Month: April 2018

Current Running

I thought I would share my current campaign for Age of Swords. This is set in my world setting of the Wildworld.

This campaign serves as a playtest for version 4 of the game. I am now working on version 5. I try not to change rules mid playtest, but I learned a lot out of this running. So I might have them convert the Heroes to version 5.

I had the players start at level 1. They have been rapidly advancing in level. It is a group of seven players, but on average four players, a session can make it. At this point, the Heroes range from level 5 to 2. These level range because of missed sessions and deaths. Two Heroes have died, and their replacements started at Level 1.

The Backstory

The Heroes begin in the Summerland territory. Until two hundred years ago, this area was apart of the Seagod Kingdom. The northern region of the kingdom started to convert to the Music god. This eventually lead to a civil war known as the Brinestone Revolt. At the end of the revolt, the nation had two breakaway regions. Summerland was one of those regions and became a federation of city-states united by their faith in the Music God.

Then 180 years after their independence, the eastern Five Crown Empire invaded by sea. Summerland quickly fell. It is now a colonial state of the Empire.

With shifts in political power and trade, Summerland has been having booms and busts economies as different cities and region adjust to the far away whims of the Empire. The land is under the control of four governors who plot for Imperial favors.

The Railroad Part of the Story Beginning:

The Heroes began as people of Mayway Valley, a district of Summerland that has suffered under Imperial rule due to their traditional trade routes being made obsolete.

Each player got to choose their race. I did ask for them to be a diverse party, so everyone picked different classes. As some of the players have since died, their new Heroes do have some overlaps in race and class. I haven’t cared, I just wanted them to start off on sound footing.

All of my runnings, I give the players some character background restriction. In this case, I gave them the following:

  1. They needed to play disenfranchised people of the Mayway Valley. Coming from a poor family or families that have lost their wealth.
  2. Each needed to be someone who would willingly travel to Pe’dock in the hopes of a better life.

These restrictions are not too severe. But they force the party to have similar backgrounds and motivations. They are playing poor people seeking to better their lives. Some of the players started off knowing each other, while others were traveling by themselves.

There was only one Hero that I had to work extra to get into the party, but then he was the first to die. And in the second battle! When a Level 1 Hero gets 4 hits in a round, it is hard for him to survive it.

So at Level 1, the Heroes were stragglers of a Dwarven caravan traveling to the city of Pe’dock. Pe’docks promise of prosperity and jobs thanks to the Empire expanding the harbor. The road to Pe’dock was once a lifeline of the Summerland Federation. Now it is forgotten. The Empire is a naval power, and all trade is now by sea.

The Plotted Adventure Begins:

On the way to Pe’dock, the Dwarven caravan was attacked by goblins. The party got separated from the Dwarves who march on ahead. With a member of the party poisoned, they retreated to a village they had passed days before.

The villagers healed them. They told the Heroes that the goblins invaded their forest a year ago. Since then twelve of the villagers have died. They have suffered because they traditionally hunt the forest for food. The town passed around a collection plate and offered them the puny award for their help. The party agreed to help the village and started their war on the goblins of the forest.

After a couple of fights against the goblins, the Goblin Chief wanted to talk to them. The goblins were only in the forest because a Mage has displaced them from there bog. The Goblin Chief promised a treasure of stolen Dwarven weapons and armor if the party would get rid of the Mage so they could return home.

The party followed the goblin instructions and traveled to a lost temple in a bog. There they fought the minions of an Echo Mage until they came to an agreement with him.

The Mage had been stuck here for a year. In a secret dungeon under the temple, his Imp companions had betrayed him. Now, the Imps were trapped inside, but he could not get to them. Perhaps the party could… so the party made a deal.

He promised them the loot of the temple if he could just get an item of the spoils. It was agreed. The party entered the dungeon and killed the Imps. They had a fortune in gold treasure! But then the Mage betrayed.

Years Later… So Starts the Fox Hunt style adventure.

One of the party members “woke up.” He was being tortured by some Nagas over a piece of treasure he had pocketed in the dungeon. He escaped and came to realize that for the last three years, his memory and personality had been wiped. With his memory and energy restore, he remembers the Echo Mage betrayal.

He then found the other party members and woke them up too. Now the party is on a mission to get revenge on the Mage and get their treasure back.

My GM Notes on the Story Structure.

Okay, the evil Mage betraying the party is an old troupe. But I feel it is a good foundation for this story. The party is well motivated to get their revenge. It allows me to Hourglass this story building it around their desire for revenge. I do have a story I want to explore. I know they are on board because their goal is to kill the Mage.

Like most of my campaigns, I Railroad the first 1 or 2 hours to get the party on the tracks and then step back. That is how I did this one too. They were mainly running a module I wrote for the first session. The first battle was wholly scripted, and the whole session was well thought out. All the way to the Mage betraying them was somewhat planned. They threw out some surprises, but since they were going monster killing and treasure hunting it was simple to adjust.

Now that they are on a Fox Hunt, I just sit back. It is a Sandbox where their goals are clearly defined. So while they do their actions against the Mage, the players are discovering parts of the story I plan to end the adventure arc on. It is building up. It involves the Mage’s upcoming revolt against the Empire using the Nagas as pawns.

The Mage has a bunch of Sharkniod minions. These are a cross between a frog and a shark. They do a lot of damage but are not too hard to take out. Two party members did come close to dying while fighting them, so they work well as a threat. This has allowed me to get some fights in with this new creature I have designed and adding to my world. There is a whole area of the map they will infest.

The party has learned that the city of Pe’dock was built on the ruins of an ancient Naga city. And that below the city, there are tunnels that the Naga still live in. They have made an ally with a Naga Prince, but do not really know the full scope or power of the Naga. I hope to get them more involve with the Naga in the future. I have some ideas, but it will be interesting to see if they bite on it.

Nagas are also being added to my world. They will play a more serious role as a significant villain in future stories, so another chance to playtest them out.

They do know that the Mage is using an element he found in the temple to create an item to control the Naga. It is a repeat of the device he uses to control the Sharknoids. They believe that with this army, he hopes to take over the region.

They have also learned that the Mage is well connected and a personal friend of the Governor. So they know the local government is on the side of the Mage.

The Location is Important to me as a GM.

All of this adventuring has taken place within one month travel of the city of Pe’dock. They have visited two local villages, becoming friends with one and enemies of another. They have explored a jungle temple and even returned there later to gather more information.

Keeping the story and adventuring locally is crucial to me. I want to flush out this part of my world. And the best way to do this is to have a party adventure in it. They have already discovered the lore of a forgotten god, origins of some monsters, and the political dynamics of the city-state.

They have been both friends and enemies of the local goblin tribe. In the sewers of the city, they have discovered new enemies and friends. They have had interactions with the provincial governor and some Imperial agents.

I hope that the entire story arc takes places in this region. On a few occasion, they have plotted to go to Summerland and the Kingdom of the Seagod in hopes to find the Mage’s family. If they did this, it would not be a disaster but would not further the adventure.

They have also talked about making the long trip to the Five Crown Empire. This would also be a waste of time. I am afraid they might make this trip. If they do, it might put a wrinkle in the story, and I will have to adjust for it.

Currently in the Running

The party was able to kill the Mage in a battle but then discovered that it was an Echo Clone. Early they had encountered an Echo Clone, but it didn’t really click with them that he had them out in the world. They know the Mage has a powerful amulet, so they are sure that when they kill the real Mage, they can identify them by this item.

The party has been able to steal a key component in the Mage’s plans. They have learned that he is out in the wilds forging his item. They have been trying to figure out the best tactic to use having this item against him. Some want to attack him during the forging while others think they should wait.

Next Time

It will be interesting to see what they choose to do next time we play. My group bounces back and forth between two GM because we have such busy lives.

I missed a session two weeks ago, so they moved forward with another story that has been running for a while. This other story has been a long drawn campaign. I am in no rush to get back to my running as I have more work to do on version 5. When it is ready, we will switch back and hopefully finish this adventure arc.

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I want my +1!

Once again I find myself responding to a D&D question that keeps showing up on Facebook. This one is about the idea of a Called Shots. This question is for 5e, but my advice applies to all editions.

As a GM, I consider the Called Shot to be a narrative tool.

By making a Called Shot, the player is giving me more to work with for the story. Then, I let the damage dice decide. In this way, the Called Shot works without changing the game mechanics, but it will affect the narrative.

Before I get into a long tangent, what the player is looking for with the Called Shot is a bonus. Instead of giving them a bonus, I have high damage mean the Called Shot happened narratively.

Imagine being in a game and the party is fighting some Orcs. One of the players, Todd says he wants to hit the Orc in the neck with his spear. Some GM has a penalty and bonus mechanism for the roll. This GM gives the attack Disadvantage but provides a bonus with 1d6 to damage. So he makes the attack, hits the neck, and then he rolls the worst: 2 damage.

Meanwhile, player Nick makes a normal attack, hits, and then rolls max damage of 10!

Well, where did Nick hit? It seems strange that he did 10 damage hitting some random part of the body while the Called Shot did 2 damage? Afterall, a hit to the neck should be severe. It asks, what is the point of hitting the neck?

It comes down to that D&D has never been a Called Shot system. The damage die system was always there to regulate the hits. A low damage roll is a poorly placed attack while the high rolls are hitting vials. Adding a Called Shot on top of the damage die system makes it worst.

Okay, so on to the real reason I want to talk about Called Shots. There is a tendency for players always to be looking for power. They cannot help themselves. They’re drawn to it like gnats. And the system award this mentality. There are levels to get, gold to claim, and magic items to find. Power, and power, and more power.

As a GM, your default view should be to limit power.

Players will always be asking for more power. I am suspicious of these requests. I feel I should not give them unless there is an incredibly compelling case to do so. In this area, I find myself saying “No” all the time.

On the flip side, I seek to say “Yes” to Heroic Deeds. If the Player wants to do something bold and brave, I look at it through the lens of how-to-allow-it. I also say “Yes” to competence. My default position is to view the Heroes as skilled and talented. It annoys me when a GM treats my Hero as an incompetent fool.

But back to request for more power. My advice falls in a tricky area. Ultimately, the Heroes needs to advance in power. They need to level, they need gold, and they need items. And the system itself recognizes these needs.

The Heroes get more powerful as they level. As GM, I do have gold and item for them to find. So in his way, they will be getting power.

However, the power I plan is never enough. The players are always going to be looking for more. They are going to search places I had not considered. They will take things I was not expecting. And like the murderous raccoons they are, they will steal power any chance they get.

The power I am talking about mostly manifests itself in the shape of little bonuses. They are a +1 here and a +1 there. For example, a +1 to AC, a +1 to hit, a +1 to damage, a +1, +1, +1. And all these little +1 add up. Soon they have +3 to hit and +6 to damage with all these little +1 running around.

And here is the crucial part to realize, all of these +1 do not come in the shape of items.

The players are also looking for bonuses in the narrative and rules ruling. Even within metagame areas, the players are pushing for another +1.

It is for this reason they are making the Called Shot. It is nothing more than another obvious ploy to get more power. They are hoping I will give a bonus to hit or to damage. Whatever shape the +1 comes, they will take it. And once I do give it, that is now in their pocket to use again in the future. In this campaign and the next one.

It is all over the game. It is all over the FB posts I read. Daily there are posts. My player wants to dip his claws in metal; he wants a bonus. My player killed this enemy and skinned it;  she wants a +1 AC. My player did xyz… and they are asking for a reward.

The players are relentless. Again, I cannot blame them?

Many GM gives in. They are like Ophra handing out cars, “You get a +1! You get a +1. Everyone gets a +1!!!”

These GMs feel they are encouraging their players to roleplay and be creative. They are not.

All they are encouraging is the push for more +1s. For more greed. Asking for an advantage is not roleplaying but the endless pursuit of power.

My advice is to deny this bonuses. Your default should be, “No.” Because, on occasion, you will say “Yes.” There will be times it makes sense. The player asks, and you think, “Yeah a +1 here does make sense.”

The GM is his worst enemy. We want them to have fun. But the reality is limitations, challenges, and denying is the pathway to having fun. If you always give the players what they want, they will stop having fun. It is human nature.

As an afterthought, once I do give out the +1, I then go back and think about the impact it has on the world. For a perfect example, was when I made the Basilisk monster give +1 leather armor. It changed my world.

So I am happy to hear my players make Called Shots. It helps with the narration for big hits, but I generally do not award them with a bonus. Because on the rare occasion, I do.

Introduction: Age of Swords

Age of Swords is a tabletop role-playing game set in the Wildworld: a land recovering from a global war between rival sibling gods that toppled empires and released a horde of monsters.

After the creation gods created the Nine Clans and the world, they ascended into heaven. Two siblings gods lingered. These gods had opposite beliefs on how the Nine Clans should live their lives. Unable to reconcile their differences, it came to war. Caught in the middle, the Nine Clans were made to choose sides. After hundreds of years, victory was at hand. Foreseeing her destruction, the sister god sought to annihilate all life and start the world anew. To stop this Armageddon, the Fathergod descending from heaven and forcing his children to retire. Two thousand years have passed, and in all that time the gods have remained silent.

The world has entered a new era. An age of kings, whose armies fight against the savages to reclaim land once lost. It is an age of optimism where townsfolk are looking beyond their city wall and feeling safe again. An age of sails where the seas trade once again brings riches. It is an age of discovery where adventures journey the Wildlands; exploring the fallen ruins and deep dungeons to find treasures of the old world. And it is an Age of Swords where the horrors fight back against the intrusion into their vast holdings.

As a Player, you get to choose one of five Hero archetypes. What will your choice be? The fearless Warrior who is strongest when in the middle of a battle? Or the sly Skirmisher, a mobile fighter whose strength lies in attacking the enemies flanks? The modern Elemental who can manipulate a single magical element for devastating effects? Perhaps you will choose the Shaman, brandishing a blade in one hand and wielding spells with the other. Then there is the simple Commoner who curses his luck to be on such a wild and dangerous journey. Unknown to all, the player also controls an unnamed god who uses their secret Theos magic to further the Commoners cause.

Age of Swords offers a fast pace, combat system. It also has a leveling system that allows lower-level Heroes able to adventure with higher level ones. This system keeps monsters relevant throughout the gaming process. If a Hero is a match for a Goblin at low levels, then several will still challenge them at a higher level.
It also keeps a Hero’s death from crippling a story. Meanwhile, high-level Heroes are expected to retire and allow for the next generation to take on the adventure’s mantle.

Other features of Age of Swords

  • One system for Action rolls: The same mechanics govern both in and out of combat action. It is quick and easy to learn. Heroes progress on three different attack types and match these scores up against one of the enemy’s two defensive scores. With nine combinations, it allows for different Heroes to shine against various monsters in combat.
  • Website interaction: The game will include a website with forums to assist players with new content and abilities. In this way, Age of Swords can rapidly expand and adjust to GMs needs without waiting years for an expansion.
  • Designed to be Homebrewed: Built around their abilities and modular components, the GM can adapt the system to match their needs. In your world warriors have a unique talent? Add it to the options list. It is that easy to manipulate.
  • Player’s choices: Using the ability system, Hero gets to choose when to use them in combat. The abilities have all sorts of effects including taking extra attacks, gaining bonuses to rolls, causing additional damage, and giving aid to others.
  • Invisible clerics: It provides a system of playing clerics in worlds “without” gods. It allows gods to influence events by silently pulling strings behind the scenes. These powers work to manipulate the rules and game mechanics to give the Heroes an edge.
  • Flexible mages: There are several magic systems built around the power of the lower level spells. Some of the Mages have collapsing spell trees, where they were with various spell abilities all linked together. Cast a spell and options will close.

Out of the Comfort Zone

I have been playing the game off and on for 30 years.

In the beginning, I would say I played a lot of chaotic selfish Heroes. I even had the notoriety as someone you need to “watch your back.” Some of the Heroes I played, this was true. But I didn’t like the reputation, and so I tried to play better characters.

I think there is an evolution of roleplaying. In the beginning, players start off playing selfish thugs. Hopefully, they evolve out of this style. It isn’t guaranteed it will happen. Being aware and pushing oneself to play at a higher level helps.

Here is a bit of my own history of roleplaying.

About 25 years ago, I was at a new friend’s house. He offered to run me and some friends on an adventure. It seemed a one-shot, so when I rolled terrible stats, I just decided to go with it. My Mage was so awful, his best stat was 16, a lot of 11s, and even a 6. Up until this point, “magically” every Hero I played had one or two 18s. Yes, I was that guy.

I named the Hero, Kow, and played as a hireling of the party. I felt my guy was so bad, I couldn’t take top billing. The campaign continued for years! Kow went on to become one of the most fun Heroes I have ever played.

What I discovered from playing Kow, was that playing Heroes with flaws and weakness was more interesting than playing the perfect killing machine.

So with a few exceptions, I started to play Heroes with a few bad stats. Not “dump stats,” to min/max. I would just assign 1 or 2 terrible stats. I once made a Fighter with 6 Strength and 8 Consitution. He didn’t die, but the story ended too soon to see how he would play.

Nowadays, having amazing stats don’t interest me. Sometimes when the party is a whole bunch of 18 strength Heroes, I feel I need to have an 18 strength too. But I rather the entire party be modest stats.

Playing these Heroes with flaws lead me to the next discovery of roleplaying.

For the longest time, I would play just about ever Hero the same. Sure they would have an outer level that was different to them. If playing an Elf, I would put on that elf costume. Playing a Warlock, then a Warlock costume. But all of these characters deep inside were the equivalent.

They were all tactics smart and on the lookout for items. Always looking to get power, avoid unconsciousness, and not to do stupid stuff. Be clever and intelligent. If the Hero had a 6 Int, then add a silly voice and do “stupid” things when it didn’t matter. Play him dumb in a smart way.

I remember the point where I first broke this pattern.

I was playing a “Cowboy” fighter who came to convince the party to help his village. Everyone had levels and items on him, so he was underpowered. At an old battlesight, I discovered an ancient arrow sticking to a wall. As an experienced player, I immediately knew this was a magic item. And since it had been on the wall for 2,000 years, surely a powerful one too. So what did I do?

As a Cowboy, I picked the arrow off of the wall checked to see if it was gold. When it wasn’t, I threw it away! The GM was so shocked, he laughed. Later, other party members scrambled to pocket the arrow. But for me, it was just an old valueless arrow.

These days, playing Heroes who make mistakes is amusing. No longer do I like to think through Heroes turns (unless playing a tactician). There are many times the GM says to me, “Oh that won’t work.” And instead of saying, “Oh then I do this instead.” I just say, “Oh well, I did it anyway.” Therefore wasting the turn.

Having my Hero waste turns, do poor plans, pass over treasure, or any other error makes me feel good. I am not saying every Hero I play does this or does this 100% of the time. I mean when it feels right in the moment and true to their personality, I make a knowing blunder. I am trying to remove that inner need to always make the intelligent play and letting the Hero’s goals and personally guide me.

I realize I still have more work to do.

For example, I do not like it when my Hero goes unconscious. When unconscious, I am at the whims of the other party members to when I can rejoin the game. The other players might choose to play on for a short-time or long-time before taking a break. During that time, I am a spectator.

Because of this aversion to being on the sidelines, I tend to play mages and clerics. Any Hero that isn’t on the frontlines. I am trying to change that.

  • I think my next Hero will be a guy who charges into every battle. He will be reckless and protective other others. He will leap in the way of attacks to save allies. Perhaps play him a bit on the suicide side and see where that takes me.

In the meantime, I have been pushing myself to explore characters I would have never considered in my youth. These would have taken me out of my comfort zone.

Here are a few of recent Heroes:

  • My current Hero is a cross-dressing Mage. He only feels powerful when dressing as a woman. He is careful as to who he shares this information. When dressed as a man I played him miserable and pessimistic. When in a dress, happy and optimistic. I based him on Ed Woods, the famous B-movie director who made his films cross-dressing.
  • I played a Cleric who was actually a serial killer. In the past, I have played evil characters but don’t think I have played one like this. I played him as kind and loyal as possible. He helped his community, was generous to his people, and to most of the people he met. He created a split in religion to justify his insanity and gave his god human sacrifices even when this was not the way to worship him. In reality, he hated his god and was seeking to supplant him. It didn’t matter to me that his goals were impossible. He both worshiped his god, built his church, and undermined him at the same time.
  • One of the most enjoyable Heroes I recently played was a closeted gay Barbarian. In total deny of his sexual identity. To the party, his homosexuality was apparent. In this way, he was a lot like Tobias Fünke. Most people saw it, but he didn’t. And being a barbarian, it was dangerous to mention it to him.

I understand if these odd Heroes would not interest most people. The idea is to explore areas that take me out of my comfort zone. In identifying with these Heroes, it has helped me to understand others. Playing an RPG is a way to walk in another man’s shoes.

Roleplaying games offer more to the players than just entertainment. I really believe it can help us all become better people. I know for me it has made me a more empathic person. I hope you find yourself exploring and pushing yourself to try Heroes with new core beliefs and challenge your basic tendencies and patterns.

Hourglass

This post is a little rambly. It covers some ideas about GM storytelling and control.

Every week, I GM a group of 3-6 players using my system Age of Swords.

This system is a fantasy role-playing game set in the Wildworld. My dream is to publish it this year, but who knows if that will happen. Regardless, a story is a story and what I am talking about applies to any RPG.

When planning out a session, I tend to write 1 major plot point per hour. It is incredible that it can take this long to get a single plot point done, but it is what it is. I will also have a couple of go-to encounters in case I need to adjust events for timing.

Lastly, I try to make the last plot point of the evening a bit of a cliffhanger. In this way, we come back on some tension. This device is a tried and true method of all writers.

It might sound like this sort of planning is to Railroad the players.

Most GMs do not want this much planning because they are afraid they will Railroad. Planning out story is not Railroading. The Angry DM has a great article about Railroading that I believe should be read. Also, there is the concept of a Fox Hunt.

I use what I call the Hourglass style.

The Hourglass is a mixture of both a Sandbox and a Fox Hunt/Railroading. It is an open story that has choke point that must happen. I give the Heroes a lot of leeways to do what they want, but at the same time, I am steering them to my story points.

When I say steering, I am not forcing. Carrots are better than sticks. Session 0 is essential in aligning the Heroes motivations with the story you are telling. It is for this reason, I believe placing limitations on a campaign during Hero creation is so important. I plan to talk more about Limitations on Hero creation in great detail soon.

In my current running, the Heroes are seeking revenge on a powerful Mage who stole gold and years of their lives from them.

He did this by betraying them and then wiping their recent memories. Then three years later, one of the Heroes “wakes” up and remembers what happened. He then goes and finds all the other players and helps them get their memories back. They are all now poor nobodies, who remember have a fortune of treasure stolen from them. They are pissed and seeking revenge.

Therefore, the players are 100% guiding themselves as they try to locate and kill this Mage. While doing so, they have discovered the Mage is seeking to build an item that will increase his power by controlling the Nagas that secretly live in the region.

The story I want to tell is about the rise of a Naga Queen, the eventually Queen’s attempt to take over the region, and the fate of the Nagas as a people. I hope that the Heroes will get on board to stop the Queen when the attack happens. But I am not forcing them to do so. Right now, they are trying to track down this Mage they hate and kill him solely for revenge.

However, the Mage is all up in the Naga’s business. So each time they deal with NPCs about the Mage, they are learning more about the Nagas. In this way, I do not need to Railroad anything. They want revenge, and I can happily sit back and let them Sandbox their way to the Mage. In the meantime, there are some key story points involving the Naga that they need to discover.

Last week, they just started to interact with some of the Rogue Nagas that are working against the Queen. How did this happen? Because many of the avenues of investigation keep bring up the Nagas until they decided to go looking into it. They came to the conclusion that the Rogue Nagas might be allies in their war against the Mage. They now have a crucial partner in the Naga story, and I hope to get them more involve with the Naga as they continue to seek revenge.

One of the tricks to Railroad players without them knowing is what I call “All roads lead to Rome.”

As GM, imagine you need the players to go to Rome. Whatever you do, do not tell them this information. Just try to figure out what they want to do, and then present a road to Rome.

  • The players just killed a dragon and wish to use the dragon scales to make magical armor. Well, they learn the best smith for this job is in Rome.
  • They are getting on a boat to go to Athens, it gets attacked. The ship is shipwrecked. They have a great adventure on the island. When they finally get rescued, it is by a boat going to Rome.
  • They are seeking revenge against a noble, the noble flees to get protection in the city of Rome.
  • They want to learn more about the dungeon before going into it. There is a Sage who has this information in Rome.

Once the Heroes have a road to Rome, you have to stop making all roads lead there. Otherwise, it is total Railroading. But you can leave a few events to come up from now and then that need to go to Rome.

The Angry GM talked about Railroading as a battle for control. And I agree with him.

The best tools the GM can use in this battle is patience.

The Heroes don’t want to go to Rome and do your fantastic adventure, then relax! Find out what they want to do and do that for a while. Then work behind the scenes to find a reason they will want to go to Rome.

Perhaps you want them to go to Rome at level 2 but they get there at level 5. Well, add a few more monsters to the adventure and press forward.

In the end, patience is your best tool as a GM.