Matt Mercer of Critical Role provides a fantastic video explaining how to prepare for unexpected actions from players.
Really fantastic tips.
I know that in my most recent games (of which I’m running three), in Torchbearer, the players chose to completely bypass the dungeon I had set up, instead choosing to lure the BBEG out of their lair and negotiate with them. It worked! As far as the players were concerned, they were never meant to go into the dungeon. We just rolled with it.
In my Star Wars game, a group of the players decided to pursue a terrorist who had blown up a ship. I had intended for the players to lose the terrorist in the crowd, but they managed to roll really well, and found themselves in a small, slummy building, hunting for the guy. “Ah!” I thought, “They’ll never find him now!” Then one of the players revealed they had the Sense force power. I had to roll with it and introduce a few more twists to the story to keep things going.
In my D&D game, the players found themselves in Mantol-Derith, a trading post in the Underdark. The players leapt into a battle with enlarged Deurgar. One of the players, the barbarian, utterly failed, rolling two ones on a roll with advantage. I knew we couldn’t just let him go (particularly because he’s always coming up with crazy ideas that always seems to work). We rolled on the permanent injury table, which caused the barbarian to chop off his own hand. Mind you, this is a guy who’s had half of his face melted off in the past, leapt inside a giant jelly and punched his way out.
Also, two of my players have just gone mad, so there’s that.
What situations have you encountered where you just had to run with it and react on the fly?