Why do I have a loose approach to scenarios?

I know I shouldn’t read reviews, but I do, mostly to get ideas for things I should add or improve or try and plug the holes in.

However an attitude I’ve seen in a couple of places didn’t concern the rules, but the scenario, for it not being specific enough. This puzzled me a small amount, because I used to try and set out THE THINGS THAT ARE GOING TO HAPPEN! only to find they never did.

Unless you are going to force your players along the rails, I’ve always found players will do their own thing. They will pick up on a small detail you just put in for flavour, assign it significance, and ignore the clue you thought might be too obvious, they will have their own expectations of the game, and play accordingly, in some cases to extreme. The obvious example I remember was me trying to run a Star Wars game with the characters Rebel Agents in the Corporate Sector, only to have them turn pirate and slaver. Why? Because they worked hard and wanted to blow off steam.

They wanted a game that let them indulge their sense of mischief (which probably included the fun in watching my face turn red as I tried to adapt to circumstances on the hoof) and I would have been better not being so serious and whipping up an old fashioned Dungeon Bash rather than a serious game grounded in politics and a “realistic” view of society.

The game going off the rails is not always a bad thing, if you can cope (big if there). I’ve had my imagination stimulated and been involved in fun games as the characters forged their own path, and I still had the original scenario just in case. Though the situation might change because of the choices, e.g. if supposedly meant to try and forestall an invasion, the invasion has occurred, and, by the time the characters return to the path, the characters now need to seize the opportunity to throw the invaders out.

So my experience has been rigid scenario definition doesn’t work, moreover my own practice has been to convert any scenario to my own campaign, and that is part of what I see as the “GM’s art”. Maybe I’m learning that not everyone sees it that way.

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