So when I kicked off this campaign, I decided I wanted to run a straight-up improv, plotless, challenge-oriented game. I guess it's what you'd call a sandbox, but it's not a hexcrawl. It's what I'm starting to call the pinball.
The primary two characters (the players who are able to play most often) got themselves in front of a judge. This then lead (through various twists) to a mandatory stay in the army for the period of one month, bound by a magical contract.
Which sucks so hard.
It's a prime requirement of this type of play that I as the GM don't control the narrative. It's the players and the dice that decide what happens. If I don't respect that, it starts to suck. I'm divested from the outcomes, pacing or any other dramatic considerations.Which means I just follow what naturally evolves from the fiction.
The problem is that the flow took us (through no specific decision on my part) to a place where the players are at my mercy (or rather the mercy of my NPCs), specifically under a commanding authority. Which means they can't make their own choices. Which mean I have to tell them what to do. Which bores me right out of my skull. It's the worst thing ever.
Here's a note to self: Do not have an NPC authority above the PCs in a Pinball game, ever. Seriously. Don't do it. Unless it's (a) not a Pinball and possibly that kind of game where missions are handed out or (b) it's done as a kicker. I should print it out in big flaming letters and keep in in front of me when we play: "don't have outcomes in mind".
The funny thing about the whole thing is that this chain of events in fact got started by a moment where I forgot my duties and played towards the future, rather than the now. So it's probably my fault, objectively speaking.
So now I'm in a double-bind. I got the game into a rut by forgetting to take my hand off the steering wheel. But the only way I can get it out of the rut is by taking hold the steering wheel. The answer is obvious, but annoying.