Author Topic: Ever had to retcon your game?  (Read 4901 times)

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SneeR

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Ever had to retcon your game?
« on: September 21, 2011, 11:51:55 PM »
We've all been there: The dice are rolling terribly, you rule unfairly, you gget your facts mixed up, or the plot just goes wrong.

Sometimes, DMing is not rewarding, and sometimes you walk away wondering if anyone actually had fun in that last session. It's unfortunately bound to happen: Even masters roll a natural 1, 5% of the time.

So my question is this: have you ever had to retcon a campaign?

By retcon I mean saying flat-out to your players, "That didn't happen; this is what happened."
He died? No he didn't
They got lost in the useless, unfun subplot? Not actually.
They sundered the rod and TPK'd? No, turns out its hardness was higher than expected.
Something too uncomfortable happen to a character? No, it didn't.

What exactly did you retcon? Why? How did your players react?

Example:
[spoiler]
Quote
I am forced to recall the first session of one campaign where I needed to railroad the characters into dying so they could come back to life with the ability to overcome some homebrewed demon immunities. Unfortunately, the cool ooportunity to kill the PCs came and went with the big boss demon marching through a battlefield and not killing the PCs. After 2 hours of doing their best to survive, I finally killed them in a hopeless battle with a nameless demon 8 CR above them.

The players came to me and said that they were intrigued by the campaign's premise, but that that first game got sour really fast when it was apparent they were dead 2 hours before it happened.
So, in the next session, I said, "Alright, what actually happened was the big boss demon waded through the battlefield and slew each of you with one casting of her death sphere spell-like ability. All of you died instantly. I want you to forget about everything that happened after that point."

That game is still going 1 year later, and all of my players love it.
[/spoiler]

So, what do you think of retconning? Should a DM be allowed to do it? Have you ever seen it abused? Have you ever seen it used to the benefit of the campaign? Tell me what happened, and what your thoughts were!
The answer to everything:
[spoiler][/spoiler]
SneeR
[spoiler]
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
[/spoiler]

Bozwevial

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2011, 12:31:50 AM »
I have a friend who was recently in a game session where the PCs were framed for murder. The scene originally took place in a crowded street. My friend, as a changeling, was going to use a Shadow Hand maneuver to escape into the crowd and then disguise herself. In response, the DM changed the details of the scene so that there were only a few people in the crowd.

That's the sort of retconning I dislike.

Necrosnoop110

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2011, 12:36:41 AM »
This is one of those things that can work or can come off horrible. Haven't had the need for it yet but wouldn't be 100% against it - I'd only use as a last resort and only if the campaign was effectively unworkable without it. With minor mistakes (we all make them) I usually just tell the PCs flat out I messed up (or even better: "we were doing it wrong") and from now on things will work like x, y, or z.

At times if I've done something wrong I've had them "do over" a situation and I think PCs feel less cheated than "forcing" them to some plot monster's end.     

I have decent abilities to ad lib and correct things on the fly. More often than not a "mistake" can be turned into a positive with enough creativity.

Peace,
Necro
« Last Edit: September 22, 2011, 12:51:26 AM by Necrosnoop110 »

Bloody Initiate

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2011, 12:45:26 AM »
I have a really frustrating memory problem which creates a tendency to completely ditch plans I make without meaning to. I'll plan something awhile but the time I have to wait to make my first move frequently makes me forget and go off on a new line. I don't have to retcon much, but I have gotten good at steering things back from sidetracks. I often have to "show my cards" and explain myself to people so that they can help me remember OR understand why the plot makes on-the-fly course adjustments. Retconning is just a bit too drastic usually though, and I'd rather live with a mistake than rewind. Usually I explain what happened to people later so they understand the fumbles.

I've always preferred to be up front and honest whenever possible. I think this is a good and bad thing when I'm GMing, because it definitely breaks immersion for the players. However I think it's rare for my players to feel cheated or feel as if things are working in a way they shouldn't. Even when I've created a highly-specific takedown for one player (For example if they're getting too much spotlight because of how their character is built) the player didn't seem to resent it.
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Ikeren

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2011, 01:20:02 AM »
Usually small combat thigns, only for the purpose of following rules. "That attack did hit, then, since I screwed up X. Steve heals the 13 damage he took last round, in that case."

I have had serious fumbles; like creating an entire guerilla war plot against the Pythins, at which point the players, in an open world campaign, decided it was hopeless case. I then improvised the next like 7 hours, where powerful magic became the reason and excuse for a lot of bad stuff, but they saw it and saw why. It wasn't because they didn't think they'd have fun doing it, it was because they thought their characters would not do it.

veekie

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2011, 09:13:20 AM »
Never had to do a full rollback, but sometimes by popular demand, singular, particularly retarded actions on everyone's part gets an occasional undo or at least a veto.
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Empirate

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2011, 03:59:17 PM »
I messed up an extremely complicated campaign plotline once. It revolved around the PCs having false memories implanted (the back stories the players actually came up with), and when they entered a certain region, all kinds of people suddenly recognized them, although the players thought their characters had never been there. "You say we stole your ship? Whatever would we do with a ship?!", that kind of thing. It was fun for quite a while, until I realized I had gotten some things in the past convoluted rather badly, and if the PCs were to ever regain their full memory, it just wouldn't work out. I was ready for anything, from "yeah, you just can't trust anybody anymore. He lied to you about his ship" up to fully conscious retconning. I strongly felt as if the latter would be necessary, and I think my players would have understood, but still, it rankled.

Luckily, in a way, the campaign died before it came to that...  ;)

Kajhera

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2011, 06:36:09 PM »
I accidentally changed north to east.

SneeR

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2011, 07:20:26 PM »
I accidentally changed north to east.

That's hilarious.
I can see that either being meaningless, or sending the PCs into the wrong hemisphere of the planet.
The answer to everything:
[spoiler][/spoiler]
SneeR
[spoiler]
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
[/spoiler]

b100d_arrowz

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2011, 08:26:53 PM »
In an old campaign I played in we had two groups of players, the experienced group and teh n00bz  :rollseyes. The n00bz had lots of little combat retcons to prevent TPKs, while we had quite a few story retcons because of the actions of the other group.


Myself I've had to retcon many things behind the scenes to keep the world from collapsing due to player actions, for example I had to resurrect several world leaders once (in a world with no divine magic  :bigeye) because the players decided they wanted to be good people and no go grave robbing in the tombs of the old dragon kings (not that they knew they were dragons, yet  :devil) In addition that led to the party leaving the plane for half the campaign instead of a session or two  :rollseyes.

I haven't had to flat out say, no Ulfgar you didn't kill him, your charging leap attack full power attack pounce spirited charge with a lance didn't kill baddy XYZ.
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SneeR

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2011, 08:47:18 PM »
In an old campaign I played in we had two groups of players, the experienced group and teh n00bz  :rollseyes. The n00bz had lots of little combat retcons to prevent TPKs, while we had quite a few story retcons because of the actions of the other group.


Myself I've had to retcon many things behind the scenes to keep the world from collapsing due to player actions, for example I had to resurrect several world leaders once (in a world with no divine magic  :bigeye) because the players decided they wanted to be good people and no go grave robbing in the tombs of the old dragon kings (not that they knew they were dragons, yet  :devil) In addition that led to the party leaving the plane for half the campaign instead of a session or two  :rollseyes.

I haven't had to flat out say, no Ulfgar you didn't kill him, your charging leap attack full power attack pounce spirited charge with a lance didn't kill baddy XYZ.

Well, that's an interesting point to bring up. Is it retconning when the players never knew about it in the first place? Because if we are talking about changing the world because of Those Meddling Players (TM) as retconning, then I retcon all the time! :lol

Dang, I wish they would do what I secretly hope they will...
The answer to everything:
[spoiler][/spoiler]
SneeR
[spoiler]
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
[/spoiler]

b100d_arrowz

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2011, 08:55:45 PM »
Quote
Dang, I wish they would do what I secretly hope they will...
I mean the one time I expect my player's to act like typical mercenary adventurers they listen to the LG Samurai (who was played by the best player, and until he sacrificed himself to bring another character back in a bit of character retconing before I could say anything was the best character as well...  :()

In the most recent campaign I did I had to retcon the barbarian invasion to move about ~200 miles more South then I originally planned so that the players could fight it... and what do they do? Join teh bastards (all but one of them were good or neutral leaning good at this point)=, and the one that wasn't was playing a character fully modeled after Wesker  :evillaugh)
I'm delirious from lack of sleep, but am sustained by the power of the Gatling Gun!

78% of DM's started their first campaign in a tavern. If you're one of the 22% that didn't, copy and paste this into your signature.

Unbeliever

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2011, 10:36:02 PM »
For the record, I don't think it's retconning if the players have no idea about it.  That's just changing things on the fly, etc. -- which is parto f the whole RPG experience.

SneeR

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2011, 01:55:17 AM »
For the record, I don't think it's retconning if the players have no idea about it.  That's just changing things on the fly, etc. -- which is parto f the whole RPG experience.

My thoughts, too.

Sometimes my players just say one tiny thing, like, "That'd be cool to use as a weapon." next time they come across one, such a thing is possible--or even that very time!
The answer to everything:
[spoiler][/spoiler]
SneeR
[spoiler]
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
[/spoiler]

Necrosnoop110

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2011, 03:28:40 AM »
For the record, I don't think it's retconning if the players have no idea about it.  That's just changing things on the fly, etc. -- which is parto f the whole RPG experience.

My thoughts, too.

Sometimes my players just say one tiny thing, like, "That'd be cool to use as a weapon." next time they come across one, such a thing is possible--or even that very time!
Yes! Even further, when my PCs are discussing strategy or talking out a mystery I reactively employ their suggestions and mix them in with my own pre-planned ideas (they are none the wiser).  

RobbyPants

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2011, 09:55:58 PM »
The two types I've done are:

1) I realized a mistake that was fairly quick to fix. I usually only do this in the player's favor and not against them. It typically happens if I forget about a buff in place or something.

2) I describe something that, after more thought, just doesn't make sense. We usually figure this out pretty quickly during the description, so I don't have to retcon much.
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Libertad

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2011, 06:25:56 AM »
Many years ago, while running Paizo's Shackled City, I got the DC for a Finger of Death spell wrong and the PC succeeded at the save when I thought that he failed.  Since I realized that I had screwed up at the end of the battle, I had the PC merely be unconscious instead of "dead."

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2011, 09:40:15 PM »
I was running my supers campaign in D20 modern, and ran a whole campaign that drastically changed the city the players were based in for far, far, the worse. It was almost unusable after that session. So, start of next session, I did it, I pulled the, "...And then you wake up."

They were somewhere between annoyed and amused, as most of them had DM'd before.

Still, I turned it into a plus, as the dream turned out to be some sort of shared psychic prophecy that they managed to avert, and also allowed me to introduce the Big Bad for the campaign, as well as the final plot to end that campaign on.

Like has been said, I think that it can be done in such a way as it is additive to the campaign, rather than detrimental.

SneeR

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Re: Ever had to retcon your game?
« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2011, 12:19:11 AM »
I was running my supers campaign in D20 modern, and ran a whole campaign that drastically changed the city the players were based in for far, far, the worse. It was almost unusable after that session. So, start of next session, I did it, I pulled the, "...And then you wake up."

They were somewhere between annoyed and amused, as most of them had DM'd before.

Still, I turned it into a plus, as the dream turned out to be some sort of shared psychic prophecy that they managed to avert, and also allowed me to introduce the Big Bad for the campaign, as well as the final plot to end that campaign on.

Like has been said, I think that it can be done in such a way as it is additive to the campaign, rather than detrimental.

Nice.
I personally hate anything that says what I did doesn't matter, especially dreams. I'm glad you made it work out!
The answer to everything:
[spoiler][/spoiler]
SneeR
[spoiler]
I don't know if the designers meant you to take Skill Focus for every feat.
Sounds a little OP.

The monk is clearly the best class, no need to optimize here. What you are doing is overkill.

It's like people who have no idea what a turn signal is. They ruin it for everyone else.
When another driver brandishes a holy symbol and begins glowing with divine light, seek cover or get spattered with zombie brains. I do not see what is so complicated about this.
[/spoiler]