We all want to level up our characters and smash the "big baddies", but quests and campaigns can become monotonous in the name of grinding for experience. Endless cookie-cutter dungeon crawls can suck the fun out of a great campaign and turn game night into more of an obligation. Check out these five ways to keep the magic in your campaign and help prevent the characters from turning into murder hobos!
1) Think Your Way Through A Puzzle
Getting creative with puzzle encounters can break the cycle of beat the small baddies, beat the big baddie, get the treasure and experience points, rinse and repeat. Forcing your players to use critical thinking and their imaginations may be painful at first, but it can also bring new ideas to the campaign storyline. The puzzles don’t have to be on a high difficulty setting, sometimes setting up an easy or moderate puzzle can be just as fun to break the monotony. Try a small puzzle, like a mysterious room armed with coded locks that cannot be picked by your rogue. Or perhaps a larger puzzle of a strange cult that is controlling a village and needs to be dismantled via diplomacy rather than the sword.
2) Go Fetch!
Fetch quests can seem trivial, but they’re also a fun way to push the story forward without a dungeon crawl. Have your players find a lost item that they must return. Then the reward can lead to a new epic quest, or an even more difficult fetch quest. The players might even decide to stay awhile and explore the new town or setting. Or the fetch might be an NPC (non-player character) or an enemy creature. Perhaps the princess has run away from her engagement and you must return her to her betrothed. Then there lies the choice of forcing her to marry, or allow her to escape. A new adventure awaits.
3) Introduce A New Threat
Perhaps the main quest is ultimately defeating a particular big baddie and their lesser baddies along the way. However, that doesn’t mean a side quest isn’t in order. Create a new threat for your group to face. Maybe a town is being held hostage by a rogue warlock? Or perhaps a village is plagued by a rag tag army of bandits that assembled in the name of looting? Taking a detour from the main quest can be just what your campaign needs.
4) You Can’t Shake A Sword At The Plague
An unusual route your campaign can take is dealing with a quarantined town. You can’t fight illness with weapons, or perhaps even magic. The villagers need saving all the same and riches may wait as your reward. A twist on the puzzle quest, figuring out the cause of an outbreak and finding a solution or a cure can put your group’s imaginations to the test. It can also allow your healers to shine as the key players for the quest. The cause of the disease could still be due to a baddie that needs to be slain, but the journey to that knowledge would be different from the typical dungeon crawl.
5) Make A New Friend
Once a party is established, the dynamics of the group can become stuck in a rut, and gameplay can become quite predictable. A great way to shake things up is for the DM (Dungeon Master) to introduce a new NPC to the party. It could be temporary for a single quest, or could be a permanent fixture for the remainder of the campaign. Either way, it gives your party a new character to fight alongside and learn their quirks. Just be sure not to give your party a broken NPC either way – making them overpowered will make gameplay boring as it removes all the challenges, and making them weak and dumb will bog down your party and frustrate them. Meet somewhere in the middle with good advantages and weaknesses for the best gameplay.
6) Put The Game On Pause
Sometimes the best way to rejuvenate the grand campaign is to put it on hold and have fun with a one-shot campaign. Pick a storyline that’s radically different than the quest you’ve been grinding on, and watch the spark return to your group as they battle their way through new monsters and challenges. A little fluff can go a long way to bring back the magic. It can even resemble the old dungeon crawl grind, but having a new storyline and objective can give your party the new angle they’ve been craving in their main campaign.
While taking a new turn with your campaign can be fun, it's important to keep the balance of the overall goals of the campaign. Don’t just throw a crazy left turn into the mix, as that will only frustrate the party and confuse the campaign goals. Though if your group has a craving for plot twists, or straight up nonsense, perhaps they need a one-shot in a wonderland of sorts?
Alice Liddell is an author, artist, and performer who loves bringing magic and fantasy to all aspects of her working and personal life. Whether it’s DnD with friends, or a round of Fable solo, Alice has always loved gaming of all kinds. You can find her work on her social media handles Facebook, or under littlalice06 on IG and Twitter.
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