM asks a question to a player like "Are you sure you want to do that?", it's a huge red flag to the player that they should not do it. If a player is doing something within the rules and fine, the DM has no questions. But anything else, like crazy stuff, and the DM asks a lot of questions.
    There's other questions that you can ask besides "Are you sure you want to do that?" Things like "Why are you doing this?" or "What's the logic behind that action?" tend to communicate that you're not on the same page rather than they are about to do something they shouldn't. Even "Are you aware of this?" doesn't immediately tell the players that you want them to do something different (unless you always use it to direct them to one clear, specific action).

  25. - Top - End - #55
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by MrSandman View Post
    There's other questions that you can ask besides "Are you sure you want to do that?" Things like "Why are you doing this?" or "What's the logic behind that action?" tend to communicate that you're not on the same page rather than they are about to do something they shouldn't. Even "Are you aware of this?" doesn't immediately tell the players that you want them to do something different (unless you always use it to direct them to one clear, specific action).
    I get a lot of mileage out of "what is the goal here?" and "what are you actually trying to do?", which lets you contextualize their action in the results they're hoping to achieve with it.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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  26. - Top - End - #56
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Plan vs Improv

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    I get a lot of mileage out of "what is the goal here?" and "what are you actually trying to do?", which lets you contextualize their action in the results they're hoping to achieve with it.
    God yes. This is practically mandatory for GMs everywhere, imo.

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