Ideally, every new campaign you design has complete player buy in. You’ve discussed systems, options, flavor, outlined the basic thrust of the game, and everyone is on the same page and ready to go. In reality though, some games defy the full disclosure approach. Sometimes you want to throw in a major twist, some concepts are ruined by full disclosure, and other times you need to start work well before your roster is finalized.

Campaign ideas that may have problems with full disclosure:

  • Campaigns featuring foes such as doppelgangers, enchanters, or illusionists
  • Campaigns with a major twist
  • Espionage or similar genre games
  • Campaigns with minimal planning
  • Campaigns which you’re planning in isolation

Whenever you can’t utilize the full disclosure approach, you run a greater risk of player dissatisfaction and campaign implosion, so it’s essential to do what you can to balance the scales back in your favor. Here are some tips to fortify games that couldn’t be fully disclosed:

1. Disclose everything you can
Just because you can’t disclose everything, doesn’t mean you can’t disclose anything. Discuss and disclose all parts of your game that you can, and discuss as close to your non-disclosed portions as you’re able without giving them away.

2. Disclose as soon as you can
When your non-disclosure is due to logistics issues and you’re not able to discuss campaign options with players, make sure that you disclose as soon a you can. By the same token, once your secret twist has been revealed, consider another quick round of disclosure.

3. Don’t use this as an excuse for an unwanted bait and switch
Sometimes when your players are belligerent little snots don’t have the same taste in games as you do, it can be tempting to pitch one style of game, then throw in a “secret twist” that forces them into a game you know full well they wouldn’t have signed up for. Avoid that temptation. First, you couldn’t beg harder for a ruined campaign if you tried. Second, it can cause some major trust issues and cost you your players.

4. Choose your battles carefully
During game discussions, you have lots of ideas and players have lots of ideas. If you know you’re holding back details that may cause problems later, stack the deck in your favor by giving the players what they want in other areas. Sure, you may hate running the new edition, but one more thing that keeps your players happy with the game will be a benefit later when things get shaken up.

5. If all else fails, adapt
If your players loath your secret twist and your options are to downplay it’s significance, or can the campaign, consider your options carefully. Building a new campaign from the ground up is a lot of work, and if you can gracefully transform your secret twist into a minor plot arc and keep your players from walking, it’s probably a good idea. On the other hand, if dropping your concept is tantamount to creating a new campaign from scratch anyway, starting over may be your best bet. Give it careful thought, discuss it with your players, then choose what’s best for everyone.

What are some campaigns you’ve run where you’ve purposely withheld full disclosure and why?