This week I picked up my Kingsport Tales campaign after a several month absence. I find it a fun, and sometimes a challenging game to run, mostly because I try and allow the characters as much autonomy as I can manage. In practice that means I try and hook the characters individually, bringing clues from the scenario to their attention through their stated interests and occupations and hoping that the players will work with me to involve their characters in the story. I usually have one shot back-up characters (police and the like) available for players who don’t involve their own characters in the climax.
It’s an approach that requires a fair bit of effort from me, and that always stokes my anxiety about other player downtime, as the characters often don’t interact with each other for long periods. I try hard to not force anything on them, to keep things moving and try and weave things together as the session goes on. Predictably, as I get more tired, this breaks down to an extent.
One manifestation of this occurred in the last session. I’ve always said that the characters can go anywhere they please within the setting. Already this has lead me to merge two adventures when they suddenly decided, in the midst of one scenario about dreams, to explore the strange high house in the mist.
On this occasion, boats had been going missing around Kingsport. The characters interrogated superstitious fishermen, who offered a wild series of conjectures including the possibility that those folk from Innsmouth were somehow involved (there is a history of bad blood between Kingsport and Innsmouth in the setting). This was actually a red herring, but the characters decided that it sounded plausible enough for a trip to Innsmouth.
Queue some frantic re-tooling from me. Now, in retrospect I should have allowed them to experience some Innsmouth creepiness, but ultimately been frustrated and returned to other avenues of investigation. Instead I treated them to my full-on Escape from Innsmouth treatment designed for ‘cons, largely because this was my first reaction.
So, I stand by my decision - but can’t help but feel that I really should have been better prepared for the session...