PDA

View Full Version : Freedom of Choice...



Ranting Fool
2012-09-02, 06:18 PM
So I was explaining D&D (and RP games in general) to someone the other day and they asked how open my games where. I told them that they were rather open ended and the players can and do wonder off in random unexpected ways and I always try to make there be a good reason for the players to want to go off and explore/save/kill the things I have planned.

Friend

"So what if the world were in danger but they wanted to go off into the forest and kill 500,000 wild boars"

Me

"Well if they ignored a World in mortal danger plot, either someone else may save the day or they could be happily killing boar number 432,542 and the the world explodes around them killing them all"

Player who was also chatting

":smalleek::smalleek::smalleek::smalleek::smalleek: Huh? That's not fair! Then we have no choice and you're just railroading us"

Me

"Yes you have the choice to ignore the endless warnings that the world is in peril and die like everyone else"


So I wonder, am I just a grumpy old (mid 20's :smallbiggrin:) man? SHOULD there be consequences for players wondering off and not acting on information given by a DM or is that just far too much Railroading?

Thoughts? :smallbiggrin:

Flickerdart
2012-09-02, 06:22 PM
It's not railroading. You're giving them information on what's going to happen, and they're choosing not to act on that information.

demigodus
2012-09-02, 06:29 PM
This more or less comes down to personal opinion.

"You guys do X, or you die" can be railroading. It tends to depend from person to person what X is, to determine whether it is railroading. Personally, I would say a peril to end the entire campaign world IS railroading the players into questing to stop that. The solution to this is not to create a plot where the world ends unless the party saves it... which, given how your friend is the one supposing the mortal danger, and not you coming up with it, isn't exactly a strike against you.

For example, the DM presenting the campaign as the world being in mortal danger, and the players needing to save it, is, to some degree, railroading.

If the players set off a series of events, that logically dooms the world unless stopped, and it isn't the DM DM fiating the events/consequences into world-dooming, than the world ending unless they save it isn't railroading. That is you making them deal with their own choices and decisions.

SiuiS
2012-09-02, 06:30 PM
So I was explaining D&D (and RP games in general) to someone the other day and they asked how open my games where. I told them that they were rather open ended and the players can and do wonder off in random unexpected ways and I always try to make there be a good reason for the players to want to go off and explore/save/kill the things I have planned.

Friend


Me


Player who was also chatting


Me



So I wonder, am I just a grumpy old (mid 20's :smallbiggrin:) man? SHOULD there be consequences for players wondering off and not acting on information given by a DM or is that just far too much Railroading?

Thoughts? :smallbiggrin:

Personally, I think "the world is going to end!" is a terrible plot. So you lose points there; I've taken I findin ways to secure my party's survival through Armageddon and into the new world, rather than preventing said Armageddon. How any DM handles this shows me whethe they had intended it to be a railroad or not.

In general though? No. Choosing complacency and ignorance is a choice. If you've got an entre campaign weld and the players chose to ignore it and wander the forests, that is their prerogative. The world doesn't stop when they do though.

Ranting Fool
2012-09-02, 07:02 PM
Personally, I think "the world is going to end!" is a terrible plot. So you lose points there; I've taken I findin ways to secure my party's survival through Armageddon and into the new world, rather than preventing said Armageddon. How any DM handles this shows me whethe they had intended it to be a railroad or not.

In general though? No. Choosing complacency and ignorance is a choice. If you've got an entre campaign weld and the players chose to ignore it and wander the forests, that is their prerogative. The world doesn't stop when they do though.

Hey I never said the world was going to end! :smallbiggrin: It might but I never said that :smallbiggrin:, my player and me were explaining how, I was going to say "Average" D&D game works but I'll change that to "our games often" work. And the PC told my friend how they are all on a big old demi plane the size of a small continent which has a horrid habit of shrinking if someone uses the "Key Stone" to alter the world (Unless you cast lots of high end magic into it / sacrifice a whole bunch of souls to it) now the PC's have been finding this out (and that a major change was done causing a few hundred miles of wilderness to fall out of the demi plane into the hell plane connected to 3 of the edges, the 4th edge being where our heroes came from)

But anyway back to the point. If, for example, the players decided that they wanted to build a trade empire with all the gold they've been getting from hitting Mr Naughty and selling his stuff. If as a DM I made a threat to that such as the main city where all their warehouses are is at risk of invasion/zombie plague/falling into the sea and they ignore that threat then all their time and effort is wasted because new rulers/customers and workers are all zombies/city is now underwater and their whole stock of paper towels are now wet.

Is that railroading too much? Because I've always seen the role of DM as one that gives players challenges to overcome/avoid/fail and learn from.

And as far as the world ending, any mid level character could get enough power or gold to bugger off to a nice new world since there are so many of them out there :smallbiggrin: That or just build your own Demi-Plane

Winds
2012-09-02, 07:25 PM
I agree with your approach, though end-of-the-world can be a problematic story. There's parties out there that can do it just as well...okay, so are we gonna team up or take turns?


But in cases where you have a situation brewing and the players know that, they should know better than to think it'll stand still just because they don't like doing it right now.

When introducing players, however, a basic story arc they can work with is best. No end of the world at first, but there's been a lot of highwaymen around here lately...and so on.

BootStrapTommy
2012-09-02, 07:56 PM
If Superman decided to ignore that end of the world and instead kill a ton of boars, would he have to accept that the world would end unless someone else by chance saved it?


It's not railroading, if the players choose to ignore that world ending they have to pay the price for it. They can't blame you for it.

navar100
2012-09-02, 08:06 PM
In some sense the game is inherently a railroad. The DM needs to spend time creating plot hooks, stat blocks for npcs and monsters, map out locations, and place treasure. It's well within the DM's rights to expect the players to engage them. If players aren't going to do what the DM developed, why are they playing at all? This is good railroading and not what people complain about when they call "choo choo".

Bad railroading is when the DM forces the players to do something in a certain way. It's when the DM thwarts every idea the players have until they do what the DM preplanned for them to do specifically. It's when no matter what the players do their characters have no influence on the gameworld. The only consequences the players receive are negative ones when they do something the DM doesn't like.

Cerlis
2012-09-02, 08:50 PM
thats like a man shooting himself in the head and then blaming god

Jarawara
2012-09-02, 08:51 PM
I would say that it *is* railroading to have the great, world-ending threat that must be dealt with. They wanted to play one game, and you're forcing them to play another or killing their characters if they don't.

Of course, being a fan of railroading, I see no problem with that. But if the players are specifically wanting to avoid, or push against, railroading, then yes, they have a valid complaint.

An important point that hasn't been addressed is 'what did they sign up for'?

If they were told all about the freedom of choice and the openess of the campaign, only to learn now that their freedom is false and some big nasty thing might be lurking in the world that will consume their attention (and force them to deal with it or else die), then they may very well be balking. On the other hand, if they were told up front that this will probably be occuring at some point, then they made a choice to be in your game and in that story (and probably have no serious problem with it either, else they wouldn't have joined).

It all has to do with what they were expecting, and what they were looking for in their gaming experience.

Imagine a real world scenario. I get a degree in aeronautical engineering and a job at NASA designing spacecraft. I have a good job and a good life, but the hours are grueling and what I'd rather do is go fishing. So I give up my job and put my money into a small farm in the rockies and spend my hours fishing. Enter big asteroid pointed directly towards earth. NASA tries to stop it but fails - because they did not have my particular expertise in spacecraft design. Net result, world is destroyed, and me with it.

That's a totally plausible storyline, but let's see what happens when you convert it to a game.

Players decide that being NASA engineers is boring and instead want to adventure in the rockies. Bad DM says "No, you can't do it, you must stay at NASA and do your job. Players balk, DM threatens, they argue, and finally DM throws up his hands and says "Fine, campaign over, rocks fall, everybody dies." Ok, well that's what a Bad DM would do. But you're a Good DM. You say "Sure, you can go adventure in the rockies. You spend your days fishing, but there's a plague of wild boars in the area." Players happily hunt wild boars in between fishing trips, as they are now simply responding to something that threatens their desired gameplay, which is simply more fishing once the wild boar epidemic is resolved.

And then what does Good DM do? With a smile, he says "Campaign is over, rock falls, everybody dies."

They came to your house to play a game. They wanted entertainment. And their form of entertainment was to play fish and kill a few wild boar. And Mr. Good DM, while being gentlemanly and fair about it, ended up doing exactly what Mr. Bad DM did, namely ending the campaign with an arbitrary TPK.

Now, if they came to your table looking to fish and hunt boar and you said "Ok, no problem there", they you just goofed badly. But if you explained that something is coming down at them (in this case, literally), and they chose to ignore it, then you were within full rights and they paid the price for their actions. They can even console themselves with having enjoyed a game while it lasted, and building something they were proud of before it was destroyed. I mean, after all, which would I rather do - work my life away at NASA hoping to design a spacecraft that can save the earth (and very probably failing anyway), or enjoying my time fishing in the rockies before the end takes us all?

So it's all about what the DM had explained beforehand, and what the players were expecting in the game.

*~*~*

Major edit, or rather, major clarification:

Your original post says "I was explaining about my games..." Meaning that this whole end-of-campaign situation was a pre-game example, and one that was being used as an explanation to your gamers **before** the game began. I didn't miss that, and I clarify here that I saw that.

So these guys, if they join your game, *DO* know what they are getting into. If they do, then they better expect to learn aeronatical engineering or face the 'rock falls everyone dies' scenario. You warned them, you did your job. If they want to fish and hunt boar, they really should be in another game.

Cerlis
2012-09-02, 08:53 PM
If Superman decided to ignore that end of the world and instead kill a ton of boars, would he have to accept that the world would end unless someone else by chance saved it?


It's not railroading, if the players choose to ignore that world ending they have to pay the price for it. They can't blame you for it.

exactly, its not railroading, its cause and effect.

Heroes in most stories dont save the world because they want to, they do it because they have to.

The question is if a player wants to be in a world where he gets pulled into adventure, or if he wants a choose your own adventure.

Mark Hall
2012-09-02, 09:15 PM
When I run my own games (as opposed to a module; something I do far less these days), I tend to know the plot unless the PCs intervene. They're not forced to intervene... I had one group who decided they weren't that interested in a hobgoblin empire growing in the Neverwinter Wood. They decided to go to Waterdeep. So things continued apace in Neverwinter. The hobgoblins consolidated their hold, began discussions with Lord Neverwinter, etc.

The players were free to ignore it. They did something else, no problem. But the world doesn't stop just because you're on a quest elsewhere.

navar100
2012-09-02, 11:44 PM
Maybe the players want to hunt boars to earn enough XP to kill the BBEG who's been beating up everyone else and ruining their fun.
:smallyuk:

Medic!
2012-09-03, 12:10 AM
One of the best pieces of DMing advice I ever received was from the DMG2 (and I quote it often!) where it says a DM is a facilitator, not a dictator. In my campaign worlds I do exactly what it sounds like a lot of other folks do. The world carries on independant of the party, and to a large degree their actions (or lack there-of) will affect the campaign world. If a cult is plotting to bring Vecna to the material plane, they're going to be doing all kinds of things to accomplish it, on-stage or off. Maybe the adventurers thwart the cult at every opportunity, depriving them of neccessary artifacts or personnel, exposing them to local governments to get them run out of the country leaving their research facilities behind, etc etc etc ad-nauseum.

Maybe the adventurers decide that instead of following up on an obscure lead about a mummified hand they found in the notes of the cultists they just ran out of Dungeonville, they would rather take a week off and go boar hunting.

Maybe the cult gets the Hand of Vecna while the party's off galavanting. Maybe those boars were the chief food source for a local village (muahahaha!) Maybe the boars were a threat to the local village (awwww, thanks guys!)

As long as the players are aware of the existance of an over-arcing plot, I personally have no problem letting them do what they want to do while I advance those plots off-stage.


Wall of Anecdote
I remember running an epic level campaign where the players had reports of multiple problems in the country (read: I had written up several little modules for them to pursue based on the players' preferences.) They had just finished up imprisoning Baphomet for an indeterminate period of time, and got some phat phat loot in the process, and between sessions I gave them a couple weeks of in-game down time to upgrade gear/equipment/enjoy the lime-light. They specifically told me what each of them wanted to do with their down-time, and one player in particular spent his time helping one of the city's blacksmiths with his work and running around doing misc mundane (and sometimes silly) things. When the call to arms came out, he says "I want to upgrade my weapon before we leave."

The sum-total of the upgrades he wanted ended up translating into about 3 weeks of craft-time, and even with a friendly reminder from the DM that time wouldn't stop for those 3 weeks, the party stuck their thumbs firmly up their butts while the barbarian got a new-and-improved sword.

In that time:
The Last Bastion of defence for the kingdom vs an undead wasteland was nearly over-run, with the Queen of the realm (a devoted cleric of pelor) personally helping to hold back the horde in its vicious new push to destroy said bastion's defenses.

A total of 23 settlements had been devoured by a Garganth.

A powerful tribe of orcs gave up and closed their borders, retreating far from civilization after previously offering up a tentative alliance. Expecting a powerful champion to negotiate the alliance with them, they received a member of the King's personal guard who was, sadly not up to the task.

You get the idea. I took great pains not to progress things into the realm of the hopeless, but I guarentee that when they got around to getting down to business, things were a bit tougher than they would have been. It was a real eye-opener for the party too, seeing time as a real consequence as much as any rampaging minotaur. A nice side-effect was it really cut down on the 5-minute adventuring days where someone got hurt and the party would hole up in a room in the dungeon, barricade the doors, and try to sleep off the damage to their persons and resources.

Anxe
2012-09-03, 12:20 AM
My players go back and forth on whether they want a railroaded campaign and a free-form one. That's why we generally have two campaigns run by different DMs happening at the same time.

The campaign I'm running is very structured. This was explained before the campaign started. The BBEG is going to conquer the world and make himself a god if the players do nothing. The players characters obviously have the option of avoiding the main campaign, but if they do that, then why are we playing in that campaign world?

The other campaign is a free-form pirate campaign. I'm a player in that one. We have a general plan of pirating and getting rich. We'll plan to attack someplace and then the DM will prep that place for us the next session. If we want to go off in a random direction, the campaign is built for it. If we want to start pursuing a long-term objective, then the DM can start having all his planning for that as well.

Either way is fine and I experience both in my sessions, so I wouldn't call either one the standard way of playing. However, it is important for it to be clear which one you will be playing. Hell there may even be a third or fourth choice that I'm overlooking. That other choice is probably fine too, as long as everyone agrees.

Ultimately, you are playing a game that everyone should have fun at. D&D is a game where you can do anything. It's not as simple as choosing to play Monopoly and then fighting who gets to be the thimble. You need to be more specific when you decide what to play so that everyone is happy. That's why my group has a choice for every session, free-form or structured.

chainlink
2012-09-03, 12:51 AM
Unless you are actively prohibiting them from gaining power or "the end of the world" is very soon, they can leave.

I use that scenario in different degrees sorta often. Hasn't turned out the same yet. Even better it's a mostly persistent story so consequences can rear their heads 2 campaigns down the line depending on the impact on the cosmos.

Face it, somewhere on some material a "world is ending" right now. With or without you a new god is rising and an old is falling.

Illithid's continually attempt to intrude on reality, the Blood War keeps churning and somewhere some dude is trying to take over the world with undead.

None of that in your material pocket? Hmmm, sounds dull you should move or open a tavern :)

rorikdude12
2012-09-04, 07:48 PM
In some sense the game is inherently a railroad. The DM needs to spend time creating plot hooks, stat blocks for npcs and monsters, map out locations, and place treasure. It's well within the DM's rights to expect the players to engage them. If players aren't going to do what the DM developed, why are they playing at all? This is good railroading and not what people complain about when they call "choo choo".

Bad railroading is when the DM forces the players to do something in a certain way. It's when the DM thwarts every idea the players have until they do what the DM preplanned for them to do specifically. It's when no matter what the players do their characters have no influence on the gameworld. The only consequences the players receive are negative ones when they do something the DM doesn't like.

If the DM creates a "line" where his players are supposed to go through and have to follow through with his plot, that's just stupid. That's not "good", that's crap like when the player crits against the BBEG early on and you fudge things and say he's not dead when the rules say he is. Or when the BBEG dies and you think it's "unimportant" because the plot you designed doesn't fit with it. Same thing when a PC dies "non-heroically".

tl;dr: Make a sandbox. A world with a bunch of hooks people can follow up on.

{scrubbed}

Zerasen
2012-09-04, 09:16 PM
If the DM creates a "line" where his players are supposed to go through and have to follow through with his plot, that's just stupid. That's not "good", that's crap like when the player crits against the BBEG early on and you fudge things and say he's not dead when the rules say he is. Or when the BBEG dies and you think it's "unimportant" because the plot you designed doesn't fit with it. Same thing when a PC dies "non-heroically".

tl;dr: Make a sandbox. A world with a bunch of hooks people can follow up on.

It bothers me when some people should just go write a novel and they don't know it.

Different people have different styles. Some groups enjoy doing that kind of thing even if you think it's stupid; they don't mind playing a novel as long as they are told a good story. I think an extent of adaptability is necessary either way, but fairly linear stories can be fun too.

Personally, when I play in my friend's setting, we play such a sandbox adventure, where I make a character with a background and motivation and he makes a world and let's me loose, making up everything on the spot as we get to it. Eventually, he learns enough about my character to make more linear story bits that don't make me feel like I'm trapped but still tell a fun story.

That's my favorite way to play, but that's just me. I also think it's important to understand other people's tastes.

Ranting Fool
2012-09-05, 04:47 AM
tl;dr: Make a sandbox. A world with a bunch of hooks people can follow up on.

{scrubbed}

The thing that worried me slightly is that any time you have a plot hook that if left unresolved could have a negative effect on the PC's (End of world/Bob has plague/Town under threat/Dragon moved in near by... ect) you run the risk of being accused of "railroading" because they "Have" to stop the dragon or whatever from doing bad things. And on the other hand if no plot hook ever has a risk of negative things happening (or some other hero will always turn up to make sure the world ends) you run the risk of the world being arcade-y and players feel unchallenged.

Some of my best plot hooks have come around by threatening an NPC that the PC's like. Who asks them for help vs X and they want to go out and risk their lives because they felt indebted to the NPC from before or the NPC is just such a cool character they want to help him/her/it out.

Emmerask
2012-09-05, 05:05 AM
So I was explaining D&D (and RP games in general) to someone the other day and they asked how open my games where. I told them that they were rather open ended and the players can and do wonder off in random unexpected ways and I always try to make there be a good reason for the players to want to go off and explore/save/kill the things I have planned.

So I wonder, am I just a grumpy old (mid 20's :smallbiggrin:) man? SHOULD there be consequences for players wondering off and not acting on information given by a DM or is that just far too much Railroading?

Thoughts? :smallbiggrin:

Well its the most realistic approach, to me the none pc centric campaign style is pretty much the only thing I enjoy (outisde of oneshots) playing both as dm and player.

Stuff happens, I can chose to participate or not but my action or inaction might have tangible consequences.

This none PC centric style can still be a sandbox, its just a living sandbox and not a stasis box where only the pcs can do things.

rorikdude12
2012-09-05, 03:24 PM
Well its the most realistic approach, to me the none pc centric campaign style is pretty much the only thing I enjoy (outisde of oneshots) playing both as dm and player.

Stuff happens, I can chose to participate or not but my action or inaction might have tangible consequences.

This none PC centric style can still be a sandbox, its just a living sandbox and not a stasis box where only the pcs can do things.

Yes. That's what I failed at saying.

rorikdude12
2012-09-05, 03:30 PM
Well its the most realistic approach, to me the none pc centric campaign style is pretty much the only thing I enjoy (outisde of oneshots) playing both as dm and player.

Stuff happens, I can chose to participate or not but my action or inaction might have tangible consequences.

This none PC centric style can still be a sandbox, its just a living sandbox and not a stasis box where only the pcs can do things.

Yes. That's what I failed at saying.

hymer
2012-09-05, 03:34 PM
In some sense the game is inherently a railroad. The DM needs to spend time creating plot hooks, stat blocks for npcs and monsters, map out locations, and place treasure.

I usually present hooks towards the end of sessions, or between them, and ask the players what they'd like me to work on. It doesn't keep me completely from making stuff it turns out I won't need, but it reduces the problem dramatically.

The other possibility is when I ask them if they'll be okay with my building a railroad and their following it (often seen in military campaigns in my group). Most of my players like that just fine.

Jerthanis
2012-09-05, 05:38 PM
Actions should have consequences, yes, but they should be consequences that the players are interested in. If you present your Goblin revolt and ascention of the new god of UTI plot and the PCs aren't interested in the initial plothooks, then having them come back from the thing they're actually interested in doing to find that it hurts when they void and instead of a civilization they have goblin tribes, you're still running a game they're not interested in... you just get to say you're not railroading them.

Obviously there's a lot of wiggle room, and there's as much wrong with saying, "This is always wrong" as saying, "It's always acceptable." and it will always come down to taste.

Personally, I create a basic scenario that exists in a sort of stasis. Political factions at a state of balance, criminal organizations jockeying for position and not getting a lot of headway, or a ruling state with a continuous rebellion brewing, but not on the verge of anything. Then the PCs can come into this scenario and affect what they want to change. The world won't light on fire without their involvement to stop it because they ARE the source of escalation of what is otherwise a stable situation.

kardar233
2012-09-05, 05:50 PM
Personally, I create a basic scenario that exists in a sort of stasis. Political factions at a state of balance, criminal organizations jockeying for position and not getting a lot of headway, or a ruling state with a continuous rebellion brewing, but not on the verge of anything. Then the PCs can come into this scenario and affect what they want to change. The world won't light on fire without their involvement to stop it because they ARE the source of escalation of what is otherwise a stable situation.

This is the kind of game I like to be in. When I know enough about the world to become a mover and shaker, I aim high.

Chromascope3D
2012-09-05, 06:10 PM
I've always been a fan of the illusion of choice. Make multiple plot hooks for the same quest. For instance, say you characters come across a worried woman, who explains her husband was kidnapped by goblins, which you planned on leading into a larger questline. If they ignore the quest, then have them stumble upon his corpse (make sure they don't know it's him, to avoid railroading accusations) outside of town or something, say, on a trail or outside a cave, with clues leading you on to your planned adventure.

That way, you're happy because you don't have to expend effort writing multiple concurrent quests (and freeing you up to using them or their elements/ideas in your planned quest), and they're happy because they feel satisfied they'd made the right choice all along.
It may seem dirty, tricking your players, but it's the difference between having a campaign a mile wide and an inch-deep, or a campaign an inch-wide and a mile deep.

Just know that you should never, under any circumstances, act like this DM. (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/tales-from-the-table/2960-Chapter-1-A-Tale-of-Goblin-Warriors)

Kyberwulf
2012-09-05, 07:43 PM
One way of handling this. .. wait I get ahead of myself. Let me explain...there is to much, let me sum up. My players are Notorious for starting plot hooks, getting into them,..then seeing something shiny and going for that instead. In the middle of a "Apocalyptic event," which they are on the trail for stopping. They will get wind of a Bandit king whose minons where being used for the slaying. They decide to stop the Hunt for the cleric turning the world to ash, to go hunt for the Bandit King's Treasure.

Well usually I do one of Two things. Either the world ends, or.. as kinda a joke their is another "Hero" that follows them around. His only job is to clean up after their messes, as it where. So while out adventuring, my players will often here how Siegried, the HERO of the Realm, stopped an EVIL CULT from destroying the world. Subsequently, Siegfried, also stopped an evil Bandit King from terrorizing the country side, and stopped the Darkwoods from being rezzed to the ground. Thus earning the gratitude of the Grey Elves in the woods.

Thats my main problem with giving players a sandbox to roam around in, is that seldom will they follow through on a plot hook. It starts creating a whole slew of plot holes, and loose ends. There are only so many deliver the pie quests you can have, before it all gets boring.

Medic!
2012-09-05, 08:14 PM
Ha ha ha, man I LOVE the idea of some guy stealing all the party's glory over and over again. The fact that his name is Seigfried is just the cherry on top <3


Assuming it's a Final Fantasy 3/6/VI reference :smallcool:

Kyberwulf
2012-09-05, 08:30 PM
He wasn't stealing the glory, the party never finished the quest. I had to come up with reasons why the world wasn't destroyed or taken over by maniacal despots.

TheOOB
2012-09-05, 08:37 PM
So I was explaining D&D (and RP games in general) to someone the other day and they asked how open my games where. I told them that they were rather open ended and the players can and do wonder off in random unexpected ways and I always try to make there be a good reason for the players to want to go off and explore/save/kill the things I have planned.

Friend


Me


Player who was also chatting


Me



So I wonder, am I just a grumpy old (mid 20's :smallbiggrin:) man? SHOULD there be consequences for players wondering off and not acting on information given by a DM or is that just far too much Railroading?

Thoughts? :smallbiggrin:

Ultimately, any RPG is a group storytelling exercise. It is therefore very important that everyone gets to have a say in the story, especially the DM who is asking as the all purpose narrator of said story. Just as it is bad GMing to force players to take certain actions and ignore the actions they do take, it's bad if a player ignores the plot the GM has set forth.

If there is a world ending disaster that only the PC's can stop, and they don't, the world should end, otherwise the GM is ignoring the PC's actions. The PC's had the information they needed, and they made a choice, a bad choice.

Here is what I do. Before I campaign starts, I either tell the players what type of campaign it is going to be, or figure it out with the players. I then let the players make their characters, with the understanding that they characters must work for this type of campaign. If the campaign is military focused, playing a character that refuses to obey any orders won't work. There is no way such a character would be in that story. Similarly, in the same campaign a druid who refuses to do anything that doesn't preserve nature also would not work.

Before the campaign starts, each player should be able to say who there character is, and why that are part of the campaign. If their character has no good reason to be part of the story, they shouldn't be in it.

Incom
2012-09-05, 09:48 PM
So your players have a problem with:

Plot hook > ignore plot hook > world ends

Better idea: they aren't the only adventurers in the world, right?

Plot hook > ignore > somebody else gets the glory

How's that sound?

Ranting Fool
2012-09-06, 04:47 AM
So your players have a problem with:

Plot hook > ignore plot hook > world ends

Better idea: they aren't the only adventurers in the world, right?

Plot hook > ignore > somebody else gets the glory

How's that sound?

No world ending (as yet) it was just an example given to explain D&D to someone.

I do have other Hero type running around questing, useful to sort out lose ends, useful to have them unleash long dead bad things, useful to have them bump into PC's and exchange info/attack them depending.

My deep set problem is that if the players know that "Some other hero will sort stuff out while I go kill 23578923 boars" (Yes a Southpark joke) then it brakes the illusion that what the PC's do matter. It might just be my PC's but they LIKE to be the ones who save the world / kill the bandit king and get bugged having others steal their thunder :smalltongue:


Well its the most realistic approach, to me the none pc centric campaign style is pretty much the only thing I enjoy (outisde of oneshots) playing both as dm and player.

Stuff happens, I can chose to participate or not but my action or inaction might have tangible consequences.

This none PC centric style can still be a sandbox, its just a living sandbox and not a stasis box where only the pcs can do things.

I like this quote :smallbiggrin: Well put.

Jarawara
2012-09-06, 09:54 AM
Here is what I do. Before I campaign starts, I either tell the players what type of campaign it is going to be, or figure it out with the players. I then let the players make their characters, with the understanding that they characters must work for this type of campaign. If the campaign is military focused, playing a character that refuses to obey any orders won't work. There is no way such a character would be in that story. Similarly, in the same campaign a druid who refuses to do anything that doesn't preserve nature also would not work.

Before the campaign starts, each player should be able to say who there character is, and why that are part of the campaign. If their character has no good reason to be part of the story, they shouldn't be in it.

I wholly endorse (and already use) this idea.

*~*~*

One thing that always gets me is how some DM's will state their campaign is a free-form 'sandbox' campaign, and then they develop the BBEG for the campaign. BBEG? Hello - if it has a Big Bad Evil Guy, then it has a story and no longer is sandbox!

Solution: Don't have a BBEG with his world-ending apocolypse event. Have an LBEG* with a city-ending apocolypse event. PC's get distracted by the Bandit King's Treasure, come back to find city has been destroyed. Cause and effect are maintained, players are free to do as they choose.

Though on occasion you can use the Seigfried option to save the city. Probably the PC's will hear enough of Seigfried and conclude that Seigfried is the real BBEG of the campaign and devote their lives to his destruction. Pure gaming gold ensues!

*~*~*

*LBEG - Little Bad Evil Guy. Or MBEG - Minor Bad Evil Guy.
Though I prefer JPEG - Just Pathetic Evil Guy.

The Random NPC
2012-09-06, 06:46 PM
Stories and sandboxen are not mutually exclusive.

TheOOB
2012-09-07, 07:01 PM
Stories and sandboxen are not mutually exclusive.

But it is exponentially difficult to make a good cohesive story in a sandbox world. You need a GM who is adaptable, good at improvisation, you need a campaign setting that is full and well developed, and you need players who are willing and able to make their own stories.

Rallicus
2012-09-07, 07:18 PM
D&D is a fairly tough system to run without some railroading involved. CRs, ECLs, map generation, wealth by level; these sorts of things are VERY limiting when it comes to trying a campaign with complete freedom. You can't really run a D&D game with players shaping the world, doing whatever they want and going wherever they want, as well as you can present situations and plot hooks and sort of force them to bite.

Now... most of my DM prep is done on a week-by-week basis. I'm trying something out that involves me asking my players what they plan on doing, where they plan on going, etc. at the end of each session.

After that, I put an anonymous poll on our forum with their answers. Voting will last a few days, at which point I go with the most picked answer. If there's a tie... well, as a DM I'm involved too, so in that case I'd pick which I'd feel would be more enjoyable to create.

First week trying this, so we'll see how it goes, but I think it's a good way to reduce some of the inherent railroading associated with D&D.

Zeful
2012-09-07, 08:24 PM
But it is exponentially difficult to make a good cohesive story in a sandbox world. You need a GM who is adaptable, good at improvisation, you need a campaign setting that is full and well developed, and you need players who are willing and able to make their own stories.

A timeline and a flowchart.

It's not really that hard to do, whether the PCs are a part of it? That's a much different question.

Mark Hall
2012-09-07, 08:47 PM
So, I'm gonna play a bit with metaphors, partially because I'm disappointed with my filk "The Bilbo Connection".

So, who had a sandbox as a kid? My dad made a point to construct one for us at LEAST in Kansas and Virginia, and I think I recall one in Nebraska. Now that he has granddaughters to spoil, there's another in his backyard. We had HUGE fun with them, making improbably large sand sculptures that we would then attack with hoses because we were little *****. I can't count the number of times GI Joes got entombed in these wonders of particle engineering.

But, all of our sandboxes had a common feature. While we could do anything in them, they all had edges. And when we went outside the edges with a whole lot of sand, we got in trouble, because Dad worked hard to give us a sandbox, and we were messing things up by hauling all the sand out.

So, I tend to run my sandboxes like that. There's a lot you can do in them. You might spend your time building a mighty empire, tearing one down, or simply flinging cat poop everywhere... but you had to keep it inside the sandbox, or your fun stopped.

How big your sandbox is depends on your DM. In High School, we had the joke of "Screw this, we're going to Undermountain" whenever we got tired of our GMs plots. We'd pack up from Rashamen and the next few games became trekking across the wilderness, deftly avoiding plot hooks, heading to Undermountain with the dogged determination of true jerks.

It's part of the rules of the sandbox. You step outside with too much sand on you, and the fun's going to have to stop.

Rockphed
2012-09-07, 09:37 PM
So, who had a sandbox as a kid? My dad made a point to construct one for us at LEAST in Kansas and Virginia, and I think I recall one in Nebraska. Now that he has granddaughters to spoil, there's another in his backyard. We had HUGE fun with them, making improbably large sand sculptures that we would then attack with hoses because we were little *****. I can't count the number of times GI Joes got entombed in these wonders of particle engineering.

For a moment I read that as "attack with horses", which is a whole different ballgame.

valadil
2012-09-07, 09:56 PM
So, I'm gonna play a bit with metaphors, partially because I'm disappointed with my filk "The Bilbo Connection".

It's part of the rules of the sandbox. You step outside with too much sand on you, and the fun's going to have to stop.

I'll distort the metaphor a little. Instead of a sandbox let's build a sandcastle. You start digging and sculpting and then some adult tells you the tide is rising and your sandcastle will probably get wrecked in an hour or two. Screw that, you build it anyway. Then the tide smashes it just like you were warned.

That's a pretty transparent analogy to the GM's hypothetical scenario. Did the adults railroad you? No, the water rushed in. How about the waves? I don't think so, they were just being waves.

Where was the railroad then? No railroading happened. A railroad in this case would have been the adult picking you up and moving you higher up on the beach, out of the reach of the waves (even though the sand up there is much too dry for proper sandcastle construction!) You were given the information to make a choice. You made that choice. It had consequences. A railroad exists when the adult/GM doesn't allow you to make that choice.

In my opinion, one of the worst things a GM can do to players is take their choice away. It's one thing to tell the players they're being railroaded. It's entirely different to tell them they have a choice when they don't. If your players decide to defy the end of the world by giddily slaying boars, taking away the end of the world invalidates their choice and takes the decision away from them.

GolemsVoice
2012-09-07, 10:46 PM
I'd say it depends.

Generally, when I'm GMing for friends, and friends GM for us, it's a specific story, specifically designed to be played by us today. That means that it's a bit like watching a movie or reading a book, in that you know what is likely going to happen, in broad terms, but not how, and the how is up to us.
In these situations, I feel like there's an unspoken contract between GM and players. The GM has invested time and energy into creating a specific story, so it would be rude not to follow it, while the GM recognizes that the players want to actually play, and doesn't force them down the one and only path he's decided on.
So in these games, you don't really have the freedom of choice to completely ignore the plot, even if it isn't an imediate threat to you, like a private investigator hired to look into a disappearance. He could reject the job, but that would effectively end the game, and I'd consider it very rude of the player. Of course, the options presented should be reasonable, and it should be reasonable for the character to actually take the job.

If the game, on the other hand, is advertised as a sandbox game, then restricting the freedom of choice even in such a general way could be seen as a bad thing, because from what I understand, sandbox games generally aren't about something that needs to be done no matter what.


That being said, in the end, you ALWAYS have the freedom of choice, even if it's just to make your character sit down and just wait for whatever happens. But I'd say that if you chose to completely ignore the plot the GM has designed for you (let's assume the story is not that bad), you shouldn'T expect to go anywhere.

Ranting Fool
2012-09-08, 05:49 AM
An example of play from last night.


PC's are in a long dead city, there are Wraiths, Werewolvesa, Harpies, Youngish Dragons, Vampires, Lots of Golems in buildings still standing, a small outpost of a guild exploring this place.

PC's meet a Halfling Lich, who wares bright clothing and says sorry for sending his undead horde at them because he thought they were the werewolf lord (Who the PC's were hunting at the time) this lich has plot info they want (Or rather his mistress is who they want to speak to) and they arranged to meet the lich in three days time so they can "Speak" to his mistress.

Now the PC's go off and explore things, checking out the major buildings still standing. two and a half days later they haven't checked out all the buildings they wanted to (Because they chose to rest twice)

PC 1: Lets go to the last building then! :D
ME: Sure, though you'd miss your meeting with the lich
PC 1: WHY?!
ME: Errr because it's on the other side of the city and the time it takes you to walk there you should already be at the meeting.
PC 1: I don't really care about that meeting
ME: OK
PC 2: Wait a minute we really need to talk to that Liches mistress to know what the hell is going on.
PC 1: But why can't he just wait.
ME: He said he was leaving, you don't think it likely that he would wait very long for you.

Now would that count as rail-roading. I would say no, while I did plan the lich encounter I expected the party to attack the lich rather then bargain for a chat with it's boss.

Yes I did plan out who the lich was working for and the longer they wondered about exploring the city the higher the chances of bumping into the lich and his horde of undead.

The time frame for the meeting was arbitrary because hey, liches have places to be and things to do (or at least this one does)

But imposing a time limit "Forces" the players to change their plans of exploring all the buildings they wanted to (As it would be unlikely that even if they didn't spend extra time at one place they could have done all they planned)

But they are the ones who created the option of a meeting and I HUGELY dislike the Computer game thing of NPC's waiting for ever in the same spot for the heroes to bring back the McGruff / meet them.

hymer
2012-09-08, 06:05 AM
You do come across kinda railroady I must say. I don't think the setup is railroading. The players made the appointment, and it's up to them to keep it or not. But I don't get why you're talking to them like that.
If the time gets away from them, so be it. They forget, the meeting's off, and the other party might be annoyed too. They'll have to find a different way of working things out.

Now, there are times when you can reasonably tell the players you expect them to do a certain thing: That's when they told you they'd do it, and you therefore worked on preparing that for them. If the players are breaking the agreement, they're leaving dad's sandbox, and the fun is over.

GolemsVoice
2012-09-08, 08:25 AM
Well, that's not railroading. I suppose you told them the city was big, and they set the appointment themselves, so they have imposed the time limit by their own choice.

You could have warned them, maybe, that if they keep on exploring, it will take a lot of time to return, but aside from that, well, what did they expect? They are still free to skip the meeting and see what comes of it.

Jarawara
2012-09-08, 10:15 AM
Ranting Fool's latest example is clearly not railroading. It's warning the players of the differences of perceptions, as well as giving a friendly warning to keep them on track.

Let me break those apart and address them separately.


On Differences of Perceptions:

There are two gaming worlds. One is in the DM's head. The other is in the player's head. They are not the same; they are never the same; yet the player is always the one to suffer for not understanding what's in the head of the DM.

Player thinks to himself: We'll check out these last few buildings, maybe fight a battle or two, examine the look we uncovered, and then walk across town to meet the lich. Hmmm... we'll get there with an hour or two to spare, wonder what we should do with the extra time?

DM thinks to himself: What are they doing? Don't they remember they set an appointment to see the lich? Even if they dropped everything and ran the whole distance, they'll still be late to see the lich? That's it, if they explore one more empty house the lich is leaving, but not before setting a few explosive runes for having his time wasted!

Players arrive later at the meeting local, go BOOM several times, and wonder why the DM is such a jerk for screwing with them. Or.... the DM could tell the players they have to get going now, as Ranting Fool did, to ensure that the players have a better understanding of the world around them.

After all, if they were *actually there*, they'd probably be better at judging distances and times, but on a gameboard and a (possibly ill-defined) map, it's all just individually different perceptions and assumptions.


On Friendly Warnings:

There are two games going on. One is in the DM's head, and is generally a manisfestation of the reincarnation of Lord of the Rings combined with the prose of Shakespear and the occasional quirkiness of Piers Anthony.

The other is in the player's head, or rather his hand, specifically taking the shape of a Big Gulp Mountain Dew, and a twenty-sided dice... in that order of priority. Not included in his hand is a remote control, as he decided to skip his daily viewing of football and big-time wrestling to have a day of fun with his pals, killing nastybads and raiding some random dungeon. Occasionally he'll listen to the story, too.

Now the DM can follow his masterpiece with precision and determination, and wonder why his players refuse to follow along (with their own plan!), and lay the smakedown on them when they didn't meet up with the lich on time. Players will then grumble about DM being a jerk and then wonder what might be on the TV... or the DM can give a friendly warning, like Ranting Fool did, and keep the enjoyment of the (still separate) game up for both player and DM.


It's not a railroad, it's just a method of keeping the game on track... and before you pounce on the use of the word 'track', remember that it's the players that laid that track down.

Lemmy
2012-09-10, 08:07 PM
There is a difference between a real and a false choice.

If the consequences for doing or not doing something are so extreme that you can't consider any other course of action, you effectively have no choice on the matter.

If the players want to focus on building their castles or whatever instead of slaying the ancient demon, and then the world suddenly ends because the demon brings armageddon, they effectively have no choice other than chase and kill the freaking demon, no matter what they want to do.

Of course, this does not apply if the world-ending event is a consequence of their actions. e.g: They can't simply steal a dragon's hoard and then go happily away to build their castles assuming the dragon will forgive and forget them.

Give them challenges, enemies and adventures! But tailor these elements to the game they want to play, otherwise, it's just a chore, and that's no fun.

Are they focusing on building castles? How about a raiding army? Or a natural disaster? Maybe their castles were built in a red dragons favorite hunting ground. Or an evil wizard is jealous because their towers are higher than his own.

There should be a real reason for the challenge to endanger them, not simply "Well, you didn't chase the Dark God quest, so the world is destroyed. You live in the world, therefore, you're destroyed.".

Choices are only choices if they have to think about before deciding. If there is an obvious answer, it's just a false choice.