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They're running away and chickening out...

Started by Jack Aidley, June 05, 2003, 07:43:05 AM

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Christopher Kubasik

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.

"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield

Jack Aidley

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? and Qualitative Fortune ). 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.
- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter

Fabrice G.

Hi Jack,

nice to know things went for the better.

Quote from: Mr JackBut 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,


Ian Charvill


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.
Ian Charvill

Mike Holmes

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.

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Jack Aidley

QuoteThe 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.
- Jack Aidley, Great Ork Gods, Iron Game Chef (Fantasy): Chanter

Mike Holmes

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.

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