Different DMs embrace different ideas about how much input their players have on the campaign where some DMs run a sandbox campaign, other than major NPCs everything that happens in the game is left to the whim of the players. Others have a more restrictive idea about how much input players should have. Some do not allow player input at all, preferring to run modules or use adventures published through LFR.
The level of player involvement is usually determined before the campaign begins. The DM gives a rough idea of what the players can expect of the campaign. My normal practice is to provide my players with an overview of the start of the campaign and the central theme. This allows them to create characters that are appropriate. It doesn’t make too much sense for a player to create an urban Ranger for a game that is going to take place 90% of the time in the Underdark.
I’m of the firm opinion that unless you are playing LFR or other published adventures the players should have a level of dialogue in the campaign. While I’m not a fan of sandbox campaigns as I think they are too open, I do like to engage my players and have them participate in aspects of the campaign. The usual method for this is for the players to develop a back story, allowing me to incorporate elements of their story into the campaign. It’s a small part that the players play, however when they get the payoff of having part of their story play out it is immensely satisfying.
A major disadvantage of not soliciting input from your players is that you will never know what they would like their character to accomplish during the game. By asking them, you get that feedback. Very often as a DM we have the long term story, but it often has gaps that need to be filled. Thirty levels is a lot of play time. Side quests are a great diversion in between major plot points. Character back stories are a great resource for these side quests.
Another reason to seek player input during the campaign is reflected in character development. The most pronounced aspect of character development is the paragon path. Some paragon paths are very generic and fit into any setting. Your players really can’t go wrong by selecting them. Others are highly specialized and without a discussion between player and DM the player will get the short end of the stick. Of course one would also need to wonder why a player would select an undead themed paragon path if the campaign had not featured any major conflict with undead. The DM would be equally surprised when the defender selects a dragon slaying themed paragon path. There is nothing wrong with these choices, but if a player has a clear idea of where he wants to go with his character and it isn’t in line with the direction of the campaign a discussion is in order.
By discussing the direction of your character in advance the DM is given the opportunity to design some encounters to benefit your character. Perhaps the actual type of monster being fought is unimportant and as a result the DM can very easily make a substitution.
The key question a DM needs to answer if he is surprised by a player choice is how to handle it. If an inappropriate paragon path is selected how long does the DM wait to allow that choice to shine through? Is the DM there to facilitate the players in a shared experience or he is there to tell his own story? With published adventures there is an expectation and understanding that everyone is going to get whatever the adventure provides. However, when a DM is creating their own adventures some give and take is expected.
The best resolution is to have players declare what paragon path they are selecting and why. How does the choice fit with their back story and their experience in the campaign to date. If this dialogue is started early enough almost any option is available because the DM knows what the player is looking for in the campaign.
When you DM do you solicit feedback or input form your players? As a player do you find your DM open to ideas that you and other players present about your characters?
- The Pitfalls of a Specialized Paragon Path
- When Players Kill The Campaign
- Creating A Character Around A Concept