We do a lot of work as DMs. We create NPCs with fascinating backstories, intricate dungeons with monsters and traps, and mythical environments to test the mettle of the heroes. It can be a rather frustrating for us when players bypass that content completely. Here are a few ways to make sure your work never goes to waste.
Save for Later
If the players completely miss the puzzle that you spent hours on its okay. Just store the puzzle for later when you need a puzzle for a different situation. I had a clever lever puzzle I had in my first Miderra campaign that just was ignored. I just kept the pieces and plopped them into a room I felt was appropriate for it in my next campaign.
Two for the Price of One
If you happen to have multiple groups or if the people at your table seem to cycle in and out there is no reason why you can’t use the same material for both groups. I have used villains, locations, and lore over multiple tables for years. This familiarity with the material allows you to run the game more smoothly and with more confidence, and is a great way to mitigate some of the stress of DMing. Also, when it comes to lore and environments, it allows the players in both games to enjoy the novelty of playing in the same world and share their own experiences in it.
Similar to the save for later, but with a different focus. Players love doing the unexpected, so having a mental catalog of different things you have to throw at the players is really beneficial. You may have this cool Black Pudding encounter that the players avoided earlier in the campaign that you’re unsure where to re-use going forward. However, when your players decide to jump down a trash bin, you can just smile and pull out those old notes and let them have it, making it all seem planned. I love when my players go ‘There is no way you planned for us to do that!’ because its often true, I didn’t. I just reuse other encounters I prepped that they were kind enough to avoid earlier and make it seem planned.
Don’t throw out your work, ever. 🙂