[RPG] How to deal with players who make friends with goblins


I want to run a campaign "from the book" for a group of new players (played RPGs before, but stuff much much lighter then D&D, and I've not DMed this edition before. I DMed D&D 4e once: over prepared in some areas, under prepared in others, so the pacing was horrible and off putting. I didn't run it again (although the players seemed happy to try again).

My concern: by trying to run it "from the book" I might accidentally railroad them too much, while they need to fight in order to earn the experience needed from that encounter in order to level for other parts of the adventure, or that changing events too far from the module will cause errors in continuity, that will force me to improvise too much for my first game.

How can I avoid the players "making friends with goblins" – or, in other words, what is the motivation for various random encounter battles that are supposed to be had to level the players up?

This question has been edited to focus solely on the leveling / experience portion of avoiding encounters. For Plot considerations associating with published adventures, I have moved that to: How do I keep a published adventure playthrough 'on rails' without removing player agency?

Best Answer

What’s wrong with making friends with goblins?

The DMG says (p. 260) that you get XP “[w]hen adventurers defeat one or more monsters-typically by killing, routing or capturing them ...”

That means there are atypical ways of defeating monsters - turning them into friends is one of these.

Naturally, there should be risk, sacrifice and challenge in the social encounter just as there would be in a combat encounter and as DM you are free to adjust the XP award as you see fit. Remember that players respond to incentives: if war-war pays better than jaw-jaw then that’s what you’ll get and vice versa.

Oh, and friendships in D&D always create complications.

A recent session saw us come face to face with a blue dragon. This is in a sandbox campaign so we had no way of knowing if this was a fight we could win. So we humiliated ourselves, flattered and bribed the dragon and lived to fight another day.