“Whaddya mean Govenor Nighthill has no money? He had about 5,000 gold pieces last time we robbed him.”
For those in the know, the first part of Wizard’s Tyranny of Dragons: Hoard of the Dragon Queen, is sort of a “one event leads to the next” type of story. I posted before on my decision to run a more linear campaign with a new player. I completely regret that decision.
The following contains what may be construed as mild to significant spoilers.
You just never know. New Player certainly is a noob, but not the type to ever differ to other characters, or even be a team player for that matter. New Player, “Instigator” is thy name. What’s more, this is not a party that works for charity. You have a piratical priest of Talos the Destroyer, a maniacal tiefling assassin, and a Neutral half-orc wizard, who’s saintly in comparison to the other members who barely tolerate his presence. My dilemma going forward is finding out how to motivate these players to pick back up with the story as planned without dangling tons of gold in front of them, and to try to foster party cohesion.
As I see it, there’s little motivation for this band of nare-do-wells to investigate a dragon cult and build coalitions to put the kibosh on their plans. Setting fires, pointless torture, human trafficking, and a range of other types of demonic activity is more in line with their modus operendi.
So I’ll have to hit a little closer to home. The cool thing about 5th edition D&D is that each character comes with a bond–something or someone in the setting they profess to care about. And that can be a powerful leaver. I’ve already introduced the AssAssin’s bond–a maguffin in the shape of a mysterious key that belonged to his parents. I can’t keep snatching the key away to keep him chasing it. At some point you have to deliver. The thing I have to brainstorm is what significance is the key, how will that spur up a motivation, and how can I tie that neatly into the story as written? The others are a bit more obvious. Every cleric comes with a deity that can make them care. And Wizards are almost always motivated by the advancement of their craft.
One character goes off after something that grabs their attention. Another starts off to explore on their own; it’s a DM’s worst nightmare. More than this, the tiefling name calls the other characters and both tiefling and priest snub the wizard, so the wizard sets his own agenda.
I’ve gotten pretty good at wearing two hats. I can DM as well as play an NPC who is a party member. I’ll speak in character, using a different voice affectation and most of the time they get when I’m a DM and when I’m speaking as a supporting character. “Supporting” is a key word. A DM should never make the big decisions for a group, simply offer opinion and advice. This time I have no such voice, or any agency to influence any of the shenanigans within the narrative with the authority that a party member has. So I have to sit mute and slack-jawed at the atrocities being described.
The solution? If they bake a cake, let them eat it. They may run off to commit crimes, but there are champions of good out there, and the world is a dangerous place. If they want to solo, then they may just find that cooperation is actually beneficial to their survival.
When you go to start a new campaign, learn what it is you’re buying into. Hoard of the Dragon Queen is not the setting for an evil campaign. I have to say that this is the first campaign I’ve ran where I genuinely don’t like the characters who are in it. Note, I’m not saying players, I wouldn’t be there if that was the case. But what keeps me running this campaign is mostly the love of the game, and a morbid curiosity. Only time will tell if they can get it together for the next fifteen levels.