The Four Levers That Inevitably Pull Players Through Your Adventures
I’m writing right now in my Guide to 5 Room Dungeons about Push versus Pull.
Push GMing means forcing players in a certain direction.
But players are their own beings. They think and act independent of your wishes. You cannot control another person. Therefore, you cannot control your players. If you try, everyone just gets frustrated and upset.
Our strategy is to never Push players around. They’ll only resist.
You say they must go to the dungeon because it’s the only option and instead players will divert to the forest.
You say the forest is too thick and the dungeon is the only option, and players will head to the swamp.
You say the swamp is too toxic and the dungeon is the only option, and players will climb the mountains.
You cannot Push the players to do what you want. They’ll buck on you.
However, you can Pull players.
You can cast lures so shiny and tantalizing that they’ll focus on what you desire most and you can guide the characters into your adventures.
You make an option perceivable and so interesting that you Pull players towards it.
This does not work every time. There’s always a chance players will reject your offer.
However, pull works better than Push most of the time.
And adopting a Pull philosophy makes everyone happier with your campaign in the long run.
What are some tools in our GM Toolbox to help our adventures and descriptions Pull players in our most desired directions?
Here are four examples. Consider these levers. Grab them and pull when you want to guide players and their characters.
Clues make players curious. I believe curiosity is a wave of mental energy. Keep that emotional and intellectual wave always pulsing. Keep players always curious about something.
Clues drive those pulses. Some new facet of what the party pursues captures players’ imaginations and propels them forward with another pop of energy.
Hooks offer decision points. Do players choose to bite on the lure so you can Pull them deeper into your plot?
Make hooks as intriguing as possible so players can’t help but get pulled along, even should they see the hook for what it truly is.
Mysteries create tension players need to resolve. Humans want closure. We want to learn. To figure stuff out. To solve puzzles.
Make a mystery Pull players by playing a game of 5W2H. Who, what, why, when, where, how, and how much.
Make one or more of those questions the premise of your mystery to give players a tangible problem that gnaws on their brains.
Discoveries incur the deepest sense of wonder in our games. By nature, we fear the unknown. Yet, we are always drawn toward it. We can never turn our back on the unknown, the dark corner of the cave, the mystery of what’s around the next corner.
Create people, places, and things worth discovering and players will always want to explore your campaign. Use these four levers along with great scenes and descriptions to create adventures players cannot help but get pulled through.