In Making it Matter, last time we talked about making it personal. This time we cover letting your players tell you what matters and the old recurring mastermind trick.
Let the players tell you what’s important. This is a bit of improvisational game mastering. Listen to your players. If you hear a lot of table chatter about a town, an NPC, or anything else in the game world, make it a key part of your games. If the players are always going on about Qi, make Qi the setting for a good number of your adventures. If the very thought of the Jaekels of Aras makes them ready to smash heads, use the animalistic pirates as villains every so often.
If you have a player who can’t get enough of their pet or a favorite NPC, use that it to tie the character to an adventure. The loyal Seski runs through the portal. The favorite innkeeper vanishes leaving clues of a involvement with in a plot about to engulf the PCs home base.
Remember, it's not wrong if the players fixate on something in your world you haven't planned on. It's awesome! They are telling you what they find engaging. Go with it.
The Reoccurring Mastermind who always gets away to start trouble again. Despite being a gaming cliche, it can still be effective. Over and over again the players confront the evil mastermind, and over and over again she gets away. In a world with teleportation cyphers this isn't hard.
Every time she gets away, the players might be just that much more invested in the game.Players can obsess on how to finally bring her down. The trick is to make the characters feel she won't get away forever. It may be impossible to stop her, but the player characters are used to doing the impossible!
One trick is to have the major threat be able to teleport only to their lair. This way, they can always get away, until the characters track them down. In The Sun Below: City on the Edge, the King of the Praithians has just such a power. When the characters finally confront him in his throne room, his teleportation power can't save him.
Or give it a twist -- the enemy who got away has grown to appreciate the player characters. Perhaps she will aid them in a future adventure, which could confuse the players wonderfully. Will they trust the healing cyphers that come from the woman who tried to stake them in front of the Iron Wind?
Or the old enemy could have run afoul of a new and bigger enemy. Their old nemesis begs for help from the characters. If they refuse, the new enemy is becomes stronger and more bold. If the accept, they have created an interesting alliance. Where will it lead?