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Darth Ultron
2017-09-18, 07:18 AM
What do you feel qualifies as 'plot railroading', and do you think it's good/neccessary, or evil/abusable? Provide your opinions!

Personally, I generally railroad my plots. I feel that's a good thing, and not, uh, bad.

Beware of the difference between railroading (only to ever be used to get the players to the first adventure) and Neting.

A hook is a plot event that you may respond to (ie the town starts to sink).

A net is a plot event that you have to respond to (ie town falls down a big hole into the underdark).

A railroad is a plot event that you have to respond to in a certain way (ie town falls down a hole and you are captured by drow slavers and fitted with collars that can't be tricked and kill you if you don't follow orders and are sent on missions.)

Nets are fine and are interesting, what do you do if the city you are running a guild in goes to war?



But I don't imagine that's everyone's experience with plot railroading. So, share.

Cluedrew
2017-09-18, 07:38 AM
Oh boy, I am terrified of what this thread might become. But to try to prevent it from becoming that, I will take it seriously.

Railroading: One player, usually the GM, trying to force the plot along a particular pre-planned plot.

Note "force", creating a good story that the players want to follow or similar is not railroading, nor are (by this definition) many other softer methods of getting the players to follow a particular path, because they can turn those down. By my definition railroading is almost exclusively negative, but that is because a created it to diagnose a particular issue that came up in bad gaming stories.

Cosi
2017-09-18, 07:46 AM
Aren't we already doing this? I don't understand how this is different from the "Railroading and Expectations" thread that you are already arguing in, except I guess maybe this is framed to make you more easily somehow? That seems like dirty pool to me.

Anonymouswizard
2017-09-18, 08:31 AM
Aren't we already doing this? I don't understand how this is different from the "Railroading and Expectations" thread that you are already arguing in, except I guess maybe this is framed to make you more easily somehow? That seems like dirty pool to me.

Maybe he expects having his own thread will give him special exceptions from people disagreeing with him. If so he doesn't know this forum that well.

Anyway, to respond to the thread title, some. The exact amount will depend on the group, some are fine with staying on the choo choo train for the entire game, others want to get off as soon as they've got used to the world, some want to take the train apart in the first session to build a railgun. It depends on the group.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-18, 05:53 PM
Aren't we already doing this? I don't understand how this is different from the "Railroading and Expectations" thread that you are already arguing in, except I guess maybe this is framed to make you more easily somehow? That seems like dirty pool to me.

Well, my own thread stops people from saying things like ''that is not what this thread is about'' or saying I ''ruined or hijacked someones thread.'' And the poster of that thread did say he got his answer, so thee is no point dragging out their thread.



Railroading: One player, usually the GM, trying to force the plot along a particular pre-planned plot.

Note "force", creating a good story that the players want to follow or similar is not railroading, nor are (by this definition) many other softer methods of getting the players to follow a particular path, because they can turn those down. By my definition railroading is almost exclusively negative, but that is because a created it to diagnose a particular issue that came up in bad gaming stories.

I have a problem with the idea that it is wrong to use ''force''. As if the players must agree with everything the DM does before the DM can do it.

Like in 2017 you can find out the details of any show and know what happened....but it is much more fun to not read the spoilers and just watch the show.

And asking what someone likes is the sunny day problem: If you can control the weather and ask someone ''what weather would you like today'', chances are they will say ''mild, sunny weather''. Every day. But: you will never see a rainbow, unless you have a little rain. And people are not the best to judge how well they ''like'' something based on a whim. Every do or watch something you ''thought'' you would not like...and then afterwards liked it? Well, it turns out your first thought was wrong. And if you never ''took the chance'' you'd never know.


Plot Railroading: noun -- the GM technique of leaving only one or a few possible ways to overcome a given obstacle in the narrative of a story despite the ability of other options to accomplish the same goal.


The idea that there are all ways dozens of ways to do something is just silly. Like saying ''well if the c's had a Ring of Wishing they could make a wish for X''. And that is great...if the PC's have a ring of wishing, so otherwise skip.

And a lot of the ''other'' ways just won't work. Like any idea of ''well we will talk people into doing what we want''. The Pc's can go as far as charm every peasant in town, but their ''army'' will last a whole two rounds vs the dragon.

And there are often time constraints where ''option b'' would take too long and things where the characters can't do an act for role playing reasons(granted they ''could'', but they don't want too).

Frankly, I for one embrace railroading & find that there is nothing wrong with it in every campaign. The real problem lies in bad, obvious railroading, the kind that the players can see (& resent) from a mile away. Railroading should be subtle, & the DM must be able to play events off as if they were naturally/directly flowing from the players' choices.

Sometimes you might get two o three ways, but most of the time there is just one way. But still even with ''one way'', the players all ways have the freedom of ''how'' they do it the one way.

Quertus
2017-09-18, 06:21 PM
Well, my own thread stops people from saying things like ''that is not what this thread is about'' or saying I ''ruined or hijacked someones thread.''

Thank you for making your own thread on the topic. Expect that people will still try to correct / normalize your definitions, though, because cat most prostate pastor eh did lashed.


What do you feel qualifies as 'plot railroading', and do you think it's good/neccessary, or evil/abusable? Provide your opinions!

Well, when I first started posting here, I'll admit I believed that all railroading was bad, always. It was quite a culture shock to read about people who actually enjoy being railroaded. So I've adjusted my stance to simply that I personally hate railroading.

But what is railroading? In my current opinion, it's any time the GM forces a particular outcome, often involving changing rules, fudging dice, and ignoring player input in favor of their one predetermined outcome.

Or something like that.


Personally, I generally railroad my plots. I feel that's a good thing, and not, uh, bad.

Beware of the difference between railroading (only to ever be used to get the players to the first adventure) and Neting.

A hook is a plot event that you may respond to (ie the town starts to sink).

A net is a plot event that you have to respond to (ie town falls down a big hole into the underdark).

A railroad is a plot event that you have to respond to in a certain way (ie town falls down a hole and you are captured by drow slavers and fitted with collars that can't be tricked and kill you if you don't follow orders and are sent on missions.)

Nets are fine and are interesting, what do you do if the city you are running a guild in goes to war?

Perhaps I missed something - so the town just sank into the underdark - what distinguishes that from a plot hook? What keeps me from just writing it off as a lost cause, and going to another town?


But I don't imagine that's everyone's experience with plot railroading. So, share.

Reasonable, supported by the rules:

No, you can't just lift the town and toss it back up - your strength isn't even high enough to lift a single building, and the damage the town would take when it lands would be astronomical.

No, you can't attach a Spelljamming Helm to the town and pilot it out - it's way to big to qualify as 100 tons, and you aren't a spellcaster to power a helm in the first place.

Railroading

No, you can't cut the town up into 100 ton pieces, and get the town mage / party bard to pilot them out.

No, 50 years in a fast time plane with Boccob and his library does not let your wizard learn the counter spell to undo the curse that the drow used to get the city down here in the first place.

The only way you're getting this city back to the surface is...


Railroading: One player, usually the GM, trying to force the plot along a particular pre-planned plot.

Note "force", creating a good story that the players want to follow or similar is not railroading, nor are (by this definition) many other softer methods of getting the players to follow a particular path, because they can turn those down. By my definition railroading is almost exclusively negative, but that is because a created it to diagnose a particular issue that came up in bad gaming stories.

Interesting that you believe that players can railroad a game. Can you explain / give an example?

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-18, 06:27 PM
http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/418/481/38a.jpg

Depends on the group. If they want a railroad, ride the train.
If they don't, trying to put them on it is being an ass.


It's like if a vegan came to your dinner party and respectfully requested no meat and so you tried to sneak them meat because if they never get to experience meat they can't have a full culinary lifestyle.

Successfully getting them to eat meat without knowing is not being clever or good. It's just getting away with being an ass.

So if your players are cool with a fixed destination with no departures, awesome! More power to ya. I know people who don't like open games due to choice paralysis, and I know people who hate railroaded games because they often strain verisimilitude. (My friend Jeff is in the former camp, myself in the latter.)

So how much railroading is enough/too much? Exactly as much as the group wants, no more no less.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 01:15 AM
So how much railroading is enough/too much? Exactly as much as the group wants, no more no less.

Disagreed. People can and do want things which are stupid, counter-productive or even harmfull. You are under no obligation to give them such. Even if Hell freezes over and you get a player sincerely asking "how about you run a railroad adventure to us?", you can and probably should run a game with actual choices in it.

ZamielVanWeber
2017-09-19, 02:27 AM
Disagreed. People can and do want things which are stupid, counter-productive or even harmfull. You are under no obligation to give them such. Even if Hell freezes over and you get a player sincerely asking "how about you run a railroad adventure to us?", you can and probably should run a game with actual choices in it.

You can have railroads and meaningful player agency. If their actions have consequences then they have some degree of agency. At least as far as I define it railroads have a strong unidirectional plot. Choices they make and events they succeed/fail can have an impact on the trip.

jayem
2017-09-19, 02:39 AM
It depends on the group (children might need to be told what to do), the game (in collaborative storytelling any rails are bad, in a computer game the rails are very strong) and the situation/plot (if you're in prison, life pretty much is a railroad).

On the whole, if you've got a powerful element with a plan then many roads will lead to an encounter with it. And it can close some roads off.
If something is abundantly common, then it (or a trivial variation) will be found on many roads.

In practical terms, if the king wants to see you, it's natural that the guards won't let you leave. He's given instructions.
If on the other hand the guards letting you leave is dependent on you seeing the washer-woman, then that's a bit odd (regardless of how well you think you've hidden it).

RazorChain
2017-09-19, 03:48 AM
guys....you are making progress!
Now Darth Ultron finally accepts

A plot hook

A net

and railroading.


Instead of Railroading or total chaos/empty world

Florian
2017-09-19, 04:16 AM
That depends heavily on the type of campaign and what focus it has. In addition, players often will "feel railroaded" when things happen in the game world for reasons they can´t see or directly control and the "feel" forced to go with the actual flow, losing part of their agency. But that is a problem of perception.

For serious games, I prefer the "sim world" approach. Actions have consequences and things happen in the world that are possibly huge enough so the characters can´t influence them, at least right now.

For example, I once ran a L5R campaign centered on a huge power struggle with the clear goal to raise through the power structure, stop being pawns and actually start having influence.
A core part of that campaign was that, being loyal samurai, you are part of the social structure and forced to do stuff by those higher up in the pecking order, fulfilling that while seeking a way to replace them in said packing order. In that, "force" was a major part of the theme and mood for this campaign.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 05:37 AM
You can have railroads and meaningful player agency. If their actions have consequences then they have some degree of agency. At least as far as I define it railroads have a strong unidirectional plot. Choices they make and events they succeed/fail can have an impact on the trip.

Yeah, no. The whole point of the railroad metaphor is that the game keeps moving along a preplanned path at set pace with or without your input. This very much includes preplanned success and failure and precludes any choice from having meaningfull impact.

Once you start having meaningfull choices and can win or lose by your merit, the game's no longer a railroad. It may still be linear or GM-driven, but those aren't the same as a railroad.

Like I said in the other thread, "railroading" isn't a spectrum. It's one end of the spectrum. The one where player agency isn't a thing. It's bad because it only takes token effort to move away from that category and not doing so is lazy.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-19, 05:55 AM
It's just a definition thing right? Some people see railroading as "absolutely no player agency at all, you're characters in a book the gm is writing" and others see it as "anything that isn't a choice made by a player" or somewhere in between, and it's usually one step under the level of control that player wants out of a game.

The answer here is, like always, everyone needs to sit down before the game and talk about what kind of game they want to play. 95% of all disagreements can be solved by doing this before the game starts.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 06:49 AM
... others see [railroading] as "anything that isn't a choice made by a player"...

The only person who has consistently advocated for anything like is Darth Ultron and that's why he only has anything usefull to say about the topic in the "even broken clock is right twice a day" sense.

Overly broad definitions are useless. The usefullness of the term "railroad" is tied to the strong mental image of being on-board a moving train or rollercoaster, as anyone who has experienced such can grok the inability to steer such a thing as a passenger. Once you start using the term to refer to things which don't actually resemble such an experience, you are actively making whatever you say less informative.

Florian
2017-09-19, 06:53 AM
The only person who has consistently advocated for anything like is Darth Ultron

Not really. What DU writes is very similar to any basic gm advice on how to run a game for the DSA system, which is the 800 pound gorilla in the german RPG landscape.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 07:09 AM
I can agree that a lot of DU's writings recycle old (and often bad) GMing advice from all across the place, but you'll have to give me a direct page quote if you want me to believe the Dark Eye shares DU's particular conceit of basically calling anything and everything a GM could do "railroading", and then proclaiming railroading is bestest thing ever.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-19, 07:18 AM
Disagreed. People can and do want things which are stupid, counter-productive or even harmfull. You are under no obligation to give them such. Even if Hell freezes over and you get a player sincerely asking "how about you run a railroad adventure to us?", you can and probably should run a game with actual choices in it.

Just like with people deciding to smoke or drink or eat too many cheeseburgers, you have neither the responsibility nor the authority to choose for them.

(Though honestly telling people their subjective opinion of how they prefer to have fun is actively harmful to their person is laughable enough that any sane person will dismiss you out of hand)

You don't have to PARTICIPATE, either. But you don't get to infringe on someone else's fun any more than they get to infringe on yours.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-19, 07:20 AM
[Metaphor]
It's like if a vegan came to your dinner party and respectfully requested no meat and so you tried to sneak them meat because if they never get to experience meat they can't have a full culinary lifestyle.


I agree that would be a jerk move. I would not do that(but then too I also would not invite a vegan over to my dinner party anyway)

But here is the metaphor question: As the dinner party host do you provide a special vegan part of the meal just for this person(or worst of all, make the whole meal vegan just as that one person will be there) or do you say to them that they should bring their own food?


guys....you are making progress!
Now Darth Ultron finally accepts

A plot hook

A net

and railroading.


Instead of Railroading or total chaos/empty world

I do like ''the net'' and I have not heard this term before. and it has not come up in other threads. I found it on another forum. I cast a lot of nets. I don't really like ''hooks'' as they just get annoying like ''sigh, ok players plot hook 26'',.

Yeah, no. The whole point of the railroad metaphor is that the game keeps moving along a preplanned path at set pace with or without your input. This very much includes preplanned success and failure and precludes any choice from having meaningfull impact.

Once you start having meaningfull choices and can win or lose by your merit, the game's no longer a railroad. It may still be linear or GM-driven, but those aren't the same as a railroad.


I think this is a good point. Somehow people do jump to if there is any railroading it equals the whole game being a railroad. But that is not true for most games.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 07:28 AM
Just like with people deciding to smoke or drink or eat too many cheeseburgers, you have neither the responsibility nor the authority to choose for them.

Factually wrong. If it is my hands making the burger or brewing the drink or holding the cigarette, I virtually always have the authority and in case of the latter two often also the responsibility to tell them to GTFO.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-19, 08:54 AM
I agree that would be a jerk move. I would not do that(but then too I also would not invite a vegan over to my dinner party anyway)

But here is the metaphor question: As the dinner party host do you provide a special vegan part of the meal just for this person(or worst of all, make the whole meal vegan just as that one person will be there) or do you say to them that they should bring their own food?

Neither, because this is nitpicking the metaphor and missing its point.

Sneakily giving someone something they didn't want is not clever or good, just as sneakliy trying to railroad players who don't want to be railroaded is not clever or good. Getting away with it is not praiseworthy.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-19, 08:55 AM
Factually wrong. If it is my hands making the burger or brewing the drink or holding the cigarette, I virtually always have the authority and in case of the latter two often also the responsibility to tell them to GTFO.

This is the choosing not to participate bit I already said, not affecting their capacity to choose.

Come on, now.

(Also missing the point to nitpick the particulars of the metaphor. Also, to bring back another point: Telling people their subjective opinion of how they prefer to have fun is actively harmful to their person is laughable enough that any sane person will dismiss you out of hand)

Scripten
2017-09-19, 10:02 AM
I, like DU, have a slightly nonstandard definition of railroading. (I am being slightly generous here.) I consider railroading to be refusing to arbitrate uncertain events. That is, if an action a player or NPC takes is uncertain, then the game mechanics should be used to arbitrate it. In most (all?) cases, this only applies to situations involving players, because the DM will know how events not involving the players will play out, because they are the setting and all NPCs.

So for me, no railroading is acceptable, because it's literally refusing to engage with the system and is not actually roleplaying.

Of course, this leaves open bad scenario design where the players may be put into situations where they have no agency due to mechanically supported rails, but that falls under a totally different category for me.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-19, 10:20 AM
The only person who has consistently advocated for anything like is Darth Ultron and that's why he only has anything usefull to say about the topic in the "even broken clock is right twice a day" sense.

Overly broad definitions are useless. The usefullness of the term "railroad" is tied to the strong mental image of being on-board a moving train or rollercoaster, as anyone who has experienced such can grok the inability to steer such a thing as a passenger. Once you start using the term to refer to things which don't actually resemble such an experience, you are actively making whatever you say less informative.

Trust me, he's not the only one. I've heard railroading apply to things like a game being linear, a puzzle solution being a red herring, and the setting advancing while the players stop to play economy, and much more.

Railroading is one of those phrases, much like "deus ex machina" that generally means "I didn't like this so it must be Bad"

Also, if we really want to talk mental image, if railroading evokes a train or rollercoaster it's important to realize that people don't generally get on those to steer it. It's either to get to a particular place, or have an exciting ride.

kyoryu
2017-09-19, 11:29 AM
I also like Plot Grenades. If you throw a grenade at someone, they'd best move before it explodes (yeah, realism, kill radius, yada yada, I get it. Bear with me.) You don't have to a certain direction, but "standing still" isn't an option.

Similarly with a plot grenade. It's something that occurs that *demands* some type of player response - but the response is not dictated. A "plot hook" typically grabs the player once they "bite", and leads them off in some direction that may or may not be obvious. It's much like a fishing hook - once the fish bites, it's going to end up in the net. And it doesn't try to look like what it actually is.

A plot grenade, on the other hand, is blatant. It's a pressing problem that needs a solution, at least in some level. But the solution is up to the players, and how they deal with the problem is what determines the direction of the game. And the GM doesn't know how they will respond, therefore the end is not known and it's not a "railroad".

Also note that, at least for most people, "railroading" isn't about the GM making choices or the player making choices. I'ts about the GM *restricting player choice*, usually to the point of meaninglessness. At its most basic, it's about the GM stepping into the area that the players are usually considered to have control over - whether that's blatant ("no, you can't do that") or less so (quantum ogre, "all the roads except this one are blocked").


You can have railroads and meaningful player agency. If their actions have consequences then they have some degree of agency. At least as far as I define it railroads have a strong unidirectional plot. Choices they make and events they succeed/fail can have an impact on the trip.

If the destination is known, then the only impact you can have is minor details. You have no real agency over the *central issue* of the game. If the game is about destroying The Evil Warlord, then my decisions won't really impact that one bit, or how his plan unfolds, etc. I might be able to change some other, less central things, but the main line of the game I have little impact on.

Which is fine, if you're into that sort of thing.


I agree that would be a jerk move. I would not do that(but then too I also would not invite a vegan over to my dinner party anyway)

But here is the metaphor question: As the dinner party host do you provide a special vegan part of the meal just for this person(or worst of all, make the whole meal vegan just as that one person will be there) or do you say to them that they should bring their own food?

You talk to them. You explain what you're doing with the meal. You tell them they're welcome. You decide if you're willing to provide vegan options, or not, and then they decide if they're willing to show up and maybe just enjoy company, or eat what's available that they can, or not.

If you tell them there's no vegan food (or minimal, like you put out some carrots or something), then they can choose whether to come or not, and can't be mad about what the situation is if they do show up.

If they tell you they won't come unless there's vegan food, you can choose to provide vegan food, or not. And then you can't be mad if they don't come because of no vegan food, and you can't be mad about making vegan food, because you're making your choice.

What situations work?
A) You don't provide vegan food, and the person comes anyway and enjoys the company
B) You don't provide vegan food, and the person decides not to come because there's no food for them, but nobody's mad
C) You do provide vegan food because you want the person to come

These are all situations where people are honest with each other and respect the choices the other makes, and presume no obligation from the other.

What situations don't work?

A) You tell the person that the food is vegan, but it's not.
B) You tell the person that there will be vegan food, but there's not.
C) The person knows there's not vegan food, but comes anyway and whines
D) You resentfully make vegan food for the person
E) The person doesn't come and is mad because you didn't make them food

Note that all of these involve either lying to the other person, not respecting the choices of the other person, or presuming an obligation that doesn't exist.

(Note that if there's a real obligation of some sort, then that changes things a bit. In most situations, there isn't, and that's the scenario I'm talking about.)

Tinkerer
2017-09-19, 11:31 AM
Trust me, he's not the only one. I've heard railroading apply to things like a game being linear, a puzzle solution being a red herring, and the setting advancing while the players stop to play economy, and much more.

Railroading is one of those phrases, much like "deus ex machina" that generally means "I didn't like this so it must be Bad"

Also, if we really want to talk mental image, if railroading evokes a train or rollercoaster it's important to realize that people don't generally get on those to steer it. It's either to get to a particular place, or have an exciting ride.

I've heard of such things but they are usually from people like DU where on the one hand they say "I constantly railroad my players and they never suspect a thing" and on the other hand they say "Players are so annoying, they keep accusing me of railroading". If you are constantly railroading then your players will start to catch on.

I would disagree that it generally means "I didn't like this so it must be Bad" simply because I have never run into it being used in such a manner in person. Now this doesn't mean that it isn't used like that, merely that in my years of gaming I have never run into it. Then again I haven't run into deus ex machina being used incorrectly either... what are people using it for? I'm quite curious on that.

Any way to address the original point

Beware of the difference between railroading (only to ever be used to get the players to the first adventure) and Neting.
I am wondering how you can say this and yet earlier be saying that you are constantly railroading. I'm afraid I don't quite follow.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 11:31 AM
This is the choosing not to participate bit I already said, not affecting their capacity to choose.

Me refusing to participate in whatever wants and desires involving myself rather straightforwardly negatively affect people's capacity to choose to fullfill those things. That you choose to pick that nit suggests to me you didn't actually get what I disagreed with or how.

To recap: you are under no obligation to give people whatever stupid thing they want. This is important because you made an obtuse two-fold claim: "no more, no less"

If you had worded your claim as "enough railroading is at most what a group wants", we wouldn't be here. When someone asks for something with a sideorder of stupid, you can always nix the stupid part. If someone asks for a cheeseburger with extra salt and you know salt is bad for them, you can nix the salt. If someone asks for a railroad game, you can always give them a non-railroad game instead.

Pretending that fullfilling the exact wish is somehow better when the exact wish is stupid is obtuse. Their capacity to choose can be neglected, because when you are the cook or the GM or whatever, the choice is yours. Not theirs.

Quertus
2017-09-19, 11:39 AM
I think this is a good point. Somehow people do jump to if there is any railroading it equals the whole game being a railroad. But that is not true for most games.

If your plot requires the king to be poisoned, despite being immune to poison, and despite the permanent Detect Poison aura on the crown, then, yeah, it's already too much railroad for my taste.

I can't say I've seen a GM who would railroad just one section without the risk of such rails throughout. "You can do whatever you want so long as the king is poisoned", where the party could then hire the assassin as their personal trainer, or murder every other successor and take over the country, or build a rocket ship and fly to the moon, just isn't something I can grasp. If the party can then do any of those things, why the **** would it matter that the king absolutely has to be poisoned in the first place? :smallconfused:

So, by all means, please explain how small sections of rails makes any tactical sense on the GMs part. Because I'm just not seeing it.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 11:45 AM
Trust me, he's not the only one. [. . .] Railroading is one of those phrases, much like "deus ex machina" that generally means "I didn't like this so it must be Bad."

Yes, DU is not the only person with bad semantics. News at eleven.


Also, if we really want to talk mental image, if railroading evokes a train or rollercoaster it's important to realize that people don't generally get on those to steer it. It's either to get to a particular place, or have an exciting ride.

Maybe, but that's not the part that's relevant to what the metaphor is intended to convey. When such extended metaphor makes appearance, it's usually to remark that you can't get to the place (that is, particular gaming experience) via following the rails, or to remark that even a railroad game can be fun, which is not something I'm denying. I simply consider a fun railroad, or "rollercoaster" if you will, stilö as lazy as form of RPG design as a non-fun one.

kyoryu
2017-09-19, 11:53 AM
Me refusing to participate in whatever wants and desires involving myself rather straightforwardly negatively affect people's capacity to choose to fullfill those things. That you choose to pick that nit suggests to me you didn't actually get what I disagreed with or how.

To recap: you are under no obligation to give people whatever stupid thing they want. This is important because you made an obtuse two-fold claim: "no more, no less"

If you had worded your claim as "enough railroading is at most what a group wants", we wouldn't be here. When someone asks for something with a sideorder of stupid, you can always nix the stupid part. If someone asks for a cheeseburger with extra salt and you know salt is bad for them, you can nix the salt. If someone asks for a railroad game, you can always give them a non-railroad game instead.

Pretending that fullfilling the exact wish is somehow better when the exact wish is stupid is obtuse. Their capacity to choose can be neglected, because when you are the cook or the GM or whatever, the choice is yours. Not theirs.

Uh, disagree. Strongly.

I agree you're under no obligation to provide anything, for anyone, at any time. BUT. I do believe that the reasonable default is to give people what they want, or to, at the minimum tell them what you're giving them

If someone really wants a railroaded game, and you give them a freeform game, you're guilty of exactly the same thing that someone promising an open-world but delivering a railroad is.

It's not your job to make other peoples' choices for them (caveat for cases where it is, like your kids).

If it's something that's unhealthy, like the cheeseburger? You're free to say "dude, that's not healthy. I'm not doing that. I can make you a regular cheeseburger, or you can get food somewhere else". But to unilaterally take that choice away from them is.... not something I'd condone.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 12:03 PM
"Giving people what they want" is reasonable only when the want is itself reasonable. "Giving people what they want" is not reasonable when a want is stupid. There should be no default, each want should examined on its own merit.

As for telling people... did you see me advocate somewhere that you should not tell people what you're giving them? No, you did not. If you somehow cheated yourself into thinking otherwise, you failed the generosity principle.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-19, 12:03 PM
Me refusing to participate in whatever wants and desires involving myself rather straightforwardly negatively affect people's capacity to choose to fullfill those things. That you choose to pick that nit suggests to me you didn't actually get what I disagreed with or how.

To recap: you are under no obligation to give people whatever stupid thing they want. This is important because you made an obtuse two-fold claim: "no more, no less"

If you had worded your claim as "enough railroading is at most what a group wants", we wouldn't be here. When someone asks for something with a sideorder of stupid, you can always nix the stupid part. If someone asks for a cheeseburger with extra salt and you know salt is bad for them, you can nix the salt. If someone asks for a railroad game, you can always give them a non-railroad game instead.

Pretending that fullfilling the exact wish is somehow better when the exact wish is stupid is obtuse. Their capacity to choose can be neglected, because when you are the cook or the GM or whatever, the choice is yours. Not theirs.

You're pretending like their preference in trpgs is in any way comparable in scale to choices that are litetally bad for your health and well-being.

This is laughable and as a sane person i dismiss it out of hand.

As a GM or player you can opt out of any style of game you dislike. Trying to sneakily give them what they don't want is disrespectful.

(And again, compating trpg style preference to things that harm your heath is asenine exaggerstion in the extreme. )

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 12:15 PM
It is you who made the comparison to unhealthy food, I simply ran with it. I initially made no such comparison and if you think that's the extent of my argument, you too fail the generosity principle and are engaging in a strawman argument. In the post where I outlined my disagreement, my scale for ignoring your wishes starts from stupid and counter-productive; the remark that people's wishes can carry from there to "even harmfull" does not constitute a claim that railroading is harmfull.

You are free to argue for non-harmfullness of attitudes related to tabletop games; you maybe right, you maybe wrong, but it makes a poor counter-argument because my statement was and is not limited to tabletop. Even if we move just to adjacent hobby of Live-action Roleplaying, suddenly the thing "no sane person would take seriously" is taken seriously enough that a person here was given an award for writing a book about it.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-19, 12:30 PM
You can have railroads and meaningful player agency. If their actions have consequences then they have some degree of agency.

Then you've already started to leave the railroad.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-19, 12:40 PM
It is you who made the comparison to unhealthy food, I simply ran with it. I initially made no such comparison and if you think that's the extent of my argument, you too fail the generosity principle and are engaging in a strawman argument. In the post where I outlined my disagreement, my scale for ignoring your wishes starts from stupid and counter-productive; the remark that people's wishes can carry from there to "even harmfull" does not constitute a claim that railroading is harmfull.
"What i said had secret meaning and your failure to divine this meaning is your fault."

Speak clearly what you mean. It is your job to make your point clearly, not my job to read your mind.



You are free to argue for non-harmfullness of attitudes related to tabletop games; you maybe right, you maybe wrong, but it makes a poor counter-argument because my statement was and is not limited to tabletop. Even if we move just to adjacent hobby of Live-action Roleplaying, suddenly the thing "no sane person would take seriously" is taken seriously enough that a person here was given an award for writing a book about it.

Uhuh.
So this conversation about trpgs is suddenly not about that.

Mmmmmmmmmk.

Koo Rehtorb
2017-09-19, 01:32 PM
I think this disagreement may just stem from a slightly different definition of a railroad. For me, if I had players actually honestly ask me to railroad them I'd probably want to clarify with them that we're even working with the same definition.

Quertus
2017-09-19, 02:07 PM
I think this disagreement may just stem from a slightly different definition of a railroad. For me, if I had players actually honestly ask me to railroad them I'd probably want to clarify with them that we're even working with the same definition.

"I want you to make this like a video game, where we have to follow the clues, read your mind, and use trial and error to solve the adventure in the one and only one way that you have designed for the story."

"I want you to heavy-handedly prevent any creative PC action that you hadn't planned for, no matter how obviously it ought to work. Ideally, you'll punish those players who dare to think and be more creative than you so hard that they'll quit the game."

"Adding in threats that are way above our pay grade, so that we really can't accomplish anything anyway, and need to constantly be bailed out by your super cool, nigh-omnipotent DMPCs, is an added bonus."

Can you run that railroad?

Tinkerer
2017-09-19, 02:13 PM
"I want you to make this like a video game, where we have to follow the clues, read your mind, and use trial and error to solve the adventure in the one and only one way that you have designed for the story."

"I want you to heavy-handedly prevent any creative PC action that you hadn't planned for, no matter how obviously it ought to work. Ideally, you'll punish those players who dare to think and be more creative than you so hard that they'll quit the game."

"Adding in threats that are way above our pay grade, so that we really can't accomplish anything anyway, and need to constantly be bailed out by your super cool, nigh-omnipotent DMPCs, is an added bonus."

Can you run that railroad?

I don't know about Koo but with the exception of that last paragraph yes, yes I could. And I have. It was a very particular concept game designed to run in a format that allowed for next to no communication and which was intended to run for about 2 months. It was a lot of fun for what it was. Due to limited communication time excessive creative input was discouraged since that often takes more time and it was a competitive thing between two teams so the GM was encourage to be as strict with the rules as possible. Kinda a cross between an RPG, a puzzle, and chess.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-19, 02:14 PM
"I want you to make this like a video game, where we have to follow the clues, read your mind, and use trial and error to solve the adventure in the one and only one way that you have designed for the story."

"I want you to heavy-handedly prevent any creative PC action that you hadn't planned for, no matter how obviously it ought to work. Ideally, you'll punish those players who dare to think and be more creative than you so hard that they'll quit the game."

"Adding in threats that are way above our pay grade, so that we really can't accomplish anything anyway, and need to constantly be bailed out by your super cool, nigh-omnipotent DMPCs, is an added bonus."

Can you run that railroad?

Those are super loaded.

But yeah, o could run a puzzle mystery, where finding the solution is the only objective. I could run it in a world where the players are severely restricted in their options, maybe like in a computer or something and they can only interact through specific actions. And let's make it horror, so threats are dangerous and are meant to be avoided, not confronted.

I don't know what game this cyber murder mystery is best in but I'm sure it's out there.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-19, 02:16 PM
"I want you to make this like a video game, where we have to follow the clues, read your mind, and use trial and error to solve the adventure in the one and only one way that you have designed for the story."

"I want you to heavy-handedly prevent any creative PC action that you hadn't planned for, no matter how obviously it ought to work. Ideally, you'll punish those players who dare to think and be more creative than you so hard that they'll quit the game."

"Adding in threats that are way above our pay grade, so that we really can't accomplish anything anyway, and need to constantly be bailed out by your super cool, nigh-omnipotent DMPCs, is an added bonus."

Can you run that railroad?

Indeed.

To me, those are examples of actual railroading.

(Not "I want to make railroading not-bad so I'm going to push a false dichotomy between ill-defined railroading, and a strawman about total chaos and do-nothing GMs and aimless wandering campaigns" railroading.)

Florian
2017-09-19, 02:19 PM
Can you run that railroad?

Sure, without flinching, at least if I have to (you know having to gm but absolutely no time to prep)

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 02:52 PM
"What i said had secret meaning and your failure to divine this meaning is your fault."

Speak clearly what you mean. It is your job to make your point clearly, not my job to read your mind.

1) There was no secret, I specified stupid, counter-productive or harmfull from the get-go.
2) generosity principle (AKA principle of charity (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity)) is a thing. There was never need for you to assume that I think railroading falls into "harmfull" category because it was irrelevant to the overall point.

That isn't reading my mind. That's not casting my point as something "no sane person would take seriously" when there is a broader reading available which does not possess that quality.


Uhuh.
So this conversation about trpgs is suddenly not about that.

Mmmmmmmmmk.

Just because we're talking about trpgs doesn't mean a point is limited in applicability to them. Again, you yourself thought the comparison to fast food, drinking and smoking was somehow material. Let's play another "What if?" : If you had left the comparison out and simply said "you have neither authority nor responsibility to decide that", I would've simply answered "if I'm the GM, I have all the authority, and as much responsibility as anyone has in tabletop games". And once more, we wouldn't be here.

kyoryu
2017-09-19, 02:53 PM
Can you run that railroad?

Well, yes, for the non-strawman versions of the game.

"I want a game where you have prepared the situation enough that we have to work with what is prepared in the game to solve the problem, rather than just making up things, because that way it feels more real to me."

"I want a game with a strong, well-written plot with interesting twists and turns."

"I want a world with threats that really scare us and cool NPCs that will go with us on our adventures."

Now, I probably still *wouldn't* run that game, because I don't like railroads, but there's no reason to misrepresent the view of people that like those things.

BRC
2017-09-19, 03:00 PM
For me, "Railroading" comes, not from the planning, but from the moment of Denial.


When I run a game, I often have a pretty good idea of how it's going to go. I don't claim to be some sort of super genius chessmaster, but in my experience players are pretty easy to predict, and will often accept the challenge put in front of them, even if the solution is something as straightforwards as "Go Kill Things". In situations where the solution is less straightforward, it's not especially difficult to determine a handful of obvious solutions, and have some thoughts ready for whichever one they choose.

I don't consider any of this a problem. Not every campaign needs to be a sandbox, and there's often plenty of room for creative solutions in a given adventure, enough to scratch the Player's itch.

For example, my adventure notes might read

Previous session: The PC's discovered that Cultists had kidnapped several villagers!

This session:
Stage 1) PC's find Cult hideout, either by tracking the cultist raiders, getting information out of the villagers about strange sounds coming from the old mine, or finding and interrogating the Cult's spy within the village.
Stage 2) PC's assault the Mine. Primary entrance is guarded by several Cultists and an Ogre Zombie. Secondary air shaft might work as an entrance, guarded by traps.

Stage 3) Cult Leader is preparing to sacrifice Villagers at midnight, Leader and six Cultists are in the sacrificial chamber at the bottom of the mine, along with the villagers.


If I put this adventure in front of my players, I'd feel reasonably confident that they would end up defeating the Cult Leader and rescuing the villagers. I may, in fact, start laying some loose plans around that assumption.


The Problem doesn't happen during my planning step, it happens during Play, it happens when I say "No, you can't do that, because it's not what I want to happen", or if I start inventing nonsensical reasons why certain solutions won't work to justify "No You Can't Do That".

If, for whatever reason, the PC's don't get to the cult hideout in time, that's fine. The Villagers are dead.
If they decide to rally an angry mob of peasants to help them storm the hideout, I shouldn't say "No"
If they try to talk the cultists at the door into overthrowing, and sacrificing, the cult leader instead, that's not going to be an easy route, but I shouldn't try to stop them.
If they decide to ignore this whole plot hook and go elsewhere, that's a valid choice (there may be consequences for it, but it's still valid).

Even if there is only one valid solution (Slay the Cult Leader), there's plenty of opportunity for creativity and expression within combat. If you find your players are chafing against the walls you've built, you should start building fewer walls.


It's pretty hard to railroad in the planning stage, at least not unless it is your intention (Which sometimes it is. Some GM's don't realize that railroading is a bad thing, and so they intentionally build their adventures to be railroaded, but realizing that is a bad thing is easy, and it's easier to make unrailroaded adventures than railroaded ones).



"I want you to make this like a video game, where we have to follow the clues, read your mind, and use trial and error to solve the adventure in the one and only one way that you have designed for the story."

"I want you to heavy-handedly prevent any creative PC action that you hadn't planned for, no matter how obviously it ought to work. Ideally, you'll punish those players who dare to think and be more creative than you so hard that they'll quit the game."

"Adding in threats that are way above our pay grade, so that we really can't accomplish anything anyway, and need to constantly be bailed out by your super cool, nigh-omnipotent DMPCs, is an added bonus."

Can you run that railroad?

I mean, yes. I could.

Heck, if they want me to I could brainstorm my best fantasy adventure novel featuring their OCs, and we could just do a group reading of that and skip all the "Dice" stuff altogether. If that's what they want, I don't see a problem with it.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-19, 03:05 PM
"I want you to make this like a video game, where we have to follow the clues, read your mind, and use trial and error to solve the adventure in the one and only one way that you have designed for the story."

Would've been faster to say "can we play Twenty Questions?"


Can you run that railroad?

Yes, but why should I?

---


Well, yes, for the non-strawman versions of the game.

[ . . . ]

Now, I probably still *wouldn't* run that game, because I don't like railroads, but there's no reason to misrepresent the view of people that like those things.

Your examples aren't non-straw versions of Quertus's examples, they aren't even superficially similar save for the first entries on the list. More to the point, all of those wishes can be implemented as non-railroad scenarios so why would you call them railroads?

Tinkerer
2017-09-19, 03:05 PM
Well, yes, for the non-strawman versions of the game.

"I want a game where you have prepared the situation enough that we have to work with what is prepared in the game to solve the problem, rather than just making up things, because that way it feels more real to me."

"I want a game with a strong, well-written plot with interesting twists and turns."

"I want a world with threats that really scare us and cool NPCs that will go with us on our adventures."

Now, I probably still *wouldn't* run that game, because I don't like railroads, but there's no reason to misrepresent the view of people that like those things.

One could view that as another misrepresentation though because there is nothing on your list which requires railroading. Indeed the example you gave appears to be against railroading because of the first sentence in quotation marks. In a railroaded game the GM has to go outside of what was prepared and make up things in order to block players from pursuing any type of action which would take them off the rails.

EDIT: Mostly ninja'd

jayem
2017-09-19, 03:19 PM
For me, "Railroading" comes, not from the planning, but from the moment of Denial.
...
This session:
Stage 1) PC's [try to] find Cult hideout, either by tracking the cultist raiders, getting information out of the villagers about strange sounds coming from the old mine, or finding and interrogating the Cult's spy within the village.
Stage 2) PC's assault the Mine. Primary entrance is guarded by several Cultists and an Ogre Zombie. Secondary air shaft might work as an entrance, guarded by traps.
Stage 3) Cult Leader is preparing to sacrifice Villagers at midnight, Leader and six Cultists are in the sacrificial chamber at the bottom of the mine, along with the villagers.
....
The nice thing with that is that you instantly have (three+) options that have great potential for putting a different spin on Stage 2. If they track the cultist raiders they perhaps have more time/or can explore the area carefully (find the air shaft). If they ask the villagers they might find the back air shaft (and then find main gate). If they interrogate the spy they know the finish (and perhaps a passcode).
Ultimately their destination will be the same (probably) but the little journey will be different, and it will be the players choice.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-19, 04:16 PM
For me, "Railroading" comes, not from the planning, but from the moment of Denial.


Agreed.

Which is part of what makes the whole "railroading = plot = planning = 'the opposite of total chaos caused by selfish jerkidiot players and do-nothing DMs'" fallacy so tiresome.

ZamielVanWeber
2017-09-19, 04:36 PM
For me, "Railroading" comes, not from the planning, but from the moment of Denial.

The Problem doesn't happen during my planning step, it happens during Play, it happens when I say "No, you can't do that, because it's not what I want to happen", or if I start inventing nonsensical reasons why certain solutions won't work to justify "No You Can't Do That".

I wanted these two to be juxtaposed. As a DM it is alright to say "No," but it cannot be for the examples illustrated above and even then alternate avenues should be explored. The Denial, at least as far as I view railroading=bad, should come from the DM's unwillingness to permit the party to do something. If it comes from incapacity and the DM is willing to generate the needed information for next session then I would not view them as having some anything wrong.

Pleh
2017-09-19, 04:47 PM
For me, "Railroading" comes, not from the planning, but from the moment of Denial.

In fact, you could go a bit further and notate the difference between denying it in game as opposed to out of game.

Few people would cry about, "railroading" if the DM just stepped out of character and admitted they were not prepared to provide material for the players' alternative path. Few people would be upset that the DM wants to get the chance to run the stuff they spent time setting up.

So "railroading" comes at denial, but really is also a problem of solving OOC issues with IC responses.

2D8HP
2017-09-19, 05:22 PM
If the ever wise, witty (and stylish) kyoryu wasn't already posting to this thread, I would quote him first, and if I WASN'T SO VERY HUMBLE I would quote myself
correct ... at length on the dangers of "Locked into Lameness" (my prefered term for what most criticize as "railroading" and "Empty Room Worlds" (underprepared and/or lazy GM'ing)


...2D8HP's Empty Room comes in when the DM hasn't prepared anything at all and is unwilling or unable to lead the PCs in any particular direction, so you can see that Empty Room is the "anti-railroad,"...


....I think the opposite would be something like the empty room 2D8HP described. Instead of too much pre-planning and focus on the world and background characters, there is too little...

But "Empty Room" also results from "Passive-Aggressive Railroading" ("If your not going to follow the tracks, NO ADVENTURE FOR YOU"), but you know if everyone's upfront and friendly ("Sorry guys, that's all I prepared", rather than "MY STORY DAMN YOU") I forgive a lot.

Oh there's also player led "Competitive Soliloquies" in the mix as well.

Anyway many of the "usually suspects" are posting in this thread like the last time we had this dance (Hello! :smallsmile:), so I don't have many left to quote who aren't posting themselves, but I still have:


....One of the most delightful feelings that can come from playing the game is the feeling of having out-witted the DM. Your job is to provide enough background and props and other complications that it's possible to do so. Describe the walls, stairs, furnishings, trees, rocks, streams, etc. Give them terrain and props to do things with. Nobody can swing from the chandeliers, or pull a rug out from under the bad guys' feet, or turn over a table, unless there's a chandelier, rug, and table.

When somebody comes up with an idea, don't ask what skills they have. Picture the scene in your mind and decide how likely it is to occur.

One consequence is that you shouldn't invent the way out of the situation. If you do that, then they aren't outwitting the DM; they are just following his path. And if they don't find his path, then they fail.

Create a situation with no obvious way out, and then any idea the players have can be the clever way to win, and they have just outwitted you.

What people think they want today is a safe encounter they can defeat easily. But what they will want tomorrow is to have been in a deadly encounter which they barely escaped, due to their own ideas and cleverness.


Everybody hates railroading. But we often mean very different things when we say it. For instance:

No Railroading: an entire world is defined. Go anywhere, do anything, and we’ll simulate the results.

Railroading, level 1: I’ve designed a continent. Please don’t try to plane shift or sail away.

Railroading, level 2: There’s a tyrant who is the big bad evil guy. He’s oppressing your people. Try anything you like, but he’s the real enemy.

Railroading, level 3: You've been hired to take out the BBEG. There’s a town here to interact with, and a forest with many paths you could take on the way to the dungeon lair of the BBEG

Railroading, level 4: There’s a town here to interact with, followed by a road north through five designed encounters on the way to the dungeon lair of the BBEG.

Railroading, level 5: You must equip yourselves, leave town, follow the road north to the castle, and defeat the BBEG. You cannot buy a sword without locating the blacksmith. You cannot leave town without paying the gate tax. You cannot get past the goblins except by combat. You cannot get past the gnolls without a sleep spell. You cannot find the castle without a compass. You cannot enter the castle gate without a Knock spell. You cannot go down the first corridor without pulling the red lever. You cannot open the door at the end of the corridor without standing on the right flagstone. You cannot …

You could easily invent many more levels.

But the point is that the game with no railroading doesn't really exist, and would most likely be dull. How would we find the adventurous parts?

The original objections IO heard about railroading were objection to level 5 - traps with only one escape, puzzles with only one solution.

The best games I've been in have all been pretty far up the railroading scale - levels 3 or 4 out of 5, as defined above.

So we should probably be careful when describing something as "railroading". Very often we are objecting to the actual adventure.


Now full disclosure, instead of my just complaining about a lack of willing GM's (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?500951-Is-there-a-DM-shortage-What-can-or-should-be-done)

or just giving

advice to others (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?506387-Advice-for-DM-ing-brand-new-players)

(no matter that my wisdom IS OBVIOUS
I find myself generally agreeing with 2d8HP..)

I have given some consideration to "putting on the hat" again.

Now when I first DM'd I would minutely detail out a location (in a Dungeon natch'), and so be prepared whether the PC's would turn left or right etc, but I don't have that kind of time anymore.

Later I just improvised most everthing (which were the games my players most enjoyed), but I'm out of practice, and I'm just don't have the mental agility I once had, so now I seek advice on "hiding tracks":

It's been decades since I successfully GM'd and obviously I should practice more with pre-gen adventures to get my feet wet, but that's boring!

So... some advice please.

I'm doubtful that I may still be able to improvise like I once could, so it's time for some hypocrisy: Quantum Ogres and hidden (hopefully) tracks railroading!

Here's the dilemmas I perceive in herding the players characters to stick to what I've prepared...

:redface:

My assumption is that most of what is criticized as "railroading" is due to inexperienced or out of practice GM's, what reasons would there be otherwise?

:confused:

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-19, 05:45 PM
1) There was no secret, I specified stupid, counter-productive or harmfull from the get-go.
Concepts which, gramatically, you associated with Railroading.
Sentence structure still holds sway here. If you want harmful to apply to something else, you need to specify that. Since the most recent like you were talking about was railroadinh



2) generosity principle (AKA principle of charity (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity)) is a thing. There was never need for you to assume that I think railroading falls into "harmfull" category because it was irrelevant to the overall point.
Why are you making points about not-railroading in a thread about railroading?
And then getting mad that someone associated that point to THE TOPIC?
Your wikipedia link is real neato but not is a suggestion, not a rule, and certainly shouldn't be used to try and cover up your erroneous communication. Come on, man.

"That's not what I meant to communicate. What I meant to say was:" is sufficient.



That isn't reading my mind. That's not casting my point as something "no sane person would take seriously" when there is a broader reading available which does not possess that quality.

I tend not to look for broader readings when talking in the context of a narrow topic. If you want to go broader, indicate such. This is called Clarity of Communication.



Just because we're talking about trpgs doesn't mean a point is limited in applicability to them.
Sure, but these other applications are irrelevant at best and red herrings at worst. In no wise do they matter here.



Again, you yourself thought the comparison to fast food, drinking and smoking was somehow material. Let's play another "What if?" : If you had left the comparison out and simply said "you have neither authority nor responsibility to decide that", I would've simply answered "if I'm the GM, I have all the authority, and as much responsibility as anyone has in tabletop games". And once more, we wouldn't be here.
You'd still be factually wrong because you have no authority or responsibility to dictate their CHOICES or their PREFERENCES. Unless you have obtained a mind-control device, the only choices and preferences you have any sort of control over are yours. You can make a suggestion, but if the answer is no, it's no.
Again, opting out of that campaign or opting out of having that player is choosing not to participate in their preference or choice, which is fundamentally different from weilding your authority to enforce that they play a certain way.

Problems come from the latter, not the former.

(GMs also don't have all the authority. You have as much as your players let you have. They have feet, and will travel.)

2D8HP
2017-09-19, 07:31 PM
...Interesting that you believe that players can railroad a game. Can you explain / give an example?


I'm not who you asked, but yes a insistent player can make another meeker player or even the GM act against their preferences. The "classic" is some existing players telling a newer one, "No you can't play a fighter, we need a healer so you'll play a cleric, "We already have a Magic-User, you can't play one".

"YOU WILL CHECK FOR TRAPS"!

"No GM we don't wanna play your stupid Elf game, we want Cyberpunk", "No we don't want Cyberpunk we want Vampires", "FATE! No we want to play rules were used to", etc.

Two or even one strong-willed players can insist on the others going their way against the others preferences, this especially common when they're new or even just young players.

Basically peer pressure or bullying.

If it's one person doing the insisting than the rest usually walk, but just two bullies can bend a table to their will

Cluedrew
2017-09-19, 08:25 PM
I have a problem with the idea that it is wrong to use ''force''. As if the players must agree with everything the DM does before the DM can do it.You are focusing on the wrong thing that is forced. The players don't have to agree with everything the GM does, nor does the GM have to agree with everything the players do*. In fact if they did that would be more forcing things than otherwise.

Put a different way, railroading is thinking you know the answer to the question "what happens next?" and when you are wrong, trying to make it come out that way. So not agreeing with what happened, but rolling with it anyways is the opposite of railroading.

* In both cases, anything like "can we not have rape in this game" operates under different rules.


Interesting that you believe that players can railroad a game. Can you explain / give an example?Well the only tool a regular player lacking is the default control of the setting (those things can change). They have all the same out-of-game tools, and your character gives you plenty of in-game tools to build on that. Still it mostly happens out-of-game in that case, unless your character completely outstrips the other characters. (I have heard of that in a few stories.)

2D8HP
2017-09-19, 08:35 PM
I haven't read any posts after the first one, but My friend doesn't like my character being good (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?536737-My-friend-doesn-t-like-my-character-being-good) looks like a bit player on player "railroading" to me.

Note to Darth Ultron: The term "railroaded" meaning "coerced" existed before D&D, so in trying to define "railroading" as "GM directed" or "linear plot" you're fighting that.

I use the phrase of (hopefully) hidden track railroading to describe my trying to provide enough "plot carrots" that the players will want to go to areas that I've prepared an adventure for, and not discover an "Empty Room" (perhaps I should call it "herding"?).

Anyway, unless I'm reading from a text, and the PC's have no agency at all (the point of which escapes me), no matter what improvisation is always called for in my experience.

kyoryu
2017-09-19, 08:40 PM
For me, "Railroading" comes, not from the planning, but from the moment of Denial.

I disagree.

I think railroading occurs when the GM decides that "here is the series of events or encounters the players will go through." If you've decided that here's the path, come hell or high water, then that's a railroad. The tracks are laid. If nobody tries to get off of the tracks, that doesn't mean the tracks are magically gone.

That's why people split railroading into two things: Participationism (the players know there's a railroad and agree to go for a ride) and illusionism (the GM pretends there's no railroad, but works to keep people "on the path"). Both are railroading.

But a lot of times people will plan out what will happen but say "but if that's not what happens, okay". The problem is that when you've invested in a path, it's really, really easy to start subtly pushing for that to happen in various ways.

I don't plan a series of events, specifically to avoid that. I never plan what the players will do. I do plan the major antagonists. I plan their agendas, and what they're going to do. I know who they are, what they want, and what they'll do to get it. Then it's basically pool - the players shoot the ball (do something), and balls get hit and bounce around and make other things happen.

That's the alternative to both "railroading" and "empty room" games. Active antagonists that want things, and have their own agendas, that can essentially be played like pseudo-PCs. The issue there is that that style of gameplay doesn't really work for "probing" sorts of games, which many people like.

Quertus
2017-09-19, 09:08 PM
So, in playing devil's advocate for koo, I said what I imagined a player asking for a railroad might say. And several of the responses I got back are why I no longer just claim "railroading is bad". It's decidedly not for me, but others clearly can enjoy at least certain aspects of railroading.


Well, yes, for the non-strawman versions of the game.

"I want a game where you have prepared the situation enough that we have to work with what is prepared in the game to solve the problem, rather than just making up things, because that way it feels more real to me."

"I want a game with a strong, well-written plot with interesting twists and turns."

"I want a world with threats that really scare us and cool NPCs that will go with us on our adventures."

Now, I probably still *wouldn't* run that game, because I don't like railroads, but there's no reason to misrepresent the view of people that like those things.

I wasn't making a straw man, I was describing actual railroads, especially many that GMs have tried to put me on. So, uh, describing my experiences, and what I imagine players asking for more of the same might sound like, in response to, "if a player asked for a railroad, I'd ask them wtf they mean" can't really be made of straw, can it?

I'm not sure where you're getting the idea of players "just making things up" - railroading usually involves players using what has been provided, and the GM just making stuff up / changing facts or changing the rules to keep the story on the rails.

As to the rest, I'm curious how those who like railroads respond to both of our descriptions.


I'm not who you asked, but yes a insistent player can make another meeker player or even the GM act against their preferences. The "classic" is some existing players telling a newer one, "No you can't play a fighter, we need a healer so you'll play a cleric, "We already have a Magic-User, you can't play one".

"YOU WILL CHECK FOR TRAPS"!

"No GM we don't wanna play your stupid Elf game, we want Cyberpunk", "No we don't want Cyberpunk we want Vampires", "FATE! No we want to play rules were used to", etc.

Two or even one strong-willed players can insist on the others going their way against the others preferences, this especially common when they're new or even just young players.

Basically peer pressure or bullying.

If it's one person doing the insisting than the rest usually walk, but just two bullies can bend a table to their will


Well the only tool a regular player lacking is the default control of the setting (those things can change). They have all the same out-of-game tools, and your character gives you plenty of in-game tools to build on that. Still it mostly happens out-of-game in that case, unless your character completely outstrips the other characters. (I have heard of that in a few stories.)

... To me, railroading is when the GM changes facts / changes the rules to make player actions not have their logical outcomes in order to keep the story on its pre-assigned rails. Players can't really do that, can they?

Hmmm... or a GM can railroad a certain outcome by fudging rolls. And players can fudge rolls - that is a tool they have in common. Yet I've stated in other threads that I don't care when other players fudge dice. I may need to reevaluate my positions for consistency in light of this juxtaposition of data.

As to the bullying... That's totally me. "WTF, dude, you've sent nothing but monsters immune to sneak attack since Player started playing a rogue. That's uncool. Shape up." I'll totally hold the game and the GMs reputation hostage if they're being a ****. So you'd call that "railroading"?

2D8HP
2017-09-19, 09:45 PM
.....The issue there is that that style of gameplay doesn't really work for "probing" sorts of games, which many people like.


"Probing"?


....So you'd call that "railroading"?


In gamer-speak "railroading" seems to mostly mean "linear one way plot", but in colloquial English "railroaded" means "made/pressured to do something against their will", so an innocent person who is convinced to confess to a crime because of the threat of an even worse punishment if they don't may be said to be "railroaded". There's a value judgment involved, a gunman who is convinced to give up hostages is typically referred to as "persuaded" rather than "railroaded". In the example you gave, it would depend on who seemed like a bigger jerk. If both parties seem at fault then it's a "squabble".

Oh, there's also "Model Railroading" (toy trains), perhaps I may "railroad" gamerdom into re-defining "railroading" as using miniatures?
(in my day we called them lead figures because they were made of good tasty wholesome lead. No dain brammage resulted neither dagnabbit!)

kyoryu
2017-09-19, 11:44 PM
I wasn't making a straw man, I was describing actual railroads, especially many that GMs have tried to put me on. So, uh, describing my experiences, and what I imagine players asking for more of the same might sound like, in response to, "if a player asked for a railroad, I'd ask them wtf they mean" can't really be made of straw, can it?

You're describing how *you* see railroads, and the common things in them, and focusing on the negative aspects of them.

I was trying to turn that around and look at what the potential positives are. (For what it's worth, I'm in the anti-railroad camp). So, no, a player probably won't ask to have his plans foiled at every turn, but he might well ask for a detailed, intricate plot - which requires, to a certain extent, that the players go along with what the GM has planned. And so on.

I mean, I don't railroad, which means I don't have a lot of cool set pieces, because I don't know when or where those things will happen in most cases. If you want those things, you have to basically agree to the railroad, because otherwise I can't get you *to* the cool set piece, right?


I'm not sure where you're getting the idea of players "just making things up" - railroading usually involves players using what has been provided, and the GM just making stuff up / changing facts or changing the rules to keep the story on the rails.

One of the things I've seen with people that want lots and lots and lots of prep (and often railroady type stuff) is that they want to have the feeling that everything is prepared in advance, and that the GM doesn't just describe on-the-fly what's reasonable and what's not. You can only do that if you know where the PCs must go - which is often an indicator of railroading (unless you're doing a megadungeon or something of the like).


As to the rest, I'm curious how those who like railroads respond to both of our descriptions.

It's an alternate prep style, and is mostly meant as a response to "if you're not railroading, you're just making everything up on the fly and obviously aren't doing prep." You can still do prep, it's just different prep - situation prep, not a series of encounters.


"Probing"?

Yeah, it's the style of play where the players are given an unknown thing, and they basically poke and prod it to find out what they can safely do with it before deciding what is reasonable.

Dungeon crawls are almost always "probing" games.

Florian
2017-09-20, 02:05 AM
As to the rest, I'm curious how those who like railroads respond to both of our descriptions.

I think a lot comes down to what level of player agency is associated with certain game systems and derived play styles/settings/the stories that are told.

For example, D&D has a steady rise in power and hands out more and more options, broadening and deepening overall agency, while having a steady focus on the party, and only the party.
Contrast that to L5R where the limits to agency are a major theme in play and the chosen era to play in modifying this further, or DSA, where you often play a "everyday hero" touching the outskirts of the "big picture" where the real power players are, but never going to reach that level.

So if we were to start a fresh L5R campaign set in the Clan War era, the characters will have a social rank of 2 or 3, ultimately limiting their agency, while the major plot that will happen in the back- or foreground will have a constant impact on the happening. Part of the appeal is the struggle of a "common samurai" when a major war break out and if you decide to play a Scorpion Clan character, you must even know that you will ultimately lose.

Mordaedil
2017-09-20, 05:40 AM
Reminds me a lot of people talking about the difference between sandbox MMOs and themepark MMOs and their hybrids, sandparks and themeboxes.

Joking aside, I feel like railroading is sort of similar to a themepark ride in which you are kinda stuck to a particular course and cannot deviate at all from it. The moment you have some opportunity to influence things, you aren't on a rollercoaster anymore (because it'd be unsafe) but you are maybe enjoying a good bumpercar ride, teacup spinner or maybe even jumping the horses in a merry-go-round. I don't think defining different tangents of railroading is very useful, because it actually makes conversations really dense and disguises proper meaning behind a veil of language that holds no proper context for newcomers that they can intuit from real-world relevance experiences. It becomes more important for an accurate analogy that best represents exactly you mean with your language and the constraints within it.

Railroaded, then means stuck to a track you cannot move out of for fear of severe bodily harm. Rollercoaster would imply high-intensity scenarios with a build-up and a fear of things going out of control, while secretly being in complete control of the DM but to create exciting thrills, but still threatens bodily harm if ventured too far off script. Moving about even between wagons is probably going to kill the player.

I don't think we need to be tied down to old analogies as long as the ones you can think up to best describe your game is both colorful and invocative.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-20, 06:59 AM
One of the things I've seen with people that want lots and lots and lots of prep (and often railroady type stuff) is that they want to have the feeling that everything is prepared in advance, and that the GM doesn't just describe on-the-fly what's reasonable and what's not. You can only do that if you know where the PCs must go - which is often an indicator of railroading (unless you're doing a megadungeon or something of the like).


This is why I prefer "simmy" rules and deep worldbuilding. The setting and the rules are then a consistent framework of what is reasonable and what is not, which doesn't require the GM to know where the PCs are going to go. Any specific detail the GM ads or ruling the GM makes just needs to be in line with the established lore and rules. You don't have to know everything about the setting when you start out, but what's established informs what you add. You don't have to have a rule for everything, but if the rules are consistent and sync with the setting, new rulings should flow from that without major inconsistency or unreasonableness.

In contrast, "make it up as you go" and/or "do what's cool as you go" setting details, and rules not grounded in anything... seem very much more prone to inconsistencies and whim-of-the-moment.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-20, 07:33 AM
"I want you to make this like a video game, where we have to follow the clues, read your mind, and use trial and error to solve the adventure in the one and only one way that you have designed for the story."

For me ''make like a video game'' and ''read the DMs mind'' go way beyond the railroad and fall under more ''bad ways to plat the game''. It's never a good idea to make an RPG like a video game, and no one can read my mind.



"I want you to heavy-handedly prevent any creative PC action that you hadn't planned for, no matter how obviously it ought to work. Ideally, you'll punish those players who dare to think and be more creative than you so hard that they'll quit the game."

Again, this is more of a jerk Dm move then just railroading. Sure a weak DM might try and hide behind the railroad idea and say ''the railroad did it'', the same way a jerk player might hide behind optimization to not role play at all.

After all remember, railroading advances the plot: it's not a hammer for the DM to knock down the Pcs. And it is a bit silly to say that, as the DM does not need anything special to be a jerk. Even if a DM ''used the rules'' and ''did a common sense game'' and all that...a jerk DM can still ''tweak'' things just a bit so a PC always fails.



"Adding in threats that are way above our pay grade, so that we really can't accomplish anything anyway, and need to constantly be bailed out by your super cool, nigh-omnipotent DMPCs, is an added bonus."


Again, this is more jerk DM gaming, and not just railroading.




To me, those are examples of actual railroading.


Hummm..I'd say none of them are Railroading.

But it does make sense as to why everyone has such a keen jerk crazy reaction to ''railroading'' if they hear ''railroading'' and think ''super, super crazy evil jerk monster abusive DM''.




I agree here. Even if I don't know the players at all, there are tons od obvious things to predict. Reading people and knowing people is just a social skill, and it is true in any social activity, not just a game. And if I know the players, even a bit, I know what they like and dislike and everything else.

Though, I'd say I'm a X-Chess Master myself.

[QUOTE=ImNotTrevor;22401301]
(GMs also don't have all the authority. You have as much as your players let you have. They have feet, and will travel.)

Well, you can say ''as long as the players are there in the game the GM has all the authority.



Put a different way, railroading is thinking you know the answer to the question "what happens next?" and when you are wrong, trying to make it come out that way. So not agreeing with what happened, but rolling with it anyways is the opposite of railroading.
[QUOTE]

Except it does not make sense that the DM could ever be wrong, as they can change anything into anything.

Like take the classic newbee type DM that gets all ''shocked and awed'' when the players do something ''wacky and crazy''. Ok, so the players had a ''different answer'', but it does not really matter as the DM can alter game reality on a whim. And a clever DM can always have a counter prepared for ''anything'' the players might do. For example if a DM wants to keep a NPC alive they can just have the NPC have a clever escape plan..all ways.

[QUOTE=2D8HP;22401797]
Note to Darth Ultron: The term "railroaded" meaning "coerced" existed before D&D, so in trying to define "railroading" as "GM directed" or "linear plot" you're fighting that.


In what context? Like the word was commonly used in the late 19th century as: ''we got on the West Bound train and were Railroaded into going west." ?

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-20, 08:45 AM
Hummm..I'd say none of them are Railroading.

But it does make sense as to why everyone has such a keen jerk crazy reaction to ''railroading'' if they hear ''railroading'' and think ''super, super crazy evil jerk monster abusive DM''.


They're all examples precisely what almost everyone (other than you) involved in TTRPGs means by "railroading".

And yes, railroading GMs tend to be power-mongering jerkwads in proportion to how much and how badly they railroad.

2D8HP
2017-09-20, 08:58 AM
I just deleted an earlier response where perhaps I was too snippy.


...In what context? Like the word was commonly used in the late 19th century as: ''we got on the West Bound train and were Railroaded into going west." ?


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/18/Railroaded_1947_poster.jpg/220px-Railroaded_1947_poster.jpg

"Railroaded" is a 20th century idiom meaning.to convict (a person) in a hasty manner by means of false charges or insufficient evidence: The prisoner insisted he had been railroaded.

Most of my waking hours are spent with inmates, guards, cops and attorney's (I do plumbing repairs for the City and County of San Francisco), and they way I hear the word "railroaded" still used is exclusively as a synonym for "framed", I renember hearing the word used that way as a kid back in the 1970's, and that meaning is still the only spoken usage I remember hearing in my 49 years of life.

Other uses I've only read on the internet.

Scripten
2017-09-20, 09:02 AM
They're all examples precisely what almost everyone (other than you) involved in TTRPGs means by "railroading".

And yes, railroading GMs tend to be power-mongering jerkwads in proportion to how much and how badly they railroad.

This is why these threads will never go anywhere or accomplish anything until DU starts changing his definition of "railroading". (Not to say that you're incorrect or instigating anything, Max_Killjoy, just that you brought up the correct definition and hit the nail square.) If there is an agreed-upon jargon in a community and someone comes into that community and argues that said jargon is wrong because he doesn't agree with it, then bases nonsensical arguments off of that, then of course we're at an impasse.

Granted, DU's general arguments tend to reveal other unsavory DMing practices and a generally hostile attitude toward players, but if we focus on just railroading as a concept, it's mostly a problem in communication.

Tinkerer
2017-09-20, 09:33 AM
Like take the classic newbee type DM that gets all ''shocked and awed'' when the players do something ''wacky and crazy''. Ok, so the players had a ''different answer'', but it does not really matter as the DM can alter game reality on a whim. And a clever DM can always have a counter prepared for ''anything'' the players might do. For example if a DM wants to keep a NPC alive they can just have the NPC have a clever escape plan..all ways.

Yep, that is the essence of lazy GMing. It's not clever, as you said the GM can alter the game reality on a whim. Okay the NPC has an escape plan, what happens if the PCs counter the escape plan? Do you alter reality to ensure that the NPC gets away anyway? Rest assured everyone knows that the GM can alter reality on a whim, the question is should you. Not letting your PCs affect the world at all aside from how you decided they should is the hallmark of a lazy GM.

Tell me what is the incentive to play smarter and harder in such a world? Mere survival? I mean what you can do to the world and the plot is already pre-determined so they pretty much just need to tag along for the ride. Honestly it doesn't sound particularly engaging to me for the players or the GM. When I write up a plan for my NPC's I tend to write up plans upon plans. Not trying to anticipate what the players might do but rather just basic organizational stuff like "What happens if the BBEG dies?" I've definitely had the rare case where the PC's have won unexpectedly early, like around the halfway mark of the adventure.

A famous example which springs to mind is that of the 2nd ed 1st level Wild Mage who accidentally killed an Ancient Red Wyrm. For those of you who don't know this is an old tale where the BBEG of the campaign was an ancient red wyrm. The party had just started out and the GM introduces the wyrm by having it flying over and torching the town which the party is in due to the town not paying it's tribute. The party's wild mage decides to take a pot shot at the dragon (EXTRAORDINARILY STUPID IDEA but...) and winds up getting a wild surge. The wild surge turns the 1st level spell into a petrify spell and the dragon botches it's magic resistance, botches it's saving throw, turns into a statue which crashes and shatters. How would you have handled the situation?

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-20, 10:10 AM
Well, you can say ''as long as the players are there in the game the GM has all the authority.


You seem to be under the mistaken impression that players become unable to leave their seats once the game starts, and all capacity to call BS. Neither is true.

When i was twelve i even got to witness players entirely hijack a game because the GM was being a wad. They just ignored him and eventually one of them just became the new GM. It was amazing, and i remembered henceforth that the idea of bGM authority is as sturdy as candyfloss.

Seto
2017-09-20, 12:15 PM
Regardless of the terms you use (since there's controversy on definitions), I'll tell you how I would feel, as a player and as a DM, about the situations you describe. (I haven't read the three pages of the thread, btw, so I'm responding to the OP)


A hook is a plot event that you may respond to (ie the town starts to sink).That's perfectly fine, something exciting is happening. As a player, I'm happy about it (although my character is not, obviously), and as a DM I use it all the time. No problem there.


A net is a plot event that you have to respond to (ie town falls down a big hole into the underdark). I'm not sure what distinguishes this from the first example. Is it something like "it falls very fast so you can't do anything about it and you fall with it?". Anyway, that particular example strikes me as very weird unless there's a good in-game explanation, so as a player I'd raise eyebrows. But I'd go with it and wait to see where the DM wants to go. As a DM, I'm okay with doing this, but I check beforehand that my in-universe explanation for it is rock-solid so that the players get it and it doesn't feel like "uh, go to adventure location X because I want you to".


A railroad is a plot event that you have to respond to in a certain way (ie town falls down a hole and you are captured by drow slavers and fitted with collars that can't be tricked and kill you if you don't follow orders and are sent on missions.)
Yeah, I agree, I would call that example railroading. But you skipped a few steps there: like, can the players fight the drow slavers to avoid getting captured? What if they find a clever way to escape or resist the collars that the DM didn't plan for, and it should logically work? What if they manage to use Diplomacy with the slavers or Charm them into letting them off easy? The degree of "no THINGS MUST HAPPEN THAT WAY" would determine how "bad" it is. I put "bad" in quotation marks because there's no bad way to play if people still have fun - but I consider it to be objectively bad GMing (failing at an important dimension of RPGs which is cooperative storytelling), just as there can be objectively bad roleplaying from players.
As a player, I would find this very inelegant. If I perceive that the DM is trying to contrive a reason for us to do a cool adventure, I'd still go along with it for metagame reasons, because I believe that the game is more fun if we all work together - and I'm willing to relinquish some freedom of choice if the DM is more comfortable with planned sessions and sucks at improvising. But if it's that heavy-handed and if it's frequent, that would definitely hurt my enjoyment and might cause me to take it up with the DM, or possibly find another game.
As a DM, I would avoid this. But if I did do it, I would go one of two ways. Either, just let the players be creative and make the session about them trying to fight the railroad: for example, if they tell me "I Charm the slavers" and I hadn't thought of that, I'll tell them "ah, well done", and improvise what should happen then, keeping in mind that my plans can always be repurposed or refluffed for the next session. If I can't do that - for example, if I have planned something specific and I am in no state to improvise, I'll go the metagame route and tell players: "Look, I'm sorry guys but I need the characters to be in situation X because I planned around it, would you mind doing it and I'll do my best to give you more freedom next time?". And it would work, because I game with my friends.

In any case, I think that if a character realistically could do something, finding a weak in-game reason for not letting them do it is just bad GMing. I strive to be fair and let characters react how they should be able to. If for whatever reason it just derails your game too much, or destroys your prep for the session and you can't deal with it - which can happen, DMs are fallible humans - telling the players out-of-game is the best solution.

2D8HP
2017-09-20, 12:47 PM
How much "plot railroading?"

If I see the rails, then the most forgivable "good railroading" is a "Skip Ahead to Awesome" I.e."Your at the entrance of the Dungeon.", or even "Your inside the Dungeon. ", but if there's no eventual player buy in to the skip, then it's just "Locked into Lameness" i.e. being forced to fight a conga-line of antagonists in an arena for an audience, and healing between bouts is provided to drive home the utter pointlesssness of your battles.", which feels like a "railroad".

Locked into Lameness Railroad =
Being captured and enslaved and forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena. Especially if the PC's are forced to fight each other. LAME!

:roy: :annoyed:


Doesn't feel like a Railroad/Awesome! =

A motivation of treasure!

:haley: :biggrin:

I'd have to say that I would like to start the campaign In medias res, by the DM telling us something like:
“In the Year of the Behemoth, the Month of the Hedgehog, The Day of the Toad."

"Satisfied that they your near the goal of your quest, you think of how you had slit the interesting-looking vellum page from the ancient book on architecture that reposed in the library of the rapacious and overbearing Lord Rannarsh."

“It was a page of thick vellum, ancient and curiously greenish. Three edges were frayed and worn; the fourth showed a clean and recent cut. It was inscribed with the intricate hieroglyphs of Lankhmarian writing, done in the black ink of the squid. Reading":
"Let kings stack their treasure houses ceiling-high, and merchants burst their vaults with hoarded coin, and fools envy them. I have a treasure that outvalues theirs. A diamond as big as a man's skull. Twelve rubies each as big as the skull of a cat. Seventeen emeralds each as big as the skull of a mole. And certain rods of crystal and bars of orichalcum. Let Overlords swagger jewel-bedecked and queens load themselves with gems, and fools adore them. I have a treasure that will outlast theirs. A treasure house have I builded for it in the far southern forest, where the two hills hump double, like sleeping camels, a day's ride beyond the village of Soreev.

"A great treasure house with a high tower, fit for a king's dwelling—yet no king may dwell there. Immediately below the keystone of the chief dome my treasure lies hid, eternal as the glittering stars. It will outlast me and my name,"

100 years ago the sorcerer Zenopus built a tower on the low hills overlooking Portown. The tower was close to the sea cliffs west of the town and, appropriately, next door to the graveyard.
Rumor has it that the magician made extensive cellars and tunnels underneath the tower. The town is located on the ruins of a much older city of doubtful history and Zenopus was said to excavate in his cellars in search of ancient treasures.

Fifty years ago, on a cold wintry night, the wizard's tower was suddenly engulfed in green flame. Several of his human servants escaped the holocaust, saying their rnaster had been destroyed by some powerful force he had unleashed in the depths of the tower.
Needless to say the tower stood vacant fora while afterthis, but then the neighbors and the night watchmen comploined that ghostly blue lights appeared in the windows at night, that ghastly screams could be heard emanating from the tower ot all hours, and goblin figures could be seen dancina on the tower roof in the moonlight. Finally the authorities had a catapult rolled through the streets of the town and the tower was battered to rubble. This stopped the hauntings but the townsfolk continue to shun the ruins. The entrance to the old dungeons can be easily located as a flight of broad stone steps leading down into darkness, but the few adventurous souls who hove descended into crypts below the ruin have either reported only empty stone corridors or have failed to return at all.
Other magic-users have moved into the town but the site of the old tower remains abandoned.
Whispered tales are told of fabulous treasure and unspeakable monsters in the underground passages below the hilltop, and the story tellers are always careful to point out that the reputed dungeons lie in close proximity to the foundations of the older, pre-human city, to the graveyard, and to the sea.
Portown is a small but busy city 'linking the caravan routes from the south to the merchant ships that dare the pirate-infested waters of the Northern Sea. Humans and non-humans from all over the globe meet here.
At he Green Dragon Inn, the players of the game gather their characters for an assault on the fabulous passages beneath the ruined Wizard's tower.

:smile:



See the difference is that in the arena example the DM has dropped the PC's into a situation that is lame with their having no choice in the matter, whereas in the treasure seeking examples, the DM has dropped the PC's into a situation that is AWESOME! so of course the players would choose it.


Last year as a player I tried to get my PC to escape being "locked into lameness", in a mute room by stating that my PC, was having a delusional fit, and "forgetting where he is and his purpose there, arms himself and rides "Rocinante" to where he last battled the forces of the Queen", to which the DM responded:

"I can figure out what he might encounter if you want, or you can decide for yourself. Up to you."

Which showed me that, it was indeed a "shallow world" being created, instead of a "deep world" for my PC to explore. As a former DM I know that's often the case, but I disliked seeing "behind the curtain", as much as I dislike seeing "the rails".

When I think about it, it's surprising that "Empty Room world's" aren't more common.

Please hide the rails.

Please hide thin facades


https://beyondthewindowbox.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/the-thin-end-1.jpg?w=1400

Quertus
2017-09-20, 12:51 PM
For me ''make like a video game'' and ''read the DMs mind'' go way beyond the railroad and fall under more ''bad ways to plat the game''. It's never a good idea to make an RPG like a video game, and no one can read my mind.

Again, this is more of a jerk Dm move then just railroading. Sure a weak DM might try and hide behind the railroad idea and say ''the railroad did it'', the same way a jerk player might hide behind optimization to not role play at all.

After all remember, railroading advances the plot: it's not a hammer for the DM to knock down the Pcs. And it is a bit silly to say that, as the DM does not need anything special to be a jerk. Even if a DM ''used the rules'' and ''did a common sense game'' and all that...a jerk DM can still ''tweak'' things just a bit so a PC always fails.

Again, this is more jerk DM gaming, and not just railroading.

Hummm..I'd say none of them are Railroading.

But it does make sense as to why everyone has such a keen jerk crazy reaction to ''railroading'' if they hear ''railroading'' and think ''super, super crazy evil jerk monster abusive DM''.

Yes, this is how "everyone" uses the term.

When I started programming, I invented everything from scratch, and made my own terms for everything. Then I started discovering that there were industry standard terms for some of what I was doing, and, to facilitate communication, I began learning and adopting those terms. Allow me to recommend you consider doing the same.

That having been said, claiming that no examples of railroading are actually railroading is quite perplexing. Even with whatever definition you have been using, it seems disingenuous to draw the line at explicitly excluding such things. It'd be like saying, "No, Charles Manson, Luis Garavito, Pedro Lopez, and Darth Vader didn't commit Murder - they did horrible things that involved people dieing, yes, but only soldiers who give other soldiers honorable deaths actually commit Murder."


Cluedrew
Put a different way, railroading is thinking you know the answer to the question "what happens next?" and when you are wrong, trying to make it come out that way. So not agreeing with what happened, but rolling with it anyways is the opposite of railroading.
/Cluedraw

Except it does not make sense that the DM could ever be wrong, as they can change anything into anything.

Like take the classic newbee type DM that gets all ''shocked and awed'' when the players do something ''wacky and crazy''. Ok, so the players had a ''different answer'', but it does not really matter as the DM can alter game reality on a whim. And a clever DM can always have a counter prepared for ''anything'' the players might do. For example if a DM wants to keep a NPC alive they can just have the NPC have a clever escape plan..all ways.


I agree here. Even if I don't know the players at all, there are tons od obvious things to predict. Reading people and knowing people is just a social skill, and it is true in any social activity, not just a game. And if I know the players, even a bit, I know what they like and dislike and everything else.

Though, I'd say I'm a X-Chess Master myself.

Sigh. A chess master doesn't need to change reality to keep an NPC alive. If they want the NPC alive, they will have read the players correctly, predicted the PCs' actions correctly, and the plans they put in place will successfully keep the NPC alive, no changes or fudging required.

Imma get on the "railroading is the sign of weak GMing skills" bandwagon on this one. If you're trying to be a chess master GM*, every time you have to change things to railroad your plot is a sign of failure.

*which, personally, I think is about as bad of a goal as trying to be a railroading GM


They're all examples precisely what almost everyone (other than you) involved in TTRPGs means by "railroading".

And yes, railroading GMs tend to be power-mongering jerkwads in proportion to how much and how badly they railroad.

Eh, I wouldn't go that far. Railroads can be a sign of several different things. They can indicate control freaks, power-mongering jerkwads, noob GMs, or even those who, despite a lot of experience, don't know any better (having never experienced any other style of game).


Tell me what is the incentive to play smarter and harder in such a world?

There is none, IME. Or, rather, the value of the incentive is usually negative. Because smarter, more creative play gets you off the rails, which is punished.


"What happens if the BBEG dies?" I've definitely had the rare case where the PC's have won unexpectedly early, like around the halfway mark of the adventure.

A famous example which springs to mind is that of the 2nd ed 1st level Wild Mage who accidentally killed an Ancient Red Wyrm. For those of you who don't know this is an old tale where the BBEG of the campaign was an ancient red wyrm. The party had just started out and the GM introduces the wyrm by having it flying over and torching the town which the party is in due to the town not paying it's tribute. The party's wild mage decides to take a pot shot at the dragon (EXTRAORDINARILY STUPID IDEA but...) and winds up getting a wild surge. The wild surge turns the 1st level spell into a petrify spell and the dragon botches it's magic resistance, botches it's saving throw, turns into a statue which crashes and shatters.

And this is what great stories are made of!


You seem to be under the mistaken impression that players become unable to leave their seats once the game starts, and all capacity to call BS. Neither is true.

When i was twelve i even got to witness players entirely hijack a game because the GM was being a wad. They just ignored him and eventually one of them just became the new GM. It was amazing, and i remembered henceforth that the idea of bGM authority is as sturdy as candyfloss.

And this is what great stories are made of!

Seto
2017-09-20, 12:57 PM
https://beyondthewindowbox.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/the-thin-end-1.jpg?w=1400

Dude, that's literally my street! :smallbiggrin:

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-20, 01:07 PM
Sigh. A chess master doesn't need to change reality to keep an NPC alive. If they want the NPC alive, they will have read the players correctly, predicted the PCs' actions correctly, and the plans they put in place will successfully keep the NPC alive, no changes or fudging required.

Imma get on the "railroading is the sign of weak GMing skills" bandwagon on this one. If you're trying to be a chess master GM*, every time you have to change things to railroad your plot is a sign of failure.

*which, personally, I think is about as bad of a goal as trying to be a railroading GM


A GM's goal should never be to dominate and manipulate the players.




Eh, I wouldn't go that far. Railroads can be a sign of several different things. They can indicate control freaks, power-mongering jerkwads, noob GMs, or even those who, despite a lot of experience, don't know any better (having never experienced any other style of game).


Which is why I used "tend to".

Overall though, railroading is a sign that something has gone wrong. And this is one where I won't soften it as opinion or as "tastes vary". Misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance... whatever the underlying cause, railroading is bad stuff.

2D8HP
2017-09-20, 01:13 PM
Dude, that's literally my street! :smallbiggrin:


C'est génial!

Thinker
2017-09-20, 01:13 PM
What do you feel qualifies as 'plot railroading', and do you think it's good/neccessary, or evil/abusable? Provide your opinions!

Personally, I generally railroad my plots. I feel that's a good thing, and not, uh, bad.

Beware of the difference between railroading (only to ever be used to get the players to the first adventure) and Neting.

A hook is a plot event that you may respond to (ie the town starts to sink).

A net is a plot event that you have to respond to (ie town falls down a big hole into the underdark).

A railroad is a plot event that you have to respond to in a certain way (ie town falls down a hole and you are captured by drow slavers and fitted with collars that can't be tricked and kill you if you don't follow orders and are sent on missions.)

Nets are fine and are interesting, what do you do if the city you are running a guild in goes to war?



But I don't imagine that's everyone's experience with plot railroading. So, share.

The way I play is to plan a situation. I plot out what happens if the players never get involved. Then, I present the situation to the players in the form of a hook. I literally give a cinematic description of something like you would see in a TV show. Their latest monster hunt started off with me saying this:

"Channel 9 News brings you a miracle on Steven Street tonight about a man who walked away from a tumultuous tango with a truck. For more, we go over to Cindy McIntyre who is on the scene."

"Thanks Jim! Cindy here on the scene at Steven Street! Witnesses say that the man crossed the street, but dropped something in the middle of the road. Without looking, he went back and a massive semi-truck collided with him head-on. Some witnesses say that they saw the man fly several feet through the air. The truck driver dialed 911, but before the paramedics could arrive, a mysterious stranger in white approached to offer assistance. They say that he chanted something over the victim and sprinkled dust or herbs over the man and then walked away. Just before the paramedics could arrive, the victim got up and walked off with a limp, still covered in blood. The police searched the area, but couldn't find him or the angel who saved him. Back to you Jim!"

"Thank you Cindy. This is the third freak fatal accident this month where the victim has seemingly gotten up and walked away. Now we turn to Ron Johnson with sports!"

The players can then ask for more details, I ask how they would find it out, and then they decide if they want to play that one or not. If they choose not to play the scenario, I come up with a new one. It takes 10 minutes or so, though if I have to come up with a teaser/hook on the spot, it probably won't be as planned out as the one above.

As the players get more involved in the plot, it becomes harder for them to extract themselves from it. They start to foil the bad guy's plans and they might have agents of evil sent after them or they might find their residence destroyed and their stuff sabotaged. They will learn more about the monster/villain and the stakes will be higher. I won't tell them they have to finish what they started and they can always try to leave town. It might lead to the villain pursuing them at some future point or the fallout from the villain succeeding might impact them in other ways, but those are consequences of their (in)action.

That said, that's not the only way to play. That's just the one that makes my friends and me happy.

I like hooks. They present the most options for player involvement - take it or leave it. Nets are OK some of the time so long as every adventure doesn't start with a net and so long as there are multiple options to deal with the net. The players can fight off the drow and escape into the Underdark; the players can rally the townsfolk to stand up to the invading Drow army; the players can try to rescue as many townsfolk as necessary before starting a long march back to the surface fraught with dangers. Even a full on railroad where you go from A to B to C can be fun. That's basically a dungeon, though sometimes they vary it by having it go A to B, then choosing between C and D, both of which lead to E. Dungeons are as fun as anything else, but I want to have choices before I get to the dungeon.

kyoryu
2017-09-20, 01:37 PM
Last year as a player I tried to get my PC to escape being "locked into lameness", in a mute room by stating that my PC, was having a delusional fit, and "forgetting where he is and his purpose there, arms himself and rides "Rocinante" to where he last battled the forces of the Queen", to which the DM responded:

"I can figure out what he might encounter if you want, or you can decide for yourself. Up to you."

Which showed me that, it was indeed a "shallow world" being created, instead of a "deep world" for my PC to explore. As a former DM I know that's often the case, but I disliked seeing "behind the curtain", as much as I dislike seeing "the rails".

All game worlds are thin. All of them. No game world can have more than a tiny fraction of it determined before gameplay. All the rest has to be made up on the spot.

Now, you can absolutely hide that. What you're dealing with there is just a gameplay preference, that some people are deciding that they like the players to have more direct authorial control. That gets a little weird for me, too, at the extremes.

But it's not a symptom of a thin world. It's a symptom of more player-authorship. All game worlds are thin. Yes, even that one.

2D8HP
2017-09-20, 02:04 PM
All game worlds are thin.....


You speak true kyoryu, and in the back of my mind I always know it, but it's more fun for me to practice "doublethink", and try (as far as possible) to forget that, which is why I didn't like to be reminded in-game (though if I know at the beginning that it was going to be more collaborative I may have felt differently).

Yes it is a personal preference of course, as far as I know there's no "platonic ideal essence" of game-playing, which is why we may get good and rancorous in our wonderfully continual debates.


There can be no end to the "Edition Wars" when they're still unrepentant heathens out there who refuse the one true game!
:wink:

I may also suggest arguments about:
Emo vs. Goth,
Chevrolet vs. Ford,
Death Metal vs. Thrash Metal, and
49ers vs Raiders as subjects of vital importance that we may argue passionately about!
:biggrin:


Anyway DU has given us yet another opportunity to re-state our preferences, and I'm not one to miss that!

Also, bluetext is an evil act that I never stoop to not even once.

Quertus
2017-09-20, 02:04 PM
A GM's goal should never be to dominate and manipulate the players.

Overall though, railroading is a sign that something has gone wrong. And this is one where I won't soften it as opinion or as "tastes vary". Misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance... whatever the underlying cause, railroading is bad stuff.

I mean, my goal as a player is to dominate the GM when they're being a **** (and I'll attack with my Birds of Paradise (for those unfamiliar with MtG, they deal no damage)) so I can scarcely in good faith call out all domination (or all manipulation) as being bad.

Having never been in a group with players saying, "please railroad me", I agree that all railroading as I've experienced it is bad. But, just as some people like whips and chains and stuff, I'm willing to accept the possibility that some people like the freedom from responsibility and guaranteed success that a railroad provides. Not my thing, but as long as you're not trying to practice it on me, I won't declare it bad.

2D8HP
2017-09-20, 02:19 PM
...Having never been in a group with players saying, "please railroad me....


I can recall thinking "Please just skip this part", but no I have no memory of anyone ever saying "please railroad me" out-loud, (unless my requests to "just hand me a pre-gen count", as I find GURPS length character creation tedious) but I actually have never heard anyone say the word "railroad" at a game table ever, other than "I got the trees from a model train shop".

jayem
2017-09-20, 02:20 PM
How much "plot railroading?"

Last year as a player I tried to get my PC to escape being "locked into lameness", in a mute room by stating that my PC, was having a delusional fit, and "forgetting where he is and his purpose there, arms himself and rides "Rocinante" to where he last battled the forces of the Queen", to which the DM responded:

"I can figure out what he might encounter if you want, or you can decide for yourself. Up to you."

Which showed me that, it was indeed a "shallow world" being created, instead of a "deep world" for my PC to explore. As a former DM I know that's often the case, but I disliked seeing "behind the curtain", as much as I dislike seeing "the rails".


From the little bit you've given I can kind of see the sense in that decision, it's your (characters) dream, and different people like different amounts of control of their (characters) subconscious. However even in the case that it was strictly justified, clearly the credit had clearly been used up.

Drakevarg
2017-09-20, 02:26 PM
I think that the recurring argument that "all games railroad to a certain extent" pretty much hinges on behaving as if a railroad is the same thing as a road.

To pay attention to the actual thing that the term is coined from in a moment, railroads are notable for allowing about as little control as a mode of transportation can have. You can go forwards, you can go backwards, you can stop moving, and in very specific circumstances you can pick between one of two paths (which itself may not even be in your control).

Narrative direction is not railroading. It's just regular roading. A roadsign reading "This Way to Adventure!" may be pointing you in a particular direction, but nothing is actually forcing you to follow that path. On a railroad, turning away is literally not an option. Example: you're walking down a dungeon corridor, which comes to a T-intersection with a door to the left and a door to the right.

"We go left."
The left door is locked.
"I pick the lock."
The lock is too complex to be picked.
"I open the lock with a spell."
The door is warded against magic.
"I smash the door down."
The door and the surrounding wall are both indestructible.
"...we go right."

That's railroading. Player choice should logically exist in the scenario, but all attempts to deviate from the path are categorically rejected. If you can deviate from the scripted scenario, it's by definition not a railroad. Not being able to leave a closed system until it stops being closed isn't railroading, so long as you still have choices within the system. If the party is on a ship, it stands to reason that until they reach land or at least another ship, there's not much point in attempting to leave the ship. If the current adventure involves breaking out of a prison, it's not railroading to not let the players leave whenever they feel like it. Not having content if the party randomly decides to leave the current plot and travel in a random direction isn't railroading either, it just means the DM doesn't have infinite free time to plan for every conceivable contingency.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-20, 02:36 PM
All game worlds are thin. All of them. No game world can have more than a tiny fraction of it determined before gameplay. All the rest has to be made up on the spot.

Now, you can absolutely hide that. What you're dealing with there is just a gameplay preference, that some people are deciding that they like the players to have more direct authorial control. That gets a little weird for me, too, at the extremes.

But it's not a symptom of a thin world. It's a symptom of more player-authorship. All game worlds are thin. Yes, even that one.


I can see how that's true from a certain angle. But I also think there's a lot of variation inside that "thin".

I've seen worlds that feel as if they could be real, and as if the known facts could form the bones upon which to flesh out any needed details as a natural extension of the known.

I've also seen worlds that we obviously slapped together like the fake western-genre storefronts of an old movie set, out of a random grab-bag of "wouldn't it be cool if?" and/or a genre element checklist.

Seto
2017-09-20, 03:42 PM
I think that the recurring argument that "all games railroad to a certain extent" pretty much hinges on behaving as if a railroad is the same thing as a road.

To pay attention to the actual thing that the term is coined from in a moment, railroads are notable for allowing about as little control as a mode of transportation can have. You can go forwards, you can go backwards, you can stop moving, and in very specific circumstances you can pick between one of two paths (which itself may not even be in your control).

Narrative direction is not railroading. It's just regular roading. A roadsign reading "This Way to Adventure!" may be pointing you in a particular direction, but nothing is actually forcing you to follow that path. On a railroad, turning away is literally not an option. Example: you're walking down a dungeon corridor, which comes to a T-intersection with a door to the left and a door to the right.

"We go left."
The left door is locked.
"I pick the lock."
The lock is too complex to be picked.
"I open the lock with a spell."
The door is warded against magic.
"I smash the door down."
The door and the surrounding wall are both indestructible.
"...we go right."

That's railroading. Player choice should logically exist in the scenario, but all attempts to deviate from the path are categorically rejected. If you can deviate from the scripted scenario, it's by definition not a railroad. Not being able to leave a closed system until it stops being closed isn't railroading, so long as you still have choices within the system. If the party is on a ship, it stands to reason that until they reach land or at least another ship, there's not much point in attempting to leave the ship. If the current adventure involves breaking out of a prison, it's not railroading to not let the players leave whenever they feel like it. Not having content if the party randomly decides to leave the current plot and travel in a random direction isn't railroading either, it just means the DM doesn't have infinite free time to plan for every conceivable contingency.
You know, I'm one of those people who argue that "every game has some railroad element", but I can get behind what you're saying. I do actually mean "road" and "adventure direction". Your post presents things very clearly.
What matters to me is to define railroad as part of a spectrum that includes sandbox on the opposite side. I guess the spectrum could go like "sandbox (extreme) / open world / balanced / paved roads / railroad (extreme)".

The Extinguisher
2017-09-20, 06:17 PM
I think that the recurring argument that "all games railroad to a certain extent" pretty much hinges on behaving as if a railroad is the same thing as a road.

To pay attention to the actual thing that the term is coined from in a moment, railroads are notable for allowing about as little control as a mode of transportation can have. You can go forwards, you can go backwards, you can stop moving, and in very specific circumstances you can pick between one of two paths (which itself may not even be in your control).

Narrative direction is not railroading. It's just regular roading. A roadsign reading "This Way to Adventure!" may be pointing you in a particular direction, but nothing is actually forcing you to follow that path. On a railroad, turning away is literally not an option. Example: you're walking down a dungeon corridor, which comes to a T-intersection with a door to the left and a door to the right.

"We go left."
The left door is locked.
"I pick the lock."
The lock is too complex to be picked.
"I open the lock with a spell."
The door is warded against magic.
"I smash the door down."
The door and the surrounding wall are both indestructible.
"...we go right."

That's railroading. Player choice should logically exist in the scenario, but all attempts to deviate from the path are categorically rejected. If you can deviate from the scripted scenario, it's by definition not a railroad. Not being able to leave a closed system until it stops being closed isn't railroading, so long as you still have choices within the system. If the party is on a ship, it stands to reason that until they reach land or at least another ship, there's not much point in attempting to leave the ship. If the current adventure involves breaking out of a prison, it's not railroading to not let the players leave whenever they feel like it. Not having content if the party randomly decides to leave the current plot and travel in a random direction isn't railroading either, it just means the DM doesn't have infinite free time to plan for every conceivable contingency.

So whats the difference between this and just not having a door on the left? Is all linearity railroading?

This whole thread just shows my issue with the term railroading. No one can agree on a single definition of it, just that its "bad". People have a preference for the amount of control they want in the game, and anything less than that is railroading. Some people want a lot, others not so much.

There's not anything wrong with the term, or using, but accepting that its a statement of personal preference and not an absolute rule keeps discussions civil when you realize that not everyone games like you do.

There are a lot of bad practices centered around player agency that novice or uncaring GM's can use when creating games, but there are bad practices abound that bad or new GM's use all the time and we dont throw out perfectly good knobs we can tune for games.

Drakevarg
2017-09-20, 06:40 PM
So whats the difference between this and just not having a door on the left? Is all linearity railroading?

Depends. If you uncategorically said yes, literally every single hallway you ever walked down would be railroading you. Sometimes a lack of options makes sense. The ship example I used earlier, for instance. You can't really go anywhere but the ship because there's nothing but water for miles and miles, because that's what happens when you sail on a ship. Given this, I would probably say that railroading only occurs when player agency logically should exist given the circumstances, but is denied arbitrarily.

...if it weren't for the fact that you could simply set the entire game in a series of linear corridors, thereby denying player agency before it ever rears its head. In some contexts this is a good thing - in video games, doing this can keep the player on-task without having to pull them out of the experience by slamming an invisible wall in their face. They'll never stop to wonder why they can't go over that hill if there's no hill. But tabletop gaming isn't video gaming. The game doesn't literally break if the DM doesn't codify everything ahead of time. In which case the constant linearity becomes a conscious design choice which artificially restricts player agency - ergo, railroading.

Quertus
2017-09-20, 06:44 PM
So whats the difference between this and just not having a door on the left? Is all linearity railroading?

This whole thread just shows my issue with the term railroading. No one can agree on a single definition of it, just that its "bad".

I don't think we even agree on that, actually. I mean, I find it horrible for me, but I can see the appeal in knowing that, no matter how horrible the other players are, no matter what crazy build I run, no matter how badly we fail at life, the rails guarantee us a success at the end. Personally, I enjoy my characters getting a well-earned failure, but I can see how that might not be everyone's cup of tea.


There are a lot of bad practices centered around player agency that novice or uncaring GM's can use when creating games, but there are bad practices abound that bad or new GM's use all the time and we dont throw out perfectly good knobs we can tune for games.

So, uh, what's your example of removing player agency for better gaming? Why do you contend that this is a good knob to keep around?

2D8HP
2017-09-20, 07:07 PM
So whats the difference between this and just not having a door on the left?


The difference is one shows the tracks.


....but accepting that its a statement of personal preference and not an absolute rule keeps discussions civil when you realize that not everyone games like you do...


That's fine as long as my preferences are what triumphs as my preferences are true, good, and beautiful wheras preferences contrary to mine are almost as foul as sarcasm!!!

THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS!!! (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SeriousBusiness)

The Extinguisher
2017-09-20, 07:23 PM
I don't think we even agree on that, actually. I mean, I find it horrible for me, but I can see the appeal in knowing that, no matter how horrible the other players are, no matter what crazy build I run, no matter how badly we fail at life, the rails guarantee us a success at the end. Personally, I enjoy my characters getting a well-earned failure, but I can see how that might not be everyone's cup of tea.



So, uh, what's your example of removing player agency for better gaming? Why do you contend that this is a good knob to keep around?

No thats fair a kind of what i was getting at right. Railroading is a bad word because the person using it almost always means "this is less agency then i want in my game". Sure not everyone will connect that to "therefore its a bad game" but terms like railroading that are subjective and wholey negative certainly dont help



But yeah, player agency can be really fun when you remove it. For example, horror as a genre needs player agency to be a low, because it needs threats to be scary and punishments to be harsh. Any game built around solving a puzzle needs to build toward the solution to that puzzle, and you can't have any solution be the right one. Even dungeon crawling removes player agency. The dungeon has a start and a finish and you need to game within that dungeon to finish it.

Not all of these remove it completely for every scenario, but they can certainly be tweaked for player preference and enjoyment.


The difference is one shows the tracks.




That's fine as long as my preferences are what triumphs as my preferences are true, good, and beautiful wheras preferences contrary to mine are almost as foul as sarcasm!!!

THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS!!! (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SeriousBusiness)

Sure, so you dont actually care about the fact that the tracks are there, just that less skilled GM's lay them poorly?

And you joke, but thats basically what these kinds of discussions come down to.

kyoryu
2017-09-20, 08:46 PM
You speak true kyoryu, and in the back of my mind I always know it, but it's more fun for me to practice "doublethink", and try (as far as possible) to forget that, which is why I didn't like to be reminded in-game (though if I know at the beginning that it was going to be more collaborative I may have felt differently).

Right. Which is saying you don't like direct, obvious player authorship in games. That's fine. You can have player authorship in games with lots of predetermined bits, and no player authorship in games with very little determined up front.

Personally, I usually go for "implicit player authorship". Which basically means that I don't ask you to author, but your actions *implicitly* author things. If you say you go to the Mage Guild, then of course you do, unless i have determined that there absolutely isn't one. And the answer to most questions of "is there an <xyz>" will be yes, for reasonable <xyz> elements.


Yes it is a personal preference of course, as far as I know there's no "platonic ideal essence" of game-playing, which is why we may get good and rancorous in our wonderfully continual debates.

Of course not. And I embrace that. If anything, I aim for precision.


So whats the difference between this and just not having a door on the left? Is all linearity railroading?

This whole thread just shows my issue with the term railroading. No one can agree on a single definition of it, just that its "bad". People have a preference for the amount of control they want in the game, and anything less than that is railroading. Some people want a lot, others not so much.

Here's my basic definition of railroading:

A railroad is a game where the GM will determine the contents and ordering of all important scenes/encounters in the game. So, the GM decides you'll go here, then here, then there. The players may get to decide "okay, we go to the market", or "okay we look in this place", but the important things will be determined by the GM - if you look in an unimportant place, you won't find anything useful. You can change some of the fluff, but not the meat.

Note that in some cases the GM will determine what the scenes are - but you might determine the order. Or something similar. It's possible for a game to be railroady without being a pure railroad.

Note that this isn't a value judgement at all, but rather descriptive, and there's certainly value in the GM getting to prep all the scenes before a game! It means the prep can be far more detailed, and encounters can be better customized.

It also doesn't talk about "forcing" or illusionism. If everyone agrees to get on the train, you're still on a railroad.

To reiterate - there's nothing inherently wrong with railroads. They're just not why I play games. They're perfectly awesome for a number of people.

Now, I will argue against illusionism pretty directly, because of the element of lying involved.


I can see how that's true from a certain angle. But I also think there's a lot of variation inside that "thin".

I've seen worlds that feel as if they could be real, and as if the known facts could form the bones upon which to flesh out any needed details as a natural extension of the known.

I've also seen worlds that we obviously slapped together like the fake western-genre storefronts of an old movie set, out of a random grab-bag of "wouldn't it be cool if?" and/or a genre element checklist.

I think those are fairly orthogonal. You can have a detailed, well-prepped, but ultimately nonsensical world, and you can have one that is more generated on the fly but which still has a great deal of internal consistency. More prep (at least the right type) probably helps consistency, to be fair.

Pex
2017-09-20, 10:50 PM
When the DM runs a module or creates an adventure I go with it. I'm there to play the game, and the DM needs to know what's going on. I'm ok with hopping on that train as long as the players get to drive it. Let us deal with the plot in our own way, and if we outsmart the DM let us.

jayem
2017-09-21, 01:48 AM
So whats the difference between this and just not having a door on the left? Is all linearity railroading?


Functionally none, at the end of the day the players will go through the door on the right (well I suppose there is the option to reverse, so functionally almost none).

Practically constantly not having a door strains credibility slowly but regardless of the player actions.
While having the door being 'painted on' is fine till it is pushed, but then credibility snaps if it's pushed.

While having a door that's locked but pickable, and then with rather a boring room behind puts a lot less strain (even computer games can do this). It still will fail when the players really want to go off route.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-21, 07:55 AM
They're all examples precisely what almost everyone (other than you) involved in TTRPGs means by "railroading".

And yes, railroading GMs tend to be power-mongering jerkwads in proportion to how much and how badly they railroad.

Right, railroading comes up and everyone immediately dives into the most insane extreme bad jerk monstrosities. And they are all that is ''all'' railroading and that is why it is bad.

But then they say ''oh, also anything we don't like is also Railroading, as we say it is, and all of it is just as bad as the most insane extreme bad jerk monstrosities. So if the DM has a building with one door ''Railroad!" and that is just as DM as the jerk monster DM that grabs the character sheets from the players and burns them and laughs while saying haha.



"Railroaded" is a 20th century idiom meaning.to convict (a person) in a hasty manner by means of false charges or insufficient evidence: The prisoner insisted he had been railroaded.


Ok, Once Upon a Thread I did note that lots of words have lots of meanings based on context.

But how is ''convicting a person'' even close to ''forcing a plot to move forward in an RPG no matter what the players might do or want''?


This is why these threads will never go anywhere or accomplish anything until DU starts changing his definition of "railroading". (Not to say that you're incorrect or instigating anything, Max_Killjoy, just that you brought up the correct definition and hit the nail square.) If there is an agreed-upon jargon in a community and someone comes into that community and argues that said jargon is wrong because he doesn't agree with it, then bases nonsensical arguments off of that, then of course we're at an impasse.


And this thread has one...But it's not the super evil bad jerk one. It is not ''Railroading is only when the do is a jerk'', so. Even I agree it is wrong to be a jerk DM (but I also think player agency is the player being a jerk).


Yep, that is the essence of lazy GMing. It's not clever, as you said the GM can alter the game reality on a whim. Okay the NPC has an escape plan, what happens if the PCs counter the escape plan? Do you alter reality to ensure that the NPC gets away anyway? Rest assured everyone knows that the GM can alter reality on a whim, the question is should you. Not letting your PCs affect the world at all aside from how you decided they should is the hallmark of a lazy GM.

It is kind of odd your saying it is lazy to do something, and lazy is much more someone not doing something. A lazy DM is one that does not make up a plot or any other type ''origination'' other then their special static setting and then does nothing but react to the players actions and lets the players pick what to do.

But note, even if the DM made up the escape plan (oh, the 12th level wizard has a scroll of teleport) a year before the game and times tamped it (somehow) as proof vs the hostile jerk players.....players would still while and cry that the DM was Railroading as the NPC got away.



Tell me what is the incentive to play smarter and harder in such a world? Mere survival? I mean what you can do to the world and the plot is already pre-determined so they pretty much just need to tag along for the ride. Honestly it doesn't sound particularly engaging to me for the players or the GM. When I write up a plan for my NPC's I tend to write up plans upon plans. Not trying to anticipate what the players might do but rather just basic organizational stuff like "What happens if the BBEG dies?" I've definitely had the rare case where the PC's have won unexpectedly early, like around the halfway mark of the adventure.

Well, if your talking about a Jerk DM: none. Don't play with this type of DM.

But what is ''play smarter and harder''? You should be default play ''smart and hard'', and if your not, you're being Lazy and are the problem.

It is very simple: during any complex RPG things might happen that you personally don't like or approve of...but this is how complicated RPGs are made. A bad guy with an intelligence of over 3 might run away and escape. But the wrong reaction is to whine like a little kid and say ''railroad! Not Fair! the bad guy should stand there so we can kill him just like an awesome anime cartoon!"



A famous example which springs to mind is that of the 2nd ed 1st level Wild Mage who accidentally killed an Ancient Red Wyrm. For those of you who don't know this is an old tale where the BBEG of the campaign was an ancient red wyrm. The party had just started out and the GM introduces the wyrm by having it flying over and torching the town which the party is in due to the town not paying it's tribute. The party's wild mage decides to take a pot shot at the dragon (EXTRAORDINARILY STUPID IDEA but...) and winds up getting a wild surge. The wild surge turns the 1st level spell into a petrify spell and the dragon botches it's magic resistance, botches it's saving throw, turns into a statue which crashes and shatters. How would you have handled the situation?

Well...if playing a 2E game well, it would not matter. In 2E a DM can do anything. But if it was a modern day ''3X group of optimized jerk players who don't understand how to play 2E, and are playing 2E like 3X(or worse 5e)'' I'd let the dragon die. But then 2E is so awesome as all sorts of stuff can still happen even with just the ''wacky wild magic rules'', so like an hour later a goblin wild mage zaps the PCs with the belch cantrip and it 'wild surges' into something that kills the Pcs.... And that is just the wild magic rules....there is so much more.....(''the spider bites your character...your character dies! You missed the teleport and your character dies! You fail a system shock roll and your character dies!")


You seem to be under the mistaken impression that players become unable to leave their seats once the game starts, and all capacity to call BS. Neither is true.


The players can leave.....many leave my game, as I have said. And sure they can ''call'' all they want, but it does not matter to me or the good players, so?

My last 30 games or so I have put small statues of Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson on the table in front of my DM screen. It is a great new way to get rid of problem player.
Player type one-"Ye Waw the South will rise again!, Player type two-*shrugs*"let's start the game", Player type three "I can't play at a table with those two statues it makes me sad and I want this game to be a safe place! Please remove the statues, waaaa." As you might guess, I simply tell the type three player to leave and find another game.

Thinker
2017-09-21, 08:07 AM
My last 30 games or so I have put small statues of Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson on the table in front of my DM screen. It is a great new way to get rid of problem player.
Player type one-"Ye Waw the South will rise again!, Player type two-*shrugs*"let's start the game", Player type three "I can't play at a table with those two statues it makes me sad and I want this game to be a safe place! Please remove the statues, waaaa." As you might guess, I simply tell the type three player to leave and find another game.

I think that this one statement should tell everyone enough about you and your mindset such that responding to your threads is now unnecessary.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 08:32 AM
Right, railroading comes up and everyone immediately dives into the most insane extreme bad jerk monstrosities. And they are all that is ''all'' railroading and that is why it is bad.

But then they say ''oh, also anything we don't like is also Railroading, as we say it is, and all of it is just as bad as the most insane extreme bad jerk monstrosities. So if the DM has a building with one door ''Railroad!" and that is just as DM as the jerk monster DM that grabs the character sheets from the players and burns them and laughs while saying haha.


Poe's Law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law)

I can't tell if you really believe that nonsense interpretation of what people are saying, maybe because you're not recognizing deliberately extreme or simplified hypotheticals for what they are... or if you're just flinging rhetorical poo.



My last 30 games or so I have put small statues of Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson on the table in front of my DM screen. It is a great new way to get rid of problem player.

Player type one-"Ye Waw the South will rise again!, Player type two-*shrugs*"let's start the game", Player type three "I can't play at a table with those two statues it makes me sad and I want this game to be a safe place! Please remove the statues, waaaa." As you might guess, I simply tell the type three player to leave and find another game.


And then there's this.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-21, 08:32 AM
Is all linearity railroading?

As far as I'm concerned, all railroads are linear, but not all linear scenarios are railroads. I've already twice listed what I see as the relevant differences, but here we go again:

1) in a non-railroad linear adventure, the player must be active.
2) if the player is not active, the game either does not progress, or reaches an ending.
3) win and loss are both possible.

The difference becomes apparent if you compare, say, an Arcade SHMUP with a railroaded tabletop game. In the arcade game, the screen only rolls in one direction and the enemies always arrive in the same order. But if you do not pay attention, you will be hit, and then it's GAME OVER, insert credit and start from scratch. Only through your own active effort can you get from the beginning to the end.

Now in a railroad, your active effort is not required. You will only fail when it suits the needs of the scenario maker. There is another living human present who will make the "correct" inputs for you if you don't make them yourself. The game does end untill it reaches the endstate desired by them.

Cosi
2017-09-21, 09:39 AM
So whats the difference between this and just not having a door on the left?

Deception and laziness. Things in the world should behave as players expect them to, or have some plausible reason to behave differently. If there's a door, I should be able to go through it. If I stab you with a sword, you should get hurt. If I throw something off a cliff, it should fall down. That doesn't mean that there has to be a door anywhere, it means that if you put a door somewhere you should put some basic consideration into what happens if I go through it. If you don't want to do that, don't put a door there as scenery. If you want some scenery, you can put a mural or a tapestry there.


But yeah, player agency can be really fun when you remove it. For example, horror as a genre needs player agency to be a low, because it needs threats to be scary and punishments to be harsh.

Yes, that is the lazy way to do things. But you don't have to be lazy. Good design isn't about shutting all the doors other than the one you want to send the PCs through, it's about figuring out a way to make the PCs want to go through the door you want them to. If you're doing a heist game, players should solve problems with elaborate plans that involve combining the talents of a group of criminals because that is the best way to solve problems, not because trying anything else results in a piano being dropped on them.

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 09:58 AM
It is kind of odd your saying it is lazy to do something, and lazy is much more someone not doing something. A lazy DM is one that does not make up a plot or any other type ''origination'' other then their special static setting and then does nothing but react to the players actions and lets the players pick what to do.

From what I've seen railroading GMs are generally lazier than sandboxing GMs due to the fact that railroading GMs only need to populate the places where the players will go. Sandboxing GMs need to populate everywhere.


But note, even if the DM made up the escape plan (oh, the 12th level wizard has a scroll of teleport) a year before the game and times tamped it (somehow) as proof vs the hostile jerk players.....players would still while and cry that the DM was Railroading as the NPC got away.

Not in my experience. You constantly railroad your players and you're surprised that they think they're railroading you?


Well, if your talking about a Jerk DM: none. Don't play with this type of DM.

But what is ''play smarter and harder''? You should be default play ''smart and hard'', and if your not, you're being Lazy and are the problem.

It is very simple: during any complex RPG things might happen that you personally don't like or approve of...but this is how complicated RPGs are made. A bad guy with an intelligence of over 3 might run away and escape. But the wrong reaction is to whine like a little kid and say ''railroad! Not Fair! the bad guy should stand there so we can kill him just like an awesome anime cartoon!"

Why think of creative solutions to the problems if the GM is going to be a brat and go "No that isn't the way I want you to solve the problem so I'm going to arbitrarily block it". If you know that the enemy is going to get away anyway why bother casting dimensional anchor to prevent the teleportation? Or in 2nd edition hold onto an action to disrupt the casting of the spell from the scroll?

And yep things like that sure can happen. But you've said multiple times that you are constantly railroading the players. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they have caught on? If the last 6 things that you did railroaded the group are they supposed to think that this is any different?


Well...if playing a 2E game well, it would not matter. In 2E a DM can do anything. But if it was a modern day ''3X group of optimized jerk players who don't understand how to play 2E, and are playing 2E like 3X(or worse 5e)'' I'd let the dragon die. But then 2E is so awesome as all sorts of stuff can still happen even with just the ''wacky wild magic rules'', so like an hour later a goblin wild mage zaps the PCs with the belch cantrip and it 'wild surges' into something that kills the Pcs.... And that is just the wild magic rules....there is so much more.....(''the spider bites your character...your character dies! You missed the teleport and your character dies! You fail a system shock roll and your character dies!")

In 3rd edition the GM can do anything. In any edition of D&D the GM can do anything. Out of curiosity what do you mean by it would not matter? Do you mean that you would ignore the result? Because I hate to break it to you but that goes greatly against the spirit of 2nd edition. You seem to think that it's teh super kewl awsum when the random breaks go against the players but when they go against the your little plot you seem to just ignore them like a spoiled baby. Seems a little odd.

Just gonna ignore the bait of trying to bring politics into the discussion.

2D8HP
2017-09-21, 10:06 AM
I had planned to tone down my snark, and try to practice constructive, respectful, and cogent communication BUT I SEE NOW THAT IT WOULD BE WRONG!!!


last 30 games or so I have put small statues of Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson on the table in front of my DM screen.....


I see your LOSER statues and get out my William "Make Georgia Howl" Sherman embossed portrait!

So are we playing Blue & Grey, Johnny Reb, or Battle Cry?

http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NTAwWDUwMA==/z/1XkAAOSwM5JZoH2X/$_35.JPG?set_id=8800005007

(I'm good for Diplomacy and Risk as well).

Anyway. ..

https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/comic_lotr100a.jpghttps://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/comic_lotr100b.jpg

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 10:11 AM
https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/comic_lotr100a.jpghttps://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/comic_lotr100b.jpg

Yeah, I've been resisting the urge to make a DM of the Rings reference for quite some time now.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 10:22 AM
As far as I'm concerned, all railroads are linear, but not all linear scenarios are railroads. I've already twice listed what I see as the relevant differences, but here we go again:

1) in a non-railroad linear adventure, the player must be active.
2) if the player is not active, the game either does not progress, or reaches an ending.
3) win and loss are both possible.

The difference becomes apparent if you compare, say, an Arcade SHMUP with a railroaded tabletop game. In the arcade game, the screen only rolls in one direction and the enemies always arrive in the same order. But if you do not pay attention, you will be hit, and then it's GAME OVER, insert credit and start from scratch. Only through your own active effort can you get from the beginning to the end.

Now in a railroad, your active effort is not required. You will only fail when it suits the needs of the scenario maker. There is another living human present who will make the "correct" inputs for you if you don't make them yourself. The game does end untill it reaches the endstate desired by them.

That's a fair answer, if a little extreme. Ive yet to see a game that runs itself without the player but I won't really argue that.

Still you have to accept that this a personal definition of railroading, considering there have been differing answers to the question i asked. It's not a useful word.


Deception and laziness. Things in the world should behave as players expect them to, or have some plausible reason to behave differently. If there's a door, I should be able to go through it. If I stab you with a sword, you should get hurt. If I throw something off a cliff, it should fall down. That doesn't mean that there has to be a door anywhere, it means that if you put a door somewhere you should put some basic consideration into what happens if I go through it. If you don't want to do that, don't put a door there as scenery. If you want some scenery, you can put a mural or a tapestry there.



Yes, that is the lazy way to do things. But you don't have to be lazy. Good design isn't about shutting all the doors other than the one you want to send the PCs through, it's about figuring out a way to make the PCs want to go through the door you want them to. If you're doing a heist game, players should solve problems with elaborate plans that involve combining the talents of a group of criminals because that is the best way to solve problems, not because trying anything else results in a piano being dropped on them.

So your problem is less with linearity and more with poor GMing. So why not say what you mean, instead of using buzzwords that demonize types of play you don't like.

Sure, if your playing a heist game where the focus is on doing cool Oceans 11 style things, player agency is important. But not every game is that and getting rid of choices isn't bad design.

Cosi
2017-09-21, 10:43 AM
So your problem is less with linearity and more with poor GMing. So why not say what you mean, instead of using buzzwords that demonize types of play you don't like.

"Railroading is bad' is what I mean. That's why I say it, and not something else. If I meant something else, I would say something else.


Sure, if your playing a heist game where the focus is on doing cool Oceans 11 style things, player agency is important. But not every game is that and getting rid of choices isn't bad design.

Getting rid of choices is lazy design. If you design your product well, people should want to make the choices you want them to make. If you can't do that, you have done a bad job of designing the game.

kyoryu
2017-09-21, 12:08 PM
I like how my proposed definition of railroading, which is non-judgemental and actually fairly easy to measure, is being totally Warnocked.

2D8HP
2017-09-21, 12:19 PM
(I apologize in advance for a surfeit of my usual snark and sarcasm in this post, I promise that I won't make it a habit)


No thats fair a kind of what i was getting at right. Railroading is a bad word because the person using it almost always means "this is less agency then i want in my game"....


Yes. Previously I wrote of "mild" or even "good" "railroading", but the act of labeling something as such is putting a negative value judgment on the actions, i.e. "I was coerced", vs. "I was persuaded".


...so you dont actually care about the fact that the tracks are there, just that less skilled GM's lay them poorly?


If by "poorly" you mean "I noticed and l'm annoyed by the tracks", then yes precisely.


...And you joke, but thats basically what these kinds of discussions come down to.


In my case I tend to swing from maudlin earnestness to jovial snark and back again, sometimes even in the same post. Other Playgrounders seem more consistent than I am, many others also do both information and teasing (that would you Quertus, I'm keeping my eyestalks alert!).


Right. Which is saying you don't like direct, obvious player authorship in games....


Sometimes I do, but generally I like players are in charge of actions the PC's attempt, GM is in charge of the pretend environment, but I can think of exceptions, Pendragon is one of my fave games, but in many ways it breaks that division.


I aim for precision.

Here's my basic definition of railroading:

A railroad is a game where the GM will determine the contents and ordering of all important scenes/encounters in the game. So, the GM decides you'll go here, then here, then there. The players may get to decide "okay, we go to the market", or "okay we look in this place", but the important things will be determined by the GM - if you look in an unimportant place, you won't find anything useful. You can change some of the fluff, but not the meat....


Seems like a useful definition, if most understand the word that way it works.for me.
.

....It also doesn't talk about "forcing" or illusionism. If everyone agrees to get on the train, you're still on a railroad.

To reiterate - there's nothing inherently wrong with railroads. They're just not why I play games. They're perfectly awesome for a number of people.

Now, I will argue against illusionism pretty directly, because of the element of lying involved....


I actually disagree with that, as a player I want illusionism (as a GM maintaining it may be too stressful though).

First lets try to define it:

Definition of illusionism:

"the use of artistic techniques (such as perspective or shading) to create the illusion*of reality especially in a work of art" (From: Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/illusionism))

"Illusionism is a set of techniques that many of us have experienced - and if it's done skillfully enough, we likely never realized it" (From: RPG Theory Review (http://rpgtheoryreview.blogspot.com/2007/01/lesson-illusionism.html?m=1))

Earlier I posted that I like to practice "doublethink", and try to enjoy pretending that the game "world" is richer and more detailed than it perhaps really is, and also that my PC"s actions matter (Perhaps Max_Killjoy's pleas for "Verisimilitude" fits?).


Do not forget that this is a game and the whole point is to have fun.


I'll give an example of a session that was fun for me:

The PC's are being chased, for my PC to escape I need to succesfully roll the dice a bunch of times in a row, if it looks like the odds are difficult, but my PC narrowly escaped than AWESOME! If it looks like My PC "Studly McAwesome" is just about to get away but then, NOOOOO!, DRAMA!

But if it looks like the dice rolls didn't actually matter (I roll what clearly looks like a success or failure but the GM narrates something else) and events seem "scripted" than the illusion is broken making it less fun for me.

My perception is what is important to me, whatever the "facts" are.

I'm not pleading that "rolls be made for walking", as that would be tedious, I actually want some "skip ahead to awesome" narration, but I like to roll dice and perceive that they matter, I also like to perceive that my decisions have some effect on the "story"/"world".

But I also almost never watch DVD extras about movie "special effects" either.

EDIT:

I like how my proposed definition of railroading, which is non-judgemental and actually fairly easy to measure, is being totally Warnocked.

Sorry kyoryu, I was busy re-fighting the Civil War by using snark, and you Ninja'd me before I responded to your definition!

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 12:52 PM
"Railroading is bad' is what I mean. That's why I say it, and not something else. If I meant something else, I would say something else.



Getting rid of choices is lazy design. If you design your product well, people should want to make the choices you want them to make. If you can't do that, you have done a bad job of designing the game.

This is just wrong. If I'm building a game where the players are supposed to feel powerless in a world of monsters, giving them choices to mow down the monsters like grass is bad design. All games restrict player agency its just a matter of where and how much. This doesn't make a game bad.



I like how my proposed definition of railroading, which is non-judgemental and actually fairly easy to measure, is being totally Warnocked.

I must have missed it, tbh, but I still say that any definition of railroading is bad because the concept itself is a bad concept that should be discarded.

Cosi
2017-09-21, 12:54 PM
This is just wrong. If I'm building a game where the players are supposed to feel powerless in a world of monsters, giving them choices to mow down the monsters like grass is bad design. All games restrict player agency its just a matter of where and how much. This doesn't make a game bad.

Restricting player agency is different from not putting options in a game. Player agency is based on the options available to you. Whether a particular option is in the game or not isn't a question of player agency.

kyoryu
2017-09-21, 01:23 PM
I must have missed it, tbh, but I still say that any definition of railroading is bad because the concept itself is a bad concept that should be discarded.

Then, why not look at the definition, and see what you think of it?

It's a definite definition, that's precise and neutral, that defines some games pretty well (that are considered to be railroady) while not creating ridiculous strawmen.

Scripten
2017-09-21, 01:25 PM
Restricting player agency is different from not putting options in a game. Player agency is based on the options available to you. Whether a particular option is in the game or not isn't a question of player agency.

This is a really good point. If a player should reasonably have the option to attempt something, not letting them do so or shutting them down is fairly poor form. However, the opposite of that isn't allowing players to do whatever they want, either. In both cases, the verisimilitude of the setting is broken. Steering clear of that break in the illusion is probably the best way to avoid railroading or... anti-railroading(?).

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 01:38 PM
Restricting player agency is different from not putting options in a game. Player agency is based on the options available to you. Whether a particular option is in the game or not isn't a question of player agency.

This is a really good point. If a player should reasonably have the option to attempt something, not letting them do so or shutting them down is fairly poor form. However, the opposite of that isn't allowing players to do whatever they want, either. In both cases, the verisimilitude of the setting is broken. Steering clear of that break in the illusion is probably the best way to avoid railroading or... anti-railroading(?).

Very important point in there.

The claim has repeatedly been made (from a very particular quarter) that "railroading" stands as the lone alternative to letting the players do anything want, total chaos, and GMs who are lazy and do nothing.

Clearly this claim rests on a series of fallacies and conflations, as laid out in painstaking detail in any number of threads so far.

Quertus
2017-09-21, 01:53 PM
many others also do both information and teasing (that would you Quertus, I'm keeping my eyestalks alert!).

I must admit, I'm a bit confused. Unless, perhaps, "information" is a euphemism for standing on a soap box, and "teasing" is a euphemism for brazenly attacking the underlying logic behind others' assertions? I'm guessing the eyestalks are a reference to my avatar, but I could be mistaken there, too.


I must have missed it, tbh, but I still say that any definition of railroading is bad because the concept itself is a bad concept that should be discarded.

Sorry, are you contending that the concept of railroading is bad, and must be discarded, or that the concept of trying to define railroading is bad, and must be discarded?


This is just wrong. If I'm building a game where the players are supposed to feel powerless in a world of monsters, giving them choices to mow down the monsters like grass is bad design. All games restrict player agency its just a matter of where and how much. This doesn't make a game bad.


Restricting player agency is different from not putting options in a game. Player agency is based on the options available to you. Whether a particular option is in the game or not isn't a question of player agency.

Pretty much wanna second this.

A friend of mine made an awesome custom Doom level back in the day. He provided a certain number of rockets, and it was pretty obvious how he expected them to be used. But I still had the agency to try a different tactic, and save the rockets for a future encounter.

If I'm running an übercharger, I expect to turn monsters into a thin red paste. If I encounter a Cthulhu monster, I expect to turn it into a thin green paste. Railroading would be arbitrarily denying how the übercharger works for the sake of the Cthulhu monster / the horror feel of the game. A non-railroading answer to create the desired horror vibe would involve not allowing an übercharger in the game in the first place.

kyoryu
2017-09-21, 01:53 PM
I actually disagree with that, as a player I want illusionism (as a GM maintaining it may be too stressful though).

First lets try to define it:

Definition of illusionism:

"the use of artistic techniques (such as perspective or shading) to create the illusion*of reality especially in a work of art" (From: Merriam-Webster (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/illusionism))

"Illusionism is a set of techniques that many of us have experienced - and if it's done skillfully enough, we likely never realized it" (From: RPG Theory Review (http://rpgtheoryreview.blogspot.com/2007/01/lesson-illusionism.html?m=1))

Earlier I posted that I like to practice "doublethink", and try to enjoy pretending that the game "world" is richer and more detailed than it perhaps really is, and also that my PC"s actions matter (Perhaps Max_Killjoy's pleas for "Verisimilitude" fits?).

You don't want obvious rails.

But, in almost every case, eventually you will want to do B, when the next planned encounter is actually A. That's where the issue comes into play.

My argument is that it's ultimately better for the players to know that, effectively, the game is linear and that sometimes things just need to go a certain way. If you think you actually have the power to do B instead, you will keep pushing against that wall. That's where the issue comes into play.

(Also note that very few games are *pure* railroads by my definition, where the GM offers exactly one set of predetermined encounters. Most have at least some level of minor branching involved, even if only at a local level and with little long-term consequence).

In fact, "participationism" (which is what I'm arguing for) really relies on exactly that type of doublethink - we all agree to the fact that it's basically a railroad, the GM tries to hide the tracks, and the players tacitly avoid trying to derail the train. "Illusionism" is the situation where the GM is actively denying that the rails exist *at all*. The primary difference is whether or not the GM is telling the players "yup, this is a sandbox. You can do whatever. Totally. Wouldn't lie to you."

2D8HP
2017-09-21, 02:03 PM
I must admit, I'm a bit confused. Unless, perhaps, "information" is a euphemism for...


Yes exactly! TOTALLY PRE-PLANNED!


Not really, I thought of the "eye stalk" joke first, then noticed your avatar and put you in

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 02:17 PM
I must say that I can't get behind your definition kyoryu. Too nebulous, only addresses one narrow point, etc... Let's take a look at how the RPG community has defined it over the past 26 years
Railroading is a term used to describe the imposition of a predefined set of resolutions onto the choices and conflicts that occur in play by a storyteller or game master. Essentially, it's what happens when a person tries to make themselves the sole author of the story.

The metaphor is obvious: just as a train can only operate on a preset rail structure that determines where it can go, and can only deviate from that path at special switching stations, a railroaded game can only function if contingent outcomes resolve in the anticipated way. A train that's forced off its rails crashes, which is essentially what happens to railroaded games forced out of their narrow plot.

Most games have some predefined narrative structure, and there's often an agreement among players that games will contain particular plot types or elements. Railroading only takes place when player actions are prevented from having any effect on the flow of events. It's possible that a game can be railroaded without its participants noticing, but unlikely, due to the fragility of plots and the ease with which they can be derailed. Any choices made by players that aren't compatible with the storyteller's plans either break the game or result in the storyteller crafting events in such a way to force a return to the intended outcome. Therefore, the term is virtually always used pejoratively, and the technique considered to be inherently pathological, as it represents a failure to be properly flexible and adaptive to players' input. Unlike Illusionism, there's really no way Railroading can be used responsibly.
Railroading is a GMing style in which, no matter what the PCs do, they will experience certain events according to the GMs plan. In general, this is considered a flaw, displaying a lack of flexibility, naturalness of the scenario, and lack of respect for meaningful choices by the players.

Railroading as a pejorative
Because railroading essentially negates the central activity of a role-playing game, it is generally used to refer to a dysfunctional role-playing style. Consequently, it is often used to characterize whenever the GM constrains PC choices to the detriment of the players' enjoyment.


When railroading is not bad
Obviously, some constraint on player choices is necessary, and many that are not necessary still enhance the game. One common occurrence is linear game design, in which the GM lays out expected game events ahead of time, using time, geography, and events to influence PC behavior. If they deviate from the planned adventure, the GM may use carrot-and-stick approaches to get them back on track. However, this situation does not become a true railroad unless the GM actively negates player choices simply because the GM did not like what they chose.
The last aspect of the encounter that I misjudged was the options of the PCs. I didn’t even consider the possibility that the PCs would want to fight to keep their valuables (silly me). In fiction and movies, the entire plot and story line of the piece is worked out in advance. In RPGs, that sort of thing is virtually impossible to achieve without railroading the PCs. Players almost always come up with some way to take the adventure off in an unexpected direction. If you’re trying to reenact the plot of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood film, what would the DM do if the party decides not to return to England, but rather roam the Arabic world, guided by Azim? That is why I do not recommend trying to adapt any borrowed plot verbatim into a RPG. It’s not going to work.
Broadly-used term for linear plotting in RPGs. (1) GM behavior when the planned scenario requires a particular sequence of events/scenes leading to a particular ending. The GM ensures that it arrives there by a variety of means. This is generally pejorative, but is sometimes defended as valid as long as it is not overused. (2) On the Forge, a purely negative term for GM behavior that breaks the Social Contract via the GM controlling a player-character's decisions or opportunities for decisions.

Note: I brought up the Dragon Magazine one due to it being the oldest one I had on hand. I don't have my copy of the Dungeoneering Guide at the moment.

It does seem almost certain that it is derived from the legal railroading term that doesn't actually mean framed so much as rushed towards one conclusion. A kangaroo court would be a closer comparison.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-21, 02:35 PM
That's a fair answer, if a little extreme. Ive yet to see a game that runs itself without the player but I won't really argue that.

There are Zero Player games like Conway's life, which follow deterministic rules from the initial position and can thus be easily automated so that no player input is required after the game begins. There are also games which are fundamentally so random that the players have no real input, they are there to just roll the dice (Snakes and Ladders IIRC fits this definition). You could have one player roll all their dice and it would not make a difference for running of the game.

Both game forms can be repeated in tabletop RPGs via poor scenario design. However, these are corner cases. Much more relevant is the realization that a GM is a player as well. The person running the railroad doesn't even have to be the nominal GM, or even a single person - an overbearing player can be the guilty party just as well, as can group consensus (often seen in supposed "freeform" games).

So the game is not running without players. It's simply that you are not the player who is running it.


Still you have to accept that this a personal definition of railroading, considering there have been differing answers to the question i asked. It's not a useful word.

Yes, if enough people use bad semantics, words cease to be usefull. News at eleven.

It's more relevant to realize that this is neither inevitable nor has its always been the case. Some of the "different" answers are plainly wrong in that they are overly broad, don't fit the metaphor or go against established uses of the metaphor. The uselessness of the term "railroad" is actively caused by people who for whatever reason don't stick to precedent. It's less inability to decide and more unwillingess to stick to a decision.

A prime example of this is the tangent where DU went "that's not railroading, that's GM being an ultra jerk" in response to Quertus's samples. But Quertus neither implicitly nor explicitly defined railroading as "GM is a jerk". He defined railroading as a thing and then separately made the value judgement "if GM does this, then they are a jerk". So DU's ground of disagreement is based on conflating the definition of a phenomenom and value judgement of a phenomenom, and his motive for that fits the definition of "No True Scotsman" fallacy in that he wants to exclude from "railroading" anything he, Darth Ultron, considers a jerk move.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 02:41 PM
Yes, if enough people use bad semantics, words cease to be usefull. News at eleven.

It's more relevant to realize that this is neither inevitable nor has its always been the case. Some of the "different" answers are plainly wrong in that they are overly broad, don't fit the metaphor or go against established uses of the metaphor. The uselessness of the term "railroad" is actively caused by people who for whatever reason don't stick to precedent. It's less inability to decide and more unwillingess to stick to a decision.


In this particular case caused almost entirely by an ongoing attempt by a particular party to conflate "railroading" with "proper DMing".




A prime example of this is the tangent where DU went "that's not railroading, that's GM being an ultra jerk" in response to Quertus's samples. But Quertus neither implicitly nor explicitly defined railroading as "GM is a jerk". He defined railroading as a thing and then separately made the value judgement "if GM does this, then they are a jerk". So DU's ground of disagreement is based on conflating the definition of a phenomenom and value judgement of a phenomenom, and his motive for that fits the definition of "No True Scotsman" fallacy in that he wants to exclude from "railroading" anything he, Darth Ultron, considers a jerk move.


And to include in "railroading" anything that isn't total aimless chaos at the gaming table, with PCs doing and getting whatever they want in an orgy of total randomness.

And both of those are nothing more or less than an effort to establish as normal and normative a toxic stew of abusive gaming table practices and habits clearly intended to dominate and manipulate and bully the rest of the participants, and keep players "in their place". It would be one thing if said party's self-described approach to GMing and attitude towards his fellow players wasn't so clearly a deliberate and self-serving process of "demean, belittle, intimidate, and browbeat"... then it might just be a matter of an odd definition and misunderstanding. But that's not the case.

kyoryu
2017-09-21, 02:41 PM
I must say that I can't get behind your definition kyoryu. Too nebulous, only addresses one narrow point, etc... Let's take a look at how the RPG community has defined it over the past 26 years

It seems, to me, to be extremely compatible with those definitions. Which do you see it being incompatible with?

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 02:48 PM
I must admit, I'm a bit confused. Unless, perhaps, "information" is a euphemism for standing on a soap box, and "teasing" is a euphemism for brazenly attacking the underlying logic behind others' assertions? I'm guessing the eyestalks are a reference to my avatar, but I could be mistaken there, too.



Sorry, are you contending that the concept of railroading is bad, and must be discarded, or that the concept of trying to define railroading is bad, and must be discarded?





Pretty much wanna second this.

A friend of mine made an awesome custom Doom level back in the day. He provided a certain number of rockets, and it was pretty obvious how he expected them to be used. But I still had the agency to try a different tactic, and save the rockets for a future encounter.

If I'm running an übercharger, I expect to turn monsters into a thin red paste. If I encounter a Cthulhu monster, I expect to turn it into a thin green paste. Railroading would be arbitrarily denying how the übercharger works for the sake of the Cthulhu monster / the horror feel of the game. A non-railroading answer to create the desired horror vibe would involve not allowing an übercharger in the game in the first place.

Both, more or less. Maybe more the word railroading. It's a critique buzzword, meant to take something that is a preference (player agency) and turn it into an objective negative. "[Game] has less player agency then I want, that's railroading, railroading is bad, thus [game] is bad". It may have had use previously to describe types of bad game design, but now it is a meaningless criticism, similar to Mary Sue or Deus Ex Machina

That's plainly obvious in this thread, with people saying that linear games are "lazier" then sandbox games, that some rules are better than others, and the fact that everyones point "low player agency" becomes "railroading" is different.

BRC
2017-09-21, 02:50 PM
I must have missed it, tbh, but I still say that any definition of railroading is bad because the concept itself is a bad concept that should be discarded.

Eh, the common use of the phrase is as a Bad Thing. We're not going to SOLVE the dilemma here, but personally I would rather define Railroading as The Bad Thing, rather than the confusion of defining "Railroading, but bad" and "Railroading, but Not Bad".

Hence my bit about "Railroading occurs at the moment of Denial", When the DM denies a legitimate exercise of player agency in order to force a specific result.

This, of course, requires us to define a "Legitimate Exercise of Player Agency", which basically comes down to the Players' ability to control their PC, in the situation their character occupies in-game.

(assuming this isn't a game system with some sort of meta-resource that lets players impact the story in ways their Characters could not).

If the PC is locked in a room with a window and a bench, "pick up the bench and try to smash the Window" is a legitimate use of player agency, as would be picking the lock, casting the "Knock" spell, sitting and waiting, ect ect.

Declaring "I push the third brick from the corner and open the secret passageway" is not a legitimate use of player agency. Players don't get to declare secret passageways into existence. Even if, say, they peaked at the GM's notes and knew about the switch and passage out of character, pushing the switch without finding it would not be a legitimate action (That would be metagaming).

The Moment of Denial usually occurs mid-session, as the GM attempts to course-correct towards their predetermined outcome, but it CAN occur during the planning stages, if the GM seeks to deliberately construct the scenario such that their pre-determined outcome is the only valid one.

Some examples, assuming the DM wants to run a Gladiator Tournament arc.
Mid-Session Denial:
DM: You arrive in town, and see a poster seeking competitors for a Gladiatorial Tournament, with a prize of 10,000 gold for the winner!
Players: Nah, we don't want to do that. We'll just go to the Inn instead, and move on to the next town in the morning.
DM: Um, nope. The entire town is locked down until the tournament is over. Nobody is allowed to leave.
Players: Okay, I guess we'll just wait until the tournament is over.
DM: everybody make DC 25 Wisdom Checks...Okay, [Person who failed] got drunk and signed you all up for the tournament.
Players: We tell them we forfeit.
DM: Nope,the contract is magically binding. You have to fight.

Vs Pre-Game Denial:

DM: You arrived in the town last night and spent the night in the tavern. When you wake up, you're in the barracks of a gladiatorial arena, with magic marks glowing on your hands. While there, you are informed that you must fight in the tournament, if you try to leave, refuse to fight, or attack anybody outside the ring, the mark will kill you.

Vs, a non-railroading example.

DM: The MacGuffin you need is being offered as the Prize for the grand champion of a Gladiatorial Tournament.
Players: Hrmmm, we don't really want to fight in a tournament, but we really need that MacGuffin to save the world. Let's talk to the Tournament Organizers and see if they'll give it to us.
DM: They refuse. This tournament is a big deal, and they've already announced that the prize will be the MacGuffin. They will not shake on this front.
Players: Okay, what if we just spent this time gathering a giant pile of money, and offered to buy the MacGuffin off whoever ends up winning?
DM: Okay. You'll need a lot of money, and a good Persuasion roll to convince whoever wins the tournament.
Players: We accept this.


Now, my third example is also bad adventure design, but it's probably not RAILROADING. The GM is presenting only a single solution (Win the Tournament), to a party that does not want to fight in a gladiator tournament. The key difference is that there is no Moment of Denial. The GM presents the scenario, and when the players reject the presented solution, the GM provides reasonable resistance to their other plans (The Organizers are not just going to give up their trophy), but accepts an alternative solution that has no reasonable objection (Buying the Trophy off the winner).

Compare to the Second, where there was a Moment of Denial that occurred when the GM decided to magically compel the PC's to fight, rather than, say, leaving room for them to break out of the Arena, or giving them a chance to avoid capture in the first place.

Cosi
2017-09-21, 03:00 PM
That's plainly obvious in this thread, with people saying that linear games are "lazier" then sandbox games, that some rules are better than others, and the fact that everyones point "low player agency" becomes "railroading" is different.

That's not what people are saying, and you would know that if you read the things you are saying. Railroading isn't "having a linear game". It's "having a linear game that pretends to be a sanbox until you go off the rails". It's absolutely fine to have a linear game. Have all the linear games you want. Just don't dress them up like sandbox games. If you don't want to give me an option, fine. But don't say you've given me the option, then act all offended when I try to use it.

To go back to the horror game discussion, it's fine if the game doesn't give the players the ability to kill all the monsters with impunity. But if the game gives you an option that should let you kill all the monsters with impunity, stopping the players because you don't want that to happen is bad DMing.

Scripten
2017-09-21, 03:11 PM
That's not what people are saying, and you would know that if you read the things you are saying. Railroading isn't "having a linear game". It's "having a linear game that pretends to be a sanbox until you go off the rails". It's absolutely fine to have a linear game. Have all the linear games you want. Just don't dress them up like sandbox games. If you don't want to give me an option, fine. But don't say you've given me the option, then act all offended when I try to use it.

To go back to the horror game discussion, it's fine if the game doesn't give the players the ability to kill all the monsters with impunity. But if the game gives you an option that should let you kill all the monsters with impunity, stopping the players because you don't want that to happen is bad DMing.

So much this.

To shamelessly build off of BRC's gladiatorial arena concept, the best way to avoid railroading the players would be to say to them upfront, "Hey, I'd like to run a gladiatorial arena quest. Is that cool?" Alternatively, just giving them the option via an in-game poster in a town and gauging interest that way is just as legitimate. If they don't want to play that kind of game, then they needn't do so.

Pretending that you are going to play a sandbox game on dinosaur island and then forcing the players to fight waves of basic guards in the starting town for the evil blood god because you think that would be more fun is just being a poor sport and misrepresenting your game to your players.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 03:15 PM
Eh, the common use of the phrase is as a Bad Thing. We're not going to SOLVE the dilemma here, but personally I would rather define Railroading as The Bad Thing, rather than the confusing of defining "Railroading, but bad" and "Railroading, but Not Bad".

Hence my bit about "Railroading occurs at the moment of Denial", When the DM denies a legitimate exercise of player agency in order to force a specific result.

This, of course, requires us to define a "Legitimate Exercise of Player Agency", which basically comes down to the Players' ability to control their PC, in the situation their character occupies in-game.

(assuming this isn't a game system with some sort of meta-resource that lets players impact the story in ways their Characters could not).

If the PC is locked in a room with a window and a bench, "pick up the bench and try to smash the Window" is a legitimate use of player agency, as would be picking the lock, casting the "Knock" spell, sitting and waiting, ect ect.

Declaring "I push the third brick from the corner and open the secret passageway" is not a legitimate use of player agency. Players don't get to declare secret passageways into existence. Even if, say, they peaked at the GM's notes and knew about the switch and passage out of character, pushing the switch without finding it would not be a legitimate action (That would be metagaming).

The Moment of Denial usually occurs mid-session, as the GM attempts to course-correct towards their predetermined outcome, but it CAN occur during the planning stages, if the GM seeks to deliberately construct the scenario such that their pre-determined outcome is the only valid one.

Some examples, assuming the DM wants to run a Gladiator Tournament arc.
Mid-Session Denial:
DM: You arrive in town, and see a poster seeking competitors for a Gladiatorial Tournament, with a prize of 10,000 gold for the winner!
Players: Nah, we don't want to do that. We'll just go to the Inn instead, and move on to the next town in the morning.
DM: Um, nope. The entire town is locked down until the tournament is over. Nobody is allowed to leave.
Players: Okay, I guess we'll just wait until the tournament is over.
DM: everybody make DC 25 Wisdom Checks...Okay, [Person who failed] got drunk and signed you all up for the tournament.
Players: We tell them we forfeit.
DM: Nope,the contract is magically binding. You have to fight.

Vs Pre-Game Denial:

DM: You arrived in the town last night and spent the night in the tavern. When you wake up, you're in the barracks of a gladiatorial arena, with magic marks glowing on your hands. While there, you are informed that you must fight in the tournament, if you try to leave, refuse to fight, or attack anybody outside the ring, the mark will kill you.

Vs, a non-railroading example.

DM: The MacGuffin you need is being offered as the Prize for the grand champion of a Gladiatorial Tournament.
Players: Hrmmm, we don't really want to fight in a tournament, but we really need that MacGuffin to save the world. Let's talk to the Tournament Organizers and see if they'll give it to us.
DM: They refuse. This tournament is a big deal, and they've already announced that the prize will be the MacGuffin. They will not shake on this front.
Players: Okay, what if we just spent this time gathering a giant pile of money, and offered to buy the MacGuffin off whoever ends up winning?
DM: Okay. You'll need a lot of money, and a good Persuasion roll to convince whoever wins the tournament.
Players: We accept this.


Now, my third example is also bad adventure design, but it's probably not RAILROADING. The GM is presenting only a single solution (Win the Tournament), to a party that does not want to fight in a gladiator tournament. The key difference is that there is no Moment of Denial. The GM presents the scenario, and when the players reject the presented solution, the GM provides reasonable resistance to their other plans (The Organizers are not just going to give up their trophy), but accepts an alternative solution that has no reasonable objection (Buying the Trophy off the winner).

Compare to the Second, where there was a Moment of Denial that occurred when the GM decided to magically compel the PC's to fight, rather than, say, leaving room for them to break out of the Arena, or giving them a chance to avoid capture in the first place.

Absolutely.

This sounds very much like where I draw the line on what is and is not railroading.

Not sure why there's an apparent effort to make "railroading" a neutral term for a broader set of things and then work back to "good railroading" and "bad railroading", when there are other terms to cover those other things, and the actual defining aspect of railroading is inherently bad on multiple levels. It violates player agency, violates the "social contract", and breaks verisimilitude. This is an issue on which I will openly and unflinchingly make an objective value statement. Railroading is by its very nature a bad act.

On your tangent, as both a player and a GM, that's where I draw the line myself -- players don't get to declare secret passages into existence in that manner, the passageway either exists or it does not. I would not enjoy an RPG or a campaign in which that happened. Here, though, I'll leave room for people who do enjoy that to enjoy it, so long they leave room for the sort of game I enjoy (I say this because I've seen repeated attempts to exclude the middle and paint anything that isn't full shared authorship ("storygames") as if it were a "railroad" or a "gamist hackandslash").

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 03:19 PM
It seems, to me, to be extremely compatible with those definitions. Which do you see it being incompatible with?


Here's my basic definition of railroading:

A railroad is a game where the GM will determine the contents and ordering of all important scenes/encounters in the game. So, the GM decides you'll go here, then here, then there. The players may get to decide "okay, we go to the market", or "okay we look in this place", but the important things will be determined by the GM - if you look in an unimportant place, you won't find anything useful. You can change some of the fluff, but not the meat.

Note that in some cases the GM will determine what the scenes are - but you might determine the order. Or something similar. It's possible for a game to be railroady without being a pure railroad.

Note that this isn't a value judgement at all, but rather descriptive, and there's certainly value in the GM getting to prep all the scenes before a game! It means the prep can be far more detailed, and encounters can be better customized.

It also doesn't talk about "forcing" or illusionism. If everyone agrees to get on the train, you're still on a railroad.

To reiterate - there's nothing inherently wrong with railroads. They're just not why I play games. They're perfectly awesome for a number of people.

This is where tying it back to the definition of a railroaded court case or government bill comes into play. A judgement which was forced through ignoring the normal conditions which would normally apply. It also helps to illustrate the negative connotations associated with it. Now every accused criminal has the right to a fair trial right? Well with a railroaded accused criminal that right gets bypassed. They don't have the opportunity to defend themselves, or in the instance of a government bill it doesn't receive the consideration which it normally should. The conclusion was reached before the case was even started.

Saying that the definition doesn't include being "forced" in it as a positive note for the definition when being forced is the very thing being objected to and explicitly referenced in several of the definitions which I listed is the part which I find incompatible.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 03:25 PM
That's not what people are saying, and you would know that if you read the things you are saying. Railroading isn't "having a linear game". It's "having a linear game that pretends to be a sanbox until you go off the rails". It's absolutely fine to have a linear game. Have all the linear games you want. Just don't dress them up like sandbox games. If you don't want to give me an option, fine. But don't say you've given me the option, then act all offended when I try to use it.

To go back to the horror game discussion, it's fine if the game doesn't give the players the ability to kill all the monsters with impunity. But if the game gives you an option that should let you kill all the monsters with impunity, stopping the players because you don't want that to happen is bad DMing.

Sure, but how much of that is a GM misrepresenting their linear game, and how much of it is the non GM players assuming it's a sandbox game? I've said from the very beginning that sitting down and talking about the game before hand is the best possible way to avoid these issues.

I mean yes, putting in a door when what you really want is a wall is bad design, but why can't we just call it bad design instead of using loaded buzzwords with no meaning

(Also I disagree, sometimes weird stuff happens and you need to be able to have control of the games tone. Sometimes you need to tell your players that this thing you didn't think of will break the game and you can't allow it. This isn't a bad thing)

Cosi
2017-09-21, 03:27 PM
I mean yes, putting in a door when what you really want is a wall is bad design, but why can't we just call it bad design instead of using loaded buzzwords with no meaning

Because it is a specific kind of bad design. Having a mechanic that is unwieldy to use is also bad design, but it is a different kind of bad design than putting a door where you want a wall. As a result, we give them different names, and the name that we give the specific kind of bad design that includes having doors where you want walls is "railroading".

BRC
2017-09-21, 03:34 PM
Because it is a specific kind of bad design. Having a mechanic that is unwieldy to use is also bad design, but it is a different kind of bad design than putting a door where you want a wall. As a result, we give them different names, and the name that we give the specific kind of bad design that includes having doors where you want walls is "railroading".

I think "Putting a Door where you want a Wall" is a bad metaphor, since that implies the GM is deliberately creating a door they don't want the players to go through, which could be done as PART of railroading, but by itself is just being a bad GM.

Railroading is more like building one door and some walls, then building walls everywhere the Players try to go until only the single door remains.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 03:35 PM
Sure, but how much of that is a GM misrepresenting their linear game, and how much of it is the non GM players assuming it's a sandbox game? I've said from the very beginning that sitting down and talking about the game before hand is the best possible way to avoid these issues.

I mean yes, putting in a door when what you really want is a wall is bad design, but why can't we just call it bad design instead of using loaded buzzwords with no meaning

(Also I disagree, sometimes weird stuff happens and you need to be able to have control of the games tone. Sometimes you need to tell your players that this thing you didn't think of will break the game and you can't allow it. This isn't a bad thing)

If the GM openly says "Ooops, sorry, I didn't anticipate this, let's work out a way we can all agree on to move the game forward" or "Hey, sorry, this is outside what I had material for and I need a little time to adjust" has the benefit of the GM being open and honest. Most players I've known would appreciate that a lot more than being stonewalled or deceived.

Drakevarg
2017-09-21, 03:39 PM
I think "Putting a Door where you want a Wall" is a bad metaphor, since that implies the GM is deliberately creating a door they don't want the players to go through, which could be done as PART of railroading, but by itself is just being a bad GM.

Railroading is more like building one door and some walls, then building walls everywhere the Players try to go until only the single door remains.

Part of the problem of having a habit of communicating through analogies is that they can sometimes be taken too literally.

The hallway scenario I presented was meant to display the problem with minimal variables to make it obvious. The door on the left could just as easily be a window, or a ledge, or a fork in the road. It doesn't matter. The point is that the party attempted to deviate from the DM's intended course (the door on the right) and all of their attempts to do so were stonewalled until they relented and got back on the tracks (or left the table).

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 03:40 PM
Absolutely.

This sounds very much like where I draw the line on what is and is not railroading.

Not sure why there's an apparent effort to make "railroading" a neutral term for a broader set of things and then work back to "good railroading" and "bad railroading", when there are other terms to cover those other things, and the actual defining aspect of railroading is inherently bad on multiple levels. It violates player agency, violates the "social contract", and breaks verisimilitude. This is an issue on which I will openly and unflinchingly make an objective value statement. Railroading is by its very nature a bad act.

On your tangent, as both a player and a GM, that's where I draw the line myself -- players don't get to declare secret passages into existence in that manner, the passageway either exists or it does not. I would not enjoy an RPG or a campaign in which that happened. Here, though, I'll leave room for people who do enjoy that to enjoy it, so long they leave room for the sort of game I enjoy (I say this because I've seen repeated attempts to exclude the middle and paint anything that isn't full shared authorship ("storygames") as if it were a "railroad" or a "gamist hackandslash").

this is exactly my point. railroading cannot be both a personal line drawn in the sand and an inherently negative value statement. their incompatible because everyone will draw that line in a different place.

gaming, tabletop gaming in particular, has a real bad problem with declaring one type of gaming as "good" and all others "bad", and using terms like railroading encourages that when we need to be stopping it. talk about what games you want to run and play. be honest with other players. respect the types of games other players want to play. lumping everything you dont like about linearity and player agency into a single term does nothing to make a better community.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 03:53 PM
this is exactly my point. railroading cannot be both a personal line drawn in the sand and an inherently negative value statement. their incompatible because everyone will draw that line in a different place.

gaming, tabletop gaming in particular, has a real bad problem with declaring one type of gaming as "good" and all others "bad", and using terms like railroading encourages that when we need to be stopping it. talk about what games you want to run and play. be honest with other players. respect the types of games other players want to play. lumping everything you dont like about linearity and player agency into a single term does nothing to make a better community.

This isn't about one type of game versus another, or personal preferences, or "badwrongfun".

kyoryu
2017-09-21, 03:55 PM
This is where tying it back to the definition of a railroaded court case or government bill comes into play. A judgement which was forced through ignoring the normal conditions which would normally apply. It also helps to illustrate the negative connotations associated with it. Now every accused criminal has the right to a fair trial right? Well with a railroaded accused criminal that right gets bypassed. They don't have the opportunity to defend themselves, or in the instance of a government bill it doesn't receive the consideration which it normally should. The conclusion was reached before the case was even started.

Saying that the definition doesn't include being "forced" in it as a positive note for the definition when being forced is the very thing being objected to and explicitly referenced in several of the definitions which I listed is the part which I find incompatible.

My point is that, ultimately, the "forcing" comes from the fact that the GM *has* determined what encounters must happen and in what order.

That design is a prerequisite for the "forcing". If you don't have that, there's no need.

Also, by my definition, the outcome is equally certain. If the GM has already prepared the full list of encounters, then the outcome is, for all practical purposes, predetermined. The fact that the forcing doesn't need to happen if the situation happens to go that way is nice, but the structure is still the same, and the GM would absolutely do the "forcing" if necessary.

By pointing out the underlying structure, we can also look at the advantages of such a structure - the disadvantages are obvious. But by having a known, smaller space to work with, it's much easier for a GM to do a more detailed, thoughtful job of prep of the specific encounters. So long as players are okay with this, they can reap those advantages. The problem comes when they're unaware of this, and try to fight against it.

This is part of why i try to not use the "legal" railroading definition, in favor of the "train on a track" definition. The former almost always happens in service of the latter, and is almost always bad, but the latter definition is the cause of the behavior, and can, if used properly, have advantages in some games. (Even if it is not, by leaps and bounds, my preference).

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 04:09 PM
This isn't about one type of game versus another, or personal preferences, or "badwrongfun".

In what way is "where I draw the line on what is and is not railroading" and "Railroading is by its very nature a bad act." not using personal preference to prescribe objective quality?

BRC
2017-09-21, 04:13 PM
My point is that, ultimately, the "forcing" comes from the fact that the GM *has* determined what encounters must happen and in what order.

That design is a prerequisite for the "forcing". If you don't have that, there's no need.

Also, by my definition, the outcome is equally certain. If the GM has already prepared the full list of encounters, then the outcome is, for all practical purposes, predetermined. The fact that the forcing doesn't need to happen if the situation happens to go that way is nice, but the structure is still the same, and the GM would absolutely do the "forcing" if necessary.

By pointing out the underlying structure, we can also look at the advantages of such a structure - the disadvantages are obvious. But by having a known, smaller space to work with, it's much easier for a GM to do a more detailed, thoughtful job of prep of the specific encounters. So long as players are okay with this, they can reap those advantages. The problem comes when they're unaware of this, and try to fight against it.

This is part of why i try to not use the "legal" railroading definition, in favor of the "train on a track" definition. The former almost always happens in service of the latter, and is almost always bad, but the latter definition is the cause of the behavior, and can, if used properly, have advantages in some games. (Even if it is not, by leaps and bounds, my preference).

Yeah, No.

Yes, you can't force people to follow your plan if you don't have a plan. But, you can also HAVE a plan, and not force people to follow it. Your plan can be vague enough for there to be plenty of room for the PC's to show agency, and yet still be following "Your Plan".

You can also have only a very vague plan and yet still force the PC's to follow it, stonewalling any option that doesn't lead them towards your pre-determined result.

And, no matter how intricate and carefully laid your plans are, you can't railroad unless you are forcing your PC's to follow them.

Because, believe it or not, Planning is useful, even if the plans are not always followed. Good plans are made with the knowledge that you are not forcing them to happen, and the flexibility to be adjusted on the fly.

I'd like to focus on this part of your post.

Also, by my definition, the outcome is equally certain. If the GM has already prepared the full list of encounters, then the outcome is, for all practical purposes, predetermined. The fact that the forcing doesn't need to happen if the situation happens to go that way is nice, but the structure is still the same, and the GM would absolutely do the "forcing" if necessary.
You're assuming that the act of preparing the encounters means the GM is also committed to Forcing those encounters. The encounters are just notes on paper, nothing more. They have no special hold over the GM, and can be altered or discarded at any time.

Scripten
2017-09-21, 04:14 PM
In what way is "where I draw the line on what is and is not railroading" and "Railroading is by its very nature a bad act." not using personal preference to prescribe objective quality?

In the same way that has been repeatedly described in this thread: "It violates player agency, violates the "social contract", and breaks verisimilitude." As Max_Killjoy has explained along with others.

The players are specifically not complicit in railroaded situations. They are explicitly attempting to engage their agency and are being actively shot down. What part of that is so confusing?

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 04:22 PM
In what way is "where I draw the line on what is and is not railroading" and "Railroading is by its very nature a bad act." not using personal preference to prescribe objective quality?


What we see in this thread is a set of definitions that almost all attempt to pin down what is fundamentally the same specific thing -- the denial of agency, the stonewalling of all paths but the one predetermined by the GM, choices that aren't choices, etc. There's an attempt to nail the term down as something useful for communication.

And then there's a scattering of "undefinitions" that attempt to make "railroading" into a weaponized term that serves to advance an agenda via "argument by definition".

1) "Railroading is any preplanning or limitation, so everyone railroads unless they're a do-nothing GM and their players are allowed to get away with anything they want. So railroading is good, and it's just players being jerkidiots when they complain."

2) "Any preplanning or limitation is railroading, and this means that any game that isn't absolute "no-preplan no-myth shared-authorship" is badwrongfun."



In the same way that has been repeatedly described in this thread: "It violates player agency, violates the "social contract", and breaks verisimilitude." As Max_Killjoy has explained along with others.

The players are specifically not complicit in railroaded situations. They are explicitly attempting to engage their agency and are being actively shot down. What part of that is so confusing?

Exactly.

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 04:32 PM
Kyoryu what you defined was a railroad when what you said you were defining was railroading. The noun vs the verb. I suppose I could say that I am generally opposed to railroading when it is done in session if that would work better?

BRC
2017-09-21, 04:36 PM
What we see in this thread is a set of definitions that almost all attempt to pin down what is fundamentally the same specific thing -- the denial of agency, the stonewalling of all paths but the one predetermined by the GM, choices that aren't choices, etc. There's an attempt to nail the term down as something useful for communication.

And then there's a scattering of "undefinitions" that attempt to make "railroading" into a weaponized term that serves to advance an agenda via "argument by definition".

1) "Railroading is any preplanning or limitation, so everyone railroads unless they're a do-nothing GM and their players are allowed to get away with anything they want. So railroading is good, and it's just players being jerkidiots when they complain."

2) "Any preplanning or limitation is railroading, and this means that any game that isn't absolute "no-preplan no-myth shared-authorship" is badwrongfun."



There's also an equally useless third definition, although at least it doesn't push anything particular as Badwrongfun.

"Any preplanning or limitation is Railroading, so everybody railroads, and that's fine, the problem is railroading TOO MUCH or XYZ" And thus, a term everybody uses to mean "The GM is taking away player agency and freedom" becomes basically useless. You can't say "The GM is railroading" any more, because every GM railroads. You have to say "The GM is taking away player agency and freedom" or whatever.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 04:37 PM
In the same way that has been repeatedly described in this thread: "It violates player agency, violates the "social contract", and breaks verisimilitude." As Max_Killjoy has explained along with others.

The players are specifically not complicit in railroaded situations. They are explicitly attempting to engage their agency and are being actively shot down. What part of that is so confusing?

sure, and once again i agree that people need to talk about the games they are playing before they play them. But not all games need high player agency, or verisimilitude. Calling railroading both a bad thing, as well as a personal preference in terms of player agency is intellectually dishonest.


What we see in this thread is a set of definitions that almost all attempt to pin down what is fundamentally the same specific thing -- the denial of agency, the stonewalling of all paths but the one predetermined by the GM, choices that aren't choices, etc. There's an attempt to nail the term down as something useful for communication.

And then there's a scattering of "undefinitions" that attempt to make "railroading" into a weaponized term that serves to advance an agenda via "argument by definition".

1) "Railroading is any preplanning or limitation, so everyone railroads unless they're a do-nothing GM and their players are allowed to get away with anything they want. So railroading is good, and it's just players being jerkidiots when they complain."

2) "Any preplanning or limitation is railroading, and this means that any game that isn't absolute "no-preplan no-myth shared-authorship" is badwrongfun."


You can't just ignore how the word is used because it doesn't suit your means. Yeah, there are people trying to pin down things they dont like and group them together under a negative banner (which again is all degrees of preference), but people also are using it as line in the sands on what is and isn't a "good" amount of player agency.

There is no benefit to using words like railroading when talking about game design. It is always better to talk about the actual specifics, like you did above. Not only does is it actually constructive critique, giving actionable discussion points, but it also doesn't contribute to the culture of "ideal gaming" that is so very bad in the gaming community.

Sometimes... things that are more words... are worse

BRC
2017-09-21, 04:43 PM
There is no benefit to using words like railroading when talking about game design. It is always better to talk about the actual specifics, like you did above. Not only does is it actually constructive critique, giving actionable discussion points, but it also doesn't contribute to the culture of "ideal gaming" that is so very bad in the gaming community.

Sometimes... things that are more words... are worse

Hence why we're trying to take a word: Railroading, that is commonly used, and give it a specific definition that fits with how most people use it.

If it helps, we can weasel words the judgement.

"Railroading is denying the Players their agency in order to force a specific outcome, many people think this is a bad thing".

If I say "You are Railroading", that means you are denying your players their agency in order to force a specific outcome. The actionable discussion points are the ways in which you have denied them agency, and outcomes you are trying to force.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 04:44 PM
You can't just ignore how the word is used because it doesn't suit your means.


There are really only a few people doing that on this thread, one most notably and notoriously so.




Yeah, there are people trying to pin down things they dont like and group them together under a negative banner (which again is all degrees of preference), but people also are using it as line in the sands on what is and isn't a "good" amount of player agency.


No, they are not just lumping a bunch of stuff together subjectively. They're almost all trying to find a wording that works to convey what is effectively the same concept, with the disagreement around the edges of the thing.

If you plotted out their definitions as if on a graph, you'd see a bunch of hits clustered together around the same idea that they're trying to communicate by using the word as words are supposed to be used -- to mean something and convey a specific idea.

And then you'd see this one little dot, way the hell over there, somewhere off the paper entirely... and you might mistake the label for "depleted uranium".



Hence why we're trying to take a word: Railroading, that is commonly used, and give it a specific definition that fits with how most people use it.

If it helps, we can weasel words the judgement.

"Railroading is denying the Players their agency in order to force a specific outcome, many people think this is a bad thing".

If I say "You are Railroading", that means you are denying your players their agency in order to force a specific outcome. The actionable discussion points are the ways in which you have denied them agency, and outcomes you are trying to force.

Exactly.

And I'm not even going to weasel-word the fact that it's an inherently negative thing.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-21, 04:55 PM
Proposal:
I'm all for Railroading being used to mean a specific and objectively negative thing, and perhaps I can wrap that up in a definition:

Railroading is the specific action of granting the players LESS agency than was agreed upon in the social contract for the game, and/or granting less agency than should reasonably be expected in a fictional situation to produce a certain specific outcome.


Does that cover enough bases?

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 05:08 PM
Okay but why? Why take a word, without a meaningful definition, that is used inconsistently even then, only ever in a negative sense, to encompass things that are both personal preference and specific design faults. Whats the point? The word has baggage. It has an implicit and explicit value judgement built into it, which means that any attempt to codify a hard, objective definition is pointless because its an easy place for people to go when they want to say that something is Bad because they didn't like it. It will only ever be a word used inconsistently. You can say that they are wrong for using it that way, but that will not change that people will use it that way.

Instead, you can focus on the actual specifics. Instead of saying "this was railroading" you can say "i didn't like that my options were restricted" or "the illusion of choice was frustrating here" or "why is there a door im not allowed to open". And by doing this, when someone tries to use railroading "improperly" (as you see it) you can say to them "hey thats a poorly defined, nebulous concept what did you mean by that" so they need to air out their greivences and you can see if its bad design or personal preference.

This encourages thoughtful discussion, good critique and inclusive communities.

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 05:10 PM
You can't just ignore how the word is used because it doesn't suit your means. Yeah, there are people trying to pin down things they dont like and group them together under a negative banner (which again is all degrees of preference), but people also are using it as line in the sands on what is and isn't a "good" amount of player agency.

There is no benefit to using words like railroading when talking about game design. It is always better to talk about the actual specifics, like you did above. Not only does is it actually constructive critique, giving actionable discussion points, but it also doesn't contribute to the culture of "ideal gaming" that is so very bad in the gaming community.

Sometimes... things that are more words... are worse

Using such a term greatly shortens the length of communication haha. Although speaking of which this is the third(fourth? fifth?) thread on this topic with this same poster and they have yet to define their terms. Well they did at the start of this thread however that definition runs contrary to their previously stated viewpoints. Under the initial viewpoint which judging by their other posts they still hold, any form of plot whatsoever is a railroad.

Indeed I would be quite comfortable changing the terms which we are using to something else however DU insists on using the wording of railroading. Bear in mind that this is not a case of the majority of people insisting that railroading is a negative thing (well they are but it was in response to-), it is a case of a DU insisting that railroading is a positive thing. This was aggravated by the fact that DU has stated repeatedly that people who do not view things that way are either only running simple roll-playing games or are whining blubbering children incapable of functioning at a table. Not to mention their pathetic little attempt at trying to bring politics into the conversation earlier this thread.

I fully agree with you that there is no ideal form of gaming. Although I will hold by my statement that a railroad game generally requires less work than a sandbox game simply due to how each of them is constructed.

EDIT: Whoo boy I just saw that you mentioned inclusive communities as a desirable goal of gaming. I might suggest that you read DU's Custom Creations thread from a while back. They make their viewpoint on those quite clear.

kyoryu
2017-09-21, 05:11 PM
You're assuming that the act of preparing the encounters means the GM is also committed to Forcing those encounters. The encounters are just notes on paper, nothing more. They have no special hold over the GM, and can be altered or discarded at any time.

Not at all. If you plan the encounters, but do not enforce them, then you're not saying that the GM is the one who decides a strictly linear set of encounters. In fact, then the players are deciding what they'll encounter.

2D8HP
2017-09-21, 05:14 PM
Okay but why? Why take a word, without a meaningful definition, that is used...


I could get behind "railroading being a value neutral style/technique descriptor (and have in the past), but it's too close to railroaded which has just about only negative connotations.

I think it's a losing fight.

Drakevarg
2017-09-21, 05:19 PM
I'm not sure what your objective here even is, Extinguisher. You seem to resent that the word "railroading" exists at all, as you alternate arguing that it lacks a consistent definition and is therefore useless, and arguing that it shouldn't have the definition people attempt to articulate for it because not everybody agrees it's an objectionable practice.

The idea that you could simply use other words to describe the idea is kind of meaningless, because that could be said about virtually anything. Language is intensely redundant and yes, sometimes has value statements built into definitions.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-21, 05:21 PM
...people saying that linear games are "lazier" then sandbox games, that some rules are better than others...

As one of the people who specifically called out railroads as lazy design, I feel like addressing this.

First, as previously touched upon, railroads are particularly lazy even for linear adventures. It only takes token effort to turn a railroad into a linear scenario with meaningfull player choices in it, so why bother with a railroad?

But comparing amounts of effort required for linear versus sandbox scenarios is a thing which can be discussed absent of any mention of railroads. Usually, a linear scenario takes less work to implement, due to being more limited in scope, and hence can be called the "lazier" option. But this is not a hard rule. An involved linear scenario may indeed take more work than a non-linear one. But then ask yourself, if you could do a non-linear scenario with less trouble, why are you sticking to a linear model?

At this point you may, of course, ask me: wasn't lack of effort, AKA laziness, supposed to be a bad thing? The answer is, it's a matter of scale. And here we get to the "which rules are better?" part:

For any given goal, some algorithms are more efficient than others, at the cost of being less efficient are something else. (This can be mathematically proven, see "No such thing as Free Lunch" in context of statistics and machine learning.) And games, all games, and all methods of scenario design, can be transformed into series of algorithms.

It logically follows that, for something like "how can I run an interesting tabletop roleplaying game?", there are indeed sets of rules which serve this goal better than others. Which rulesets are better and which are worse, as well as what they trade off, is not settled science. But the difficulty of establishing the answer should never be taken to mean that all rulesets are equal. They aren't.

So now you can get back to the question, why are you sticking to a linear model if it's more work than a non-linear one? You ought to gain something from it since you're trading effort for it, so what is that? By contrast, it's usually easy to name what you would gain from spending effort to make a non-linear scenario: more possible events, more player freedom, greater replay value.

So, lazy is bad when better rules would only take token effort. Laziness is justified when more effort no longer gives you better results. On another axis, you are trying to determine whether a linear scenario would constitute better rules for the goal you're after than some other scenario shape.


...and the fact that everyones point "low player agency" becomes "railroading" is different.

This tangent is starting to give me a headache.

As has been demonstrated, multiple sources and multiple people place "railroad" at zero player agency. So no, not everyone's point where "low agency" becomes a railroad is different. Sometimes a person may feel they have zero agency when they have some, or vice versa, but that's an issue with perceptions, not definitions.

To use a different metaphor, we could compare "low player agency" with "low temperature" and call "railroad" a "frozen scenario", because water freezes at 0 Celsius. Now, people frequently complain how they feel "freezing cold" even when it is not, in fact, freezing, due to subjective feeling of cold. Again, an issue of perceptions, not definitions. As long as the person can agree on the definition, it's possible to have a fruitfull conversation with them, point out where they are wrong, and eventually find out and adress their actual source of discomfort.

By contrast, in this framework DU's argument would translate to claiming "anything below melting point of iron is freezing" and "0 celsius is not freezing, it's utterly god-damn cold!" Which would be a definitional problem. And also stupid.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 05:21 PM
Using such a term greatly shortens the length of communication haha. Although speaking of which this is the third(fourth? fifth?) thread on this topic with this same poster and they have yet to define their terms. Well they did at the start of this thread however that definition runs contrary to their previously stated viewpoints. Under the initial viewpoint which judging by their other posts they still hold, any form of plot whatsoever is a railroad.

Indeed I would be quite comfortable changing the terms which we are using to something else however DU insists on using the wording of railroading. Bear in mind that this is not a case of the majority of people insisting that railroading is a negative thing (well they are but it was in response to-), it is a case of a DU insisting that railroading is a positive thing. This was aggravated by the fact that DU has stated repeatedly that people who do not view things that way are either only running simple roll-playing games or are whining blubbering children incapable of functioning at a table. Not to mention their pathetic little attempt at trying to bring politics into the conversation earlier this thread.

I fully agree with you that there is no ideal form of gaming. Although I will hold by my statement that a railroad game generally requires less work than a sandbox game simply due to how each of them is constructed.

EDIT: Whoo boy I just saw that you mentioned inclusive communities as a desirable goal of gaming. I might suggest that you read DU's Custom Creations thread from a while back. They make their viewpoint on those quite clear.

Yes, using more words encourages longer communication, which leads to more thoughtful conversation, better critique and chances to improve. thats the goal.

Also, i do not care about this forum vs darth ultron thing thats going on. i really dont. its not and has never been my intention to take a side on that particular ball of garbage. im simply using this discussion of railroading to talk about my issues with the concept. i very much dont agree with how they are using it either.

(more work sure, but less work =/= laziness by any stretch of the imagination)


I'm not sure what your objective here even is, Extinguisher. You seem to resent that the word "railroading" exists at all, as you alternate arguing that it lacks a consistent definition and is therefore useless, and arguing that it shouldn't have the definition people attempt to articulate for it because not everybody agrees it's an objectionable practice.

The idea that you could simply use other words to describe the idea is kind of meaningless, because that could be said about virtually anything. Language is intensely redundant and yes, sometimes has value statements built into definitions.

Yeah thats basically it. Its a loaded, inconsistent, garbage word that only exists to cast value judgments on things people dont like. I would very much like it if people stopped using it when critiquing game design because its bad critique that adds nothing meaningful to the conversation.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-21, 05:43 PM
Yes, using more words encourages longer communication, which leads to more thoughtful conversation, better critique and chances to improve. thats the goal.

By this standard the clearest way to communicate is to talk using as many words as possible. Or, rather:

In keeping with the particular goal that this set of sentences puts forth, there is a particular method of moving information from one brain to another brain which has the least possible chance of error, which method is to utilize a large amount of verbiage.

Yeah, no.




Yeah thats basically it. Its a loaded, inconsistent, garbage word that only exists to cast value judgments on things people dont like. I would very much like it if people stopped using it when critiquing game design because its bad critique that adds nothing meaningful to the conversation.

>tfw nearly all critique of subjective material is inherently a value judgement.

Listen, I understand that buzzphrases like "X game is the Dark Souls of [genre]!" Are irritating and usually based on incompetence, and "I didn't enjoy this" is just an opinion. Noted.

However, since we are not evaluating products for public consumption, and rather are finding words to describe a SITUATION that happens to people in the context of SOCIALIZATION, this has only tangential touchpoints to game design.

Yes, a game is being played. Game rules are being used or ignored to cause this thing to happen. But at the end of the day, being Railroaded is a SOCIAL interaction that mimics dealing with the Bossy Kid, hence why people find it obnoxious.

The problem is likely not even found within the game points themselves. Thesebare symptoms of the SOCIAL thing happening of one player stamping their foot and demanding everyone have fun THEIR way. So to the degree people are bought into that way of playing, things will change. But this is not for realsies a game design issue, I'm realizing. It just happens in the CONTEXT of a game, and so people notice it through that lens.

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 05:47 PM
Yes, using more words encourages longer communication, which leads to more thoughtful conversation, better critique and chances to improve. thats the goal.

Also, i do not care about this forum vs darth ultron thing thats going on. i really dont. its not and has never been my intention to take a side on that particular ball of garbage. im simply using this discussion of railroading to talk about my issues with the concept. i very much dont agree with how they are using it either.

(more work sure, but less work =/= laziness by any stretch of the imagination)

That's definitely fair. And yeah I should really disengage. We lived with a perfectly adequate definition of railroading for 25+ years but then again if literally means figuratively now maybe I can let that go. Still upset about literally meaning figuratively though. I mean that's so stupid I can't even believe that they would go and name something it's opposite grumble grumble... *goes off an mutters in a corner*

(I stated that it was generally lazier to make a railroad than a sandbox much like how a match is colder than a propane torch but still quite hot. The thing which I called lazy was doing an asspull and rewriting reality to allow the NPC to escape rather than doing proper planning and giving them an escape plan or three in the first place)

EDIT: I just saw that Frozen_Feet used the temperature comparison before me. Didn't notice that.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 05:55 PM
Yeah thats basically it. Its a loaded, inconsistent, garbage word that only exists to cast value judgments on things people dont like. I would very much like it if people stopped using it when critiquing game design because its bad critique that adds nothing meaningful to the conversation.


Wait, back up, when did this become about game system design?

Railroading can happen in just about any system.

It's a gameplay / social / "at the table" issue.

kyoryu
2017-09-21, 06:05 PM
First, as previously touched upon, railroads are particularly lazy even for linear adventures. It only takes token effort to turn a railroad into a linear scenario with meaningfull player choices in it, so why bother with a railroad?

Not sure I agree.

I can imagine a railroad design for an adventure with lovingly-designed, handcrafted encounters, lots of custom creatures, etc. I can see someone putting a *lot* of prep into a railroad game. Prep that wouldn't make sense if you didn't know the players would actually use those encounters.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-21, 06:07 PM
Wait, back up, when did this become about game system design?

Railroading can happen in just about any system.

It's a gameplay / social / "at the table" issue.

Its all game design really. Each GM creates a game for their players, some use or modify prebuilt systems to do so.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-21, 06:13 PM
Wait, back up, when did this become about game system design?

Game design, not game system design.

There is no game before someone lays out the initial scenario. Designing a game scenario is the part of game design we're interested in.

---

EDIT:

@kyoruy: sure, someone can spend a lot of effort on a railroad.

Why are they not spending a token amount of that effort to make it into a non-railroad linear adventure?

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 06:15 PM
Not sure I agree.

I can imagine a railroad design for an adventure with lovingly-designed, handcrafted encounters, lots of custom creatures, etc. I can see someone putting a *lot* of prep into a railroad game. Prep that wouldn't make sense if you didn't know the players would actually use those encounters.

Why not, I do. Custom creatures can be unleashed any time. I put the same amount of love into my sandbox encounters as my linear ones, I just need more of them. While I almost never do a railroad style it has come up on occasion and they get the same amount of attention. Indeed the encounters often need more attention in a open campaign since there are multiple angles that the players can approach them by. For instance, to use a rather basic encounter, rather than the bandits ambushing the players the players could ambush the bandits.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 06:32 PM
Game design, not game system design.

There is no game before someone lays out the initial scenario. Designing a game scenario is the part of game design we're interested in.




Its all game design really. Each GM creates a game for their players, some use or modify prebuilt systems to do so.



In my experience, when most people say "game design", they are not talking about individual campaigns or such.

But that (individual campaigns, actual gaming groups) is what we've been talking about in this thread, and there's zero problem in that context with applying the common, long-standing meaning of "railroad" / "railroading" that most of us are trying to articulate.

Tinkerer
2017-09-21, 06:52 PM
In my experience, when most people say "game design", they are not talking about individual campaigns or such.

But that (individual campaigns, actual gaming groups) is what we've been talking about in this thread, and there's zero problem in that context with applying the common, long-standing meaning of "railroad" / "railroading" that most of us are trying to articulate.

Haha, the main time I've seen it get thrown around in this context are when you have multiple GMs in one physical room. Conferences and the like. I'd say I've seen it used in this context... on about 10 separate occasions?

But regarding your point yeah most of us are debating if a hamburger is a sandwich or not but we know a 1972 Volkswagen Beetle is not a sandwich. I must say though there was a lot more variation in the responses here than I was expecting. Quite surprising and hence why I dropped my statement of railroading having one definition. While our individual definitions were close enough to each other to communicate the basic concept the differences between them made me realize that it might be best to avoid using the term for more precise conversations.

I'm walking away from this debate because as usual it's become pretty obvious that nothing is going to develop from it. The first post gave me some hope but as usual in a few pages it all goes kersplat. Have fun storming the castle! Kindly stop by my next "What is your" post, I am collecting data for a new GMing style that I'll be trying on my new players this winter. Because they are trapped in a house with me in -50 degree weather and cannot escape. Muahahaha!

2D8HP
2017-09-21, 07:01 PM
Yes, using more words encourages longer communication, which leads to more thoughtful conversation, better critique and chances to improve. thats the goal.....


I get that, or in K's word precision.

Another thread, another conversation I was asked why if I enjoy "not having DC's set in stone in D&D" as a player, I like "BRP as a gamemaster" (or something like that, if anyone cares I could get the quote), and my answer is that I have different game rules tastes as a player than as a GM.

When I'm in the mood for D&D I'm often still thinking of "GP for XP 'squishy' humans and nearly humans try to rob tombs of gold to spend in taverns, while avoiding getting munched on by Giant Spiders", rather than "Superfriends save the world" (Champions is for that), nor am I usually thinking of "create custom builds for tactical combat according to the rules" (Car Wars is for that), and competitive soliloquies is right out (for me)!

I accept a certain loss of "player agency" for Pendragon (which seems to be more of both a "role playing" and a "roll playing" game to me), that I don't for D&D.

Defining what and why we mean may be useful in crafting and enjoying games, which I think is why we're having this thread, either that or to convince each other to run the style of games that we prefer.


...I stated that it was generally lazier to make a railroad than a sandbox ....


My interest in GM'ing again, fear of not being able to improvise like I once could, and being too lazy/short-of-time to detail a full world sandbox is what initially brought me to this thread (please feel free to give individual advice at this thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?536663-How-to-herd-PC-s-Viking-kids-vs-Morlocks), thanks).

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-21, 07:06 PM
Campaign design is just scenario design writ large and just as much part of game design. It's pretty eye-roll worthy to me if most people don't acknowledge or aren't cognizant of this. It doesn't matter if you're doing the work as a hobby for your five friends, or professionally for a game publisher, the nature of the work is the same.

Of course this has null effect on your ability to speak about anything. It's just a mildly amusing tangent.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-21, 08:18 PM
Campaign design is just scenario design writ large and just as much part of game design. It's pretty eye-roll worthy to me if most people don't acknowledge or aren't cognizant of this. It doesn't matter if you're doing the work as a hobby for your five friends, or professionally for a game publisher, the nature of the work is the same.

Of course this has null effect on your ability to speak about anything. It's just a mildly amusing tangent.

How did "profession or hobby" or "the right to speak" get into this?

The point was -- only was, only is, only will be -- that when most gamers say "game design", they do not mean designing scenarios or campaigns, they mean design of actual game systems or rules sets, going beyond just RPGs into things like board games, video games, etc. That was all. So when someone says "game design" and they're talking about individual campaigns, most gamers are not going to realize that.


(Just like when most gamers say "railroading", they mean effectively the same thing, and it's not "any planning you do as a GM".)

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-22, 12:25 AM
Yes, and? My point was that if most people don't realize scenario design is game design, that'd make me roll my eyes. Because it's on the level of not realizing designing a car's frame is as much part of car design as designing its engine.

Again, this has null effect on the on-going discussion. It's not important. Carry on.

Mordaedil
2017-09-22, 01:10 AM
The players can leave.....many leave my game, as I have said. And sure they can ''call'' all they want, but it does not matter to me or the good players, so?

My last 30 games or so I have put small statues of Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson on the table in front of my DM screen. It is a great new way to get rid of problem player.
Player type one-"Ye Waw the South will rise again!, Player type two-*shrugs*"let's start the game", Player type three "I can't play at a table with those two statues it makes me sad and I want this game to be a safe place! Please remove the statues, waaaa." As you might guess, I simply tell the type three player to leave and find another game.

*backs away slowly*

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 06:33 AM
Yes, and? My point was that if most people don't realize scenario design is game design, that'd make me roll my eyes. Because it's on the level of not realizing designing a car's frame is as much part of car design as designing its engine.

Neither of which is the same as driving the car, or planning a road trip with 3 friends.

From personal experience, I'd say without hesitation that designing a campaign or scenario is not the same as designing a system, and it's the latter that most people mean when they say "game design". Roll your eyes at them all you want, they're not the ones using a term off-spec over a frankly silly "philosophical" point and then looking down their nose at people who don't when it causes confusion in a discussion.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-22, 08:21 AM
From what I've seen railroading GMs are generally lazier than sandboxing GMs due to the fact that railroading GMs only need to populate the places where the players will go. Sandboxing GMs need to populate everywhere.

This is what a lot of sandbox DM's tell themselves, but it is not true. I have never seen a sandbox DM with like over a thousand things made so the players can randomly go anywhere. And making just a ''novel like paragraph'' is one thing, but to make any type of action encounter takes a lot more work. Though, there are plenty of simple sandbox type games so that DMs can make up stuff quickly(''the bad guys have 1 or 2 action points''). It is impossible in any complex game, however.

And really it is an insane waste of a DM's time to like make ''ten things'' for every ''player whim'', when the players only pick one.



Why think of creative solutions to the problems if the GM is going to be a brat and go "No that isn't the way I want you to solve the problem so I'm going to arbitrarily block it". If you know that the enemy is going to get away anyway why bother casting dimensional anchor to prevent the teleportation? Or in 2nd edition hold onto an action to disrupt the casting of the spell from the scroll?

This is just being a hostile jerk player though. If a player is just going to sit there and say ''my character hides under his bed'' as they are afraid of the DM ''doing anything'', then they might as well not even play the game.



And yep things like that sure can happen. But you've said multiple times that you are constantly railroading the players. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they have caught on? If the last 6 things that you did railroaded the group are they supposed to think that this is any different?

Well, no. In a general sense I only game with people that agree with me: so they just want to have a fun game and don't want to nitpick, whine and complain about everything all the time. They show up, have a great fun time, and go home....they don't care ''how'' it is done.



In 3rd edition the GM can do anything. In any edition of D&D the GM can do anything. Out of curiosity what do you mean by it would not matter? Do you mean that you would ignore the result? Because I hate to break it to you but that goes greatly against the spirit of 2nd edition. You seem to think that it's teh super kewl awsum when the random breaks go against the players but when they go against the your little plot you seem to just ignore them like a spoiled baby. Seems a little odd.


It would not matter as the game play would be full of such things, happing to both monsters/npcs AND the PCs. 2E did not have all the ''safe space'' rules to keep the special PC's alive or whole.

And it would not ''break my plot''. As a clever DM, I would never, ever have a ''important'' foe expose themselves like a dumb cartoon villain. After all there is that 1% chance that something might happen. So, for example, my Ancient super intelligent Red Wyrm...would have sent a projected image to ''scare the town'', if I really wanted to do that in the first place...



Restricting player agency is different from not putting options in a game. Player agency is based on the options available to you. Whether a particular option is in the game or not isn't a question of player agency.

Odd, most players that complain about player agency want it to be reality altering side table Dming. They don't just want to try an option, they want whatever whim they have to be game reality and for it to work and play out in exactly the way they want it to in all ways. Basicaly, be ''Dm's'' of the game.


The claim has repeatedly been made (from a very particular quarter) that "railroading" stands as the lone alternative to letting the players do anything want, total chaos, and GMs who are lazy and do nothing.

Wonder who would make that claim? As I've said there are a couple ways:

1.Keep it Simple. Cartoon-like play. Example: HappyTown is full of good people, and one bad guy...and something bad happens! Guess who did it?
2.Quamtum Ogre. Does not matter at all what the players do, the DM just puts stuff right in front of them.
3.OOC. The DM tells the players everything and asks them to do things. ''Hey players I made a fun encounter behind door two, so pick that door!''
4.Player By In. Players want to do X, the DM just tosses out X and says ''here''.
5.Senseless Game. The game makes no sense, like a cartoon or anime or B type movie.




In fact, "participationism" (which is what I'm arguing for) really relies on exactly that type of doublethink - we all agree to the fact that it's basically a railroad, the GM tries to hide the tracks, and the players tacitly avoid trying to derail the train. "Illusionism" is the situation where the GM is actively denying that the rails exist *at all*. The primary difference is whether or not the GM is telling the players "yup, this is a sandbox. You can do whatever. Totally. Wouldn't lie to you."

Well, yes, this right here.


That's not what people are saying, and you would know that if you read the things you are saying. Railroading isn't "having a linear game". It's "having a linear game that pretends to be a sanbox until you go off the rails". It's absolutely fine to have a linear game. Have all the linear games you want. Just don't dress them up like sandbox games. If you don't want to give me an option, fine. But don't say you've given me the option, then act all offended when I try to use it.


Agreed.



Not sure why there's an apparent effort to make "railroading" a neutral term for a broader set of things and then work back to "good railroading" and "bad railroading", when there are other terms to cover those other things, and the actual defining aspect of railroading is inherently bad on multiple levels. It violates player agency, violates the "social contract", and breaks verisimilitude. This is an issue on which I will openly and unflinchingly make an objective value statement. Railroading is by its very nature a bad act.

I can agree Railroading has too much negative baggage.....I use DM Agency instead.



On your tangent, as both a player and a GM, that's where I draw the line myself -- players don't get to declare secret passages into existence in that manner, the passageway either exists or it does not. I would not enjoy an RPG or a campaign in which that happened. Here, though, I'll leave room for people who do enjoy that to enjoy it, so long they leave room for the sort of game I enjoy (I say this because I've seen repeated attempts to exclude the middle and paint anything that isn't full shared authorship ("storygames") as if it were a "railroad" or a "gamist hackandslash").

Well, this really goes in circle's though and that is the problem. If a DM makes up something a year before a game then some say it is ''ok'' as it was made before the game. Some say Dm's ''can't'' improvise as it is wrong. Some say DM's can improvise. And then some say the Dm can, but only if it ''makes sense'' and the DM can defend what they do vs the hostile players. Then that leads into what each player thinks and worse what they think on a whim.

And a player will all ways say anything they don't like is a railroad, even if the DM made the location with no secret tunnel a year before the game and the player wants one to be there....and on and on and on.


If the GM openly says "Ooops, sorry, I didn't anticipate this, let's work out a way we can all agree on to move the game forward" or "Hey, sorry, this is outside what I had material for and I need a little time to adjust" has the benefit of the GM being open and honest. Most players I've known would appreciate that a lot more than being stonewalled or deceived.

NOTE: This is one of my other ways: The OOC way.




"Railroading is denying the Players their agency in order to force a specific outcome, many people think this is a bad thing".


So guess this depends what ''agency'' is though....is it DM like control? Is it only when a DM says ''no player you can't do that?''. Is it only when the ''badwrong fun'' DM stops the player from doing anything?

And ''specific outcomes'' does make it sound like if there is no railroading the game will be a mess.

And thinking is a ''bad thing'' is just way too touchy feely. Like saying ''damage is a meany mean thing DM's to to hurt our special precious character!''

Scripten
2017-09-22, 08:56 AM
I think I've just hit the point where I can no longer consider you, Darth Ultron, to be both a) intellectually honest about even the smallest of points or b) capable of basic reading comprehension. How in the world can you miss concepts so badly that you argue against strawmen that don't even fundamentally resemble the original argument? Usually people at least pretend that they are debating the other PoV rather than something else entirely.

This doesn't surprise me whatsoever considering the political post you tried to bait us with earlier, but you seem to lock onto particular "trigger" words in other people's posts and then spout off about how you disagree with whatever you see those words meaning, rather than anything the other poster has talked about. From my experience, this is a common sort of behavior from the type of people who enjoy "triggering" others. It's all projection.

For example, sandboxes are not "random". Not by your definition, DU, nor by anyone else's. You just have such a horribly skewed view about what they look like that you refuse to even grok the arguments that people are putting forth so you can rag on them. A decently designed sandbox is a setting with a number of different moving parts that interact with each other independent of the players. The campaign comes from introducing the players into the setting and having the setting take them into account when deciding on their actions. There's nothing inherently "random" about that. But you won't read anything I've written. You will pretend that I've said something entirely different and argue against that strawman for paragraphs.

BRC
2017-09-22, 09:38 AM
Well, this really goes in circle's though and that is the problem. If a DM makes up something a year before a game then some say it is ''ok'' as it was made before the game. Some say Dm's ''can't'' improvise as it is wrong. Some say DM's can improvise. And then some say the Dm can, but only if it ''makes sense'' and the DM can defend what they do vs the hostile players. Then that leads into what each player thinks and worse what they think on a whim.



...?

I have heard literally nobody say that a GM can't improvise. In fact, I've seen Improvisation generally agreed upon as a key GMing skill.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 09:43 AM
...?

I have heard literally nobody say that a GM can't improvise. In fact, I've seen Improvisation generally agreed upon as a key GMing skill.


Yeah, of all the crazy things I've seen said about GMing, "never improvise" is NOT one of them.

Quertus
2017-09-22, 01:28 PM
That's plainly obvious in this thread, with people saying that linear games are "lazier" then sandbox games, that some rules are better than others, and the fact that everyones point "low player agency" becomes "railroading" is different.

One of the software development maxims I love is, "all good software developers are lazy". Because, if you're expending unnecessary effort, doing things the hard way, it's probably not only not going to be time efficient to build, it's also unlikely to be efficient to run, or to fix.

Not bothering to build a deep, consistent world that keeps running independent of the PCs is lazy, compared to the effort of a good sandbox that has a life of its own. Which is better? Hard to say. Depends on the players, IME.


sure, and once again i agree that people need to talk about the games they are playing before they play them. But not all games need high player agency, or verisimilitude. Calling railroading both a bad thing, as well as a personal preference in terms of player agency is intellectually dishonest.

You can't just ignore how the word is used because it doesn't suit your means. Yeah, there are people trying to pin down things they dont like and group them together under a negative banner (which again is all degrees of preference), but people also are using it as line in the sands on what is and isn't a "good" amount of player agency.

Lemme 'splain. Agency is the ability to use the tools we've been given and get the logical outcome. Removing that agency involves removing our ability to use those tools in a certain way, or changing the outcome of certain uses of those tools.

For example, on this website, we have access to letters, size/color changes, emojis, etc. Our agency is curtailed in several ways. Perhaps the most obvious is, I cannot **** a gun, or talk about Moby ****. These are things that we should logically be able to do with the tools that we have been given, but cannot, because our agency to use these tools that way has been removed. **** that!

But what I'm really curious about is, what kind of games do you see not requiring that v word? What games do not need logic and internal consistency (besides Calvin Ball)?


Okay but why? Why take a word, without a meaningful definition, that is used inconsistently even then, only ever in a negative sense, to encompass things that are both personal preference and specific design faults. Whats the point? The word has baggage. It has an implicit and explicit value judgement built into it, which means that any attempt to codify a hard, objective definition is pointless because its an easy place for people to go when they want to say that something is Bad because they didn't like it. It will only ever be a word used inconsistently. You can say that they are wrong for using it that way, but that will not change that people will use it that way.

Instead, you can focus on the actual specifics. Instead of saying "this was railroading" you can say "i didn't like that my options were restricted" or "the illusion of choice was frustrating here" or "why is there a door im not allowed to open". And by doing this, when someone tries to use railroading "improperly" (as you see it) you can say to them "hey thats a poorly defined, nebulous concept what did you mean by that" so they need to air out their greivences and you can see if its bad design or personal preference.

This encourages thoughtful discussion, good critique and inclusive communities.

I think, like with the word "murder", the "baggage" kinda is the definition. Why do you want, in effect, to complain about using the word "murder" as meaningless and filled with baggage?


Yes, using more words encourages longer communication, which leads to more thoughtful conversation, better critique and chances to improve. thats the goal.

Also, i do not care about this forum vs darth ultron thing thats going on. i really dont. its not and has never been my intention to take a side on that particular ball of garbage. im simply using this discussion of railroading to talk about my issues with the concept. i very much dont agree with how they are using it either.

(more work sure, but less work =/= laziness by any stretch of the imagination)



Yeah thats basically it. Its a loaded, inconsistent, garbage word that only exists to cast value judgments on things people dont like. I would very much like it if people stopped using it when critiquing game design because its bad critique that adds nothing meaningful to the conversation.


By this standard the clearest way to communicate is to talk using as many words as possible. Or, rather:

In keeping with the particular goal that this set of sentences puts forth, there is a particular method of moving information from one brain to another brain which has the least possible chance of error, which method is to utilize a large amount of verbiage.

Yeah, no.

Verbosity is kinda my thing, and, I gotta say, extraneous verbiage rarely contributes positively to conversational efficiency. Past a certain point, there is a decidedly negative correlation between additional words and comprehension gained per word - and, for some audiences, a negative correlation between additional words and total comprehension!

That having been said, being forced (dare I say railroaded?) to explain things in excruciating detail to DU does allow us to, however inefficiently, learn things we otherwise would not have stumbled upon on our own.

If that's intentional, then DU is a teaching genius, and the "forum vs darth ultron thing" is the goal. If it's unintentional, then the "forum vs darth ultron thing" is the forum using lots of words and producing increased learning opportunities. So I'm not seeing any reason why it shouldn't continue under The Extinguisher system of logic.


This is what a lot of sandbox DM's tell themselves, but it is not true. I have never seen a sandbox DM with like over a thousand things made so the players can randomly go anywhere. And making just a ''novel like paragraph'' is one thing, but to make any type of action encounter takes a lot more work. Though, there are plenty of simple sandbox type games so that DMs can make up stuff quickly(''the bad guys have 1 or 2 action points''). It is impossible in any complex game, however.

And really it is an insane waste of a DM's time to like make ''ten things'' for every ''player whim'', when the players only pick one.

In the lazy sandbox, I only develop details as needed. If you never go visit the king, the king never has stats. But he does have general drives and goals to inform how the Duke - who, if you are interacting with, does have stats - feels about the king.


This is just being a hostile jerk player though. If a player is just going to sit there and say ''my character hides under his bed'' as they are afraid of the DM ''doing anything'', then they might as well not even play the game.

But that's not a jerk player so much as just a natural outcome to being railroaded.


And it would not ''break my plot''. As a clever DM, I would never, ever have a ''important'' foe expose themselves like a dumb cartoon villain. After all there is that 1% chance that something might happen. So, for example, my Ancient super intelligent Red Wyrm...would have sent a projected image to ''scare the town'', if I really wanted to do that in the first place...

That's your good.


Odd, most players that complain about player agency want it to be reality altering side table Dming. They don't just want to try an option, they want whatever whim they have to be game reality and for it to work and play out in exactly the way they want it to in all ways. Basicaly, be ''Dm's'' of the game.

I don't know about "most", but that's not what I'm after.

Can you interact meaningfully with those of us who aren't interested in narrative authorship / changing reality?


I can agree Railroading has too much negative baggage.....I use DM Agency instead.

So, uh, I'll probably regret asking, but can you define this term that even our resident Lawful Evil paragon sends leery of? And, perhaps more importantly, whatever it means, can you stop using "railroad(ing)" as a synonym, and start using a more standard definition of the term?


NOTE: This is one of my other ways: The OOC way.

And that's your good. Why don't you talk more about this?


So guess this depends what ''agency'' is though....is it DM like control? Is it only when a DM says ''no player you can't do that?''. Is it only when the ''badwrong fun'' DM stops the player from doing anything?

My way of explaining it is, it's when the GM changes the logical outcome of player actions. There's more to it than that, granted, but that's the big one.


And ''specific outcomes'' does make it sound like if there is no railroading the game will be a mess.

A mess? Is a tree "a mess" if it isn't professionally pruned? :smallconfused:

Some of us can enjoy natural beauty without telling Mother Nature that she needs to manicure her lawns.


...?

I have heard literally nobody say that a GM can't improvise. In fact, I've seen Improvisation generally agreed upon as a key GMing skill.


Yeah, of all the crazy things I've seen said about GMing, "never improvise" is NOT one of them.

Now, now, DU obviously equates improvising with railroading: improvising is the GMs ability to create ways to railroad the players on the fly, as opposed to having to be a chess master and plan the BBEG's contingencies ahead of time.

Getting him to acknowledge the distinction between that concept and improvising like, "there aren't rules for playing Marbles in D&D - how do we determine who won?", or that from "the GM can change any rule on a whim" seems outside the realm of the possible.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 01:53 PM
I think, like with the word "murder", the "baggage" kinda is the definition. Why do you want, in effect, to complain about using the word "murder" as meaningless and filled with baggage?


I was pondering the same parallel.

The way some want to use "railroading" as a neutral word and then tack extra stuff on to delineate when it's bad, would be a bit like trying to broaden the word "murder" to be a neutral term for ending a life, when the bad is core to the definition of murder and there are already lots of other words for other distinctions on killing.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 02:06 PM
Why think of creative solutions to the problems if the GM is going to be a brat and go "No that isn't the way I want you to solve the problem so I'm going to arbitrarily block it". If you know that the enemy is going to get away anyway why bother casting dimensional anchor to prevent the teleportation? Or in 2nd edition hold onto an action to disrupt the casting of the spell from the scroll?

And yep things like that sure can happen. But you've said multiple times that you are constantly railroading the players. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they have caught on? If the last 6 things that you did railroaded the group are they supposed to think that this is any different?




This is just being a hostile jerk player though. If a player is just going to sit there and say ''my character hides under his bed'' as they are afraid of the DM ''doing anything'', then they might as well not even play the game.




But that's not a jerk player so much as just a natural outcome to being railroaded.



Exactly.

This is pretty much it spelled out... said DM constantly railroads players -- arbitrarily blocks their attempts to use their PCs' actual abilities or be creative, and deviates from established rules and "fiction", when it doesn't suit The Plan -- and when the players have the natural human reaction to all their efforts being stonewalled and rendered useless, and throw their hands up at the futility of it, said DM considers the players "hostile" and "jerks", and disdainfully refers to them "hiding under the bed".

There's a "hostile jerk" problem here, but it's not the players.

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-22, 02:41 PM
Neither of which is the same as driving the car, or planning a road trip with 3 friends.

False analogy. A road trip is not part of a car. Driving the car is not designing a part of it.

A scenario is part of the game and it logically follows designing a scenario is part of designing a game.


From personal experience, I'd say without hesitation that designing a campaign or scenario is not the same as designing a system, and it's the latter that most people mean when they say "game design". Roll your eyes at them all you want, they're not the ones using a term off-spec over a frankly silly "philosophical" point and then looking down their nose at people who don't when it causes confusion in a discussion.

*Sigh*

You just had to make your argument obtuse, didn't you?

How about you open Wikipedia page on "game design" and look under "elements of game design". I'll wait.

. . .

There. Did you see it?

No-one here is saying scenario design is same as systems design. What's being said is that systems design and scenario design are both game design, because both the system and the scenario are parts of the game. Saying "scenario design is game design" is not off-spec. It is the standard. People who think "game design" is synonym to "game system design" or only limited to it are the ones being off-spec.

If it's really the case that "most people" don't realize this, as you claim, then I must conclude "most people" do not engage in game design, and hence I can dismiss their opinion on what is or is not game design, because they obviously don't know what they're talking about.

To give another comparison point, I'm sure you could find a lot of people who don't realize "natrium
sulfate" is a salt, because they only ever use "salt" to refer to natrium chloride, or table salt. It's not a great big crime, I don't expect people to know or remember everything. But if I'm talking about chemistry and they insist that I do not use "salt" to refer to "natrium sulfate" because "that's not how most people use the word", I don't have to give them time of my day.

This is not a "silly philosophical" point. Realizing that scenario design is part of game design, just like realizing that natrium sulfate is a salt, is of great practical value on its relevant field. At first, I didn't think it was important to dwell on this in-depth. But now I must conclude I was wrong, since you apparently feel like championing a failure of people to realize a well-known set-subset relation as a benchmark for valid definition.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 03:03 PM
If it's really the case that "most people" don't realize this, as you claim, then I must conclude "most people" do not engage in game design, and hence I can dismiss their opinion on what is or is not game design, because they obviously don't know what they're talking about.


So you can dismiss anyone who doesn't agree with you as ignorant and wrong because they don't agree with you.

OK.


Here's the original comment that started this "discussion".



Yeah thats basically it. Its a loaded, inconsistent, garbage word that only exists to cast value judgments on things people dont like. I would very much like it if people stopped using it when critiquing game design because its bad critique that adds nothing meaningful to the conversation.


In that context, using "game design" as you and evidently they are using it isn't clear communication, it's adding to the confusion. Which is pretty damn ironic given the rest of that paragraph.

Insisting that "game design" is the proper term for a single GM laying out a single scenario for one group and should be understood as such in the given context, is like insisting that "urban planning" is the proper term for someone remodeling their house... and should be understood as such when someone says "I wish people would stop urban planning using textured wallpaper" and then dismissing anyone who is confused by that comment as an ignorant lout whose opinion you can dismiss.


PS: someday I'll go through the Wikipedia entries on WW2 tanks and give a rough percentage of what the people editing those pages get dead wrong. http://cdn-frm-us.wargaming.net/4.5/style_emoticons/wot/Smile_smile.gif

Frozen_Feet
2017-09-22, 03:49 PM
As far as I can tell, you are the only one to whom The Extinquisher's comment was at all unclear. I saw no problem at clarifying it to you anyhow. Likewise, I had no problem with your claim that "most people" would find it unclear - eyeroll worthy if true, but not materially important.

This tangent should've ended there. But instead it appears you've developed a sudden need to make obtuse remarks and false analogies. As such, feel free to do the following:

1) Prove that it is indeed most people who find Extinquisher's comment unclear.
2) Prove that actual game designers don't consider scenario design as game design.
3) explain to me either how:
3a) a railroad is not a game scenario
3b) a railroad is not designed by a person

georgie_leech
2017-09-22, 05:40 PM
Extra Credits has a mini-series that explores the design choices that goes into Durlag's Tower, a dungeon in Balur's Gate. Not the nuts and bolts of the game, or the rules of the game, but how putting traps in certain rooms changes the feel, or how different enemies imply different things about the setting, or in how different encounters are designed to be easier for certain strategies or class types.

As a dabbler, I have to agree that designing scenarios within a system is very much a part of game design.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 05:52 PM
As far as I can tell, you are the only one to whom The Extinquisher's comment was at all unclear. I saw no problem at clarifying it to you anyhow. Likewise, I had no problem with your claim that "most people" would find it unclear - eyeroll worthy if true, but not materially important.

This tangent should've ended there. But instead it appears you've developed a sudden need to make obtuse remarks and false analogies. As such, feel free to do the following:

1) Prove that it is indeed most people who find Extinquisher's comment unclear.
2) Prove that actual game designers don't consider scenario design as game design.
3) explain to me either how:
3a) a railroad is not a game scenario
3b) a railroad is not designed by a person


So now we have TWO instances in which someone insisting on their own special usage of a term, and acting as if everyone else is wrong for not using it that way, has spun off a digression in this thread.

You and DU will be very happy together.


E: the lack of clarity isn't because people are "ignorant of the term", it's because using "game design" to refer to some GM sitting down to flesh out a campaign is needlessly hijacking an existing term over a silly point of philosophical wankery. Scenario / campaign design can just as easily be a part of playing the game, as it can of designing a game. See also, worldbuilding, which isn't even restricted to games and has a long history before it became part of gaming -- I'd lay about 50/50 odds that the same sorts who insist that scenario / campaign design falls under the term "game design" also think that worldbuilding does as well.

Going back to the car design metaphor (that I didn't introduce, BTW...), engines are also designed for ships, lawnmowers, generators, etc... but I guess that it shouldn't surprise me that people who think scenario / campaign design falls under the term "game design" also think that engine design falls under the term "car design".

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 06:05 PM
Extra Credits has a mini-series that explores the design choices that goes into Durlag's Tower, a dungeon in Balur's Gate. Not the nuts and bolts of the game, or the rules of the game, but how putting traps in certain rooms changes the feel, or how different enemies imply different things about the setting, or in how different encounters are designed to be easier for certain strategies or class types.

As a dabbler, I have to agree that designing scenarios within a system is very much a part of game design.

The two are associated. That doesn't either one an intrinsic part or subset of the other.

One can design a scenario without touching a thing in the guts of a pre-existing system. One can design a system without any scenarios at all. Some games don't have scenarios at all by their very nature.

Yes, the edges are fuzzy, but there are absolutely places where coming up with a scenario / campaign is simply not at all "game design". The person creating custom maps for a video game. The person creating a campaign without a thought to changing any rules.


And before anyone says it again... "there is no game until someone sits down to play" is postmodernist crap.

georgie_leech
2017-09-22, 06:13 PM
The two are associated. That doesn't either one an intrinsic part of the other.

One can design a scenario without touching a thing in the guts of a pre-existing system.

One can design a system without any scenarios at all.

Some games don't have scenarios at all.

One can also design a game without dice; does that mean that designing a game to use dice doesn't count as designing a game? So yes, one can design a system without designing a scenario or vice versa, but they're both doing the same thing. The same principles are used, to the same end: getting a fun experience for your players.

So I don't disagree with your statement about systems and scenarios are different, but I do think you're wrong about them both not being elements of game design. Much in the same way that I would look funny at anyone who insisted that because triangles and circles have different properties, they aren't both shapes.

Scripten
2017-09-22, 06:32 PM
Yes, the edges are fuzzy, but there are absolutely places where coming up with a scenario / campaign is simply not at all "game design". The person creating custom maps for a video game. The person creating a campaign without a thought to changing any rules.


At least in video games, creating maps is absolutely part of game design. And in all actuality, designing well laid-out dungeons and such for implementing game mechanics is aided in great part by employing game design. On the other hand, it is possible to write scenarios without taking game design into account, but as soon as you interact with the mechanics, are are engaging in game design.

The best proof of this is comparing the adventures/dungeons of author's who have studied game design concepts like flow and those who have not. There is an easily discernible difference.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 06:46 PM
At least in video games, creating maps is absolutely part of game design. And in all actuality, designing well laid-out dungeons and such for implementing game mechanics is aided in great part by employing game design. On the other hand, it is possible to write scenarios without taking game design into account, but as soon as you interact with the mechanics, are are engaging in game design.

The best proof of this is comparing the adventures/dungeons of author's who have studied game design concepts like flow and those who have not. There is an easily discernible difference.

And car engines tend to work better if the engine designer knows something about the car the engine is going into -- that doesn't make all engine design inherently a part of car design.

Someone who plays rec league baseball on the weekends "plays baseball", but that doesn't mean he's justified in getting snooty and disdainful and belittling whenever he confuses someone into wondering if he's a professional by introducing himself as "John Smith, baseball player".

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-22, 07:12 PM
As far as I can tell, you are the only one to whom The Extinquisher's comment was at all unclear. I saw no problem at clarifying it to you anyhow. Likewise, I had no problem with your claim that "most people" would find it unclear - eyeroll worthy if true, but not materially important.

This tangent should've ended there. But instead it appears you've developed a sudden need to make obtuse remarks and false analogies. As such, feel free to do the following:

1) Prove that it is indeed most people who find Extinquisher's comment unclear.
2) Prove that actual game designers don't consider scenario design as game design.
3) explain to me either how:
3a) a railroad is not a game scenario
3b) a railroad is not designed by a person

This is tangential to the issue, I'm afraid.

As I said before, the problem inherent in Railroading is only tangentially related to Scenario Design. Railroading is a SOCIAL INTERACTION problem moreso than a game design problem.

It is, as I said before, the equivalent of one kid in the group demanding that everyone else play the game only how HE or SHE wants to play it. (This "bossy" behavior, ironically, stands out most when playing PRETEND, which is half the RPG formula.)

Any form of Scenario Design can become a railroad, so long as a player assumes that Bossy role.

georgie_leech
2017-09-22, 07:27 PM
This is tangential to the issue, I'm afraid.

As I said before, the problem inherent in Railroading is only tangentially related to Scenario Design. Railroading is a SOCIAL INTERACTION problem moreso than a game design problem.

It is, as I said before, the equivalent of one kid in the group demanding that everyone else play the game only how HE or SHE wants to play it. (This "bossy" behavior, ironically, stands out most when playing PRETEND, which is half the RPG formula.)

Any form of Scenario Design can become a railroad, so long as a player assumes that Bossy role.

Also this. I'm more than open to discussing what does or doesn't fall under game design, but Railroading is is usually a social problem, either being bossy or failing to get buy-in. There is sometimes some overlap, but that occurs when a GM forces a scenario onto the players rather than any particular flaw of the scenario itself.

Scripten
2017-09-22, 07:54 PM
Someone who plays rec league baseball on the weekends "plays baseball", but that doesn't mean he's justified in getting snooty and disdainful and belittling whenever he confuses someone into wondering if he's a professional by introducing himself as "John Smith, baseball player".

I disagree with the gatekeeping just as much as you do. Just important to point out that working with mechanics to create an environment is also part of game design. Part of my degree was in game design theory and I'm fairly passionate about it. But that also doesn't mean that you can't speak on it or anything.

Just my 2c

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-22, 07:58 PM
Also this. I'm more than open to discussing what does or doesn't fall under game design, but Railroading is is usually a social problem, either being bossy or failing to get buy-in. There is sometimes some overlap, but that occurs when a GM forces a scenario onto the players rather than any particular flaw of the scenario itself.


I think I said something earlier along the lines that it wasn't about a particular system, it was about the GM's intent and action in designing and executing the campaign.

I know I said that what's wrong with railroading is that is violates player agency, trashes verisimilitude, and violates the "social contract".

Darth Ultron
2017-09-22, 11:23 PM
I think I've just hit the point where I can no longer consider you,

I don't agree with you so I'm wrong...got it.



This doesn't surprise me whatsoever considering the political post you tried to bait us with earlier, but you seem to lock onto particular "trigger" words in other people's posts and then spout off about how you disagree with whatever you see those words meaning, rather than anything the other poster has talked about. From my experience, this is a common sort of behavior from the type of people who enjoy "triggering" others. It's all projection.

What bait? I'm a civil war enthusiast and re-actor, so I have a ton of civil war stuff. I do disagree that a word only has the meaning one person says it does. I do tend to ignore insults and the like, but otherwise comment line by line.



For example, sandboxes are not "random". Not by your definition, DU, nor by anyone else's. You just have such a horribly skewed view about what they look like that you refuse to even grok the arguments that people are putting forth so you can rag on them. A decently designed sandbox is a setting with a number of different moving parts that interact with each other independent of the players. The campaign comes from introducing the players into the setting and having the setting take them into account when deciding on their actions. There's nothing inherently "random" about that. But you won't read anything I've written. You will pretend that I've said something entirely different and argue against that strawman for paragraphs.

I've said a game without a plot is random. Though ''sandbox'' is a trigger word for many as most think it is ''a super cool way to play: period!'' Few people do play in pure sandboxes, as they would just be a random mess....most people say ''sandbox'' and then have order, structure and a plot like any normal game.


...?

I have heard literally nobody say that a GM can't improvise. In fact, I've seen Improvisation generally agreed upon as a key GMing skill.

Yes, everyone does agree to this in theory.

In practice though, an improving DM can railroad...so that is a problem for many people. Like the Pc's attack the bad guy, but the DM wants the bad guy to live so the DM ''improvises'' and says he has a teleport thingy. Many people would then cry ''railroad''.

And this gets into the endless spin. The DM can defend themselves from the hostile players and say ''oh well it makes sense for the bad guy to have an escape thingy and try and get the players to agree it is ''ok''. Though the players might want to be problems and say they demand ''agency/control'' over the game and the Dm ''can't'' do things they don't like. And then it is spin that the DM ''can't'' just ''make up stuff on a whim'' and the DM ''must'' make up stuff before the game and just ''use it like a player has too''. And then you get into reading the DM minds and finding out why they ''did'' something...if it was ''random'' or ''makes sense to the players'' then it is ''ok''. But if the DM dared to ''want or wish'' any thing that is badwrongfun railroading.




In the lazy sandbox, I only develop details as needed. If you never go visit the king, the king never has stats. But he does have general drives and goals to inform how the Duke - who, if you are interacting with, does have stats - feels about the king.

Still even in a sandbox, you don't make up whole paragraphs for NPC's you will never use. It is very pointless for a DM to write out a paragraph or two about 200 towns folk...when the Pcs will only meet and interact with like seven of them.



But that's not a jerk player so much as just a natural outcome to being railroaded.

It is about as natural as anyone that complains and shuts down when anything does not go their way.



Can you interact meaningfully with those of us who aren't interested in narrative authorship / changing reality?

Can you agree that just as you post something your not automatically always right? Can you agree to have at least say a dozen posts to has out any one thing and not just make an ''I'm right post and don't want to ever post about this again!"?



So, uh, I'll probably regret asking, but can you define this term that even our resident Lawful Evil paragon sends leery of? And, perhaps more importantly, whatever it means, can you stop using "railroad(ing)" as a synonym, and start using a more standard definition of the term?

DM Agency: When the DM forces an event to happen during the game play to further the plot, story or accomplish a goal for the good, fun enjoyment of the game for everyone(aka both the Dm and the players).

So your saying ''I must agree with you'' about Your Standard Definition? See how that does not help any sort of talk or debate for you to just say ''I am right, agree with me".



And that's your good. Why don't you talk more about this?

Well, I think this type of game play is the worst. It is reducing an RPG to a board game. The best part about an RPG is the immersion where you are fully in the fantasy world. The OOC Game is a board game/video game. ''Ok, your characters move into location six to have encounter six..oh and guys I was too lazy so make up any treasure for this room so don't search for any in location six."

But I can make a ''Why the OOC Game type is the worst game type ever thread...



My way of explaining it is, it's when the GM changes the logical outcome of player actions. There's more to it than that, granted, but that's the big one.

There is a big 50/50 problem here though:
50% of the time it depends on whose ''logic'' you use
50% of the time it is not ''logic'' but option or viewpoints.



A mess? Is a tree "a mess" if it isn't professionally pruned? :smallconfused:
Some of us can enjoy natural beauty without telling Mother Nature that she needs to manicure her lawns.

Yes, most of nature is a random mess...but that is it's beauty.



Getting him to acknowledge the distinction between that concept and improvising like, "there aren't rules for playing Marbles in D&D - how do we determine who won?", or that from "the GM can change any rule on a whim" seems outside the realm of the possible.

So are you saying improvising is only A)Making up new rules to only fill holes in the game or B)Homebrewing subsystems for a game?

Seems a bit limiting.

Koo Rehtorb
2017-09-22, 11:34 PM
In practice though, an improving DM can railroad...so that is a problem for many people. Like the Pc's attack the bad guy, but the DM wants the bad guy to live so the DM ''improvises'' and says he has a teleport thingy.

We can move away from the term railroad for a minute if you prefer. We can call this "bad GMing". If you do this you are a "bad GM".

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-22, 11:38 PM
I
So your saying ''I must agree with you'' about Your Standard Definition? See how that does not help any sort of talk or debate for you to just say ''I am right, agree with me".

Any Linguistics 101 class will teach you that word meaning are determined when the speakers of a language come to a majority decision in terms of its usage. (There is no actual vote, this is a naturally occuring process)

If, tomorrow, the majority of English speakers suddenly decide that one of these:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8a/Banana-Single.jpg/1200px-Banana-Single.jpg
Is called a Grumplesnort, then that's what it is now, for all intents and purposes.

So, as has been seen for all but two posters in this thread, there is a general consensus that your use of the word Railroading is wrong.
By how linguistics function, this means that within this context, your usage of the word is erroneous and will not be viable for accurate communication in the same way that referring to a Banana as a Grumplesnort in actual real life will not get you anywhere, no matter how convinced you are it should be otherwise. Why?
Because in linguistics, the most common usage wins the day.

The most common usage on the forum has been stated. Repeatedly. Ad nauseum. By far more than sufficient posters to make it clear what the term is used for.

Start using it, or go to a forum that agrees with your definition. Or, hidden third option, keep trolling. Whichever.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-22, 11:51 PM
I know I said that what's wrong with railroading is that is violates player agency, trashes verisimilitude, and violates the "social contract".

1.Very True. Railroading does counter the vile and selfish act of player agency, and this is a very good thing.

2.As a player only knows ''for sure'' if they are railroaded if the DM is clumsy and crude, railroading is all about Verisimilitude.

3.True, and as most social contracts are very bad things, that makes this a very good thing.


We can move away from the term railroad for a minute if you prefer. We can call this "bad GMing". If you do this you are a "bad GM".

I do wonder what part you find ''bad''?

Because I don't agree that ''anything the DM does that the players don't approve of, like or agree with'' is ''bad''.



The most common usage on the forum has been stated. Repeatedly. Ad nauseum. By far more than sufficient posters to make it clear what the term is used for.


Sorry, but as I have said and will say once again: you are not the Word Lord of the Forum, so just as you say something does not make it so.

I get that you agree with the idea of Mob Rule and Popular Votes, but neither of them is ''right'' just as ''everyone(you know in your small, small, small circle)'' says they are. Just not how things work.

georgie_leech
2017-09-23, 12:08 AM
I get that you agree with the idea of Mob Rule and Popular Votes, but neither of them is ''right'' just as ''everyone(you know in your small, small, small circle)'' says they are. Just not how things work.

Whosne hsyrk shrodlo vud. Sjriywoq fjskoghsk. Chumble spuzz.

Translation: words are only useful in terms of what they communicate, and it doesn't matter how sure you are of your correctness if the people you're trying to communicate with disagree. This isn't Mob Rule or Popular Vote, this is a brute fact of how language works.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-23, 12:13 AM
1.Very True. Railroading does counter the vile and selfish act of player agency, and this is a very good thing.
Player: A person playing a game.
Agency: the capacity to make meaningful decisions.

Letting a player make meaningful decisions is... vile and selfish?
Do you also hate free will?



2.As a player only knows ''for sure'' if they are railroaded if the DM is clumsy and crude, railroading is all about Verisimilitude.

This is the part where I point out how often you complain about hostile players wanting more freedom, indicating that players are spotting the rails frequently and you're probably nowhere near as good at hiding them as you believe, and that players can't spot rails that aren't there.



3.True, and as most social contracts are very bad things, that makes this a very good thing.

Ah yes, the Social Contract, which large portions of the society you enjoy are based on, is a bad thing.

Cover your ignorance, man! There are children present.



Because I don't agree that ''anything the DM does that the players don't approve of, like or agree with'' is ''bad''.

Well, if you have players like mine, the only things that fit this category are Bad Rolls and Crappy Behavior. And you seem to deal with a large number of players, according to yourself.

So the odds that every bad player comes through you with unreasonable, dictator-level demands as opposed to perfectly reasonable humans who would like their decisions and abilities to, you know, have meaning and work like the rules say, respectively, who you bungle horribly at dealing with seems... you know. Unlikely.

I find that if one driver keeps having accidents they insist are the faults of others, they're actually a crappy driver.
And a GM who has lots of crappy players.....
Even you should understand where I'm going with this.



Sorry, but as I have said and will say once again: you are not the Word Lord of the Forum, so just as you say something does not make it so.

I get that you agree with the idea of Mob Rule and Popular Votes, but neither of them is ''right'' just as ''everyone(you know in your small, small, small circle)'' says they are. Just not how things work.
Literally just informing you how Linguistics and Context work. That you think this is my opinion tells me you didn't read.

Your opinion is neither asked for nor relevant. I'm the informant, not the message crafter. I'm not a linguist, I'm just telling you what the people who actually study how word meanings work have reported. And that is this:
Match the meaning used in your context, or fail to communicate.

You are failing to communicate. There is one other option.
Not my opinion. Just how language and communication work. Ain't nothing you or I can do about it.

Seto
2017-09-23, 02:39 AM
http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/2c/2c74f4a7a124796c4b38d2ecec05fe69dc3ad5c4421bb13768 af649dc0cc2260.jpg

Be careful, for anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side. And always two there are, a Master and an apprentice... But who is talking now, the Master... or the apprentice?

Koo Rehtorb
2017-09-23, 03:02 AM
He's more of a Jar Jar Binks, I feel.

Quertus
2017-09-23, 08:15 AM
I've said a game without a plot is random. Though ''sandbox'' is a trigger word for many as most think it is ''a super cool way to play: period!'' Few people do play in pure sandboxes, as they would just be a random mess....most people say ''sandbox'' and then have order, structure and a plot like any normal game.

You're not wrong. There is little point in playing a game in a setting unless you believe that said setting contains elements which the players will enjoy interacting with. The selection of items placed in the sandbox is - or, at least, should be - a very deliberate act. To encourage a child to talk about their family, a real sandbox might contain male and female figures of different sizes, for example. Sandboxes work best when they are not simply a random jumble.

That having been said, the point of the sandbox is to allow the user to use the items in the sandbox as they see fit. You don't expect someone to ask a child which figures represent which family members, and then have that person place the figures themselves in the structure that they feel is appropriate for a family. The bloody point is to let the user make what they will.


Yes, everyone does agree to this in theory.

In practice though, an improving DM can railroad...so that is a problem for many people. Like the Pc's attack the bad guy, but the DM wants the bad guy to live so the DM ''improvises'' and says he has a teleport thingy. Many people would then cry ''railroad''.

And this gets into the endless spin. The DM can defend themselves from the hostile players and say ''oh well it makes sense for the bad guy to have an escape thingy and try and get the players to agree it is ''ok''. Though the players might want to be problems and say they demand ''agency/control'' over the game and the Dm ''can't'' do things they don't like. And then it is spin that the DM ''can't'' just ''make up stuff on a whim'' and the DM ''must'' make up stuff before the game and just ''use it like a player has too''. And then you get into reading the DM minds and finding out why they ''did'' something...if it was ''random'' or ''makes sense to the players'' then it is ''ok''. But if the DM dared to ''want or wish'' any thing that is badwrongfun railroading.

Thank you for explaining what I believe to be the origins of your phrase "GM Agency".


Still even in a sandbox, you don't make up whole paragraphs for NPC's you will never use. It is very pointless for a DM to write out a paragraph or two about 200 towns folk...when the Pcs will only meet and interact with like seven of them.

While I agree that it generally seems a waste of effort, I have played under GMs who would have every single townsfolk already planned out. So, while it's certainly not my style, it can be done.


It is about as natural as anyone that complains and shuts down when anything does not go their way.

And here we're back to the "can you see the difference" game - can you recognize that there is a qualitative difference between things not going someone's way, and someone arbitrarily saying, "no, you do not collect $200 for passing Go this time", or otherwise arbitrarily changing the rules, because they think (incorrectly) that it would make for a more interesting game?


Can you agree that just as you post something your not automatically always right? Can you agree to have at least say a dozen posts to has out any one thing and not just make an ''I'm right post and don't want to ever post about this again!"?

Of course. I'm not automatically right just because I post something - I'm automatically right whether I post something or not.

Given that, in other threads, I've explained that learning new things is one of the things I value most, and I've admitted that, if given the choice, I'm selfish enough to prefer that it is me doing the learning, I find your characterization of my style confusing. As a rule, I'd much rather be wrong, as being wrong + a good explanation of what's right = I learn something.

Now, that having been said, I suspect most of us are guilty of bringing a lot of baggage from other threads - let alone actual gaming - with us into this thread. Most of us are quite happy discussing what the word "railroading" means, to us, or discussing the origins of the word, or even discussing language theory, and how words only have meaning when that meaning is shared. Although, for a Wild Mage level of fun, words do also have "meaning" (for a different definition of meaning) when they mean different things to different people, or when they have been misheard ("Johnny's five. He's always five.").

Most of us have fairly compatable definitions of the word. Now, I must thank you for helping us see that we don't all define it identically (I don't really "define" so much as give examples most of the time), and, in a few cases other than yourself, we don't use the word in quite comparable ways. This was quite illuminating the first time you helped us see this fact.

Since then, I'd contend that our understanding of the word has grown slightly more normalized. Yet your usage of the word continues to be quite anomalous, not only defining it as something completely outside the scope of conventional railroading, but explicitly excluding all of conventional railroading from your definition.

Most, not unreasonably, view this as "you're wrong". However, having repeatedly both a) been the one arguing against the many when I was right (once even on these very forms), and b) been one of the many arguing against the one who turned out to be right, I am more reluctant to take that stance. But I gotta ask, a) can you see how others are defining the term; b) if so, what increased value do you see in defining it the way that you do; c) if you cannot see some higher value in your definition of terms (let's ignore the "convincing us and the community at large to adopt your definitions" for the moment), can you c1) use the term "railroading" in a more community-understandable style, and c2) use your new term, "GM agency", to mean what you formerly meant when you said "railroad"?


DM Agency: When the DM forces an event to happen during the game play to further the plot, story or accomplish a goal for the good, fun enjoyment of the game for everyone(aka both the Dm and the players).

So your saying ''I must agree with you'' about Your Standard Definition? See how that does not help any sort of talk or debate for you to just say ''I am right, agree with me".

I just covered this above, but a few points: first off, I was quite literally asking a question, not stating that I was right. Well, I suppose I was literally asking one question while technically asking several. Taken fully literally, I was asking if you were physically and psychologically capable of using the word "railroading" in a particular way. Of course, that question is probably not as interesting as what the question was intended to convey, which was more asking if you would consider changing the way you use words, with an implied, "if not, why not?".

Now, as to "DM Agency: how much?", I reiterate my original answer: depends on the group. For myself, I only enjoy well-earned victories and defeats, so, for games I'm in, the answer is "none". The GM forcing outcomes actively detracts from my fun, and therefore cannot happen by your definition of "GM Agency".


There is a big 50/50 problem here though:
50% of the time it depends on whose ''logic'' you use
50% of the time it is not ''logic'' but option or viewpoints.

The game system's logic. RAW.

Yes, sometimes, there are differences in interpretation of RAW. But legitimate variations in interpretation are clearly less than 50% of the rules.


Yes, most of nature is a random mess...but that is it's beauty.

Ok, maybe we're onto something here. Let's explore this angle.

So, you can see how some people can enjoy carefully manicured lawns, some people can enjoy natural beauty, and some people can enjoy both?

Ok, in an RPG, I personally can only appreciate natural beauty. Numerous people, myself included, have expressed the sentiment of, "if I wanted to be unable to affect the plot, and just have a story read to me, I'd just read a book / watch a movie".

It sounds like both railroading and "GM Agency" flow from a desire to exclusively produce manicured lawns.


1.Very True. Railroading does counter the vile and selfish act of player agency, and this is a very good thing.


Player: A person playing a game.
Agency: the capacity to make meaningful decisions.

Letting a player make meaningful decisions is... vile and selfish?
Do you also hate free will?

Yeah, what?

Let me add another wtf to ImNotTrevor's very good pile: how is the group having agency to choose outcomes more selfish than a single dictator choosing them?


2.As a player only knows ''for sure'' if they are railroaded if the DM is clumsy and crude, railroading is all about Verisimilitude.

... not railroading is about rules, consistency, and that "v" word.


3.True, and as most social contracts are very bad things, that makes this a very good thing.

I can't wait to hear an explanation of this one.


I do wonder what part you find ''bad''?

Because I don't agree that ''anything the DM does that the players don't approve of, like or agree with'' is ''bad''.

More or less everything that the community defines as railroading, you've labeled as "bad jerk GM". So, if I understand correctly, Koo was suggesting following your style, saving time, and just labeling things "bad GMing".


Sorry, but as I have said and will say once again: you are not the Word Lord of the Forum, so just as you say something does not make it so.

I get that you agree with the idea of Mob Rule and Popular Votes, but neither of them is ''right'' just as ''everyone(you know in your small, small, small circle)'' says they are. Just not how things work.

Covered above. A) it isn't a small circle, as it appears to be the vast majority; b) even so, would you care to make a case for why your definition is better?


You are failing to communicate.

There is an extent to which normalizing your word usage is required in order to communicate via standard protocols. Failure to do so leads one to wonder whether the source is either incapable of such normalization, or whether standard communication is not the goal.

Cluedrew
2017-09-23, 08:55 AM
You know I'm just going to go back to the original question. How much railroading?

Railroading as the removal of Player Agency (the standard definition): None, decide how much player agency is in the game and stick to that. Now you can have a game that is wide open and full of decision points about how the party changes the world or you can have a game that is about small group tactics and listening to a story. Both are fine, but don't present the first and run the second.

Railroading as running a Railroad, a Linear Adventure (seen it in a couple of places): Varies, it just relates back to the campaign structure. As above there are many options all of which are fine. It is just a matter of finding one everyone around the table will enjoy. And as above, present in honestly, if people don't like your play style labeling it as something else is not going to help.

Railroading as the GM providing guidance (as Darth Ultron uses it on occasion): Whenever the players need it. So probably in a hunk at the beginning of the game and then other bits and pieces when they get lost. Or you can give them a moment to find themselves, that works in our games because the players (and hence the PCs) rarely just wait for something to happen.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-23, 10:40 AM
this is a brute fact of how language works.

I don't really get why you think words can have more then one meaning. That is brute fact.


Player: A person playing a game.
Agency: the capacity to make meaningful decisions.

Letting a player make meaningful decisions is... vile and selfish?
Do you also hate free will?

Unregulated free will, yes. A player making decisions they think are meaningful for themselves is a very selfish behavior. Unlike Dm agency where the dm does thing for the game/others and themselves.



This is the part where I point out how often you complain about hostile players wanting more freedom, indicating that players are spotting the rails frequently and you're probably nowhere near as good at hiding them as you believe, and that players can't spot rails that aren't there.

Maybe you have not read any of my posts? A player would only know about railroading if the dm told them so. I'm not that kind of DM. Players can suspect or just whine and cry all the time...but they will never know.



Ah yes, the Social Contract, which large portions of the society you enjoy are based on, is a bad thing.


That is ''your society'', not mine.



So the odds that every bad player comes through you with unreasonable, dictator-level demands as opposed to perfectly reasonable humans who would like their decisions and abilities to, you know, have meaning and work like the rules say, respectively, who you bungle horribly at dealing with seems... you know. Unlikely.

You forget the part where I'm honest and up front. The rules are suggestions, in my game I say what happens. AND the player agrees to that(or just lies) and sits down to play. Then later they start to whine and cry about things.



I find that if one driver keeps having accidents they insist are the faults of others, they're actually a crappy driver.
And a GM who has lots of crappy players.....
Even you should understand where I'm going with this.

Good thing that is not how reality works...lol



Match the meaning used in your context, or fail to communicate.


Odd though as I use Plot in the context of an RPG.......and your the one that ignores context and says ''plot only has one definition and I don't like it."





And here we're back to the "can you see the difference" game - can you recognize that there is a qualitative difference between things not going someone's way, and someone arbitrarily saying, "no, you do not collect $200 for passing Go this time", or otherwise arbitrarily changing the rules, because they think (incorrectly) that it would make for a more interesting game?

Well, this is a bit more complex. I do agree not to change the basic structure rules of the game like a jerk DM(''haha the dragon has no HP so your characters can't ever kill it!''). I do think a DM can change anything else at a whim.

But Railroading is not a rule heavy type thing. The DM alone gets to say ''there are two alert guards by the door'' or ''two guards are sleeping against the door '' or anything else they want to say or happen.



Most, not unreasonably, view this as "you're wrong". However, having repeatedly both a) been the one arguing against the many when I was right (once even on these very forms), and b) been one of the many arguing against the one who turned out to be right, I am more reluctant to take that stance. But I gotta ask, a) can you see how others are defining the term; b) if so, what increased value do you see in defining it the way that you do; c) if you cannot see some higher value in your definition of terms (let's ignore the "convincing us and the community at large to adopt your definitions" for the moment), can you c1) use the term "railroading" in a more community-understandable style, and c2) use your new term, "GM agency", to mean what you formerly meant when you said "railroad"?


A-yes; B-Two Bits; C 1/2-I'd love for the community to adopt my DM Agency, and give me credit and immortalize me forever in gaming. But that will never happen....so....




Now, as to "DM Agency: how much?", I reiterate my original answer: depends on the group. For myself, I only enjoy well-earned victories and defeats, so, for games I'm in, the answer is "none". The GM forcing outcomes actively detracts from my fun, and therefore cannot happen by your definition of "GM Agency".


Now wait was the word ''outcomes'' in my definition....well, nope it was not. See that is your railway baggage, and you should leave that on the train.

So the question is ''Do you think the Dm should force events to happen and if so, how much?"



Yes, sometimes, there are differences in interpretation of RAW. But legitimate variations in interpretation are clearly less than 50% of the rules.

I'm not sure why you jumped to ''the rules'', that has little to do with railroading. The PC's go to open a door and the DM says it is locked...and the players cry railroad. But there is no ''rule'' in D&D like the chance of a random door is locked. And if the game does have a rule for something like that...it is a random game.



It sounds like both railroading and "GM Agency" flow from a desire to exclusively produce manicured lawns.

You might be missing the forest through the trees, but it is a great analogy.

My yard is well maintained and artificially made. Everything has been placed and timed and set to look both naturally beautiful and also still maintain full use of the yard and other things outdoors. And I say the only way to have such a yard is to create it yourself and maintain it.

So your on the natural side, so you would say you just sit in your house and let ''nature do what ever''. Your grass grows high and wild, your bushes are a mess and block the windows to your house and when the tree falls in your drive way you just leave it there and never pull your car out of the garage again.

And that would be a yard with as you say ''only natural beauty''. But, amazingly, while you say you ''can only appreciate natural beauty'' I know you have to do yard maintenance and would not just leave a fallen tree in your driveway. And I'm sure most others know this too. But yet you will say again and again falsely ''only natural beauty''.



how is the group having agency to choose outcomes more selfish than a single dictator choosing them?

By ''group'' you mean ''group of players'' not ''the DM and the players'', right?

This is basic RPG 101: the lone DM does not have a character in the game; the players do.



I can't wait to hear an explanation of this one.

The next thread: Why are social contracts bad?



Covered above. A) it isn't a small circle, as it appears to be the vast majority; b) even so, would you care to make a case for why your definition is better?

Yes, I would split off ''good Railroading'' from all the bad jerk stuff and re-brand it DM Agency.

Seto
2017-09-23, 10:58 AM
I don't really get why you think words can have more then one meaning. That is brute fact.Just weighing in on that. (I assume you meant "why you think word CAN'T have more than one meaning").
Sure they can. But those different meanings are not logical equivalents, and the word should matter less than the logical content. For example: the word "bug" refers to both an insect and an electronic malfunction. If I say "Toads eat bugs", and I mean "Toads eat insects", it does not follow that "Toads eat electronic malfunctions".
Similarly, let's admit that "railroading" can refer to both "what DarthUltron calls railroading" and "what other people on this thread call railroading" (and I'll give you that, you did make clear that you were going to use a different definition). If we admit that "what DU calls railroading is not bad GMing", it does not follow that "what other people call railroading is not bad GMing", therefore we cannot say that as a rule "railroading is not bad GMing". Now this opens two distinct questions:

1- Is there a non-arbitrary reason why "what DarthUltron calls railroading" should be admitted as a definition of "railroading", other than "it was in the OP?". A lot of people seem to argue that there is no reason that "what DU calls railroading" should be expressed by the word "railroading".
2- It seems clear that what other people call railroading is bad GMing. Should we admit that "what DU calls railroading" is not bad GMing, or is it actually bad GMing?

Drakevarg
2017-09-23, 11:45 AM
That is ''your society'', not mine.

Unless you live in the woods using a laptop you built yourself from twigs and berries, the society you enjoy runs on social contract. The fact that your property rights mean anything, that your currency holds any value, that if your home catches fire someone will come along and put it out, are all parts of a social contract. Literally none of this exists for any reason besides the community at large prefers it that way.

OldTrees1
2017-09-23, 12:48 PM
I see Darth Ultron has another two threads to their pet topic. Is this one "every DM uses excessive railroads", "my railroads are not railroads", "all players are toxic and must be controlled", or is it a new argument?


To briefly summarize the consensus from prior threads (obviously 1 post can only give an abridged summary of multiple long threads):
The severity of railroading (neutral connotation) necessary for an individual to label it as railroading (negative connotation) varies with the person and their expectations of the game. The negative connotation meaning is used much more frequently than the neutral connotation.

The minimum degree of railroading necessary to run a game is near zero (sandbox) and there are many pages of testimony to that effect (Darth Ultron refused to accept such a possibility for many pages in multiple threads). The maximum amount of railroading, where there are people that can enjoy that level, is rather high. However DM-Player communication and cooperation are necessary to make either extreme enjoyable.

In one of the threads there was an in depth discussion and classification of types of railroading. This included perfectly invisible kinds like Quantum Ogres and discussed how players can have preferences about things they cannot observe.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-23, 01:02 PM
I see Darth Ultron has another two threads to their pet topic. Is this one "every DM uses excessive railroads", "my railroads are not railroads", "all players are toxic and must be controlled",


Yes.


All of the above.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-23, 01:05 PM
Now this opens two distinct questions:

1- Is there a non-arbitrary reason why "what DarthUltron calls railroading" should be admitted as a definition of "railroading", other than "it was in the OP?". A lot of people seem to argue that there is no reason that "what DU calls railroading" should be expressed by the word "railroading".
2- It seems clear that what other people call railroading is bad GMing. Should we admit that "what DU calls railroading" is not bad GMing, or is it actually bad GMing?

1.''A lot'' of people say/think that Railroading is only the badwrongfun jerk bad DM doing something...but then expand the tent to ''anything they don't like'', and they don't see that they did it.

2.Again this is people saying ''railroad is always bad'' and don't grasp the idea that things are not all ways ''something'' can be good or bad depending on context and how they are used. It is like people saying ''fire'' is all ways Bad, and somehow they just ignore things like fire can be used to keep a person warm. And even worse, the people build a fire to keep warm and then scream that they don't use fire to keep warm even as they put another log on the fire to keep warm.



Unless you live in the woods using a laptop you built yourself from twigs and berries, the society you enjoy runs on social contract. The fact that your property rights mean anything, that your currency holds any value, that if your home catches fire someone will come along and put it out, are all parts of a social contract. Literally none of this exists for any reason besides the community at large prefers it that way.

Well, things like laws are not a ''social contract.'' ''We the people'' have no choice but to follow the laws. If anything Laws are Railroading: "You will live your life this way and you only have the freedom to do what we say you have the freedom to do''.

And things are not the way they are because ''everyone prefers it that way'', it is because the people in power want it the way they are... If ''everyone'' was really given the chance to ''really vote'' on ''everything'', you'd see a different country overnight.

Drakevarg
2017-09-23, 01:16 PM
Well, things like laws are not a ''social contract.'' ''We the people'' have no choice but to follow the laws. If anything Laws are Railroading: "You will live your life this way and you only have the freedom to do what we say you have the freedom to do''.

And things are not the way they are because ''everyone prefers it that way'', it is because the people in power want it the way they are... If ''everyone'' was really given the chance to ''really vote'' on ''everything'', you'd see a different country overnight.

Laws are also a social contract, because given that the government in a practical sense holds all the power, they could do literally whatever they wanted if they wanted to. Maintaining the illusion of personal freedom is in itself a social contract. If the government suddenly decided it was a military dictatorship now, there isn't much we could do about it. If they decided the didn't feel like having public education, sanitation, or any other sort of essential infrastructure, they could take those away at any time.

I didn't say "everyone prefers it that way." I said "the community at large" prefers it that way. Civilization is a negotiation between the rulers and the ruled, and while it's never a totally preferable arrangement, things break down when negotiates fall through entirely.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-23, 01:30 PM
Laws are also a social contract, because given that the government in a practical sense holds all the power, they could do literally whatever they wanted if they wanted to. Maintaining the illusion of personal freedom is in itself a social contract. If the government suddenly decided it was a military dictatorship now, there isn't much we could do about it. If they decided the didn't feel like having public education, sanitation, or any other sort of essential infrastructure, they could take those away at any time.

I didn't say "everyone prefers it that way." I said "the community at large" prefers it that way. Civilization is a negotiation between the rulers and the ruled, and while it's never a totally preferable arrangement, things break down when negotiates fall through entirely.

Plus in some places, it's literally the consent of the governed that matters; the people grant power to the government, and if the people stopped following a law en masse, there'd be little the government could really do about it.

But this is really just another distraction, as far as this thread goes.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-23, 01:30 PM
Darth Ultron refused to accept such a possibility for many pages in multiple threads.

Well, for reference, again, here is my list so far of ways I've said to have a game with no Railroading/Force/DM Agency:

1.Keep it Simple. Cartoon-like play. Example: HappyTown is full of good people, and one bad guy...and something bad happens! Guess who did it?
2.Quamtum Ogre. Does not matter at all what the players do, the DM just puts stuff right in front of them.
3.OOC. The DM tells the players everything and asks them to do things. ''Hey players I made a fun encounter behind door two, so pick that door!''
4.Player By In. Players want to do X, the DM just tosses out X and says ''here''.
5.Senseless Game. The game makes no sense, like a cartoon or anime or B type movie.

Seto
2017-09-23, 01:51 PM
2.Again this is people saying ''railroad is always bad'' and don't grasp the idea that things are not all ways ''something'' can be good or bad depending on context and how they are used. It is like people saying ''fire'' is all ways Bad, and somehow they just ignore things like fire can be used to keep a person warm. And even worse, the people build a fire to keep warm and then scream that they don't use fire to keep warm [I]even as they put another log on the fire.
Except that "railroading is always bad" isn't their primary thesis. There seems to be a consensus on a definition of railroading which is "when an option is denied the players that should logically be possible" (for example, you can't open a door that's there). So, the thesis is that THAT, not something else, is always bad GMing. I rather agree. Now if someone were to infer that something else, also called railroading, is always bad, that would be a logical fallacy. But I don't think that's what happening.

OldTrees1
2017-09-23, 02:04 PM
Well, for reference, again, here is my list so far of ways I've said to have a game with no Railroading/Force/DM Agency:

1.Keep it Simple. Cartoon-like play. Example: HappyTown is full of good people, and one bad guy...and something bad happens! Guess who did it?
2.Quamtum Ogre. Does not matter at all what the players do, the DM just puts stuff right in front of them.
3.OOC. The DM tells the players everything and asks them to do things. ''Hey players I made a fun encounter behind door two, so pick that door!''
4.Player By In. Players want to do X, the DM just tosses out X and says ''here''.
5.Senseless Game. The game makes no sense, like a cartoon or anime or B type movie.

Thank you for providing your refusal as reference for that part (the minimum amount of railroading is near zero: see sandbox games) of my summary of the prior threads.

I will refrain from derailing your thread with a pointless attempt to convince you with the countless testimonials about sandbox games (since you already had 2 threads dedicated to that exercise).

Cluedrew
2017-09-23, 05:00 PM
Unregulated free will, yes. A player making decisions they think are meaningful for themselves is a very selfish behavior. Unlike Dm agency where the dm does thing for the game/others and themselves.You are assuming two things:
The GM will use their agency in the game to better the game for the other players*.
The players will not use their agency in the game to better the game for the other players*.
Which of course can happen. The first should be true in all games of course, but the second should never be true. Seriously, if not a single player is interested in making sure you have a good time to (which I hope they would if they are your friends) why are you running this game for them? That is not a rhetorical question.

The game is better for other people helping each other. I do little things to help out the other players* all the time, even when I'm not the GM. And not just as in "my character saved yours", as in "I am going out of my way to help you make the character wanted". When my normally deadpan character is shocked because to help build up how weird someone else's character. Or how my character's second language another PC's first language to help show that PC is not a native English speaker (as we speak in that language instead).

So in short. Power is only toxic in the hands of toxic people, why are you playing with toxic people?

* Any time I use "players*" I am referring to all players of the game, not just the non-GM ones.

To OldTrees1: Hey, haven't seen you in a while.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-23, 05:23 PM
Well, for reference, again, here is my list so far of ways I've said to have a game with no Railroading/Force/DM Agency:

1.Keep it Simple. Cartoon-like play. Example: HappyTown is full of good people, and one bad guy...and something bad happens! Guess who did it?
2.Quamtum Ogre. Does not matter at all what the players do, the DM just puts stuff right in front of them.
3.OOC. The DM tells the players everything and asks them to do things. ''Hey players I made a fun encounter behind door two, so pick that door!''
4.Player By In. Players want to do X, the DM just tosses out X and says ''here''.
5.Senseless Game. The game makes no sense, like a cartoon or anime or B type movie.

That's only "true" as the other half of your false dichotomy asserting that any decision the GM makes or any limitations on player "whim" fall under the heading of "Railroading".

Just your #4 attempting to define Player Buy In as "the players get whatever they want and the GM is just there to give it to them" shows either how deep your misunderstanding of the concept is... or how far you're willing to sink into deliberate distortion.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-23, 05:55 PM
Except that "railroading is always bad" isn't their primary thesis. There seems to be a consensus on a definition of railroading which is "when an option is denied the players that should logically be possible" (for example, you can't open a door that's there). So, the thesis is that THAT, not something else, is always bad GMing. I rather agree. Now if someone were to infer that something else, also called railroading, is always bad, that would be a logical fallacy. But I don't think that's what happening.

But that definition does not work. 1) What is logical in this case is an option and 2) Just as something is logical does not mean that it is 100% possible and it happens.

Like your saying ''all doors everywhere should all ways be unlocked''. Though that is silly. So then you'd backpedal to ''oh a door can only be locked if it is logical to you and you agree.



The GM will use their agency in the game to better the game for the other players.

Yes. GM Agency is only a good thing...if the DM is doing bad, they are not using DM Agency.



The players will not use their agency in the game to better the game for the other players

For the most part, players can't do this even if they wanted too as: The DM and Players are not equals. The DM both knowing everything about the game and in total control of the game can do things to better the game. The players, limited to only what their characters experience and know, can't do that.

And just look at a typical Player Agency definition: Player agency is the ability of players to make choices for their characters, and for those choices to have a meaningful impact on the game.
. Note there is no ''for the good of the game'' in there, it is 100% selfish for just the player.



Seriously, if not a single player is interested in making sure you have a good time to (which I hope they would if they are your friends) why are you running this game for them? That is not a rhetorical question.

The good ones do. When they find a locked door or a bad guy gets away; the good players just keep on playing the game. The good player is not just sitting there hiding all their hostile feelings toward the DM and waiting for a chance to pounce as soon as they find something they don't like.



The game is better for other people helping each other.

It is better.

Though you are still a bit stuck on ''everyone is a equal and the same in every way'', and that is not true in a normal game. Even the rule books list different things for DM/GM and Player.


That's only "true" as the other half of your false dichotomy asserting that any decision the GM makes or any limitations on player "whim" fall under the heading of "Railroading".

Well, note that it is only decisions that the players don't like.



Just your #4 attempting to define Player Buy In as "the players get whatever they want and the GM is just there to give it to them" shows either how deep your misunderstanding of the concept is... or how far you're willing to sink into deliberate distortion.

I can understand you don't like Player Buy In, but it is a valid way to run a game with no railroading.

Seto
2017-09-23, 06:12 PM
But that definition does not work. 1) What is logical in this case is an option and 2) Just as something is logical does not mean that it is 100% possible and it happens.

Like your saying ''all doors everywhere should all ways be unlocked''. Though that is silly. So then you'd backpedal to ''oh a door can only be locked if it is logical to you and you agree..
No, I'm saying "all doors everywhere should always be POSSIBLE to unlock", even if it requires some effort.
Of course doors can be locked. But the PCs can come up with solutions: picking the lock, breaking it down, Gaseous Form, Passwall, etc. And if they do come up with a good idea, it should work, even if the GM had not planned for them to enter the room at that moment.
An in-game lock is just a lock. It can be interacted with. A "plot lock", that is, "the plot requires that the PCs don't go through, so they won't no matter what they try", is a railroad. If you don't want the PCs to interact with something, just don't put it in your game.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-23, 06:18 PM
No, I'm saying "all doors everywhere should always be POSSIBLE to unlock", even if it requires some effort.
Of course doors can be locked. But the PCs can come up with solutions: picking the lock, breaking it down, Gaseous Form, Passwall, etc. And if they do come up with a good idea, it should work, even if the GM had not planned for them to enter the room at that moment.
An in-game lock is just a lock. It can be interacted with. A "plot lock", that is, "the plot requires that the PCs don't go through, so they won't no matter what they try", is a railroad. If you don't want the PCs to interact with something, just don't put it in your game.

But your saying the DM should all ways cave in and just let the players do whatever they want all the time?

Sure this is a great way to play a silly game. It is buying friends.

After all the players will love things like : Player 1-"My character knocks on the locked door six times'' DM-"Wow! Wow! The door swings open for your character! Wow, just let me say you are the best and greatest player of all time!"

The Extinguisher
2017-09-23, 06:27 PM
But your saying the DM should all ways cave in and just let the players do whatever they want all the time?

Sure this is a great way to play a silly game. It is buying friends.

After all the players will love things like : Player 1-"My character knocks on the locked door six times'' DM-"Wow! Wow! The door swings open for your character! Wow, just let me say you are the best and greatest player of all time!"

Im definitely realizing that this may not have been the best thread to talk about my issues with "railroading"

Yikes

Seto
2017-09-23, 06:30 PM
But your saying the DM should all ways cave in and just let the players do whatever they want all the time?

Sure this is a great way to play a silly game. It is buying friends.

After all the players will love things like : Player 1-"My character knocks on the locked door six times'' DM-"Wow! Wow! The door swings open for your character! Wow, just let me say you are the best and greatest player of all time!"That is obviously not what I wrote. Let me give you an example. Let's say I put treasure behind a locked door early in a dungeon. The boss owns the key. My plan is for the PCs to beat the boss, find the key, then go back, open the door and get the treasure, Zelda-style. But now imagine that when they find the locked door, instead of walking past it and going to find the boss, the Rogue tells me "I pick the lock". I reply "Okay, roll." He rolls really well and beats the DC, so by the rules he should manage to open the door. I have two options: either use Rule Zero and invent "sorry, the lock was a trap, your tools melted, guess the door'll stay locked", or say "okay, the door opens and you find treasure". The first one is railroading. As a DM, I use the second one.
Really, it's about using the rules fairly. If a player rolls a skill check or uses a spell that should let them open the door, refusing it is functionally the same as fudging dice to make your BBEG win because the plots needs him to win.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-23, 06:58 PM
That is obviously not what I wrote.

Lemme save you some time, man.
DU has literally never responded to what people are actually saying.

Cluedrew
2017-09-23, 07:09 PM
To Darth Ultron: If a GM is doing things to hurt the game, than they are also are making meaningful decisions to effect the game. All types of agency can be used for good or ill. Yes they all should be used to help save the world, but if it had to be then it wouldn't really be agency. Plus I have used my player agency to help the game, so it clearly can be done.

Second, I don't believe that ''everyone is a equal and the same in every way'', I've never seen a game where a player had as much control over the game as the GM. But that doesn't mean they have 0 control.

2D8HP
2017-09-23, 07:16 PM
....the DM should all ways cave in and just let the players do whatever they want all the time?...


Yes that's fun for the players for five to ten minutes tops.

PLAYER A: "Studly McAwesome becomes King of the Universe!

DM: Okay.

PLAYER B: Mistress McIncredible then becomes Empress of the Multiverse, which is better than King!

DM: Yeah sure that too.
Maybe that's what DU means by "too much player agency"?

To be fun (for me as a player) I want a perception that both success and failure are possible.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-23, 07:16 PM
Really, it's about using the rules fairly. If a player rolls a skill check or uses a spell that should let them open the door, refusing it is functionally the same as fudging dice to make your BBEG win because the plots needs him to win.

Again I would point out that Railroading and just about all other Role Playing has very little and often nothing to do with the rules.

There is no rule that says ''the players must all ways succeed at everything''. And the rules do allow the DM to do ''anything'' in the rules: a DM can all ways say ''yes your check works, but then this other rule says...".

But your example is more ''Game Design''. If a bad DM puts a pointless DC 5 lock on the treasure vault with no other security, and then comes up with the great ''get the key'' plot then your example can happen. Of course any good DM can come up with two or three dozen ways to ''stop the single lock pick'' and ''using the all mighty rules too''.

And this this brings up the improv railroad problem. If the DM makes the vault a year before and makes it 'good'. Then anything that happens is ok, right? But if the DM makes up something ''improv'' say ten seconds before the ''single lock pick'', then that is wrong, right?

OldTrees1
2017-09-23, 07:32 PM
Yes that's fun for the players for five to ten minutes tops.

PLAYER A: "Studly McAwesome becomes King of the Universe!

DM: Okay.

PLAYER B: Mistress McIncredible then becomes Empress of the Multiverse, which is better than King!

DM: Yeah sure that too.
Maybe that's what DU means by "too much player agency"?

To be fun (for me as a player) I want a perception that both success and failure are possible.

Context reminder:
DU was replying to

Of course doors can be locked. But the PCs can come up with solutions: picking the lock, breaking it down, Gaseous Form, Passwall, etc. And if they do come up with a good idea, it should work, even if the GM had not planned for them to enter the room at that moment.

So if using an axe on a wooden door is "too much player agency" to Darth Ultron, then I would question how applicable Darth's concepts are to your play.

2D8HP
2017-09-23, 07:36 PM
So if using an axe on a wooden door is "too much player agency" to Darth Ultron, then I would question how applicable Darth's concepts are to your play.


At this point I question how much the concept fit his own play.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-23, 08:02 PM
To Darth Ultron: If a GM is doing things to hurt the game, than they are also are making meaningful decisions to effect the game. All types of agency can be used for good or ill. Yes they all should be used to help save the world, but if it had to be then it wouldn't really be agency. Plus I have used my player agency to help the game, so it clearly can be done.

Um...I don't think you ''need'' to make meaningful decisions to effect the game: The DM can just be a Jerk.

And so, wait, are you saying DM Agency is a good thing?



Second, I don't believe that ''everyone is a equal and the same in every way'', I've never seen a game where a player had as much control over the game as the GM. But that doesn't mean they have 0 control.

I agree the players don't have zero.




So if using an axe on a wooden door is "too much player agency" to Darth Ultron, then I would question how applicable Darth's concepts are to your play.

Again, this is more DM imagination , setting and how well the DM pre plans.

It is easy for a good DM to stop and counter a lot of the ''stuff'' a player might try....way, way, way before they do it. Even more so if the Dm knows the players.

A simple metal door would stop the ''crazy axe player'' for example.

And there is also the role playing side where the door is, for example, in public view or guarded or set it up so the character's can't risk making the noise...and so on.

Quertus
2017-09-23, 08:08 PM
Railroading as the GM providing guidance (as Darth Ultron uses it on occasion): Whenever the players need it. So probably in a hunk at the beginning of the game and then other bits and pieces when they get lost. Or you can give them a moment to find themselves, that works in our games because the players (and hence the PCs) rarely just wait for something to happen.

Somehow I missed this. Can you point to how "provide guidance" became "railroading"?


You forget the part where I'm honest and up front. The rules are suggestions, in my game I say what happens. AND the player agrees to that(or just lies) and sits down to play. Then later they start to whine and cry about things.


Well, this is a bit more complex. I do agree not to change the basic structure rules of the game like a jerk DM(''haha the dragon has no HP so your characters can't ever kill it!''). I do think a DM can change anything else at a whim.

It probably says more about me than it does about you that I have a hard time envisioning these two statements working in harmony. See, I hear, "Imma play by the rules, but Imma change the rules at will". And that's indistinguishable from Calvin Ball.


But Railroading is not a rule heavy type thing. The DM alone gets to say ''there are two alert guards by the door'' or ''two guards are sleeping against the door '' or anything else they want to say or happen.

The guard example is a good one, imo. It's a great example of GM Agency in practice. And it's one where I'm in 99% agreement with you. That 1% difference is that the players might have a little bit of agency to influence the probability of a particular outcome, though, if they know the guard rotation, and know and measure / manipulate the factors which contribute to guard attentiveness. Or, heck, in some cases, just mentioning to the GM, "hey, what are the odds that...".

I'm not personally a fan of the Narrative style of games where the players can just say, "and there are X guards, and their attentiveness is Y, because Z", any more than I'm a fan of (community definition) Railroad games. But games played in that style generally involve a loss of GM Agency, and a potential loss of player agency, too. Hmmm... I guess I'm just an Agency guy.


A-yes; B-Two Bits; C 1/2-I'd love for the community to adopt my DM Agency, and give me credit and immortalize me forever in gaming. But that will never happen....so....

I'm starting to like the "GM Agency" concept... It rather succinctly explains part of what irks me about players having narrative currency.


Now wait was the word ''outcomes'' in my definition....well, nope it was not. See that is your railway baggage, and you should leave that on the train.

So the question is ''Do you think the Dm should force events to happen and if so, how much?"

That's fair - you don't say outcomes, and that's my baggage.

But, that having been said, I'm struggling to grasp what a GM would change that inherently wouldn't affect the outcome.


I'm not sure why you jumped to ''the rules'', that has little to do with railroading. The PC's go to open a door and the DM says it is locked...and the players cry railroad. But there is no ''rule'' in D&D like the chance of a random door is locked. And if the game does have a rule for something like that...it is a random

Probably because, thus far, I've identified that the GM can change the rules, the facts, or the rolls to railroad, and, in whatever conversation we were having, I was referring to the first one.


You might be missing the forest through the trees, but it is a great analogy.

My yard is well maintained and artificially made. Everything has been placed and timed and set to look both naturally beautiful and also still maintain full use of the yard and other things outdoors. And I say the only way to have such a yard is to create it yourself and maintain it.

So your on the natural side, so you would say you just sit in your house and let ''nature do what ever''. Your grass grows high and wild, your bushes are a mess and block the windows to your house and when the tree falls in your drive way you just leave it there and never pull your car out of the garage again.

And that would be a yard with as you say ''only natural beauty''. But, amazingly, while you say you ''can only appreciate natural beauty'' I know you have to do yard maintenance and would not just leave a fallen tree in your driveway. And I'm sure most others know this too. But yet you will say again and again falsely ''only natural beauty''.

Well, as you probably could tell from my description of a sandbox, I believe in creating the, hmmm, let's call it "illusion of natural beauty", much like you do, while still having an artificial focus. For example, a sandbox with "family style" figures, or a political game with political characters and political conflicts. But, where we differ is, I'm not interested in maintaining the artificial nature of the setting once play begins. Once the game starts, I sit back and let it grow.

Now, you're right - if a tree falls, and blocks the driveway... well, if the group agrees that the game would best be served by removing said tree, ok, fine. Otherwise, I'll just leave it.

Or, returning to the physical sandbox example, if the child only puts up one adult figure, or puts up 3, I may ask about the anomaly, but I'm not about to "fix" their representation of their family.


By ''group'' you mean ''group of players'' not ''the DM and the players'', right?

This is basic RPG 101: the lone DM does not have a character in the game; the players do.

Well, IIRC, in the example that started this chain, "the group" could equally easily include or exclude the GM, and the phrase would still work. It's my bad that when I say "the group", I'm not always including the GM in that. But, usually, when I'm explicitly excluding the GM, I'll say "the players" or "the PCs".


The next thread: Why are social contracts bad?

Ah, I had just meant in terms of session 0, setting expectations, etc.

For the moment, I'm less interested in the political version of this discussion.


Yes, I would split off ''good Railroading'' from all the bad jerk stuff and re-brand it DM Agency.

I think the Playground might just support this effort...

Pleh
2017-09-23, 10:39 PM
I dunno.

I hear "player agency" and I think of a set of actions a player may choose to enact (or attempt.

I hear "DM agency" in this context and all I hear is arguments for limiting player agency.

Like the negative energy pushing back against the positive energy.

While the DM is a player who should have fun, too, their primary role is referee, mediating between the players and the rules. It's not so much the DM's job to limit player agency, but only to keep it from violating the rules. Likewise, they protect player agency from the rules, overturning rules to suit the adventure.

But the point of limiting player agency as a DM shouldn't be excused simply as "DM agency." The point is to honor the rules.

The ever repeated "locked door" scenario should always be played thusly:

1. Don't make a door the PCs can't get through (rather make a door they might not go through). Just as you never point a gun at anything you don't want to shoot, you don't put a door in a dungeon you don't want them to ever open.
2. Make sure the reward/consequences matches the challenge of getting through the door.
3. If the door somehow disrupts the adventure, improvise with, "yes, and..." answers. "Yes, you open the door and there is a wandering monster on the other side."
4. Even if you want to make choosing to open the door disadvantageous, keep it a fair CR consequence so the only penalty is a expenditure of daily adventuring resources.
5. When all else fails, own the responsibility for the failure (never shift blame on the players), get feedback from your group about how to move forward, and if retconning is necessary, retcon in the party's favor so the table can continue enjoying the adventure without a sour flavor.

The party are the heroes of the story. Even if you made the world, the story is about them. Any "DM agency" not directed towards helping players take their characters where the player wants to take them... would probably be better off just writing the book they clearly care more about.

Koo Rehtorb
2017-09-23, 11:53 PM
I'm not certain what concept "DM Agency" represents. I'm fairly certain that literally no one has ever proposed that a DM cannot do things, that's just a tiresome strawman. We also don't need a term to represent the fact that a DM is, in fact, allowed to breathe air during a session.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-24, 12:11 AM
I can understand you don't like Player Buy In, but it is a valid way to run a game with no railroading.


Clearly you don't understand, because "you don't like player buy in" has absolutely nothing to with what I posted other than sharing some of the same words.




But your saying the DM should all ways cave in and just let the players do whatever they want all the time?


I've never seen anyone make that assertion in these "discussions", except for when you're claiming that someone else (who didn't say it) said it. It's not an assertion that people are making, just one that you keep trying to claim they're making.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-24, 12:14 AM
I think the Playground might just support this effort...


Why?

There's no such thing as "good railroading".

It's like murder -- "good murder" isn't murder in the first place.

Drakevarg
2017-09-24, 01:59 AM
Why?

There's no such thing as "good railroading".

It's like murder -- "good murder" isn't murder in the first place.

I believe that was the point. What DU wants to call "DM Agency" is not railroading, so nobody would really mind if he motioned to stop calling it that, since nobody but him calls it that anyway.

OldTrees1
2017-09-24, 02:06 AM
Why?

There's no such thing as "good railroading".

It's like murder -- "good murder" isn't murder in the first place.

Railroading can refer to merely the act of restricting player agency. There is a difference between appropriate or excessive restriction of player agency. If I play a lovecraftian horror game I am generally accepting a tighter restriction on player agency as a consequence of the creation of the powerlessness theme of the genre. If I play a sandbox D&D game I am expecting enough player agency to allow for the PCs to pursue their own active goals.

Of course the specific difference between appropriate and excessive railroading is clear to most people that actually communicate with the DM/players in their group. This is why "railroading" commonly only refers to the negative connotation subset.


I believe that was the point. What DU wants to call "DM Agency" is not railroading, so nobody would really mind if he motioned to stop calling it that, since nobody but him calls it that anyway.

I have 3 issues with calling it that
1) Railroading(neutral connotation) already covers a lot of what DU wants to not call railroading. The current term allows for easy description and subclassification. The last thread included subcategories like road (at each node the PCs get to make meaningful choices from a short list of paths) vs station (you are railroaded from node to node but otherwise have sandbox level agency at each node).
2) Continuing to cover it with railroading(neutral connotation) silences several of DU's strawmen while being easy to understand for people stumbling upon DU for the first time.
3) "DM Agency" is not a descriptive term. The DM can do anything that they don't choose to not be able to do.

Seto
2017-09-24, 02:39 AM
And this this brings up the improv railroad problem. If the DM makes the vault a year before and makes it 'good'. Then anything that happens is ok, right?Right, if it's made by the rules and still possible to open even if it's difficult.
But if the DM makes up something ''improv'' say ten seconds before the ''single lock pick'', then that is wrong, right? Not necessarily. It's borderline, yeah, but might still be okay. For example, if the DM suddenly thinks "What was I thinking making this DC 15, the lock has been made by a specialist so it should be 25", that would be fine. Or obviously, if the DM had not even thought about lockpicking (DMs often forget things when they've got a whole session to plan), they have to instantly come up with a DC.
I think there's a line somewhere in a manual that says "sure, you might not have prepared for the players to enter the lair that way, but the ancient and paranoid lich that lives there probably has". In other words "if it makes sense, you can improvise to spice up the game". Although you should do it sparingly.
But see, whether it's prepared one year in advance or 5 seconds in advance, the point is that it should make it more difficult for the players, not impossible. If your door is DC25 to pick and you can use Passwall to go through, it's fine. If a door is DC150 and completely impervious to magic and has no keyhole, it has no business being there, even if you made it a year in advance.
In video games, it's frequent and necessary to have doors that can't be opened unless you beat the right boss or talk to the right NPC. That's due to a limitation of the medium. And video games are great! But part of the reason people play DnD is so they can have the freedom to try and kick down the door instead.

And to address your other point: no it's not "caving in" to the players and giving them everything for free. They still have to work for it. If they don't have the right spells, or if they fail the lockpicking check, no treasure for them.

Cluedrew
2017-09-24, 07:07 AM
Um...I don't think you ''need'' to make meaningful decisions to effect the game: The DM can just be a Jerk.That's the point. If I walk up to you and punch you in the fact, that is a (bad) meaningful decision because I caused you pain. Put a different way, effecting the game is actually the threshold for it being a meaningful decision so the two are interlocked. And as much as I wish good things could be the only things with effects, that simply isn't the case.


And so, wait, are you saying DM Agency is a good thing?I file it in the same group as player agency, in fact I usually don't even make the distinction between the agency of people playing the game. So yes.


Somehow I missed this. Can you point to how "provide guidance" became "railroading"?Its in the "()", I've seen it used that way by Darth Ultron a number of occasions.


Railroading can refer to merely the act of restricting player agency.I think one important point of distinction (that not everyone agrees with but I feel is important), is whether that lack of agency is part of the game presentation. If you present, "let's play Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy, table top edition" and it is mostly linear, that is fine. However if you present "grand open ended adventure" and then play it like a CRPG, that is railroading because you have taken away player (non-GM) agency, instead of having them give up some willingly.

For me the thing about railroads has always been the tracks, the forcing back onto the preplanned path, so that is where a lot of this comes from.

Pleh
2017-09-24, 07:42 AM
That's the point. If I walk up to you and punch you in the fact,

How strangely applicable this typo is to this forum.

Punching people in the fact.


I think one important point of distinction (that not everyone agrees with but I feel is important), is whether that lack of agency is part of the game presentation. If you present, "let's play Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy, table top edition" and it is mostly linear, that is fine. However if you present "grand open ended adventure" and then play it like a CRPG, that is railroading because you have taken away player (non-GM) agency, instead of having them give up some willingly.

I agree except I place the emphasis on communication of game expectations rather than just what the game actually is.

It *is* fine to have a game with linear, limited player agency when the players agree in good spirit. This should be established before the game begins. Failing to make this expectation clear is a communication foul on the DM, unless the player lies about being okay with the DM's restrictions on the game.

But the thing that makes this the DM's fault by default is that open player agency is assumed in the game's construction. Taking that away is something the players allow a DM to do when they agree to play, not something a DM has a right to do without providing advanced notice.

The Extinguisher
2017-09-24, 09:19 AM
How strangely applicable this typo is to this forum.

Punching people in the fact.



I agree except I place the emphasis on communication of game expectations rather than just what the game actually is.

It *is* fine to have a game with linear, limited player agency when the players agree in good spirit. This should be established before the game begins. Failing to make this expectation clear is a communication foul on the DM, unless the player lies about being okay with the DM's restrictions on the game.

But the thing that makes this the DM's fault by default is that open player agency is assumed in the game's construction. Taking that away is something the players allow a DM to do when they agree to play, not something a DM has a right to do without providing advanced notice.

I disagree with this. If the players are expecting a sandbox, and the GM gives them something linear, the players are just as guilty as the GM because no one talked it about it.

Assuming game expectations is how this problem begins in the first place it's irresponsible to put one set of expectations as a "default" just talk about what kind of game you want to play first!

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-24, 09:36 AM
Railroading can refer to merely the act of restricting player agency. There is a difference between appropriate or excessive restriction of player agency. If I play a lovecraftian horror game I am generally accepting a tighter restriction on player agency as a consequence of the creation of the powerlessness theme of the genre. If I play a sandbox D&D game I am expecting enough player agency to allow for the PCs to pursue their own active goals.

Of course the specific difference between appropriate and excessive railroading is clear to most people that actually communicate with the DM/players in their group. This is why "railroading" commonly only refers to the negative connotation subset.



I have 3 issues with calling it that
1) Railroading(neutral connotation) already covers a lot of what DU wants to not call railroading. The current term allows for easy description and subclassification. The last thread included subcategories like road (at each node the PCs get to make meaningful choices from a short list of paths) vs station (you are railroaded from node to node but otherwise have sandbox level agency at each node).
2) Continuing to cover it with railroading(neutral connotation) silences several of DU's strawmen while being easy to understand for people stumbling upon DU for the first time.
3) "DM Agency" is not a descriptive term. The DM can do anything that they don't choose to not be able to do.


"Railroading" specifically deals with unjustified limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not grounded in setting fact or campaign premise. There is no neutral connotation. There is no such thing as "appropriate railroading".

If a player has a normal human PC, and says "I'm jumping up to the roof" of a 10-story building, then GM saying "No, you're playing a normal human being without a jump pack or whatever" is not railroading, and is not a violation of player agency.

If a group openly decides on a certain setup and premise and setting up-front, no one gets to cry "player agency!" or "railroading!" when their attempt to grossly violate that premise is shot down mid-campaign. If the campaign is set in Rome during the waning days of the Republic, and everyone agreed to it, no trying to invent an electrical grid and firearms.

Player agency does not mean "the player gets to do whatever they want".

OldTrees1
2017-09-24, 10:56 AM
I think one important point of distinction (that not everyone agrees with but I feel is important), is whether that lack of agency is part of the game presentation. If you present, "let's play Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy, table top edition" and it is mostly linear, that is fine. However if you present "grand open ended adventure" and then play it like a CRPG, that is railroading because you have taken away player (non-GM) agency, instead of having them give up some willingly.

For me the thing about railroads has always been the tracks, the forcing back onto the preplanned path, so that is where a lot of this comes from.

I think that is an important distinction between kinds of railroading*.

If the game is presented as following a predetermined CRPG linear plot, and the group agrees to that restriction, and the party mistakenly loses the plot, and the DM forces them back onto the preplanned path, I suspect the group would be fine with that bit of railroading (perhaps depending on how it was handled).

*although if it is due to player buy in for the restrained agency then it also applies to some other cases.


"Railroading" specifically deals with unjustified limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not grounded in setting fact or campaign premise. There is no neutral connotation. There is no such thing as "appropriate railroading".

If a player has a normal human PC, and says "I'm jumping up to the roof" of a 10-story building, then GM saying "No, you're playing a normal human being without a jump pack or whatever" is not railroading, and is not a violation of player agency.

If a group openly decides on a certain setup and premise and setting up-front, no one gets to cry "player agency!" or "railroading!" when their attempt to grossly violate that premise is shot down mid-campaign. If the campaign is set in Rome during the waning days of the Republic, and everyone agreed to it, no trying to invent an electrical grid and firearms.

Player agency does not mean "the player gets to do whatever they want".

First:
Your last 3 paragraphs suggest you think I am arguing "the player gets to do whatever they want" (I am not).
Or that by suggesting also having a neutral connotation term that I am somehow suggesting crying foul with the negative connotation term outside of its purview. I am not.

Please read the rest of this post under the temporary assumption (unless proven otherwise) that we generally agree and I am merely talking about a broader neutral connotation term of which the negative connotation railroading is a subset.

Second:
What word do you use to describe the "limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not grounded in setting fact"?

I can talk about the Quantum Ogre and how it is generally disliked but that some players either don't mind or even enjoy variations of the Quantum Ogre (ex: imagine the "Ogre" is a clue to the investigation). However I can only do that because the Quantum Ogre is term with both a neutral(discussing what it is) and a negative(discussing why the many dislike it) connotation.

Neutral connotation terms have the benefit of allowing people to dissect & discuss them to find what part and point they personally dislike or that someone in their group personally dislikes. Maybe the player dislikes the strain on verisimilitude from the Ogre being in a superposition. The reason can inform the group as to what causes or avoids the issue. Maybe the player dislikes illusions of choice. Maybe the player dislikes their plans failing without a chance. Maybe the player merely dislikes the DM hiding it. Maybe the player dislikes the use of a superposition when one was not needed to get the effect. Maybe the player only dislikes it when covering a large geographic range and a short temporal range.

So if I ask you to talk about a specific something you would personally call railroading(negative connotation) at your table but instead have you talk about it in the context of an arbitrary group that might or might not dislike it, what term would you use for the topic of the discussion?

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-24, 11:52 AM
What word do you use to describe the "limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not grounded in setting fact"?


That IS railroading -- I just said that. ""Railroading" specifically deals with unjustified limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not (those) grounded in setting fact or campaign premise."




I can talk about the Quantum Ogre and how it is generally disliked but that some players either don't mind or even enjoy variations of the Quantum Ogre (ex: imagine the "Ogre" is a clue to the investigation). However I can only do that because the Quantum Ogre is term with both a neutral (discussing what it is) and a negative (discussing why the many dislike it) connotation.

Neutral connotation terms have the benefit of allowing people to dissect & discuss them to find what part and point they personally dislike or that someone in their group personally dislikes. Maybe the player dislikes the strain on verisimilitude from the Ogre being in a superposition. The reason can inform the group as to what causes or avoids the issue.

Maybe the player dislikes illusions of choice. Maybe the player dislikes their plans failing without a chance. Maybe the player merely dislikes the DM hiding it. Maybe the player dislikes the use of a superposition when one was not needed to get the effect. Maybe the player only dislikes it when covering a large geographic range and a short temporal range.


So if I ask you to talk about a specific something you would personally call railroading (negative connotation) at your table but instead have you talk about it in the context of an arbitrary group that might or might not dislike it, what term would you use for the topic of the discussion?


"Railroading."

There are other terms that fill in the broader topic.

I don't need to find a way for "murder" to be a more neutral term, when there are other words that cover other specific circumstances of a one person killing another person.


Edit:


First:
Your last 3 paragraphs suggest you think I am arguing "the player gets to do whatever they want" (I am not).
Or that by suggesting also having a neutral connotation term that I am somehow suggesting crying foul with the negative connotation term outside of its purview. I am not.


I don't think you think that player agency means "the player gets to do whatever they want.

That mistaken premise is however core to DU's false dichotomy that pits "railroading" against "total chaos" as a binary choice.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-24, 01:29 PM
It probably says more about me than it does about you that I have a hard time envisioning these two statements working in harmony. See, I hear, "Imma play by the rules, but Imma change the rules at will". And that's indistinguishable from Calvin Ball.

The problem you might be having is you really do think of the Rules as Almighty. Page 12 of book one has rule 22 and you must do that and you bow down and do so. Or you might just be one of the people that just oddly say something, but then don't exactly follow through on it all the time. After all, just about every gamer has changed at least one thing. But you might be that one guy that is like ''your character picked up a rock, remember to adjust your encumbrance''.

Or you might not get that not changing ''rules'' like HP, levels and Bab is different then adding a new spell to the game and ''changing the rules''.



The guard example is a good one, imo. It's a great example of GM Agency in practice. And it's one where I'm in 99% agreement with you. That 1% difference is that the players might have a little bit of agency to influence the probability of a particular outcome, though, if they know the guard rotation, and know and measure / manipulate the factors which contribute to guard attentiveness. Or, heck, in some cases, just mentioning to the GM, "hey, what are the odds that...".

I'm all for the characters trying to scheme and plot and plan and try and change things by playing the game. Though the actions do get mixed up in the whole player agency/railroading. Where like the players come up with a ''clever idea'' to light a bush on fire, about ten feet from the door, to distract the guards away from the door. The players, inexplicably, think the guards will stand by the fire for like an hour and ignore/not see when the group go through the door. And when the DM says something like ''um, the guards notice the nine foot tall warforged player character that walks just eight feet behind them'', the players cry ''railroad!''.



I'm not personally a fan of the Narrative style of games where the players can just say, "and there are X guards, and their attentiveness is Y, because Z", any more than I'm a fan of (community definition) Railroad games. But games played in that style generally involve a loss of GM Agency, and a potential loss of player agency, too. Hmmm... I guess I'm just an Agency guy.

I'd say ''narrative games'' (your definition) are not even really ''games'', just some sort of ''wish fulfillment''.



I'm starting to like the "GM Agency" concept... It rather succinctly explains part of what irks me about players having narrative currency.

I like it too.



That's fair - you don't say outcomes, and that's my baggage.

It is hard to let go of the old ways sometimes....



But, that having been said, I'm struggling to grasp what a GM would change that inherently wouldn't affect the outcome.

Again, you might be stuck on the idea that ''the DM is changing things to effect the outcome'' again. Think of an encounter in spot X, the players by ''natural game flow'' are going right past it, so the DM uses a bit of DM Agency to have the characters got to spot X. The characters ''will have'' the encounter, but there is no set outcome.



Probably because, thus far, I've identified that the GM can change the rules, the facts, or the rolls to railroad, and, in whatever conversation we were having, I was referring to the first one.

Except it is more the game play, but not ''the rules''. The ''rules'' don't say ''what do the two guards to the back door of Castle Doom do at 11 pm ". That is all just the ''DM's call''.

And you get the jerk player who has their character say, cast charm person on an npc. The DM says ''it does not work'' and the player scrams ''railroad!'' pulls out the ''rules'' and demands that the charm person spell works ''just like the rules say it does''. Though there are plenty of reasons, even ''in the rules'' why anything might not work.



Well, as you probably could tell from my description of a sandbox, I believe in creating the, hmmm, let's call it "illusion of natural beauty", much like you do, while still having an artificial focus. For example, a sandbox with "family style" figures, or a political game with political characters and political conflicts. But, where we differ is, I'm not interested in maintaining the artificial nature of the setting once play begins. Once the game starts, I sit back and let it grow.

Except, maybe you don't. Take the yard example. You set up and create your yard to look like ''natural beauty''. Then you would say you ''just let it grow''. And you can ''let it grow'', but only to a point. The ''real'' natural way things happen might not all ways meet your ''idea natural way''. Like if the bushes grow too high, they will block most of the view of the yard, so naturally you trim the bushes to below that level. If a storm or a deer destroys some plants do you just shrug or do you replace them? Take a garden. You could drop some seeds, let them grow naturally, and come back after a while and see what food grew. Or you could plant them, water them, care for them as they grow and get a good food crop.

The game is the same. The games artificial nature must be maintained.



Now, you're right - if a tree falls, and blocks the driveway... well, if the group agrees that the game would best be served by removing said tree, ok, fine. Otherwise, I'll just leave it.

This bit might go a bit beyond the yard analogy. It is easy when a group of people all agree that X should be done. The tricky part is when only one person knows why X should be done and everyone in the group does not have the same power level and knowledge of all things.



Or, returning to the physical sandbox example, if the child only puts up one adult figure, or puts up 3, I may ask about the anomaly, but I'm not about to "fix" their representation of their family.

This again sounds good, and you can tell your special kid that ''a family is whatever''...but this is a bit of a slope as you do what to teach the kid the ''right'' things, but still allow them ''wacky freedom''. So if the kid has a man and unicorn married, you might say something so they understand ''only people get married''.




I hear "player agency" and I think of a set of actions a player may choose to enact (or attempt.

I hear "DM agency" in this context and all I hear is arguments for limiting player agency.

But ask yourself why?

The players are all ways poor beaten down losers who were forced to play lots of bad games that were meaningless in the past and they are just holding out for a small ray of light where they can play a game and choose to try and act and do something meaningful.

The DM is all ways a mean evil tyrant who is always trying to capture the players and forcing them to jump through the hoops of their game while he laughs.



While the DM is a player who should have fun, too, their primary role is referee, mediating between the players and the rules. It's not so much the DM's job to limit player agency, but only to keep it from violating the rules. Likewise, they protect player agency from the rules, overturning rules to suit the adventure.

Are you defining ''player agency'' here to mean ''if the player takes any action''. Because in a normal game, the DM will all ways limit ''actions a player's character can take''.



But the point of limiting player agency as a DM shouldn't be excused simply as "DM agency." The point is to honor the rules.

Again, everyone must drop ''the rules''. It is not about the rules. There is no rule that says if a door is locked or not...there is just the DM ''saying'' it. The players can't open a rule book and say ''the back door to the evil lords castle is open as page 88 says it is open''.



The party are the heroes of the story. Even if you made the world, the story is about them. Any "DM agency" not directed towards helping players take their characters where the player wants to take them... would probably be better off just writing the book they clearly care more about.

The book jab, really? Well, then your type of Player Agency is for selfish jerk players who should say home and write their own book where they can be the hero of their own story. See, how that works both ways.


I'm not certain what concept "DM Agency" represents. I'm fairly certain that literally no one has ever proposed that a DM cannot do things, that's just a tiresome strawman. We also don't need a term to represent the fact that a DM is, in fact, allowed to breathe air during a session.

Well, it is a useful counter to the hostile Player Agency and avoids the use of the word Railroad.


Clearly you don't understand, because "you don't like player buy in" has absolutely nothing to with what I posted other than sharing some of the same words.

Except where you did say you don't like it, right?



I've never seen anyone make that assertion in these "discussions", except for when you're claiming that someone else (who didn't say it) said it. It's not an assertion that people are making, just one that you keep trying to claim they're making.

Well, this is a forest through the trees problem. Anyone ''in'' the forest can't see it. They say things like ''the DM is just a player like the players'' and they are ''just there to abdicate rules in the players favor'' and ''react to the player characters in only the ways the players want and approve of''.


Why?

There's no such thing as "good railroading".

It's like murder -- "good murder" isn't murder in the first place.

Well, maybe take the word ''killing'' then. Killing can be good or bad.


Right, if it's made by the rules and still possible to open even if it's difficult.

I would note this is a bit of Player Agency hostility to say ''everything must be made the way I want it made''. Like there should be no impossible things in the game world. But then anything that is ''too hard'' or even just ''hard'' is ''impossible'', right?



Not necessarily. It's borderline, yeah, but might still be okay.
I think there's a line somewhere in a manual that says "sure, you might not have prepared for the players to enter the lair that way, but the ancient and paranoid lich that lives there probably has". In other words "if it makes sense, you can improvise to spice up the game". Although you should do it sparingly.

Again, there is no reason things can not be impossible, near impossible or so hard to do that they might as well be impossible. Sometimes things just can't be done.

And this is even more true once you set aside the ''rules'', sigh again, and focus on the Role Play more. And in role play, somethings will always be impossible. NPC Joe will not surrender...ever...no matter what. So no matter what wacky plan the Pcs come up with...the NPC will not surrender. Period.



And to address your other point: no it's not "caving in" to the players and giving them everything for free. They still have to work for it. If they don't have the right spells, or if they fail the lockpicking check, no treasure for them.

Well, your talking about ''the rules'' only....so sure, some of the time, most things should be a challenge and all ways be maybe possible for a character to do. But, again, there is no reason things can not be impossible, near impossible or so hard to do that they might as well be impossible. Sometimes things just can't be done.

Zarrgon
2017-09-24, 01:35 PM
I disagree with this (to a point).

It's the GM's responsibility to allow meaningful choices to be made.

it's the player's responsibility to make choices that lead to something fun happening.

My group might seem a bit railroad-ey to some, but we enjoy it as we accept that taking the intro to an adventure the GM gives us is a reasonable compromise. We're trading a certain level of 'freedom' for a a better chance of doing something cool.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-24, 02:15 PM
Its in the "()", I've seen it used that way by Darth Ultron a number of occasions.

It depends if you count ''DM Oracle'' as Railroading. If the short little Dungeon Master guy in a red robe steps out from behind a tree and tells the characters something...is that railroading?



For me the thing about railroads has always been the tracks, the forcing back onto the preplanned path, so that is where a lot of this comes from.

Yes, moving events along the plot.


It *is* fine to have a game with linear, limited player agency when the players agree in good spirit. This should be established before the game begins. Failing to make this expectation clear is a communication foul on the DM, unless the player lies about being okay with the DM's restrictions on the game.

Assuming everyone gets together for a game and hugs and drinks tea together: How do you ''establish'' this before the game?

Is it just the DM, mostly falsely, laying down on the ground and saying "I won't railroad you guys, promise!'' and then all the players ''believe '' the DM? So then when anything happens in the game that the players on a whim don't like...they don't cry ''railroad, as their good buddy DM said he would not do that."


"Railroading" specifically deals with unjustified limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not grounded in setting fact or campaign premise. There is no neutral connotation. There is no such thing as "appropriate railroading".

''Unjustified'' to who? Just the players? Your going back to ''if the players don't like it, it is railroading."



Player agency does not mean "the player gets to do whatever they want".

Sure, by what about any example not like your simple ones? Like, ok, first off utterly and completely without any rule basis at all, just pure Role Playing (assuming the rules don't apply or the character simply does not have the skill/ability/whatever to ''use'' the rules).

If a character (using no rules remember) attempts to persuade the Queen of the Realm to avoid a war, and nothing will change her mind, is that railroading?

Or if a character (again, using no rules) starts a fire to distract the door guards, and the guards ignore the fire, is it railroading?


I don't need to find a way for "murder" to be a more neutral term, when there are other words that cover other specific circumstances of a one person killing another person.


Well, the Law does recognize six types of murder. .....

Cluedrew
2017-09-24, 02:52 PM
NPC Joe will not surrender...ever...no matter what. So no matter what wacky plan the Pcs come up with...the NPC will not surrender. Period.Even if you take away the reason he is not surrendering, put him in a position where not surrendering is actually harmful to their cause and surrendering is beneficial to it?


It depends if you count ''DM Oracle'' as Railroading. If the short little Dungeon Master guy in a red robe steps out from behind a tree and tells the characters something...is that railroading?No, but if they must heed the advice it probably is. Which is actually different from their being bad consequences if they don't follow the advice.


Yes, moving events along the plot.Actually the rails are the part that stops the plot from moving along. Only until the party travels between the rails down the track, which in this metaphor means along the pre-planned plot.

For example lets say some noble do gooder acquired an artifact (as a curiosity) that the party is looking for to help save the world. Considering that the party usually players the "not very heroic heroes" kind you expect them to steal it and make an enemy out of the noble. So you write some hooks in your ark about how the robbery would go and the problems the noble will cause them. But instead they decide to make the noble an offer s/he can't refuse. A generous, but not ridiculous, sum for the artifact and a third party that the noble trusts to vouch that the party is (on the whole) good people and they would be using the artifact for good.

What do you do?
Does the noble refuse to sell it for no reason so the party has to steal it?
Does the noble sell the artifact but resent them anyways?
Does the noble sell it and a suspiciously similar one who doesn't like them appear?
Does the noble sell the artifact and the party gets on with saving the world?

OldTrees1
2017-09-24, 02:56 PM
I don't think you think that player agency means "the player gets to do whatever they want.

That mistaken premise is however core to DU's false dichotomy that pits "railroading" against "total chaos" as a binary choice.

Good. Since you don't think I believe that drek and neither of us is deluded by DU's false dichotomies, we can ignore all of that DU slag.


That IS railroading -- I just said that. ""Railroading" specifically deals with unjustified limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not (those) grounded in setting fact or campaign premise."


"Railroading."

There are other terms that fill in the broader topic.

I don't need to find a way for "murder" to be a more neutral term, when there are other words that cover other specific circumstances of a one person killing another person.


You defined "Railroad" as "'Railroading' specifically deals with unjustified limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not (those) grounded in setting fact or campaign premise."

Under that context, I asked what word you used for "limits/blocking/forcing that arise from GM whim, not (those) grounded in setting fact"

You might notice I am asking a slightly different question.

To ask a similar question:
If you call unjustified Quantum Ogres as Railroading(negative connotation), what do you call non unjustified Quantum Ogres?

To go off the Murder analogy: Murder is to Railroading(negative connotation) as Killing is to ______?


Why is having such a concept important?
Different players start calling things Railroading(negative connotation) at different times. One of DU's tactics has been to get a Sandbox player to call something as Railroading(negative connotation) and then use that against someone that plays in more restricted games. If the second player does not call it railroading, then DU claims this proved the word has no meaning (as DU just did in response to your post). If the second player does call it railroading, then DU claims that proves all DMs railroad. All of this disingenuous tactic is nullified by having a way to talk about what the DM did (ex:saved a missed module for another place another day) separate from what the group considers unjustified railroading vs non unjustified _____.

Avian Overlord
2017-09-24, 04:51 PM
I suspect many of you may find this (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/36900/roleplaying-games/the-railroading-manifesto) to be of interest.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-24, 05:17 PM
I suspect many of you may find this (http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/36900/roleplaying-games/the-railroading-manifesto) to be of interest.


The Alexandrian gives an excellent summary of some of the nuances, and provides yet another erudite voice in opposition to multiple extreme undefinitions of railroading.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-24, 05:51 PM
Even if you take away the reason he is not surrendering, put him in a position where not surrendering is actually harmful to their cause and surrendering is beneficial to it?


Right you can spin ''what ifs'' for ever, but that is not the point.



For example lets say some noble....
What do you do?

Well, this is a bit of an odd question as A) I would have done the set up way better and B) that I somehow don't know the players at all. But:

1.It does seem reasonable to me that a noble do gooder ''good guy'' might refuse to deal with some ''not so good people''. So that is more then enough of a reason for the ''no sale''. Unless the thingy the Pc's ''somehow'' got was like a good artifact or a family heirloom of his family or something like that.

2.Also seems reasonable, but a bit pointless, so why bother.

3.Not sure what you mean by this one?

4.Sure.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-24, 06:42 PM
I think one of the oddities of DU's expression of Railroading is that he thinks it has to do with how events HAPPEN instead of how they RESOLVE.

For example, if my players have pissed off Devora, godling of The Wild Hunt, then Devora will do something about it and screw them over. Obviously. This isn't railroading because something is HAPPENING but nothing is Resolving.

If Devora attacks and what WILL happen is one of the PCs will be kidnapped, then that IS railroading because it deals with a situation RESOLVING.

That and it misses the Social issue and replaces it with game issues.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-24, 08:52 PM
I think one of the oddities of DU's expression of Railroading is that he thinks it has to do with how events HAPPEN instead of how they RESOLVE.


More accurately I count both as railroading. But I also don't think it is Badwrongfun to have a set resolution.

So there is a huge disconnect as ''others'' think everything all the time must be free and wild and crazy based on the whim of the players and anything the wacky players want to happen and the DM should be be a reacting robot and do what the loopy ''setting demigod voices'' tell them to do.

But everyone all ways goes for full ''think like a Jerk DM'' mode and thinks that if even one thing in one game ever is ''set'', then everything in all games will be ''set'' forever badwrongfun!

But I think of it more like ''time travel theory'' where some things are set, and somethings are not.

Drakevarg
2017-09-24, 08:59 PM
So there is a huge disconnect as ''others'' think everything all the time must be free and wild and crazy based on the whim of the players and anything the wacky players want to happen and the DM should be be a reacting robot and do what the loopy ''setting demigod voices'' tell them to do.

But everyone all ways goes for full ''think like a Jerk DM'' mode and thinks that if even one thing in one game ever is ''set'', then everything in all games will be ''set'' forever badwrongfun!

Literally nobody has been making this argument, which is why people have been saying your definitions are absurd.

Cluedrew
2017-09-24, 09:12 PM
Right you can spin ''what ifs'' for ever, but that is not the point.Two things:
What is the point? (Yes, I know, we all ask ourselves that.)
You can call it a what if, but I've seen it come up quite naturally in campaigns.
Well, this is a bit of an odd question as A) I would have done the set up way better and B) that I somehow don't know the players at all. But:
[...]
4.Sure.Well you got the correct answer (so to speak) but if by better you mean "has less room for the players to do something unexpected" you are kind of missing the point.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-24, 09:39 PM
More accurately I count both as railroading. But I also don't think it is Badwrongfun to have a set resolution.

So there is a huge disconnect as ''others'' think everything all the time must be free and wild and crazy based on the whim of the players and anything the wacky players want to happen and the DM should be be a reacting robot and do what the loopy ''setting demigod voices'' tell them to do.

Your strawmen are inaccurate and tiresome.
Not to mention ineffective.



But everyone all ways goes for full ''think like a Jerk DM'' mode and thinks that if even one thing in one game ever is ''set'', then everything in all games will be ''set'' forever badwrongfun!
This is one of those hilarious times where you contradict yourself without noticing and demolish your previous arguments.
Previously, you argued that defining railroading as a particular bad thing is only occuring for the minority.
Now it's everyone.
Hmmmmmm....



But I think of it more like ''time travel theory'' where some things are set, and somethings are not.
That is in no way how timetravel works, and there are no actual theories that say this. Which is tangential, but still funny.

In fact, there are entire lists of Paradoxes that come up due to the fact that even the tiniest change has large-scale ramifications going forward, and these changes would cause the future you're coming back from to stop existing. So, ironically, actual timetravel theories have more in common with how people run sandboxes than what you describe here. Hilarious.

Castiel1
2017-09-24, 10:43 PM
I, as PC, I just have two things to say:

Let us do something unexpected. For instance, as long as slaying the vampire without using it's secret weakness that would have taken me months to find otherwise doesn't give me control of the universe, it's fine, right?

Roleplaying games are better than video games because they allow creativity. When there is only one solution to a problem, creativity is gone and you may as well play on your phone.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-24, 11:57 PM
So there is a huge disconnect as ''others'' think everything all the time must be free and wild and crazy based on the whim of the players and anything the wacky players want to happen and the DM should be be a reacting robot and do what the loopy ''setting demigod voices'' tell them to do.


The only person saying anything like that is you, when you try (and fail) to put it in other people's mouths. No one else actually thinks that, it's entirely a strawman of your own invention.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-25, 07:17 AM
Literally nobody has been making this argument, which is why people have been saying your definitions are absurd.

So when people say ''players must have player agency all the time'', what are they saying? And if your answer will be the vague ''they must be able to make beautiful, meaningfull contributions to the game'', you will also need to explain what you mean by that .

The problem is: DM says X and player cries railroad! you are taking away my special agency...the only thing this can mean is the DM can't do X and must do Y(whatever the player demands).



Two things
What is the point? (Yes, I know, we all ask ourselves that.)

The point I was making is that some things in a game will be set. X is X, Y is Y and that is it. No amount of whining or complain will change that. I used the example of ''Fighter Kon'', who will never, ever surrender. Lets call it example A. Then you suggest example B ''what if this and that'', and it is valid and you can have infinite more examples. But it does not take away from example A. You could have example b, c, d, and on and on.....but example a still stands.



You can call it a what if, but I've seen it come up quite naturally in campaigns.Well you got the correct answer (so to speak) but if by better you mean "has less room for the players to do something unexpected" you are kind of missing the point.

The ''spin'' gets more into the paladin problem of ''once someone sets something, someone will come up with a way to abuse it''. It's the classic ''well ok your paladin kill a helpless innocent good person to save a world"

The problem with such discussions is often the what ifs , as person A says something and instead of responding to that, they go way off and say what about B? And sure B is great and all, but what about A.

A better way would be to respond to A (like to say I agree and can except that a character might never surrender and that is set) and then say what about B?



That is in no way how timetravel works, and there are no actual theories that say this. Which is tangential, but still funny.


Gosh so your Word Lord of the 'Net and a time travel expert...wow.

You might want to go back to time travel school......lots of fictional time travel has the ''fate/meant to be'' idea of ''fixed points'' that can not be changed. To name some fiction that does this is Quantum Leap, Doctor Who and Timeless.


I, as PC, I just have two things to say:

Let us do something unexpected. For instance, as long as slaying the vampire without using it's secret weakness that would have taken me months to find otherwise doesn't give me control of the universe, it's fine, right?

Roleplaying games are better than video games because they allow creativity. When there is only one solution to a problem, creativity is gone and you may as well play on your phone.

I agree. The thing is that it is not just about ''creative'' players, it is about an over all fun game.


The only person saying anything like that is you, when you try (and fail) to put it in other people's mouths. No one else actually thinks that, it's entirely a strawman of your own invention.

Well, again, people do say (demand) that players must (at all times) be able to make ''creative'' choices that specifically target the DMs choices, attack them and invalidate them in favor of the players choice. Just about everyone says this (but they don't use the ''big words''). Scroll up and surf around.

Example from above: DM makes a vampire with a secret weakness for the characters to find and use (DM's choice). Player demands that ''our super clever idea of using fire is not only possible but automatically works!''(Player's choice).

It's really amazing as ''everyone'' says the Dm's choices and wishes do not matter, but the players choices and wishes matter more then anything and don't get that is wrong.

If a DM says ''the guard is awake and the door is locked'' why is that Badwrongfun Railroading as the DM is taking away the ''player choice agency'' as the DM is preventing the characters from going through the door. But if the players demand ''the guard is asleep and the door is unlocked'' then it is all good..

The only Max example you ever gave is suggesting your a OOC type DM that just tells the players everything and asks them to do or not do stuff. ''Come on bros, I did not make up Castle FearDoom, so please don't go there !"

Scripten
2017-09-25, 08:05 AM
So when people say ''players must have player agency all the time'', what are they saying? And if your answer will be the vague ''they must be able to make beautiful, meaningfull contributions to the game'', you will also need to explain what you mean by that .

Yes, the players should ALWAYS have complete control over their characters' attempted actions. Nobody ever said anything about them automatically succeeding. That's yet another of your strawman arguments.


The problem is: DM says X and player cries railroad! you are taking away my special agency...the only thing this can mean is the DM can't do X and must do Y(whatever the player demands).

Nobody is arguing that the players should be given anything. Another strawman. Stop putting words in other peoples' mouths.



I agree. The thing is that it is not just about ''creative'' players, it is about an over all fun game.


Considering your dismissive attitude and general antipathy against players, one would have ample reason to find this statement suspect.



Well, again, people do say (demand) that players must (at all times) be able to make ''creative'' choices that specifically target the DMs choices, attack them and invalidate them in favor of the players choice. Just about everyone says this (but they don't use the ''big words''). Scroll up and surf around.

Example from above: DM makes a vampire with a secret weakness for the characters to find and use (DM's choice). Player demands that ''our super clever idea of using fire is not only possible but automatically works!''(Player's choice).


Yes, because "read the DM's mind and figure out the one and only way to kill this particular vampire" is so much more fun. If the players, through knowledge checks or reading IC, find out that vampires in general are burnt by sunlight, then spend several sessions setting up a trap for the vampire to expose him to light and keep him there until he dies, then DM saying, "Oh, well GOTCHA! My super special vampire is immune to sunlight because he invented SPF 2000 sunscreen" is going to smell like BS, no matter how long ago you thought of it.

And yes, that's a hyperbolic example, but I can guarantee that your players see through nearly all of your similar actions as a DM. Of course, I'm not sure why I spent any effort trying to write this because you won't get the point, like usual, and will misrepresent everything I've said as you do. *shrug*


If a DM says ''the guard is awake and the door is locked'' why is that Badwrongfun Railroading as the DM is taking away the ''player choice agency'' as the DM is preventing the characters from going through the door. But if the players demand ''the guard is asleep and the door is unlocked'' then it is all good..


Oh, look, another tired strawman. What a surprise.

Nobody has suggested that the players tell the DM what is happening. The suggestion was that the players would wait for the changing of the guard and would pick the lock. But you can't argue with even the barest smidgen of intellectual honesty so why do I bother?


The only Max example you ever gave is suggesting your a OOC type DM that just tells the players everything and asks them to do or not do stuff. ''Come on bros, I did not make up Castle FearDoom, so please don't go there !"

Oh look, another insulting, dismissive strawman. The argument was that the DM ask the players to wait a few minutes for the DM to think about how to arbitrate an unexpected action realistically.

I don't think I've ever seen such a fantastic roleplay of The Simpsons' comic book guy before.

ImNotTrevor
2017-09-25, 08:49 AM
Gosh so your Word Lord of the 'Net and a time travel expert...wow.
If knowing literally one thing more about actual scientific theories about time travel makes me an expert, then the title must be relative.



You might want to go back to time travel school......lots of fictional time travel has the ''fate/meant to be'' idea of ''fixed points'' that can not be changed. To name some fiction that does this is Quantum Leap, Doctor Who and Timeless.

Ah, so you meant Fictional Time-Travel Tropes, not Time Travel Theory.

Get your terms straight.



I agree. The thing is that it is not just about ''creative'' players, it is about an over all fun game.




Well, again, people do say (demand) that players must (at all times) be able to make ''creative'' choices that specifically target the DMs choices, attack them and invalidate them in favor of the players choice. Just about everyone says this (but they don't use the ''big words''). Scroll up and surf around.
This is an uneven comparison.
The DM has power and narrative authority out the wazoo. Using it to absolutely dominate everything about the game is baby-level easy. Hell, it's what most actual children do if you out them in the DM seat. What you're arguing for is that the DM should only ever absolutely dominate but do it from secret. Which is still exactly the same thing.
Stabbing someone from behind or from the front is still stabbing.



Example from above: DM makes a vampire with a secret weakness for the characters to find and use (DM's choice). Player demands that ''our super clever idea of using fire is not only possible but automatically works!''(Player's choice).
Still not what that person said.



It's really amazing as ''everyone'' says the Dm's choices and wishes do not matter, but the players choices and wishes matter more then anything and don't get that is wrong.
Literally no one is saying this. What IS being said is that the DM's narrative authority can be shared in bits and pieces without it being entirely stampeded over and rendered moot. There are more choices than "the birthday boy eats all the cake" and "the birthday boy eats no cake."



If a DM says ''the guard is awake and the door is locked'' why is that Badwrongfun Railroading as the DM is taking away the ''player choice agency'' as the DM is preventing the characters from going through the door. But if the players demand ''the guard is asleep and the door is unlocked'' then it is all good..

The first isn't railroading unless the guard is unrealistically immune to all attempts to distract or eliminate him, and the door is made of Unbreakatonium and has a lockpick from The Prison Unending which even the God of Thieves cannot pick.
If the point is to maintain the option to return later, then having a decently high DC for these tasks is fine (though the Guard being much stronger than the PCs makes me wonder why the PCs aren't just training to be guards, since that seems to provide better levelling).
BUT if the point is to stamp your feet and say "No! We play MY WAY" then you're a railroading manchild. Since your arguments fall into the latter category, here we are. To summarize:
All your complaints essentially boil down to "I don't want to share my toys, because sharing one toy is sharing ALL MY TOYS." Which is factually incorrect and also childish.
Like I've said many times, the real problem people have with railroading is only tangentially related to the game and directly related to the social stigma of the person who has a lot of power swinging that power around like a weaponized phallus and crying whenever someone prefers they please not.




The only Max example you ever gave is suggesting your a OOC type DM that just tells the players everything and asks them to do or not do stuff. ''Come on bros, I did not make up Castle FearDoom, so please don't go there !"
There is literally nothing wrong with stating that you have no material in a given area. >.>
Except maybe the players get the strange impression that their DM is a human being! OH NOOOOO! (Though, their capacity to see you might have hinted at that.)

Pleh
2017-09-25, 09:11 AM
I disagree with this. If the players are expecting a sandbox, and the GM gives them something linear, the players are just as guilty as the GM because no one talked it about it.

Assuming game expectations is how this problem begins in the first place it's irresponsible to put one set of expectations as a "default" just talk about what kind of game you want to play first!

I see it this way: the players create a PC for the game, then present the character for approval by the DM and the party.

Who does the DM play? The game itself. They have choices between which game options to put into their game, whether to make the game linearly focused or highly adaptable.

While it's fine for a few details to be witheld for the element of surprise, the general layout of the game is the DM's responsibility to announce to the table.

In my solution, no "assuming game expectations" happens, because all players inform each other what to expect so nothing need be assumed.

Max_Killjoy
2017-09-25, 09:23 AM
Well, again, people do say (demand) that players must (at all times) be able to make ''creative'' choices that specifically target the DMs choices, attack them and invalidate them in favor of the players choice. Just about everyone says this (but they don't use the ''big words''). Scroll up and surf around.


I have (read just about every post on every one of these threads). No one is saying what you claim they're saying.

What I can't tell is if you really truly believe that they are saying those things because you see it through a unique lens of interpreting players not following your predetermined path as an "attack" on your "choices"... or if you've dug yourself a hole and simply refuse to keep digging no matter how hot and dark it gets down there.

The GM gets to play the entire world, with one tiny exception -- the PCs. The PCs belong to the players, but that doesn't mean they have say over the world beyond their characters' ability to impact it. The PCs "die" and the game ends the moment the GM decides that rocks fall. Trying to make this about "GM choice" or "GM agency" is a red herring and a farce.




Example from above: DM makes a vampire with a secret weakness for the characters to find and use (DM's choice). Player demands that ''our super clever idea of using fire is not only possible but automatically works!''(Player's choice).


Fire is a common vulnerability for most things, even if the vampire doesn't have a special added weakness to it. (It's kinda like a stake through the heart... it stops most things, vampire or not.)

If the PCs do their research and make their rolls well, and vampires are widely reported as being extra-vulnerable to fire, the players might feel a bit lied to when the vampire they're fighting is immune to fire, but with a solid grounded explanation as to why/how forthcoming, most players will be OK with it. Throw a little tidbit into their research of a folk tale or legend of one vampire who was also a fire mage or something... and you've laid the groundwork of expectations and setting-facts.

Keep throwing these GOTCHA! moments at them, however, and they're going to stop bothering with research, stop engaging with the setting at all, and stop caring.

Based on your exhaustive commentary, I suspect that the "jerk players" you're driving away are the ones who actually want to play their characters in the common meaning of "playing an RPG character", rather than just show up, shut up, and passively watch Darth Ultron Dinner Theater. That is, these "jerk players" are probably the ones who see through your little act, and aren't going to be bullied by a tinpot DM.




It's really amazing as ''everyone'' says the Dm's choices and wishes do not matter, but the players choices and wishes matter more then anything and don't get that is wrong.


No one says that.

It only sounds like they're saying that to you, because you have -- based entirely on your own exhaustive statements on the matter -- a wildly exaggerated idea of the GM's place at the table that amounts to "everyone sit down and do as I say and play along while I show you something awesome"; and an utterly binary view of everything in which games are either total control or total chaos, "choice" belongs entirely to the GM -or- the players with no nuance, etc.




If a DM says ''the guard is awake and the door is locked'' why is that Badwrongfun Railroading as the DM is taking away the ''player choice agency'' as the DM is preventing the characters from going through the door. But if the players demand ''the guard is asleep and the door is unlocked'' then it is all good..


Those sorts of "demands" occur in a very specific corner of gaming, one that I personally don't enjoy as as a gamer (as GM or otherwise) -- "shared storytelling games" and hardcore narrative systems. In those games, it's not really determined as "a set fact" whether there's a guard, whether the guard is awake, or whether the door is locked, before the moment at hand. I don't really get it, but some people love that, and as long as they and I can find systems and campaigns we both enjoy, I'm not so bothered by it.

The locked door and awake guard is something of a hard example to work with, because it's entirely reasonable in most settings and circumstances that the guard is at least not sleeping on the job and the door someone wants secure is locked... so in most games "sleeping and unlocked' is going to be a stretch regardless.

Outside of that, it depends entirely on when and how the GM determines and presents the facts, and whether the players can count on getting reasonable outcomes from interacting with those facts. Railroading isn't saying "the guard is awake and the door is locked" -- railroading is deciding that no matter what the PCs do, they're not getting past that obstacle. The guard refuses to surrender, the guard can't be fooled by anything, the guard gets off an alarm no matter what the PCs do, the door is barred from the inside, there are as many guard in the hallway inside as it takes to catch or stop the PCs, there's another locked door, and another door, and ninjas, and...

...and the GM is making all this up on the fly because the first guard and door wasn't enough for his predetermined course of events to play out.




The only Max example you ever gave is suggesting your a OOC type DM that just tells the players everything and asks them to do or not do stuff. ''Come on bros, I did not make up Castle FearDoom, so please don't go there !"


No one said that -- I did not suggest telling players everything, no did I suggest asking players not to go somewhere.

What I actually said was that a GM is better off saying "I need 10 minutes", than they are stonewalling an entirely setting-reasonable course of events because it's not what they were prepared for or what they originally wanted.