When Your D&D Campaign Goes Off the Rails, Pt 4: Embrace the Chaos

This is the final part of Pedro Galicia's 4-blog guest series about how to handle it when the party takes your D&D campaign off the rails!

Part 4: Embrace the Chaos

(Artwork from the Nomnivore Games team behind the EMBERWIND TTRPG, who provided the art for The Story Engine Deck fantasy expansion and more!)

I've spent the past month outlining how to prepare for your players taking your D&D campaign off the rails. This is the idea that might surprise you most.

Embrace the chaos.

You’ve done all this work. Your maps are drawn, the battles are properly balanced, and you’ve even whipped up a few custom monsters in order to really challenge the players. But now they’re on a farm, trying to help a local family with their next harvest, and you have no idea what the hell is going on at your table.

This is my last piece of advice: embrace it. Be that farmer. Tell them about the giant pig in the back that you know could be best in show if it just had some confidence. Follow them when they decide to name it Hamlet.

You might have drafted up all these notes, and sure, you’re flummoxed that they’re all useless as you watch your group care more about blue ribbons and twice-a-days to get that pig in shape than they do about your villain’s plot to break time and throw the kingdom back into the past.

But here’s the thing. You’ve created a world, a space, that your players love and are embracing. They’re excited because you’re actually pretty good at this. If you were making something that they didn’t feel genuinely pumped about, they wouldn’t be off the rails. They’d be gone from your table. Instead, they’re running through piles of mud and falling in love with big ol’ pile of pig who just might be Best In Show.

Save your notes. You’ll get to use them later! You might be “prepped” for the next three months. Focus your efforts on where your players are having fun. Introduce a farming baron who wants to come buy out the local farmlands. Have him see the pig and comment that he has plans for Hamlet. Bring in his secret weapon, an even bigger hog with a mean disposition named Kevin Bacon.

Go, if I may, whole hog on this story.

You’ll be able to come back to your story at some point. And when you do, you’re going to do so with characters that your players love. And you just might be able to seed these adventures into your overall plot. Maybe now they’ll care if the lands fall to darkness. Because they’re not doing it for themselves, or for king and country, or even for you.

They’re doing it for Hamlet.

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This was guest blog was written by Pedro Galicia!

Pedro Galicia is a GM with over 20+ years of experience building worlds and running games. He is the creator and GM of the World Walkers D&D podcast.