Has Your Campaign Stalled? (Part 2)

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on August 20, 2009

Another week has passed and your players have packed up and left. You sit at the table and realize this session didn’t go any better than last week’s. You tried to change things up, but your players still left looking bored and you’re stressed.

You already tried the tips and suggestions we gave you the last time your campaign stalled and they just didn’t do the trick. You made sure you had tougher challenges and you changed the plot on your players. You even made your super-villain run away so he could live to fight another day. Still you can’t help but think that there was something more that you could have done.

There’s no limit to the number of ways you can get your campaign back on track once you realize that it’s stalled. Today we’ll look at another set of options that you can employ to challenge both yourself and your players.

Ask For Feedback

It sounds simple doesn’t it? Suddry commented on the previous article that asking for player feedback is great way to gauge how the campaign is going. This allows your players to tell you what they liked or disliked and what they’d like to see more of in future games.

If you’re going to ask for feedback, prepare yourself for open and honest criticism. You might not like what you hear and it may not be good for your ego. However, it should empower you to create a better game.

Skill Challenges

Much has been written about skill challenges in 4e and the intent isn’t to do more of that here. In his comments, Skallawag suggests adding interesting skill challenges and traps. I’m continually coming across comments that some DMs don’t like skill challenges. However, this might be what your players need to change the pace up a bit. If you’re having problems creating a suitable challenge, just visit the Dungeon’s Master Skill Challenges archive for numerous templates that you can insert into your campaign. With over 20 different skill challenges to choose from you’re bound to find one that can easily be used without any significant adjustments.

Stop Playing Video Games

You read that correctly. Stop playing video games.

Video games are predictable. Even large scale, very immersive games like Oblivion are predictable. MMOs are also predictable. In these examples you accept a quest and complete it. At no point does an NPC enter your screen and provide you with information that stops you from completing the quest or question the motives of the quest giver.

Video games are predictable. You should be spontaneous, fluid and dynamic in how you design and run your gaming sessions.

Stop playing video games and start being creative. Find ways to mess with your players heads. Make them doubt the information that they believe to be the truth. Make them doubt reality. Keep them on their toes by removing the aura of certainty that normally comes with quests.

Mirror, Mirror…

Another thing to consider is that your players may have become too tough. Perhaps you’ve been very generous in your magic item distribution or one too many house rules have powered the PCs beyond normal ranges. There is an easy fix to this.

Have the players leave their characters with you between games. If you’ve only got paper copies then photocopy them. Better yet, ask them to email you the files from Character Builder. Now select one encounter, daily and utility power from each character and delete the rest. During the next game have the players fight themselves.

Make this encounter dramatic. The PCs evil twins should be doing something that threatens the grand plans of the players. Also, make sure to use the PCs tactics against them. Finally, make sure the evil twins escape to fight again.

While the relationship in D&D between DM and player isn’t normally adversarial this is one time when you can really take the gloves off and play for keeps.

What other ways have you injected new life into an old campaign? We’ want to hear from you.

1 mthomas768 August 20, 2009 at 11:05 am

I’ll second the ‘Ask for feedback’ note. One of the best ways to improve the game is to find out what people like and don’t like. As an added suggestion I’ll say ‘Ask for feedback *individually*.’ If you ask the group as a whole your stronger players may drown out the quiet folk.

2 Kolbold Minion August 20, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I find that a very vivid description in the beggining of a game helps immerse players into the world and stay there. However, some players are still bored and detached after this. When that happens, at first opportuntiy I vividly describe something ether totaly horrible and disgusting or completely fantastic and unreal.
Once such terrible or horrible things are happening in your game, I find that players can hardly risist participating, and enevitably having fun.

3 Wimwick August 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm

@ mthomas768
Often as a DM I’ll send an email out to the group asking for their thoughts and feedback. I do this when the campaign is very new and then anytime I think things might be slowing down. I echo your asking individually as is often the case the dominant personalities will drown out meeker players.

@ Kolbold Minion
Some great tips. By starting out with a great deal of information and description it allows the players to really buy into the world. One tactic I look to use near the beginning of a campaign is to provide some sort of emotional connection for each player to the game. This usually makes them invest a little bit more in both the character and the campaign.

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