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napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-14, 03:22 PM
Over beers last night, a few friends I play with and I decided that there should be a list of commandments for GMs or DMs to follow. Each commandment would be a simple one sentence rule, both broad, and general enough to be applied to any rpg. These could act as guidelines for any new GM to follow. We were going for Ten Commandments (it has a nice biblical ring to it) but only could come up with 8. What follows are the 8 commandments each with a short explanation.

Please let me know if have any suggestions to improve these or if you have any ideas for two more commandments.

#1 Make It Fun

If you and your players aren't having fun, it's not worth doing.


#2 Be Fair

Don't play Favorites (If your girlfriends a PC, don't give her all 18s and a stack of magical weapons). Don't take a real world personal issue out on a PC (Sending a platoon of dragons on Bob's PC because he owes you $50). Make the game balanced to the PCs mix of levels, classes. and rpg playing experience. Don't suddenly change a monsters stats because the PCs came up with a clever way to kill it.


#3 Be Prepared

All GMs will have to wing it from time to time but if you are not willing to spend a few hours preparing for each session, you shouldn't GM. Have a plan for where the campaign is going. Draw the maps. Decide which monster goes where. Study you players stats and abilities. Read the rules. If you using a written module, read it before the session starts. Keep a file of NPCs and maps to pull out when you need to wing it.


#4 Don't Railroad

Despite all your preparation, sometimes the PCs are not going to do what you want them to. If it's for a good reason (the PC is role playing her character), you should go with it. Try to come up with ways to motivate the PCs to go on the adventure. Don't use your unlimited power to bully them into doing what you want. Railroad often ends up violating the first commandment.


#5 Actions Shall Have Consequences

Sometimes the PCs will do stupid, mean, or evil things. Sometimes they do it just to test how you will react. These actions should have consequences up to and including the death of the PC. A PC gets in a bar brawl and kills everyone in a Tavern? Maybe a reward is put on their head and they are chased by bounty hunters. The PCs decide not to fight a tribe of orcs? The tribe invades and sacks a nearby town. A PC intentionally trips a poison needle trap? He dies.


#6 Rewards (xp,gp, magic items) shall be earned, not given.

Giving your PCs sacks of gold or enough xp to go up 2 levels just because its Friday does not guarantee they are going to have a fun gaming session. They will appreciate it more if they earn it.


#7 Practice Time Management

Keep things moving along. Make sure the majority of each session is spent completing an adventure, not jus hanging around town. Do not role play every mundane transaction (Buying rations, for example). Make sure you are spending time with each PC. Don't let one PC monopolize your attention.


#8 Get Feedback from your PCs

After a game session, reach out to each PC individually and find out if they had a could time. Be thick skinned if they have a criticism and try to make improvements to your GMing style. No one is born an awesome GM.


#9 Make It Fun

The first and last commandment.

Nexahs
2015-11-14, 03:27 PM
All good rules, and the importance of #8 in particular cannot be overstated.
Personally I would add a ninth that reiterates the first - a sort of Fight Club-esque "seriously everybody, we're doing this for fun."

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-14, 04:07 PM
All good rules, and the importance of #8 in particular cannot be overstated.
Personally I would add a ninth that reiterates the first - a sort of Fight Club-esque "seriously everybody, we're doing this for fun."

I like it! I am often guilty of taking this stuff too seriously.

AceOfFools
2015-11-14, 04:14 PM
#6 Rewards (xp,gp, magic items) shall be earned, not given.

Giving your PCs sacks of gold or enough xp to go up 2 levels just because its Friday does not guarantee they are going to have a fun gaming session. They will appreciate it more if they earn it.


I would love to see this elaborated on.

What does it mean to "earn" a reward in a tabletop rpg?

Especially in the context of d20 systems, you need an ever increasing flow of gold and magic items to remain competitive with the challanges you face as you increase in levels or encounter balance becomes... unfortunate.

What do you do when something gets out of sync?

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-14, 05:04 PM
What does it mean to "earn" a reward in a tabletop rpg?



You defeat the dragon to get the treasure. You get xp for role playing. You raid a tomb to get an ancient magical sword.


What do you do when something gets out of sync?

Depends on the situation. Lets pretend you are DMing a party where one PC has significantly less XP than the other players.

I would first ask Why? Does that player miss a lot of sessions? Is this player an introvert who waits for you to call on them? Is that player fairly new and not familiar with all of his or her abilities? Is another player monopolizing all your time when you play as a group? The cause would determine how I deal with it.

My solution would be to put that player through a solo adventure. This might help him or her come out of their shell, teach them more about their PCs special abilities, and let them catch up with the rest of the group.

But I think that you send a very bad message to the other players by giving that PC a free magic item or a free level or two. You are essentially saying that less work gets you a bigger reward.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-14, 05:29 PM
Personally I would add a ninth that reiterates the first - a sort of Fight Club-esque "seriously everybody, we're doing this for fun."

Done. Should be the first and last commandment.

Drynwyn
2015-11-14, 05:46 PM
I like it! I would say that numbers 2, 5, and 6 go out the window in a designated "comedy" game, however. If the point of the game is joking around, it's probably O.K to send a squad of debt-collector dragons on the player who didn't buy pizza last time it was his turn. (Assuming it's done in good fun, of course.)

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-15, 11:43 AM
I like it! I would say that numbers 2, 5, and 6 go out the window in a designated "comedy" game, however. If the point of the game is joking around, it's probably O.K to send a squad of debt-collector dragons on the player who didn't buy pizza last time it was his turn. (Assuming it's done in good fun, of course.)


Yes, I don't think these commandments would work well with Munchkin.

Comet
2015-11-15, 12:54 PM
#3 Be Prepared
All GMs will have to wing it from time to time but if you are not willing to spend a few hours preparing for each session, you shouldn't GM. Have a plan for where the campaign is going. Draw the maps. Decide which monster goes where. Study you players stats and abilities. Read the rules. If you using a written module, read it before the session starts. Keep a file of NPCs and maps to pull out when you need to wing it.


This one I disagree with. Not the general idea of it but the specific requirement of "a few hours". Some games require twelve hours of prep. Some games require fifteen minutes.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-15, 02:29 PM
This one I disagree with. Not the general idea of it but the specific requirement of "a few hours". Some games require twelve hours of prep. Some games require fifteen minutes.

The idea is to give broad general, commandments for GMs to help them run a good session.

The commandment is the underlined part. #3 Be Prepared

The text below it is my explanation; my interpretation of what this means based on my experience. Another GM might have a different but equally valid interpretation on what it means to "Be Prepared". They are not meant to be binding requirements for all GMs.

Quite obviously, I am not advocating that every GM spend exactly 180 minutes prepping for a session. I meant "a few hours" as a very general statement, not a specific one. This would include time spent reading books, magazines, and other source materials on the rpg. In my experience, a few hours is on the low side.

Quertus
2015-11-16, 10:27 AM
#1 Make It Fun

If you and your players aren't having fun, it's not worth doing.


#2 Be Fair

Don't play Favorites (If your girlfriends a PC, don't give her all 18s and a stack of magical weapons). Don't take a real world personal issue out on a PC (Sending a platoon of dragons on Bob's PC because he owes you $50). Make the game balanced to the PCs mix of levels, classes. and rpg playing experience. Don't suddenly change a monsters stats because the PCs came up with a clever way to kill it.

Know your players (probably a commandment itself / related to #8). Depending on what you mean by it, the bolded part of #2 is contrary to #1 for me. If the game feels custom-tailored to the characters, instead of realistic (or that v-word that isn't part of my vocabulary), it won't be fun for me. Admittedly, most people don't seem to enjoy the challenge of dealing with "inappropriate" challenges, like traps when no one has the appropriate skills, or mobs when no one has AoEs, etc, but I have a lot of fond memories of overcoming such "inappropriate" challenges - memories I wouldn't have if you followed #2 RAW.


#3 Be Prepared

All GMs will have to wing it from time to time but if you are not willing to spend a few hours preparing for each session, you shouldn't GM. Have a plan for where the campaign is going. Draw the maps. Decide which monster goes where. Study you players stats and abilities. Read the rules. If you using a written module, read it before the session starts. Keep a file of NPCs and maps to pull out when you need to wing it.

#5 Actions Shall Have Consequences

Sometimes the PCs will do stupid, mean, or evil things. Sometimes they do it just to test how you will react. These actions should have consequences up to and including the death of the PC. A PC gets in a bar brawl and kills everyone in a Tavern? Maybe a reward is put on their head and they are chased by bounty hunters. The PCs decide not to fight a tribe of orcs? The tribe invades and sacks a nearby town. A PC intentionally trips a poison needle trap? He dies.


#6 Rewards (xp,gp, magic items) shall be earned, not given.

Giving your PCs sacks of gold or enough xp to go up 2 levels just because its Friday does not guarantee they are going to have a fun gaming session. They will appreciate it more if they earn it.




Although I agree that they are generally good ideas, IME, games can be fun without #3 or #5, so they aren't 100% requirements.

For #3, Be prepared, I will comment that a rare few GMs (definitely not me!) run better sessions off-the-cuff. Some people like to be able to just get together and play, with no real prep time. I certainly didn't prep for the "games of make believe that were dimly based on D&D" that I played with an 8, 6, and 4 year old at their request. Just like games are better when the players care about the game, perhaps preparing for the game is just one aspect of the DM caring about the game. And, if you have to pick, winging it is probably better than railroading where the campaign is going.

#5, Actions shall have consequences, is harder for me to make a case for ignoring. I believe I react to it because I've played under GMs who followed the "law of unintended consequences" without ever giving nod to the intended consequences of actions, and I fear abuse of this "commandment" will encourage this behavior. Also, some players like the simplified ethics of the murder hobo, and don't want to worry over the finer details of morality when committing a home invasion on "evil" monsters. Because things with stats monsters are made of XP and loot.

What if the "stupid" thing the player did to the poison dart trap mentioned above was to not have enough ranks in disable device to auto-succeed, rolled badly to disable, didn't have contingencies, and rolled badly enough to fail a fort save? Should they still die? IMO, yes. Know the (unspoken) social contract.

For #6, Rewards shall be earned, not given... Although I generally agree, I see several potential issues.

First off, don't abuse this - don't make players jump through complicated hoops for what the system gives automatically. Different systems handle rewards differently. Many reward XP on a per session / per time spent basis. Some make you spend XP for all gear you acquire. If a player wants to build a magic item in 2e, it is perfectly reasonable for them to have to research how to make it, and to need to go on a quest for liquefied essence of butterfly dreams and the 666th cobblestone on the path to hell paved with good intentions. In 3.x, if someone wants to craft a magical item (and the character has the appropriate feat), if you as DM spend more than 5 minutes of the player's time, and delay the character for more than 0 seconds past the shopping time everyone took to get their items, you've probably done something wrong. Know the system - not just the rules, but the feel

And I believe "make them earn it" applies to their successes, as well. See my comment on dying to poisons. Also, I played several games under one GM until, in one final climactic epic battle with a dragon, my character died. The GM was surprised, and asked me to verify my HP. I hadn't healed up 100% before the final battle - I had started the battle down 3 HP, enough to make the difference between living and dying. The GM apologized, and offered to have my character not be dead instead. I declined. I realized that that had been the only PC death in all the time I had gamed with him. The DM tracked HP, and fudged damage so as not to kill the characters. The story was already written, and stepping through it was no accomplishment. Everything I had done under that GM - and everything I could do afterwards - lost its meaning.

In addition to my above comments, I might include rules like,

give players the opportunity to shine

There are a lot of things this could mean; allow me to address the least obvious one. If a player is supposed to be really good at X, and you want to have an NPC who is better / who beats them at their own game, or just a challenge that is above their pay grade, make sure that you first acknowledge their skill in some meaningful way, perhaps several times, at least several sessions beforehand.

Yes, giving them the opportunity to shine also means letting the players use their abilities, giving them agency, and giving them all screen time. On that note...

Encourage players to share responsibility

By which I mean, well, a lot of things. IMO, it doesn't have to be the GM's - or just the GM's - job to fix problems. If one player is dominating screen time, the DM can look for ways for everyone else to contribute, or everyone can work together to solve the problem, or you can ask the "problem" player how they suggest fixing things... or, heck, the group can just agree that it is not a problem playing "Thor and the Avengers". But...

Don't force players to do things they aren't comfortable with

This not only includes the various components of what makes a game G/PG/R/A, but also the various components of acting/roleplaying, being forced into playing as a sidekick to a dominating player, taking responsibility for other players, and probably a lot of other things I haven't thought of.

Be consistent

Learn to say "yes"

I believe one of the newer editions of D&D has a section heading to this extent. I believe its intent is, if the player wants to jump out a window to land on the Bad Guys, don't say "the system doesn't have a rule for that"; instead, invent an appropriate rule to cover their action.

But also... part of the draw of 3.x is the sheer number of options available - if a player wants to play a Dread Pirate, don't limit them unless legitimately, "pirates don't exist on my world".

Learn when to say "no", learn how to say "no"

Sometimes, you actually do have to put your foot down to preserve the fun of the game. But there are different approaches, from "No. Just no." to "your character isn't fun for the rest of the party. How do you suggest we fix this?"

Uplift the weak, don't just nerf the strong

Every DM I've seen take action about balance has done so by nerfing the strong (and/or ranting about game balance before TPKing the party first encounter). Be better than that.

A consequence of Make it fun, Know your players, and Be prepared is to understand the different types of things that people find fun in games, and understand which your players find fun (and what detracts from their fun).

Perhaps a lot of my comments could be compiled to Earn their trust, build their trust, deserve their trust.

NichG
2015-11-16, 02:33 PM
For me I'd say:

- Know your players

Every player has different likes, dislikes, tendencies, abilities, comfort zones, etc. If you know your players, you can target the game to them, anticipate their reactions, etc. This also means, try to empathize with your players and understand what they're feeling and how they're responding to the game.

- Be flexible

Don't be afraid to improvise. A fear of improvising can lead to things like the DM trying too hard to control the game to stay within the realm of things that have been prepared. But preparation is fragile - its not there for its own sake, its there for organizing your mind so that you can improvise better. Don't be dogmatic about canon, or rules, or what you have down on paper.

- Be creative

Personalize the game; make it 'yours'. It's your twists on things, your elaborations and adjustments and explanations and quirks and themes and house rules and so on that will give your game character and make it feel alive. Surprise your players, expand their world, expand their understanding of gaming, try new things...

- Be adaptive

As you learn more about how the game is going, change your style, your ideas, etc as you go. If you hear a good idea from a player, run with it. If the players seem to be particularly interested in something you hadn't thought would be central, take that seriously and see if you can change the game's course to follow what the players care about. At the larger scale, always examine your own DMing and how people respond to it, and change what you do in order to constantly improve.

- Be willing and able to direct the group dynamic

Sometimes players will get stuck debating some minor point with each-other and go in circles for hours. Sometimes players get very frustrated because of a setback, or because of a disagreement. Sometimes players will feel lost, or unable to contribute. Sometimes there will be a personality clash. In all of these cases, its your job to recognize what's going on and guide things back to where everyone was having fun. Don't let the game stall out or become poisonous or things like that. Its also important to recognize some times when it looks unproductive but actually the players are having fun with it, and leave it alone.

- Stay rational about your own behavior

Its easy for DMs to get emotional about things that happen to 'their world', 'their characters', etc; or to get personally frustrated with how a player is behaving. As a DM, you have to be very careful to put that kind of thing aside, or at the least recognize when it requires an OOC discussion to resolve before you can continue to be impartial and rational about your DMing.

- Be on your players' side, even when you aren't on their characters' side

Make it fun. Make it educational. Help your players grow. Any/all of these things mean that you should do everything you do because you think it will make the game a better experience for your players.

nedz
2015-11-16, 02:34 PM
These three can be very hard to do

Give players the opportunity to shine
The good players will seize/make the moment, the lesser ones will just sit there until the moment has passed. Also, not every player likes to stand out.

Encourage players to share responsibility
Again, players who shirk this will still shirk it especially if it's IC to do so.

Uplift the weak, don't just nerf the strong
Yeah - you drop an item and the party give it to the strong guy, or brake/lose/sell it.

You use some non-item fix and the strong player complains about favouritism especially if you're simply trying to save the game after the party has become unbalanced.

FatR
2015-11-16, 03:12 PM
#8 Get Feedback from your PCs

I'd like to note that in my experience, unless a player provides feedback whether you want to hear it or not, you very rarely be able to extract it by just asking. Unless you've bored/irritated a player enough to quit your game, the answer given to "did you have a good time?" will almost always be "yes".

Less direct questions, like asking them about their favorite scenes, fights or NPCs are more likely to produce results.

LnGrrrR
2015-11-16, 03:57 PM
I would add, "Make sure you and your players are on the same page." If they want epic fantasy/four-color goodness, while you planned a grimdark n' gritty campaign, or you are running a heavy RP game and they want to just kick down doors, etc etc, it probably won't work very well.

Quertus
2015-11-16, 05:26 PM
These three can be very hard to do

So, just because these 3 are hard, do you suggest that they shouldn't be "commandments"?


Give players the opportunity to shine
The good players will seize/make the moment, the lesser ones will just sit there until the moment has passed. Also, not every player likes to stand out.

OK, point - how can you tell if you've really given them the opportunity if they don't take it? Keep an open dialog? Worse is when some other player "steals" their opportunity to shine.

I was that player once. To be fair, the events below occurred in a single session, and only because the DM had given me a new toy to play with.

The DM had taken all the characters and put their minds into new bodies. In retrospect, I see that there were X challenges and X characters, and that each challenge was supposed to be geared to a specific character. At the time, I only saw one puzzle at a time, and the first puzzle took the party forever to solve. It took forever because it was supposed to be "my" puzzle.

When we first woke up in new bodies, my character wound up off to one side, trying to work out the details of his new powers, while the rest of the characters got to work on the first "puzzle". The problem was, the DM made my character a shapeshifter... in the most ridiculous, overpowered way possible. So, once I understood how his new powers worked, and once my character understood how his powers worked, I went to town. I overcame every challenge in our path with reckless abandon, generally having my character become something better suited to the challenge than what the GM had given the other players. Kind of a jerk move, but, instead of metagaming about the DM's purpose in giving us these bodies, or paying attention to what the other characters were to see if they could be useful, I was just playing the game (not the metagame), just playing my character (not the party), and, since people seemed to have gotten frustrated/bored/whatever with the first challenge, I metagamed slightly in deciding I should speed things along. Ah, hindsight.

Now, if we had kept these bodies for multiple sessions, the DM really should have called me aside between sessions to address my behavior, to make sure I gave the other characters a chance to shine.


Encourage players to share responsibility
Again, players who shirk this will still shirk it especially if it's IC to do so.

My idea was poorly worded, because I was trying to overload the meaning. Perhaps I should have just said, Don't (try to) be an island? Or Gaming is a group activity? If a player needs help building his character, some other player could do this just as well as the DM; if a player is being a problem, in some (most?) cases, having the group discuss it, or "the one person that player listens to best" bring it up can be better than the DM addressing it. Maybe your experiences are different, but I've seen a lot of DMs who seem to feel that they need to shoulder the burden of everything all by themselves, when sometimes there are others who are better suited (or just have more time during the game) and are eager to help. Happily, some of my players have volunteered to help out with some of my... weaker areas... at times.


Uplift the weak, don't just nerf the strong
Yeah - you drop an item and the party give it to the strong guy, or brake/lose/sell it.

You use some non-item fix and the strong player complains about favouritism especially if you're simply trying to save the game after the party has become unbalanced.

Even if you use an item fix, they can still complain about favoritism. :smallwink: And they can certainly complain about favoritism if you try to nerf the strong, especially if their new/revised character seems weaker than the now-strongest member of the party.

Again with keep an open dialog, if you're at the point of "trying to save the game", if everyone can see that the party is unbalanced, and that this is a game-destroying problem, have the group talk about how to fix it. Perhaps changing the party's tactics will give the other players agency without diminishing the group's total efficiency. Perhaps everyone will agree to have the party munchkin help rebuild the weaker characters. Perhaps they want you to make encounters that focus on the other characters' strengths, to give them opportunities to shine. Perhaps they want you to drop items custom-tailored to the weaker players. Perhaps the weaker character will fall into some radioactive sludge and emerge with new super powers. Whatever. But don't think exclusively about trying to solve the problem by trying to nerf the strong character. Perhaps don't even consider that option at all. Determine, with the group, what option works best for the group.

If only the strong player can't see the problem, even after you explain how it is a problem, have them explain how it isn't a problem, and see if they can convince you.

The last time I was in a game where someone accused my character being too strong, I introspected, and then pointed out how my character had had 0 agency in that game. Even if my character had some decent stats (not sure how good they were, but they were not as good as some of the players thought, and I'm pretty sure not as good as several of the other characters' stats), my character had literally accomplished nothing, literally added nothing to the adventure. If he hadn't been there, absolutely nothing would have been changed. For example, any damage I had dealt, the enemies would have still been killed by my allies' AoE damage that killed the creature I had damaged, plus the half-dozen undamaged creatures right beside them. Literally, the only effect my character had on the party was to consume a share of the resources. And people were upset because they thought that my character was too powerful. They were trying to nerf... a character who was campaign-to-date ineffectual. :smallfurious:

So, after they brought game balance up, I realized that my character was actually too weak, and utterly lacking in agency in that game. (I hadn't noticed before that point, because I was enjoying roleplaying the character, and not really paying attention to minutia like actual accomplishment) And, of course, once I brought up my character's lack of agency, nothing was done to solve this problem, and give my character any ability to make an intentional impact on the game. :smallfurious:

But also... many DMs ban spells, classes, items, feats, etc for being too powerful - but how many make the same bans for things that are too weak? How many DMs put their foot down and say, "you can't bring this character - it's too weak for the party?" If game balance is important enough to ban the strong, isn't it important enough to ban the weak? Or is the enjoyment of players whose system mastery is so low that they make such terrible choices not important?

I question whether the game that only allows all the stuff most DMs ban (and bans everything else) wouldn't be better balanced than the game that allows such disparity of power as the ones were only the strong are banned in the name of game balance.

Not that I've seen it done, but I like the idea of "test-driving" the character. Before you get into the "real" campaign, you take the character out for a spin. If they don't meet your expectations, or if there are balance problems, you tune the character until everyone is happy. Then you start the game.





- Be adaptive

- Be willing and able to direct the group dynamic

Sometimes players will get stuck debating some minor point with each-other and go in circles for hours. Sometimes players get very frustrated because of a setback, or because of a disagreement. Sometimes players will feel lost, or unable to contribute. Sometimes there will be a personality clash. In all of these cases, its your job to recognize what's going on and guide things back to where everyone was having fun. Don't let the game stall out or become poisonous or things like that. Its also important to recognize some times when it looks unproductive but actually the players are having fun with it, and leave it alone.

- Be on your players' side, even when you aren't on their characters' side


Love your list, especially the three I quoted. Too many DMs seem to have a "DM vs. the players" mentality. And kudos on the section I bolded about knowing when to leave well enough alone. Reading through, I was trying to think how to explain that point, then saw to my pleasant surprise you already had it covered.

The "be willing and able to direct the group dynamic" is probably one of those things where my players help me out at times. :smallredface:

nedz
2015-11-16, 06:17 PM
So, just because these 3 are hard, do you suggest that they shouldn't be "commandments"?
Yes, because you are more likely to screw up. I have tried most of these in the past with varying results.



Give players the opportunity to shine
The good players will seize/make the moment, the lesser ones will just sit there until the moment has passed. Also, not every player likes to stand out.OK, point - how can you tell if you've really given them the opportunity if they don't take it? Keep an open dialog? Worse is when some other player "steals" their opportunity to shine.
You're metagaming and railroading. Also it cheapens the experience if you blatantly create such opportunities.



Encourage players to share responsibility
Again, players who shirk this will still shirk it especially if it's IC to do so.
My idea was poorly worded, because I was trying to overload the meaning. Perhaps I should have just said, Don't (try to) be an island? Or Gaming is a group activity? If a player needs help building his character, some other player could do this just as well as the DM; if a player is being a problem, in some (most?) cases, having the group discuss it, or "the one person that player listens to best" bring it up can be better than the DM addressing it. Maybe your experiences are different, but I've seen a lot of DMs who seem to feel that they need to shoulder the burden of everything all by themselves, when sometimes there are others who are better suited (or just have more time during the game) and are eager to help. Happily, some of my players have volunteered to help out with some of my... weaker areas... at times.
I delegate as much as possible, but some players are wall flowers who don't like being put on the spot.




Uplift the weak, don't just nerf the strong
Yeah - you drop an item and the party give it to the strong guy, or brake/lose/sell it.

You use some non-item fix and the strong player complains about favouritism especially if you're simply trying to save the game after the party has become unbalanced.
Even if you use an item fix, they can still complain about favoritism. :smallwink: And they can certainly complain about favoritism if you try to nerf the strong, especially if their new/revised character seems weaker than the now-strongest member of the party.
This is the usual complaint especially amongst competitive players. They feel like they have earned their power and now you've taken it away. This is most common with players who haven't DM'd.

Another complaint is that it's not their fault that person X is useless at building characters.

If an over powered item turns up: I let them use it a few times and then find some way of resolving the issue, but this is an easy case. Overpowered PCs are much harder to deal with.


If only the strong player can't see the problem, even after you explain how it is a problem, have them explain how it isn't a problem, and see if they can convince you.
I have saved games, but usually the strong player doesn't get it. Turning it around is a good approach I have used a few times, but sometimes your view will be discounted.


The last time I was in a game where someone accused my character being too strong, I introspected, and then pointed out how my character had had 0 agency in that game. Even if my character had some decent stats (not sure how good they were, but they were not as good as some of the players thought, and I'm pretty sure not as good as several of the other characters' stats), my character had literally accomplished nothing, literally added nothing to the adventure. If he hadn't been there, absolutely nothing would have been changed. For example, any damage I had dealt, the enemies would have still been killed by my allies' AoE damage that killed the creature I had damaged, plus the half-dozen undamaged creatures right beside them. Literally, the only effect my character had on the party was to consume a share of the resources. And people were upset because they thought that my character was too powerful. They were trying to nerf... a character who was campaign-to-date ineffectual. :smallfurious:

So, after they brought game balance up, I realized that my character was actually too weak, and utterly lacking in agency in that game. (I hadn't noticed before that point, because I was enjoying roleplaying the character, and not really paying attention to minutia like actual accomplishment) And, of course, once I brought up my character's lack of agency, nothing was done to solve this problem, and give my character any ability to make an intentional impact on the game. :smallfurious:
It's very common for problems to get mis-diagnosed. Applying a fix to something when you have mis-diagnosed the issue causes problems rather than fixing anything.

It is very common for some character to pull ahead only for other, late flowering builds, to catch up. I've seen this many times, especially with melle at low level. I always take this into account and wait for a few levels.


But also... many DMs ban spells, classes, items, feats, etc for being too powerful - but how many make the same bans for things that are too weak? How many DMs put their foot down and say, "you can't bring this character - it's too weak for the party?" If game balance is important enough to ban the strong, isn't it important enough to ban the weak? Or is the enjoyment of players whose system mastery is so low that they make such terrible choices not important?

I question whether the game that only allows all the stuff most DMs ban (and bans everything else) wouldn't be better balanced than the game that allows such disparity of power as the ones were only the strong are banned in the name of game balance.

I use persuasion, but some players actually like playing characters who screw up. If someone insists on playing a naff PC there is really nothing you can do.

Quertus
2015-11-16, 11:14 PM
You're metagaming and railroading. Also it cheapens the experience if you blatantly create such opportunities.

Ouch.

OK, agree completely with that last part - I neither generally like nor generally create the "this piece is obviously designed for you" scenarios. BUT... if the character is all about X, whether X is stealth or combat or knowledge: fluffy bunnies, I will at least try to make sure that it isn't the case that everything in the entire world is better at detection than the character is at stealth, better at combat than the character, or that all fluffy bunnies in the world were hit by balefire last Christmas. So... I try to make sure that the world isn't designed completely against the character, and that they have an opportunity to shine. Or, you know, if the world irrevocably is stacked against their character for some reason (the government gave out free ocular implants of +20 perception last Spy on Your Neighbor Day), I try to let them know this, so they can either optimize better, or pick a different character concept.

Also, it's a matter of focus for me. If you play a character who is interested in art, handwriting styles, what have you, I will try to make sure to occasionally include descriptions of such things, that I wouldn't bother describing otherwise, in case it is relevant to your character.

If that's metagaming... guilty as charged. :smallwink: The player put a lot of work into X for their character, they conceptualize their character as being good at X, find a way to acknowledge their efforts. Or, you know, they put ranks in knowledge: fluffy bunnies, so be aware of what that could do for the character. Don't necessarily change the adventure, just think about how that skill might come into play, and, if it could, don't forget to give the hooks / enough information to the player that they have the opportunity to use it. I've been on all 3 sides of the issue when a player had a skill that could have been helpful, but had no way of knowing that, even though their character should have known. So, at least when I'm running the game, I try to make sure that doesn't happen. "Oh, you're trained in toxic waste disposal? Well, about the cafeteria..."

But railroading? I usually run very sandbox games, so much so that some of my players know that, when asked by a new player if something is a red herring, they will respond that everything is a red herring, but that I'm willing to run with any red herring as long as the players are having fun. Now, if I *know* that, even though the player put a lot of effort into X (say, perception), but someone later in the adventure is going to completely outclass them (in either direction - by having way more perception, or way more stealth), I think it is a good idea to give value to their choice before introducing that outclassing element. Yes, it is best if the acknowledgement occurs naturally, but keep an eye open for an opportunity. Perhaps one of the BBE's henchmen could try to sneak away while the party's attention is elsewhere. Perhaps instead of just telling them that they see something, have them make a roll for it. Or the reverse - remove the need for rolls because of their skill: "your perception is what? OK, you see...".

Now, yes, generally the "DM introduces something like your character, but better" is very cliched and railroading - which is why I generally don't do it unless it was already there in the story before the PCs were added to the mix. But, I figured, if you're going to do it anyway, at least do it right.


I have saved games, but usually the strong player doesn't get it. Turning it around is a good approach I have used a few times, but sometimes your view will be discounted.

Well, a) "sometimes your view will be discounted" is one of the reasons why it's a party discussion; b) even if they try to discount everyone else's view of something (and I've seen cases where the one was right where the many were wrong), a reasonable person can't really discount the "we aren't having fun" part. So include them on the "how do we make the game fun for everyone again" discussion.


Overpowered PCs are much harder to deal with.

The hardest to deal with are overpowered players - players who are smarter than the other players, who are better tacticians than the other players, who are more charismatic than the other players, who have better problem-solving skills than the other players, who have better system knowledge than the other players. Players who, even if you forced them to run a 1-armed commoner, they'd still be stronger than everyone else in the party - combined.

My (usually favorable) experience with such players is why I generally hold more to the social contract and everyone having a good time than any sense of statistical game balance.

nedz
2015-11-17, 02:52 AM
Ouch.

OK, agree completely with that last part - I neither generally like nor generally create the "this piece is obviously designed for you" scenarios. BUT... if the character is all about X, whether X is stealth or combat or knowledge: fluffy bunnies, I will at least try to make sure that it isn't the case that everything in the entire world is better at detection than the character is at stealth, better at combat than the character, or that all fluffy bunnies in the world were hit by balefire last Christmas. So... I try to make sure that the world isn't designed completely against the character, and that they have an opportunity to shine. Or, you know, if the world irrevocably is stacked against their character for some reason (the government gave out free ocular implants of +20 perception last Spy on Your Neighbor Day), I try to let them know this, so they can either optimize better, or pick a different character concept.
I was being harsh.
Personally I prefer the approach where I throw a wide selection of encounters at the party, subject to the locale (because verisimilitude), and let the dice fall where they may. I set the scene, but it's up to the players to act.

Also, it's a matter of focus for me. If you play a character who is interested in art, handwriting styles, what have you, I will try to make sure to occasionally include descriptions of such things, that I wouldn't bother describing otherwise, in case it is relevant to your character.

If that's metagaming... guilty as charged. :smallwink: The player put a lot of work into X for their character, they conceptualize their character as being good at X, find a way to acknowledge their efforts. Or, you know, they put ranks in knowledge: fluffy bunnies, so be aware of what that could do for the character. Don't necessarily change the adventure, just think about how that skill might come into play, and, if it could, don't forget to give the hooks / enough information to the player that they have the opportunity to use it. I've been on all 3 sides of the issue when a player had a skill that could have been helpful, but had no way of knowing that, even though their character should have known. So, at least when I'm running the game, I try to make sure that doesn't happen. "Oh, you're trained in toxic waste disposal? Well, about the cafeteria..."
Yes, you shouldn't run a combat heavy game for a party of hairdressers.


But railroading? I usually run very sandbox games, so much so that some of my players know that, when asked by a new player if something is a red herring, they will respond that everything is a red herring, but that I'm willing to run with any red herring as long as the players are having fun. Now, if I *know* that, even though the player put a lot of effort into X (say, perception), but someone later in the adventure is going to completely outclass them (in either direction - by having way more perception, or way more stealth), I think it is a good idea to give value to their choice before introducing that outclassing element. Yes, it is best if the acknowledgement occurs naturally, but keep an eye open for an opportunity. Perhaps one of the BBE's henchmen could try to sneak away while the party's attention is elsewhere. Perhaps instead of just telling them that they see something, have them make a roll for it. Or the reverse - remove the need for rolls because of their skill: "your perception is what? OK, you see...".

Now, yes, generally the "DM introduces something like your character, but better" is very cliched and railroading - which is why I generally don't do it unless it was already there in the story before the PCs were added to the mix. But, I figured, if you're going to do it anyway, at least do it right.
It's railroading if your plot requires a certain PC to follow a certain course of action, even if the plot element is only there to allow them to shine; which is what I thought you were saying. I can only respond to your comments, not your game.


Well, a) "sometimes your view will be discounted" is one of the reasons why it's a party discussion; b) even if they try to discount everyone else's view of something (and I've seen cases where the one was right where the many were wrong), a reasonable person can't really discount the "we aren't having fun" part. So include them on the "how do we make the game fun for everyone again" discussion.
I've had some very headstrong players. :smallsigh:


The hardest to deal with are overpowered players - players who are smarter than the other players, who are better tacticians than the other players, who are more charismatic than the other players, who have better problem-solving skills than the other players, who have better system knowledge than the other players. Players who, even if you forced them to run a 1-armed commoner, they'd still be stronger than everyone else in the party - combined.

My (usually favorable) experience with such players is why I generally hold more to the social contract and everyone having a good time than any sense of statistical game balance.
I usually find the issues come when you have divergent play styles within the same group which always happens to a degree.
You get some players who make IC decisions based on their role-play of the character. Now whilst this can degenerate into "That's what my character would do", it's usually effect is to make the character less effective.
Other players however, and I think this might be one of the types you are referring to, make decisions as if they were playing Chess or something. These will always make the smartest decision they can, even if their character has Int 3.
There are also those players who use their personal charm (RL) to try and persuade the DM to a certain course of action. If they are really good, this can be hard to spot.

Most of this comes down to "Know your Players" which you mentioned earlier.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-17, 08:47 AM
Good discussion! When I last logged on on Sunday, I thought this thread was going nowhere but now we have replies longer than War and Peace.

I see one point of contention as being what the definition of a Strong Player is.

Some are defining it as the Best Player. In my experience, the best player is not too much of a problem, because usually they are more teamwork oriented and help out with less experienced players. They might "Quarterback" a bit too much, but don't create a huge problem for the GM other than he/she must stay sharp to keep the game challenging.

Others seem to be defining it as the Loudest Player or most overbearing player. The guy who insist the spotlight must always focus on him. The guy who interrupts you when you are describing an encounter. The guy who get's involved in other players character development. The guy who browbeats other players to get he wants. Often another GM. Usually not as good a player as he thinks he is. That guy can be a pain for a GM.

LnGrrrR
2015-11-17, 11:15 AM
Good discussion! When I last logged on on Sunday, I thought this thread was going nowhere but now we have replies longer than War and Peace.

I see one point of contention as being what the definition of a Strong Player is.

Some are defining it as the Best Player. In my experience, the best player is not too much of a problem, because usually they are more teamwork oriented and help out with less experienced players. They might "Quarterback" a bit too much, but don't create a huge problem for the GM other than he/she must stay sharp to keep the game challenging.

Others seem to be defining it as the Loudest Player or most overbearing player. The guy who insist the spotlight must always focus on him. The guy who interrupts you when you are describing an encounter. The guy who get's involved in other players character development. The guy who browbeats other players to get he wants. Often another GM. Usually not as good a player as he thinks he is. That guy can be a pain for a GM.

I definitely dealt with one of those! Our usual DM stepped aside to let someone else run a campaign, and he played this annoying character who was very "manic pixie boy", to the point where everyone else in the party ignored him IC. Very frustrating. I understand that changelings can be capricious, and may want to have fun at other peoples' expenses. But there's no way that character, as existed, wouldn't have gotten the pointy end of a sword jabbed through his face years ago.

Amphetryon
2015-11-18, 06:47 AM
This is mostly related to the "Know your Players" rule, but I have known more than my fair share of Players, through the years, who view Don't Railroad and Actions Shall Have Consequences as mutually exclusive goals.

goto124
2015-11-18, 07:49 AM
Might have to do with horrible GMs who railroad players then hide behind the excuse of 'actions have consequences', yet every action other than the 'correct' one will lead to bad things or nothing even when it doesn't make sense.

It makes players believe that Actions Have Consequences means every single action they take outside whatever the GM wants will lead to 'nope doesn't work', TPKs, and the like.

I've had a similar experience before - it felt as if anything less that "100% prepared" meant death and failure, and "100% prepared" actually means "read the GM's mind", which in turn is a bit more like "the GM totally gave you the opportunity to get the clue, it was just hidden in the one brick at the bottom of a dungeon in some obscure place in the middle of nowhere with no clues at all, it's your fault you didn't get it".

NichG
2015-11-18, 09:54 AM
This is mostly related to the "Know your Players" rule, but I have known more than my fair share of Players, through the years, who view Don't Railroad and Actions Shall Have Consequences as mutually exclusive goals.

This really does come down to knowing your players. A player like this, I would guess, is probably reacting to the feeling of being judged OOC by the DM's standards, and so they feel the DM has a 'right' choice and will punish them for deviating. In that case, you can use strictly positive reinforcement for your consequences, where the 'consequence' part just controls what kind of reinforcement the player receives. You can even acclimate them a bit to the possibility of negative consequences by flavoring the positive consequences in different ways. For example, take something where the player expects you to punish them for it, but reward them via dubious means - if they e.g. keep an artifact of religious significance (and power), rather than having all the people chastise them for it, maybe a splinter branch of the faith springs up around them claiming that they are a messianic figure and actually have the right to wield it, but the members of that splinter branch are a little bit cultist-y...

Or, it might just be that the player never wants to 'fail' at something - they like the feeling of success and failure doesn't actually drive them to try harder, it just makes them depressed or frustrated. So for that kind of player, you can have the consequences be social/interactional ones rather than failure. Have NPCs who are aware of the PC's actions and choices and personality - the details of how they did things, not just what was done - and have them indicate that with their starting attitude and behavior towards the PC. If the PC used cleverness and diplomacy to solve a conflict, have NPCs recognize that and ask their advice in those arenas. If they used force of arms, have NPCs approach them for training. If they stumbled through by luck and just made it by the skin of their teeth, have a bard/investigative reporter want to follow them around to see if they're 'really' the hero that the stories claim. If they just nuked the city their enemy was in from orbit, there are wanna-be dictators out there who would love to give them a slice of the world if they would help them conquer it...

goto124
2015-11-18, 10:16 AM
NichG, do you have time to GM a simple PbP game such as DnD 5e? I would really like to play under someone like you.

nedz
2015-11-18, 10:47 AM
This is mostly related to the "Know your Players" rule, but I have known more than my fair share of Players, through the years, who view Don't Railroad and Actions Shall Have Consequences as mutually exclusive goals.

Surely the opposite is true ?

Lets see, Railroad game, chase scene
Villain runs away and you give chase: whether you catch them or not is predetermined because plot.
You cast haste, or whatever, and this has no consequence.

NichG
2015-11-18, 10:53 AM
NichG, do you have time to GM a simple PbP game such as DnD 5e? I would really like to play under someone like you.

Not in the immediate future, since I'm running a fairly involved thing over Roll20 that takes most of my spare time for gaming. I'm also not so sure about PbP since I don't really have PbP experience and it seems like it'd be particularly difficult to keep the posters engaged and active.

LnGrrrR
2015-11-18, 11:19 AM
Yeah, I enjoy the "unintended consequences" that don't hammer a player over the head. For instance, you killed a Dr. Doom-ish figure. Great! Except his thieving and burglary was the only thing keeping his citizens fed, because there is a drastic lack of resources in the country. Do the PCs care? Do they try to help? Give them some wizards to terraform the earth a bit (and that comes at a pretty penny)?

I like doing the "Great you have X items, now how do you deal with Y?", where players realize that there may be a catch to their victory.

Quertus
2015-11-18, 01:33 PM
Surely the opposite is true ?

Lets see, Railroad game, chase scene
Villain runs away and you give chase: whether you catch them or not is predetermined because plot.
You cast haste, or whatever, and this has no consequence.

I think the problem is, DMs who railroad are the same DMs who will beat the players over the head with contrived problems whenever the players try to jump off their rails, while smiling and claiming, "actions have consequences".

I think those who pay lip service to this noble idea have given actions having consequences a bad name.

Kinda like Nick Fury's comment about, "you say peace, but I think you mean the other thing".

Because, yeah, whenever someone says "actions shall have consequences", I have to fight really hard not to just hear "choo-choo". :(

nedz
2015-11-18, 02:20 PM
I think the problem is, DMs who railroad are the same DMs who will beat the players over the head with contrived problems whenever the players try to jump off their rails, while smiling and claiming, "actions have consequences".

I think those who pay lip service to this noble idea have given actions having consequences a bad name.

Kinda like Nick Fury's comment about, "you say peace, but I think you mean the other thing".

Because, yeah, whenever someone says "actions shall have consequences", I have to fight really hard not to just hear "choo-choo". :(

I suppose it could be abused for some stealth railroading. I normally associate it with sandboxes where the PC's actions trigger events - often ad libbed.

goto124
2015-11-18, 09:30 PM
For example, the GM wants the NPC to get away.

GM: The NPC runs away!
Player: I cast Haste and chase the NPC!
GM: ... Sigh... since you're running at such high speeds, you run straight into a police car.
Player: What? Not even a Dex check to dodge?
GM: Nah. The police get out of the car and start shooting you. You die.
Player: Huh?! Why should they shoot instead of arresting me?
GM: You showed magic in the city. It's shoot-on-sight.
Player: You didn't even say anything like that before the game started! Fine, why do I get no chance to run away from the police?
GM: Your Haste does not make you faster than a bullet.
Player: But that doesn't make sense, the police still need a few seconds to move into position, take out their guns-
GM: I said you're already dead. Go to that corner and wait out an hour before rejoining the game with a new character. Actions have consequences.

Amphetryon
2015-11-18, 09:35 PM
I suppose it could be abused for some stealth railroading. I normally associate it with sandboxes where the PC's actions trigger events - often ad libbed.

As I've indicated previously, I have known Players for whom "we want to rob a bank!" resulting in "after two weeks of adventuring and 3 bank robberies, the Marshals have you cornered and outnumbered in a ravine" leads to cries of "Railroading DM!"

nedz
2015-11-19, 04:49 AM
As I've indicated previously, I have known Players for whom "we want to rob a bank!" resulting in "after two weeks of adventuring and 3 bank robberies, the Marshals have you cornered and outnumbered in a ravine" leads to cries of "Railroading DM!"

OK - so it's the players whinging ?

From the information presented here I don't see any tracks ?

Amphetryon
2015-11-19, 07:44 AM
OK - so it's the players whinging ?

From the information presented here I don't see any tracks ?

"Actions have consequences" is a form of railroading to a certain Player mindset. I have encountered several Players with this mindset. I have yet to see a good solution to this issue that did not involve firing Players, lining them all up for a Stooge slap, or talking at them as if they were pre-adolescent.

goto124
2015-11-19, 08:09 AM
Erm... close to the bottom of the previous page:


This really does come down to knowing your players. A player like this, I would guess, is probably reacting to the feeling of being judged OOC by the DM's standards, and so they feel the DM has a 'right' choice and will punish them for deviating. In that case, you can use strictly positive reinforcement for your consequences, where the 'consequence' part just controls what kind of reinforcement the player receives. You can even acclimate them a bit to the possibility of negative consequences by flavoring the positive consequences in different ways. For example, take something where the player expects you to punish them for it, but reward them via dubious means - if they e.g. keep an artifact of religious significance (and power), rather than having all the people chastise them for it, maybe a splinter branch of the faith springs up around them claiming that they are a messianic figure and actually have the right to wield it, but the members of that splinter branch are a little bit cultist-y...

Or, it might just be that the player never wants to 'fail' at something - they like the feeling of success and failure doesn't actually drive them to try harder, it just makes them depressed or frustrated. So for that kind of player, you can have the consequences be social/interactional ones rather than failure. Have NPCs who are aware of the PC's actions and choices and personality - the details of how they did things, not just what was done - and have them indicate that with their starting attitude and behavior towards the PC. If the PC used cleverness and diplomacy to solve a conflict, have NPCs recognize that and ask their advice in those arenas. If they used force of arms, have NPCs approach them for training. If they stumbled through by luck and just made it by the skin of their teeth, have a bard/investigative reporter want to follow them around to see if they're 'really' the hero that the stories claim. If they just nuked the city their enemy was in from orbit, there are wanna-be dictators out there who would love to give them a slice of the world if they would help them conquer it...

nedz
2015-11-19, 08:18 AM
"Actions have consequences" is a form of railroading to a certain Player mindset. I have encountered several Players with this mindset. I have yet to see a good solution to this issue that did not involve firing Players, lining them all up for a Stooge slap, or talking at them as if they were pre-adolescent.

Not one I've encountered thankfully. I have encountered the opposite "Why does our role-play have no consequences ?" not in one of my games I should add.

Different players, different play-styles I guess ?

Amphetryon
2015-11-19, 08:33 AM
Erm... close to the bottom of the previous page:

If those solutions work for you, great. They do not work in my experience, as the Players in question still equate negative consequences with Railroading, and perceive those negative consequences as equally 'Railroady' whether they are combat, social, or gold piece-related consequences.

nedz
2015-11-19, 10:03 AM
If those solutions work for you, great. They do not work in my experience, as the Players in question still equate negative consequences with Railroading, and perceive those negative consequences as equally 'Railroady' whether they are combat, social, or gold piece-related consequences.

Are you sure they're not just trolling you ?

Maybe they need to play in an actual railroad game just so they know the difference because they don't seem to know what that term means ?

Amphetryon
2015-11-19, 06:25 PM
Are you sure they're not just trolling you ?

Maybe they need to play in an actual railroad game just so they know the difference because they don't seem to know what that term means ?

No, they are not just trolling.

No, I do not see "you think this is horrible, then I'll show you horrible" as a good, productive, or even honest solution.

LnGrrrR
2015-11-19, 06:33 PM
Ask them OOC why they think it's "railroading". Are they under the impression that the world/kingdom/town has no rules?

nedz
2015-11-19, 07:11 PM
No, I do not see "you think this is horrible, then I'll show you horrible" as a good, productive, or even honest solution.

I was being sarcastic.

IDK what to suggest really. I would probably question them to see why they thought that this was rail-roading, or what they though rail-roading was. Not worth arguing so much as probing. But then, these are your players and I don't know them. It could just be a meme within the group.

NichG
2015-11-19, 08:11 PM
Sometimes you can't take feedback at face value. Players don't always know what they want, or even if they have a feeling, they can't always accurately explain the causes for that feeling in words. Also, some people do just like to gripe - again, for various reasons. So sometimes you have to watch what people do rather than what they say. Someone is complaining loudly but seems to be engaged, active, and having fun, and doesn't actually want to leave the game? The best thing might just be to ignore the complaints and press on. Especially if the complaints are categorically impossible to actually satisfy. You can actually do a lot of damage to the game trying to chase around what players say they want in an emotional moment, because that moment won't last, and what they want will actually change rather quickly.

Another factor is that often players just have crappy stuff going on in their lives, and that mood is influencing their behavior during game. Griping about stuff can just be a form of catharsis, and have nothing at all to do with how you're actually running. Part of dealing with that is recognizing when the right thing to do is to call an end to the session and pick up next week.

And if it comes down to it, 'firing' players is a last resort but it is a resort. If they really aren't having fun being there, and you aren't having fun running for them either, then the right thing to do is go your separate ways.

napoleon_in_rag
2015-11-19, 09:16 PM
I think we've gone into a debate on what is railroading vs what is a fair consequence. My own opinion is that railroading occurs when a GM prevents a decision from even happening. Let me illustrate this with three examples:

Example 1

One night, Rexxar the barbarian gets in a bar fight. Though his opponents are unarmed, he grabs his great axe and kills three of them.

The next day, Lord Greenly hires Rexxar and his party of adventures to attack the Orcs of Greythorn peak. They are successful and are celebrated by all the townspeople (including family members of the men killed in the bar fight).

Example 2

One night, Rexxar the barbarian gets in a bar fight. Though his opponents are unarmed, he grabs his great axe and kills three of them.

The next day, Lord Greenly, along with 2 of his knights and some guardsmen arrive to arrest Rexxar. After subduing him, they place him in a dungeon to await trial for murder.

Example 3

One night, Rexxar the barbarian gets in a bar fight. Though his opponents are unarmed, he grabs his great axe and...

(DM interrupts) "When Rexxar grabs his axe, every patron in the pub grabs puts their hand their sword hilt. Additionally Lord Greenly, 2 of his knights, and some of guardsmen walk through door and look around suspiciously.

Rexxar - "I will sit down and sip my beer."





My thinking is this,

Example 1: Essentially the GM ignores the players action to complete the campaign he wrote. I personally see this as a type of railroading because the GM is saying "the adventure I prepared is happening no matter who Rexxar decides to kill".

Example 2: This is not railroading because Rexxar was allowed to make a decision. He does have to deal with consequences of it but it does not mean the campaign is over with. I have played in campaigns where this sort of event led to the party operating as outlaws.

Example 3: This is railroading. The GM doesn't let Rexxar make a decision by making the battle unbelievable lopsided against him.


What is everyone else's thoughts on this?

goto124
2015-11-19, 10:15 PM
Example 1 is... unusual. It's the GM brushing a bad decision aside, and both GM and player are happy with it.

nedz
2015-11-19, 11:46 PM
Example 1
Role play without consequences.

I could understand doing this if the player did this routinely and breaking his character out of jail had become old; basically: Don't feed the Troll. I would hope to find some other approach since this is metagaming and rail-roading and I can't imagine this ever coming up though, except maybe when I was a lot younger. It's very immature play.

Example 2
Role play has consequences.

Example 3
When Rexxar grabs his axe, several patrons in the pub put their hand to their sword hilts.
Would be OK - it's a face off.
Every patron is a stretch.
The additionally clause is metagaming and rail-roading.

goto124
2015-11-19, 11:56 PM
And another NPC could stand up and say "hey hey, no fighting, this is a safe place and we don't want to get arrested by guards'.

Or just leave it at the Lord Greenly and his guards walking in. Lord Greenly is presumbly in for a drink, his arrival coincidental.

Both ways give a warning to both the player, allowing for a chance to correct her actions and learn from mistakes without derailing everything and removing fun.

It's Example 1.5 : The Option to Avoid Bad Consequences

Amphetryon
2015-11-20, 11:21 AM
I was being sarcastic.

IDK what to suggest really. I would probably question them to see why they thought that this was rail-roading, or what they though rail-roading was. Not worth arguing so much as probing. But then, these are your players and I don't know them. It could just be a meme within the group.

It was more than one group.

I've seen it happen multiple times, since the 1990's.

I have been on both sides of the GM screen to see the behavior.

So, I tend to discount the notion that it's just 'a meme within the group.'