I've been running my 5e game for a stable group of 6 friends for more than a year now. In the years that I've been playing D&D off and on (since the 4e era), this is the longest a campaign I've DMed has held together.
I am learning a lot. I am also finding that the particular dynamic of this group of players is really different from past groups I've played with and how I personally play.
I'm used to playing with hardcore nerds. Most of my current players have never read a fantasy novel other than Harry Potter, don't like board games and after a year of playing in a weekly game don't know which die to roll when they make an attack.
The two players who are excited about D&D, have bought the books and know what the numbers on their sheet mean, are very much into normie-style, Critical Role inspired adventure paths.
I'm not complaining. I'm lucky to have fantastic friends who will play elf-games with me.
However, my attempt to open up a sandbox and let the players roam has largely fallen flat. My world is too big. There are too many options open. My players don't have character motivations per se and mostly aren't interested in forming them.
It's fine, but I need to do things differently.
My next project is to retreat to a much smaller campaign setting with clearer options and stronger default play loop.
My thoughts so far:
- A detailed town. A small number of shops with an actual list of goods and prices, rather than my current "It's a general store, what do you want?" approach.
- An explicit list of adventure locations, serving as a menu of options where to go.
- XP based advancement (my normies will love this) rather than the more ephemeral milestone advancement I've been using.
The goal would be to have 2-4 options (and only those options) for each session. Players can pick one and I won't depend on them to have a particular motivation.
Any advice and suggestions from other DMs would be greatly appreciated. Let me know if you have thoughts!