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Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Jack Aidley on June 05, 2003, 03:43:05 AM
So there was this nun, a woodsman and a petty criminal. It sounds like the setup for a joke, but is in fact my current party. I think I'd better tell you a little about the setup before I go on with my tale.

Living With The Talent is set in a low-fantasy world. There are no non-human races, although there are (probably) magical beings. There is a psionic-like ability that some humans possess called the Talent. The Talent is actively supressed by the Braedect Empire (think Roman-esque), with a strange and terrifying group called the Seekers hunting down and burning anyone who possesses it. The characters all have the Talent to one degree or another. In addition to The Talent there a (very) few individuals who wield the True Magic, most notably the Fire Mage who's lands border close to where the players are, and the Necromancer who's lands lie far to the south.

The first few sessions went well, the characters met up in a not-too-contrived way after being forced from their usual places by the coming seekers. An early encounter ended with them killing a Seeker, this wasn't entirely according to plan, since it removed some of their mystery, but it did give the game extra impetous so I wasn't too put out. They travelled onwards and game to Invillius, a Braedect villa and nearby village, where they discovered strange happening - the servants seemed zombie-like and rude, the peasants weren't tending the fields, the one peasant they did see turned out to be farming the same spot all day. On further inspection they discovered some kind of camp within the village, but fled when they discovered they were being watched by about twenty cats arranged in a semi-circle around them.

I was dead pleased, the players were getting well into character, and talking to one another in character, I'd established some interesting going ons, created some worthwhile plot hooks and got the characters' spooked.

And then it started going wrong. They decided to head back to the nearby fort and tell them of the problem rather than investigate further. Then they decided that they needed to continue running, and headed off east along the border road, and away from everything I had set up... As they approached the next fort along the border road, they saw signal fires being lit behind them and then troops being sent back along the way they came.

I'm at something of a loss now, I don't want to railroad them back towards the things I've setup and I don't want to break my cardinal rule of roleplaying:

The Plot Is What The Characters Do

But I also don't want to abandon the events I've set in motion. Or just run a game where they're just running from village to village (it gets old fast). Any and all advice, comments and analysis welcome.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Fabrice G. on June 05, 2003, 04:11:17 AM
Hi Mr Jack,

Quote from: Mr Jack
The Plot Is What The Characters Do

But I also don't want to abandon the events I've set in motion.



The good news : you don't have to.

If you want to proritize the decisions of your players, the only thing not to do is force them to your planned event (via kidnapping, or another form of railroading).

What you can do is understand why they decided to flee. In matter of character's behavior that can be emphasized to be meaningfull. Let me explain...
The characters find something strange and yet the players decide to make them flee. You might want to know if it means :
 1) the players like what is happening but playing their character ( actor stance) decide that it's way to dangerous and that the only logical solution is to get the hell out of here ;
 or
 2) the players don't really enjoy what happen and use the "escape" as a way to say to you : "nope, we're not interested in that". (author stance)

Not being with your group, I can't know if it's either 1) or 2)

If you found out it's option 1), well... You have many options.
- make their choice to flee meaningfull : they go, but they leave behind them all their loved ones/familly/friends/etc. That says a lot about theit characters.
- keep all you had planned, simply remember : now, it's just mere color ; a background to better show why they are on the loose, and why they act like they do.

Remember that if you want  that what your players want is what make the plot, you ahve to consider all your nifty ideas of what shoud happen/have happened as secondary at best.

So, to reacap: find why it went that way ; then, focus upon what your players want and use what you planned/prepared as color to highlight their actions and decisions.

Hope that it helps,

Fabrice.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Scripty on June 05, 2003, 05:45:15 AM
Who's to say that the fort (or someone thereabouts) is not somehow in on this strangeness? Or even behind it all?

Not to railroad them or anything, but if your game were approached from a cinematic standpoint there's no way that the people in the fort wouldn't somehow be involved.

When players give you chicken...
Make chicken pot pie.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: arxhon on June 05, 2003, 03:11:12 PM
Work the Seekers back in. There is a Seeker at the fort, asking questions about the murdered Seeker (remember, the one the PC's killed?)

This should complicate things nicely.

Then,  start having strange things happen at the fort, like being followed by cats, and more peasants "farming the same spot".

They can't run from their problems for long. If they do, the problems just get worse.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Lxndr on June 05, 2003, 03:36:04 PM
Maybe I'm misreading, but they've already been to AND LEFT the fort, so that Seeker arxhon just suggested putting at the fort is still one or two steps behind the PCs.  Or do you mean at fort #2?  Hrm.

Right now, it seems as though they're fleeing Invillius, where the weirdness was first discovered, and are also fleeing the fort, thinking they're not far enough away from the danger.  By the time they reach fort #2, troops are being sent back along the way they came.

The weirdness can still be here.  You can have it happen without even railroading.  What is your reason behind fort #2 sending troops down towards fort #1?  Or do you not yet have a meaning behind that image?


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: John Kim on June 05, 2003, 04:08:59 PM
Quote from: arxhon
Work the Seekers back in. There is a Seeker at the fort, asking questions about the murdered Seeker (remember, the one the PC's killed?)

This should complicate things nicely.

Then,  start having strange things happen at the fort, like being followed by cats, and more peasants "farming the same spot".

They can't run from their problems for long. If they do, the problems just get worse.

In story terms, it seems to me that there is a flaw here.  What do a nun, a woodman, and a petty criminal have to do with what is going on with cats, zombie servants, and so forth?  What makes it their story?  arxhon -- you characterize this as the PCs fleeing from their problems, but it seems to me that this isn't their problem.  That's why they're running away from it.  They have no reason to investigate it, and it seems very dangerous -- probably life-threatening.  

Personally, my approach would be to give the PCs more power and more information.  If you want them to investigate, then they have to feel that investigation is potentially more worthwhile than the risk to their lives.  You need to (1) reduce the perceived risk, and/or (2) suggest a positive gain from their point-of-view.    

To suggest what that would be, I need to know more about the PCs.  That should really be the start in the first place.  Who are they?  What are their issues, their motivations?  If you want a good story, that should be what you should think about first.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Paul Czege on June 05, 2003, 04:52:09 PM
Hi Jack,

Personally, my approach would be to give the PCs more power and more information.

John is exactly right. Here's how I'd do it. I'd get the events with the players to a tense moment...and I'd cut from the scene. Then I'd frame one of the players into a scene back at the villa, as an NPC. Maybe as a centurion who's about to discover something horrible. Maybe as someone with the Talent, who's overhearing a conversation in a public place. Give them some real drama in these scenes...violence breaks out during a discussion of politics...a bizarre creature attacks. You can do whatever you want, because these NPCs aren't the player characters and it doesn't matter if they die. And I'd cut suspensefully from some of these scenes before wounded characters are firmly established as being dead. I'd do individual scenes like this with each player...maybe twice around the room like this, boldly revealing information about the situation in each scene, before ultimately getting back to the player character group and their own tense moment. If you do it right, the players will return to Invillius...because that's where they'll envision their heroism happening.

Recognize though, that there's an implied contract in it. If you screw them over when they go back, they'll never trust you again.

Paul


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: John Kim on June 05, 2003, 10:39:15 PM
Quote from: Paul Czege
 John is exactly right. Here's how I'd do it. I'd get the events with the players to a tense moment...  

There's nothing necessarily wrong with that suggestion -- but I would say we really need more information on the PCs and the players before any suggestion is more than a shot in the dark.  Whatever is done, it needs to be about them.  

Quote from: Paul Czege
 Recognize though, that there's an implied contract in it. If you screw them over when they go back, they'll never trust you again.  

This is totally true.  This happened to me in an Ars Magica campaign.  NPC magi kept turning on us and being dangerous and antagonistic for no good reason.  Eventually, we said "We're going to Crete" -- precisely because Crete was far away from everyone else.  We did everything we could to avoid any involvement with other magi.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Jack Aidley on June 06, 2003, 02:06:46 AM
Wow. That's a lot of good replies, I'll try an answer as best I can.

Fabrice G
Quote
the players like what is happening but playing their character ( actor stance) decide that it's way to dangerous and that the only logical solution is to get the hell out of here


Yes, I think that's the correct interpretation. The players themselves seems to be quite interested in what is going, but their characters are already on the run, and really pretty spooked by all this.

Quote
Remember that if you want that what your players want is what make the plot, you have to consider all your nifty ideas of what shoud happen/have happened as secondary at best.


I do, I've run my game this way for a while, and I've never really had a problem before. But this time... I dunno, I think the problem is that the setting concept I'd originally come up with is too narrow. The inital moments of the game wrenched the characters away from anything they were familiar with (as they are all running from the seekers), and I haven't really established any points of contact to work from. I don't really see how I can until they stop running.

arxhon

Quote
Work the Seekers back in. There is a Seeker at the fort, asking questions about the murdered Seeker (remember, the one the PC's killed?)


The seekers are already on their way to the fort. After the PCs told them about the strange happenings at the villa they sent a messanger to summon them. As to asking questions, well, one of the PCs took the equipment from the dead seeker so he could use it as a disguise later. I can't have the seekers themselves asking questions because it has already been established that the seekers can see people who have the Talent.

Alexander

Quote
What is your reason behind fort #2 sending troops down towards fort #1? Or do you not yet have a meaning behind that image?


Along the border road between the forts there are a number of signal towers. As the players approached the second fort (Fort Caro), the signal fires behind them were lit, the passing troops have told them that this means there has been some kind of trouble at the first fort (Fort Ludranius) that they can't deal with. Hence the troops being dispatched from Fort Caro to help. They are told that the signal fires are there in case of invasion from the fire mages land (incidently along the border road, they also discovered a ruined fort, apparently destroyed by fire).

John Kim

Quote
What do a nun, a woodman, and a petty criminal have to do with what is going on with cats, zombie servants, and so forth?


I think you hit the nail on the head there. While my plans for what is behind it all (a powerful group of Talent wielders of semi-debious motivation) are certainly linked to the characters, I haven't introduced things in a way that makes it available to them. My intention was to make the encounter at Invilius mysterious and a little spooky, but as it worked out I put the fear of god into the characters.

Quote
Who are they? What are their issues, their motivations?


Hal Halant A petty criminal, who travels from town to town performing minor acts of theft and deception. He is gifted with two forms of the Talent: Blindsight and Obscure, which allow him to hide his acts effectively from thse who would want him caught. He is highly skilled in breaking and entering type skills, a capable knife fighter and is quite the smooth talker. He is also the richest member of the party by a long way. Hal left his usual hunting grounds upon hearing of the approaching Seekers. A cad and a bounder, but he stops short of being ruthless.

Elli A 'nun', raised as a member of a convent. The predominant religion of the time is Pantheistic, so the term 'nun' is to be loosely interprated. Elli is softly spoken, compassionate, gentle and kind. She is the most Talented of the group. She has no valuable possessions or money. She fled the convent when she discovered that the Seekers would shortly be staying there.

Sladimir Kolonarant A woodsmen, rugged and strong, he has lived apart from society as a charcoal burner most of his life. His biggest fear is the discovery of his Talent. His Talents centre mostly around Animals, and his closest friend is a hound named Afid. He is skilled in survival and no mean shot with a bow. He has but a few copper coins to his name. Sladimir left his home at the advice of an old man in the nearby village, also advising him that the Seekers were coming.

Elli was found lost in the wounds by Sladimir when she was helping an injured wolfcub. Her compassion towards the injured cub, and Afid's immediate friendship with her meant he warmed to her immediately, while she was glad of his protection and company in this strange (to her) place. The two of them met Hal on the road towards Fort Ludranius (on the other side of the wood they in, the Uberwald), almost immediately after they met they were met by the Seeker who Sladimir killed. Their complicity in the death of the Seeker has bound them together since, thus far at least.

As to the players. Hal is played by a friend of mine called Ant, he likes to play the 'talker' in his character, and can if the session gets slow can easily run up large sections of time in entertaining but ultimately unproductive side pursuits. Elli is played by my girlfriend, who I introduced to roleplaying - this is her first full campaign. Sladimir is played by Robin, an amiable and inoffensive geek. I've not played with Robin in a while, although he has played in some of my previous campaigns.

Quote
Personally, my approach would be to give the PCs more power and more information.


The characters are pretty powerful, the Talent gives them a real edge if they ever choose to use it - I don't want to up their power levels too much from where they are now. You're right about the information, I have been dropping in snippets of information but as they move further away it becomes increasingly difficult to do so in a coherant manner.


Paul Czege
Quote
I'd get the events with the players to a tense moment...and I'd cut from the scene. Then I'd frame one of the players into a scene back at the villa, as an NPC.


That's an interesting idea, Paul, but it doesn't go with the way I like to play. The players have their characters and I don't ever have them run anyone else. Doing so would fundementally change the way we play, and not in a direction I wish to take it.

Quote
Recognize though, that there's an implied contract in it. If you screw them over when they go back, they'll never trust you again.


I'm interested to know what you would consider screwing them over? In my experience the 'screwing over' of players I've done in my games has been mostly productive.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Ian Charvill on June 06, 2003, 04:49:32 AM
Could I ask a question?

Did you design the plot details before or after character generation?


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Jack Aidley on June 06, 2003, 05:09:22 AM
I don't really design plot details beforehand, I tend to pretty much wing it and see where it goes. The initial setting was designed before character generation, the players were told to create characters with the Talent, and the initial hook (run from the Seekers) was pre-designed. The later wierdness elements were produced later, following on from ideas I'd been mentally kicking around for a while. Nothing in my games is set in stone until it happens. Sure, right now, I think the events at Invilius are caused by a powerful group of Talent wielders led byb a unique and dangerous individual called Sirillion, but until the players find out something that reveals this bit of information it won't necessarily be true - although I don't currently have an alternate explanation that doesn't contradict past events or known world knowledge.

In the past I've found this method of running extremely succesful. I expect there is probably an accepted term for it here, but I've not yet got a solid grip on the Forge Terminology so I'll spare you my abuse of it. But this time? I'm not sure what to do next.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: damion on June 06, 2003, 09:31:59 AM
Here is some questions I have:
1)How aware are the players of their characthers abilities?
One possibly idea would be to give them an encounter with a smaller part of the weirdness, in order to show that they can actually affect it, make headway.  Given what you described about
the setting, it sounds like it would be difficult for them to use their Talent and not be hunted down. This may contribute to their running away. (If I do anything heroic, the Seekers will investigate me) Another question would be, how do the common people view the Talent, i.e. if they do something and help someone, is that person going to report them anyway?

2)From the backgrounds you mentioned, none of them seems to have a vested interest in actually doning anything. One thing to do would be atually let them get to a place they like, maybe do a few side plots, and then have the weirdness start enroaching there. Since they have an attachment to their current situation or people therein, they are more likely to investegate.
This requires spending the time to build a real attachment, not just introducing an NPC and then having the NPC be kidnapped.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on June 06, 2003, 10:20:17 AM
Hello Mr. Jack,

Here's something I'd add:

You write, "Plot is what the character do."  Yes, sort of.

The truth is, a series of unconnected acts by the characters do not create "plot."  Such a series of events might end up being the tale told by the five year old: "And then he went here...  and then he did this... And then he saw that..."  If we love the child, it  might appeal for a few minutes, but one certainly would not use it as an outline for a film.

I'd offer an extension to your statement: "Plot is what the characters do toward somethig."

Luke will Rescue the Princess; Ripley accepts the challenge to face the aliens again; Frodo wants the Shire to be safe, for example.

Now, such an approach maybe not be thematically sound as executed as an RPG, lacking premise and all, but it would produce, at least, a "yarn" or a "tale."  And there's nothing wrong with that.

Here's the direction of the storytelling I've heard so far: Three exceptional characters are threatened by people sent to kill them because of their exceptional abilities and flee.  They investigate further, realize the the threat is greater and more mysterious than they thought, and flee further.

This last point is vital. The players are continuing to do what they were encouraged to do from the opening situation you presented to them.  In other words, they're playing the story "correctly."

You chased the players' characters out of their lives.  The characters have no goal to reach, no solution to a problem to strive for.  They're willing, sans any other available and rational option, to let you have their characters continued to be chased by your characters.

My questions are: Where might the characters be trying to get to?  What might they want to accomplish?  Is there any actual choice in the game yet?

This last question requires explanation:  They are chased out of their lives by a total mystery.  What actual choice do they have but to run?  Luke, for example, is chased out of his life when the stormtroopers kill his aunt and uncle.  But he can choose to hide on Tatoonie, or join Obi Wan on his way to Alderan.  Do the players have any actual decisions on the table before them?

For example: Is there a person they might kill, a fortress they might take, an political institution they might overthrow to free those with Talents from this murderous tyranny that the players and their characters know about?  If not, consider this, or something along this line.

Is there a place they can try to reach where those with Talents are safe?  Thus, you continue the "hunted" mode, as they PCs travel across this cool and strange land you've created, while still being chased.

But, again, it's got to be a choice.  Off the top of my head, I'd offer up both these options and see what happens.  Then they're on their way *toward* something.  Then, as they make decisions as to what they'll do to get to their goal, you'll get your plot.  

Take care,

Christopher


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Ian Charvill on June 06, 2003, 10:23:37 AM
Quote from: Mr Jack
I don't really design plot details beforehand, I tend to pretty much wing it and see where it goes. The initial setting was designed before character generation, the players were told to create characters with the Talent, and the initial hook (run from the Seekers) was pre-designed.


I suspect there may be more than a little in the comment I've isolated here.  You've started play by telling the players to flee the Seekers and then you're unhappy that they're running away.  You're players may be reading things as 'Band on the Run' rather than 'The Stand'.

Quote from: continuing what Mr Jack
In the past I've found this method of running extremely succesful. I expect there is probably an accepted term for it here, but I've not yet got a solid grip on the Forge Terminology so I'll spare you my abuse of it. But this time? I'm not sure what to do next.


Don't worry too much about Forge terminology, it'll come with time.  A good starting reference is the glossary at the end of Ron's simulationism essay (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/15/).  Part of what you're talking about (fluidity of plot and possibly setting before it's actually established in play) certainly tends towards Fang's No Myth style first discussed, I think, here (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6166).

Edited to note that I've crossposted with Christopher's more eloquent exposition.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Jack Aidley on June 07, 2003, 02:10:54 AM
Quote
In other words, they're playing the story "correctly."


Don't misunderstand me, Christopher, I don't think my players have done anything wrong. I think their actions where entirely reasonable and consistent. Unfortunately they don't work out well for me as GM, so I'm looking to both understand my mistake and work things back from there. I think your post and Ian's following post pretty much sum up the problem

As to The Plot Is What The Characters Do this is my way of summing up my solution to what I see as a problem in a lot of other games I have experienced, where there is The Plot and the PCs are involved in the plot and they will follow the plot for it has been decreed from upon high that The Plot Is Holy. This has been pretty much the standard model of play for the players I have taken into my group who, of course, come looking for The Plot.

I think I'm begining to form some ideas about how to turn things round and get an interesting game going. I'll report back after next session and let you know how it went. Thank you all for your insight and advice.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on June 07, 2003, 09:55:35 AM
Hi Mr. Jack,

Just so there's no misunderstanding...

My first point about playing "correctly" wasn't meant to imply that you had thought the players had done anything wrong.  And, on the contrary, it sounds like a good group that picks up clues back and forth across the table and responds to them.

Second, I understand how you use the sentence to sum up story creation in RPGs, and counter bad habits from other experiences.  I've used the same sentence myself.  All I meant to do was stretch it out a little further.  Like a nice porch added to a house.  I think it will look nicer that way.

Christopher


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Jack Aidley on June 12, 2003, 03:22:47 AM
I ran the next session last night. Things didn't get off to a great start with one of my players being almost an hour late, and another having apparently mysteriously vanished off the face of the earth.

When we did get going I began by explaining the new rules system (developed from these discussions: How good are you at mental arithmetic? (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6779) and Qualitative Fortune (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=6813) ). Ant seemed rather unsure about the idea of the player sometimes narrating the action, and suggested that instead the other players should decide the outcome when a Joker is drawn. I found this really quite surprising, I'd assumed he would have relished the chance.

Anyway, as the session unfolded it seemed my former worries were unfounded, after discovering that the Fort has sent riders east for the Seekers they decided that the Wierdness was less terrifying than the Seekers, the Fire Mage or The Things That Lurk In The Depths Of The Uberwald and headed back West, keeping off the road so they wouldn't be spotted. Returning to Fort Ludranius they discovered the wierdness had spread there from Invilius.

And here came the only part of the session I really wasn't comfortable with. Without Robin present, I was playing the role of Sladimir. Hal suggested they go south towards Barflin Nook, and the place they killed the Seeker. I thought that Sladimir would be really uncomfortable with this (his biggest fear is the discovery of his Talent), and so had him oppose this. Now, this worked out well enough the party are now planning to kidnap someone from the Fort to help find out what's going on. But it feels to me like railroading for me to have a character controlled by me choose the parties direction. I asked the players afterwards and they seemed to think all was fine, Ant in fact said 'we need a push in the right direction every now and then or we'd just run away' - does this mean railroading can be good at time? How could that be so?. Still, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The new system worked out really well, and the players thought it was more fun than rolling dice. The only thing that didn't go so well was the Joker's self-narration effect, but I think that may just be the shock of the new so I'll stick with it a bit.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Fabrice G. on June 12, 2003, 03:50:37 AM
Hi Jack,


nice to know things went for the better.

Quote from: Mr Jack
But it feels to me like railroading for me to have a character controlled by me choose the parties direction. I asked the players afterwards and they seemed to think all was fine, Ant in fact said 'we need a push in the right direction every now and then or we'd just run away' - does this mean railroading can be good at time? How could that be so ?


IMO, this isn't just mere railroading. See, you are clearly making efforts 1) not to railroad your players around and 2) to be open about it. Witch to me make railroading almost impossible.
Sure, you give them some impetus sometimes, but do you clearly plan to force them in a certain way. There's nothing wrong with giving a push to the payers when the need it. The big thing to think about is : do you let them choose what they wanna do after they get that initial push ?

Well just my 2c,

Fabrice.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Ian Charvill on June 12, 2003, 04:44:40 AM
Jack

There's only really elements of railroading if you chose to control Sladimir without giving the players a chance to - either singly or as a group.  If the players opted for you to control Sladimir then there's a form of consent to input on group decisions.  If you did decide to control the character without reference to the players then there's no difference between input from the PC and group decision input from an influential npc.

But here's the thing: there's nothing inherantly wrong with that.  If the players are happy with GM having influence on the plot, that's great.  There is nothing inherantly wrong with the GM writing all of the plot if the players are happy with that.

Player happiness is more important than theories and labels about what's going on.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 12, 2003, 08:16:03 AM
There was a good thread on the term Railroading that you could search up. But it essentially comes down to this. Player's and GM's have power in games to make things happen. There is a contract that defines this distribution. If it's broken, then that's bad. If it's not broken, then it doesn't matter how the participant used their power, it's all good.

Take your typical power split from many games of D&D. The player's control the characters, and the GM controls everything else. The GM can use his power in such a way as to strip the player of his power to make decisions. Assuming such contract, that's a bad thing.

Now, lot's of different things get called railroading. So many that by certain definitions, and certain preferences, that wouldn't be bad. We like to think that, given the negative connotations typically associated with the word, that it ought to only be used in the cases where the contract is broken.

Thus, what you have described by our definition is not railroading. Apparently your contract is a little fuzzy, and that's where the worry comes in. But as long as it's truely satisfactory, you've just nailed down one more datapoint as to where that contract lies.

Keep in mind that in some play, what you did would be seen as very innocuous. Some who like radical scene framing would do much more in the way of using force.

Player: "It would be cool if Machius had a scene in which he got to use his magic."
GM: "Pan in on Machius standing before a giant monolith. Having thought about his situation, he went to the library, looked up what sort of power sources were available locally, and then packed up, left town, and found what he was looking for. Now the rock pillar he purveys glows with power beckoning him to attempt to manipulate it."

Now, for some contracts, this is raliroading of the most extreme kind. The GM has actually made a whole bunch of deccisions for the character by fiat. But for the player who actually wants what the one above does, and with the right contract, this is not only kosher, but coudl be excellent play on the GM's part.

Basically, it comes down to what the player's want to have control over. And the line will always be fuzzy, despite the supposed clarity of the "traditional" power split. For example:

Player: "Machius walks across the street."
GM: "Machius dodges a few carts and gets to the other side."

Now, a traditional player could say that the GM was imposing on his rights with the character. After all, what if he didn't want to dodge those carts? But assuming that the GM read the player's intentions correctly, there's no problem with him making these micro-decisions as a way to add color.

So its never quite cut and dried. You'll always be looking for what constitutes "proper". But you'll find that, with the exception of the "abused player", that you can push the line as GM quite far, often. All you have to do is ensure that you're leaving something interesting for the player to do (and then we get into GNS as for what they want to do).

The basic principle is this. As GM, use your powers expansively to get PCs to points that allow the player to make substantive and interesting decisions for the character. Assuming you're doing that, you'll get no cries of railroading.

Mike


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Jack Aidley on June 12, 2003, 09:52:06 AM
Quote
The player's control the characters, and the GM controls everything else.


That pretty much sums up the way we play. As time goes by I've encouraged players to simply state incidently details, and make assumptions about what is around them. But still it's I control everything else to the core. My problem lies in the fact that I pretty much overrode their decisions by playing Sladimir as I did. Now, they agreed that the actions I chose for him were suitable, and that it worked out well. So, yes, in this case it was fine. But it gives me the fear.

This is probably due to an unfortunate patch in my brother's otherwise excellent GMing career. We were playing MERP at the time, and for several months we got caught up on a course in which the games increasingly became 'the PCs follow the (more powerful) NPCs, and watch as they deal with stuff'. It became horribly tedious for quite some time, before he dramatically slaughtered all the NPCs and let us free.

You're all right though. It worked well in this case. It probably wasn't really railroading here, and it's nothing I should worry about.


Title: They're running away and chickening out...
Post by: Mike Holmes on June 12, 2003, 11:22:33 AM
The "led around by NPC's" is a classic example, Jack. Sounds like railroading to me. Why were you having a "horribly tedious" time? Because you didn't get to make decisions you wanted to make, right? The force used in this case is probably oneof two things:

a. The NPCs in question can, and will kill your characters if you don't participate. Hence it's do what they want or you can't play. or

b. The NPCs are the only game in town. If you don't follow them, nothing happens. Hence it's do what they want or you can't play.

Now, theoretically, there may be players who are satisfied in play in the role of just making up the "window dressing" decisions. Those being stuff like chosing to sharpen swords before bed, and how the character says their lines. And if that's the case, this isn't railroading. Again, it's just leading to the points of decision that the player want's, and pushing the game forward where they don't.

But in your case, it sounds like your GM was railroading, figured it out, and dramtically changed the problem when he determined what it was. Good for him. Because apparently you have an interest in more than just "window dressing" decisions.

Pretty simple analysis, really. If you don't like it, it's probably railroading.

Mike