Last weekend featured the fourth game of my two-player dwarf-based Dungeons And Dragons game, a campaign the three of us have named "Clans And Codex". This session was particularly interesting because the players' goal in it wasn't to defeat a monster or to retrieve a treasure or to accomplish anything so heroic. They simply had to convince some politicians, bureaucrats, officials, and lords that there was a real and credible threat in the world that someone needed to look in to.
Actually, the situation was more difficult than that... they had to convince someone to actually listen to them first. Then they had to convince them to be allowed to speak to the higher ups. And then they had to convince them they weren't just making the entire thing up. Not easy to do when everyone has more important things to do.
Doubly so when some of them may be conspiring against you.
Triply so when some of the elements in your explanation really don't cast you in a good light.
Let's face it, when trying to convince the grim and stubborn lords of mighty dwarven clans that a horde of vicious goblins are arranging for a horrifying strike against the populace, it's probably best to leave out the part where you almost killed yourself sledding down the side of a mountain. Or the part where you caused some serious vandalism to some of the dwarven clans' properties. Or that you may have had a part in aggravating the goblin horde in the first place.
Since this game involved the players running around and bending the ears of several groups of people, one thing I was desperately trying to avoid was "NPC theatre". If you haven't heard the term, this is when the GM has several non-player characters interacting amongst themselves with the player characters having very little input in the scene. This happens most often in roleplaying games where there are multiple GMs, each with one or more NPCs that they are portraying. Though it may be a fascinating scene and may be a source of important plot information, I am painting it with negative connotations for a reason: the players, the real people here to participate in a game, are not really participating in the game. And their characters, the heroes of the story, are suddenly having no impact on the progression of the plot.
I knew I was doing okay, though, when one player had his character incarcerated for almost the entirety of the game... and at no point was he not enjoying himself. Seriously, out of the four-and-change hours we played, he got to play his dwarven warden a total of twenty minutes tops, only getting out of a prison cell long enough to explode on a person of political importance and get himself tossed right back in. And yet he was roleplaying the entire time, playing and defining NPCs, having a great time. It's a good sign that the entire game is engaging, not just the particular characters they created for it.
I was able to end the game on a great cliffhanger, leaving both player chomping at the bit for more. I am particularly pleased that I have been able to get those great tune-in-next-time moments in almost all of these sessions. It really wraps up the entire thing well and has all three of us finishing up just as excited about the campaign as when we first started.