Failure to plan

So last night was the biweekly meeting of the 4th Edition game. We were excited in welcoming back a player who’d had to stop playing with us a couple months back due to life. I’ve been really lucky with this group in that I’ve had a large number of players wanting to play and usually enough players able to show up each session that we can actually play. I’ve had up to 10 players in the group and right now the number of players is at 8. This might seem like a large number of players, but I can’t seem to say no to anyone wanting to play.

The situation with this group is they’re finally hunting down a villain that they’d last actually dealt with when they were only 2nd or 3rd level. They foiled a protection racket he was trying to run in the city they lived in. This led to him trying to kill them with members of his mercenary army. They were able to defeat his men, but with such a blatant attack they fled the city to pursue a lucrative quest with an npc they’d met during their 0 level adventure. 

However the villain didn’t just fade out. Instead I had him put a bounty out on the adventurers. While the bounty hung over their heads for a long time, it wasn’t until recent that anyone actually tried to collect on it. However the very act of placing a bounty on the party put the villain in their enmity. 

The previous session the party had been given the go ahead by the local law enforcement to go after their villain. They had two locations that their villain might be hiding out at, a tower fortress to the northwest of the city and a tower fortress to the southwest. I’d predetermined that the northwest tower wasn’t the location of their villain, so instead I created a small side quest involving a rash of grave robberies at the local temple of the death goddess/city cemetery. I also used that as the location that would bring back in the long departed tiefling sorcerer. 

Knowing that the last several sessions have been light on combat and honestly all of the players have had a stressful week or so, everybody was itching for a combat encounter. I also knew that the players were loath to get involved in any more side quests that would distract them from their goal of killing their villain. I was hopeful though that they might still go along with the northwest tower once they discovered it wasn’t the domain of their enemy.

I subscribe to the ideal that as a DM it is my job to provide obstacles to the party achieving their goals. In this case though, I should have prepared the other tower, not just because it was a possible option that the party might take once they realized this wasn’t their enemy’s tower, but it would also have put me ahead on my preparations for the campaign. My players being the good sports that they are and realizing that I didn’t have the other tower prepared began to setup a different approach in dealing with the northwest tower. Unfortunately we had to end the session early, but next session we’re ready to get going from the start.

The lesson I’m taking away from this is that while I don’t need to plan for every contingency, I do need to have plans for the most likely option my players might take. 

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