The big point here that I’d like you to walk away with is this: don’t be afraid to make it big. How many books have you enjoyed where nothing but trivialities happened in them? If you’re like me the answer is “none.” Every game doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around the end of the world, but it should revolve around something equally as important from the PCs’ points of view. That is to say, if it doesn’t focus on the world ending, then it should focus on the world ending for the PCs. Death, enslavement, the destruction of those things/people they hold dear, etc.No one wants to read a book about someone planning a birthday party unless we’re talking about one hell of a birthday party, at least from the protagonist’s point of view. Upon the success of this party hinges our hero’s ability to win/wed the person they love? Maybe the party is a culmination of this person’s image of self-worth? Regardless of how you come to it, if your story points are not vital and the costs to achieve them dire as well as the costs should they fail, then your game won’t be interesting. If you’re thinking about introducing something that the PCs could ignore with no ill, relatively immediate (this session or next), side-effects, don’t bother. Not worth anyone’s time. A good thing to keep in mind when trying to do this is to listen to your PCs (that’s a phrase you’re going to hear a lot in my blog) for what they want out of life. Failing that, go ahead and ask your Players for this information point blank. If you decide to resort to this (I often do) be sure that the conversation happens away from the ears of the other Players. Developing a PC’s interest into a quest is much easier when the decision is a selfish one, ie not involving the opinions of the other Players. And for god’s sake remember to take notes and use them. There’s no point in asking these questions if you’re just going to forget the answers in the week between sessions or ignore the quest you’ve worked to help create. Every session should see some kind of development for every PC. No one gets skipped even just one time. Not ever. Now here’s a tricky task. See if you can accomplish it. Once you have some over all goals (and more than one from each PC is preferable) try to weave a two or three of them into a common direction and the rest into another direction, but set up both hurdles to require the whole group’s involvement. See what this creates? You have two directions that the group wants to go in first without the option of separating down the line of preference. Now they will have to converse and negotiate the help of their fellow PCs to get what they want or they’ll have to deal with NPCs (who should be untrustworthy in most games to force PC unity). It’s a way of keeping the group group oriented with out forcing them in one direction by GM fiat. They will negotiate/convince/cajole each other into one direction or the other and any animosity one Player may feel for being forced away from their PC’s goal will be directed in-character toward another PC/game device instead of out-of-character toward you for being a heavy handed/unfair GM and that’s just role-playing; its what you’re all here for. Just beware of loud players who refuse budge. One player shouldn’t always get their way at the expense of the others. Another good idea to keep in mind is that it’s okay to let the PCs win, but always make gain cost something. I’m not talking about XP either. We’re talking purely about story here. You can get that appointment to whatever position your PC wants, but you’ll have to burn a contact to get it. Your army marching on city X is walking into a trap to the west, but an assassin is stalking your brother to the east. You can avert either event, but only one of them. Now lots of GMs make use of this, but what the successful ones do that the unsuccessful ones do not is make the cost evident at the outset. If the cost comes as a surprise later on, the Player will feel cheated by the GM. If the cost is shown up front and the Player makes the decision of their own free will, then the PC (not the Player) will feel cheated by life. The difference is that your friend and fellow gamer will not be thinking of you as an unfair or cruel GM. They knew the cost walking in even if their PC might not have. It hurts nothing about the game to share this kind of info with the Players. You are, after all, on their side, not on the side of the game. The game doesn’t care about fairness or winning. Neither do NPCs. Neither of them will cry one single tear if you short change them in favor of giving one of the PCs a bit of glory or giving the Player a little piece of mind. The game isn’t about fairness. It’s about everyone having fun and only you and your Players are capable of having fun. Keep that in mind. If your fun, though, must come at the expense of your Players’ fun/success or through competition with your players, I don’t really know what to tell you. You’re a bad GM and probably should give the reigns to someone else before you kill your group. The last bit I’m going to squeeze into this post is on changing your mind. Many times I have presented my players with a scenario for which I see a single solution. The army to the west and assassin to the east was an example of this. Now just because I could only think of one solution does not mean that there only exists a single solution. That much is easy to understand, you say, and you are correct. The hard part is understainding that just because I could only think of this one scenario, doesn’t mean I’ve thought of the best scenario. In the above example the player took the information I’d given them and thought of a completely different and far more creative way of interpreting that information than what I’d come up with. So I junked my idea on the spot, declared (in my own mind) the Player’s scenario to be better than mine, and made that one reality instead. I do this all the time when listening to my players discuss what might be going on. Why shouldn’t I when the four or so most creative people I know are sitting in the room with me offering up their thoughts on my game free of charge? For those of you who are curious, in my mind the assassin and the trap for the army were the end results of two different events. My player, however, conceived of how they could be connected; a trap not just for the army, but for him as well, laid by a single brilliant enemy. Then through this identification of the guilty party, he was able to think of a way to strike at a third location (to the north) and defeat both the trap to the west and the assassin to the east in one go. It was awesome and, if you’re reading this (you know who you are), thanks muchly 😉 And you thought I was so brilliant….