Sarah (clawfoot) wrote in roleplayers,

Handling encounters in short-term games

Something has been bothering me for a while now. I ran a Firefly campaign for my friends a few months back -- it was a short-term campaign, only about four or five sessions -- and we all had fun with it. The only thing that's niggling at me is a comment one of the players made during the game.

The characters were on their ship, going from planet to planet. This, of course, takes some time. During the trip, I mentioned that their sensors picked up a distress signal from another ship, a little bit off their course, but not too much. The person playing the captain said, "Well, let's go check out the obvious GM hook."

And that kind of irritated me, because I really don't know how else I could have handled that. It was an encounter I'd planned, yes, but it wasn't absolutely critical to the plot and had they ignored it, that would have been okay with me. It wouldn't even have been out of character for the crew to ignore it at that point, either. I would not have railroaded them into it at all.

It also irritated me because how else do you handle encounters in space? I mean, either you run into something or you don't. Not running into anything ever is boring, but running into something is kind of a blatant "I'm here for the campaign" sign. Maybe if it were an open-ended long-running campaign, I'd throw in trivial stuff like that, but I always thought short-term campaigns are kind of like short stories: there's an economy of story going on that kind of requires the Chekhov's Gun principle or the campaign gets far too unwieldy. I can't really afford to put too many red herrings in or people will get bored and the game will go on for far too long.

I guess I'm wondering if my campaign design is flawed and my player had a point, or if the game was fine and she was just being a jerk.
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