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By Shamus
on Wednesday May 23, 2007
Filed under:
Tabletop Games


Once I’d gotten around to clarifying my point, yesterday’s discussion on railroading yielded a lot of interesting comments and suggestions. A few people copped out and refused to consider the hyothetical situation presented with reasons why the DM shouldn’t ever BE in such a spot or how they would avoid the situation by having the bad guy escape. This is why they are called hypothetical situations. Sheesh. The point wasn’t to argue about game mechanics or playing styles, or the appropriate strength for the antagonist in a game, but to illustrate a situation where altering the unknown portions of the gameworld was preferable to letting the story run into the ground or lose momentum

A few other people joined in with posts at their own blogs: Catalyst had interesting things to say. Big City, Bright Lights jumped in with some interesting thoughts which were diminished by stooping to petty insults.

Also, while not directly a response to my post, this post at New Media Matters has a lot of related thoughts on the subject. (Also, NMM looks like a brand-new blog, and there are already a lot of great posts there.)

A couple of people took reflexive and almost irrational offsense at my suggestion, and some were even insulting. You’d think I was barging in and telling them how to run their game or something. I have bite marks all over my ankles now.

However, many people took the time to form an interesting answer and proposed a few other ways of dealing with events that threaten to take the excitement out of the plot of the game. My point, which some agreed with, was that changes to the storyline were justified in order to save the plot from a bad (that is, uninteresting) turn. Nobody wants to see a great story end with a shrug due to some unforseen actions on the part of the players or lack of foresight on the part of the DM, although nearly everyone has different ideas on what sorts of actions are the best and show the most respect to player freedom. As lots of people said: It depends on the game you’re playing. I know if I saved my bad guy by having him teleport away my players would feel robbed, but if I were to reveal that they had just slain the antagonist’s second, they would feel like they are working to uncover a real conspiracy. Other people made it clear that the opposite was true in their groups, and that having the adversary teleport away was the best device to heighten tension. Cool. Know your players and give them what they want.

In any case, my point was that the DM should work towards making a thrilling tale, even if it means altering the undiscovered aspects of the gameworld. The point isn’t to follow the predetermined path, but to follow whatever route looks to be most exciting for your players. I’m willing to make whatever changes, retcon or no, planned or no, to achieve that end. If that means re-arranging the bad guy org chart, so be it. If that means altering his loot, or adding clues, inventing new NPCs, or changing the alliances of NPCs, fine. Really: If I was making it up as I go, I would make it up to be as dramatic as possible, right? So, I’m making it up as I go, but I’m using my initial plot arc as a framework. In act 3 they are going to fight somebody huge in a big way when the stakes are high. If they lower the stakes or kill the big bad, I’ll alter things to return the plot to my act 3 ideal. I don’t think this is being inflexible at all. I think this is going in with a plan, and being adaptable from there.

I’m not saying my way is best, but it works for us so far and we’ve enjoyed our games. For the curious, I have many examples of changes I made to an evolving storyline in our D&D campaign, which is full of DM notes which detail changes to the world. That plot was designed to build to a climax in act 3, which it did. There are a few examples in there of when I did and did not alter the world to suit the plot.

Update: Locri responds here. If I’d read the word “inexperienced” instead of “immature” – which is what he was really saying – it wouldn’t have phased me. No big deal. It’s nice that Locri took the time to respond and smooth things out.

Comments (110)

1 2

  1. Dan Hemmens says:

    In any case, my point was that the DM should work towards making a thrilling tale, even if it means altering the undiscovered aspects of the gameworld. The point isn't to follow the predetermined path, but to follow whatever route looks to be most exciting for your players.

    I get that, the thing is that you seem to be starting from the assumption that “what is most exciting for your players” is what you originally planned to have happen.

  2. Jeremiah says:

    “The point isn't to follow the predetermined path, but to follow whatever route looks to be most exciting for your players.”

    That’s probably the most important sentence in the post. Too many DM’s just want to tell THEIR story in THEIR way, and just drag the PC’s along trying to force them to be interested in all the cool shit they’ve made up.

  3. Cenobite says:

    Sure, every DM needs to be adaptable to the situation, and be creative enough to do re-writing on the fly. But there has to be a limit. What do you do when it becomes obvious that the players no longer want to have anything to do with the module/dungeon?

    I offer a brief tale from my days of running Cyberpunk as an example. Granted, it’s not fantasy, but the analogy still fits. My players were tasked to do a mission. However, in the course of completing that mission, they were insulted by a representative of a rather large corporation, and decided to avenge the insult.

    I warned them that pursuing this would lead to certain death for most if not all of the party. I even had an NPC mentor-figure stop by and tell them to their faces that this was suicide. (Not to mention, campaign breaking.) They ignored the warnings and made preparations for war.

    It was several hundred well-armed cybernetic mercenaries against six amateurs. I don’t think I need to get into details as to who won.

    But I will say that the players took out more of the opposition than I had expected them to…and one of them even managed to survive for quite a long time. Of course I had to throw out the campaign notes, and my players all had to re-roll characters. But they agreed (several years later) that it was some of the best gaming they had ever done, because the total absence of script or structure felt oddly liberating. What they had done was stripped the “role”-playing game of the pretense of the universe (and having a persona, or a stake, in it) for a matter of hours…effectively reducing it to a pure combat simulator game…and it was loads of fun. It was not a rebellion against my rule, it was not something that they planned to do at the outset, and it was not a protest against the campaign by trashing it. It was simply a shift in the winds…a sea change of how they wanted to play the game. I was against the change (the last person to get onboard with the new idea) because, as the DM, I was used to enforcing the rules of the railroad against all player opposition. This experience made me realize that the railroad can sometimes be viewed as a constrictive prison, and if the players ever get into this kind of collective mood, then the best thing for the DM to do is convert the session into a jailbreak.

    (Caveat: I certainly do not recommend to anyone that they try to use 3.5 as a pure combat simulator.)

  4. Dan Hemmens says:

    I warned them that pursuing this would lead to certain death for most if not all of the party. I even had an NPC mentor-figure stop by and tell them to their faces that this was suicide. (Not to mention, campaign breaking.) They ignored the warnings and made preparations for war.

    Another option, though, would have been to roll with it.

    Make the game about their quest for revenge against the corporation. You could easily have stopped them getting creamed by 600 armed mercenaries if you wanted to: give them a softer target to strike at, have the corporation, impressed by their chutzpah, offer them a job. The possibilities were endless.

  5. Hi Shamus,

    Thanks for the shout out!

    Strangely, I had no idea that the broohahaha about railroading was taking place here when I nabbed that page from “DM of the Rings” page.

    I started a thread back on RPG.net a long time ago about Railroadig, and the final conclusion I drew was that “railroading” is a slippery term… People don’t apply it until they are BOTHERED by what happens!

    That said, there are plenty of ways to play. The issue is how the style and techniques of play are working for the group.

    My own style is looser in GM control than yours. (And the links I provide over at NMM offer up a half dozen games that support that looser play.

    But as long as everyone at your table is happy with the techniques you are using, then all is cool.

    You’ve got a great site. And I love “The DM of the Ring”! Keep it up.


  6. Shamus says:

    After reading a few comments on earlier posts, I think I’m finally getting what is upsetting the derailers: It isn’t any one particular change, but the very idea that the DM would make these sorts of changes. For them, it is breaking trust with the players.

    I see how that would be really upsetting for players who expect a deterministic world.

  7. Dan Hemmens says:

    As I say, it’s not changes for me, it’s rejection of input.

  8. Cestus says:

    Shamus, I think that is exactly it. If I were playing in the game and I found out that we would fight a bad guy in act III regardless of what we did in act II, I’d be bummed. If even killing the main bad guy just means we have to fight another bad guy, the game is not simulating reality at all, and I lose interest. And the fact my character’s action cannot influence the world, that would make me lose interest.

    But if I never found out, I might be okay with it. I might actually enjoy it. It’s a dangerous game.

  9. thark says:

    Uh, yeah, what Chris said. *waves cute ‘me too’ flag* :-)

    Interestingly, I can enjoy playing in a classic-style DM-spoonfeeds-players-with-plot game, as long as it’s done well (and I get to have fun hamming it up with a shallowly eccentric character on the way).

    Trying to run one, though, would bore me to tears these days. Not to mention I’m not very good at it. (And it typically involves a lot more up-front prepwork than the type of game Chris describes much better than I could be arsed to–yes, I’m a lazy booger.)

  10. Benedict Cusack says:

    Hey Shamus. This was a really interesting debate.

    Just one idea to add re your suggestion about what to do when the characters accidentally killed the uber-bad-guy too early. Instead of switching the leader with his 2nd in command, how about having said second-in-command-bad-guy “usurp” the leader’s throne? Maybe he has been waiting for just such an opportunity to do so, but couldn’t before for some reason (eg he didn’t have possession of some special magical device that the leader had – make something up). So now that our team has killed the main bad guy, what if this second-in-command bad guy turns out to be a much worse bad guy now that he’s in charge? Perhaps he’s got his own plans for world domination? And his own powers and allegiances that he brings to bear? Perhaps he was always going to take control, but our characters just sped up the process?

    This is even more than rolling with the punches, it’s writing your team’s actions into the story as you go, in a way where they’ll eventually see the direct effect they have on the game world. You still have to make a few changes (eg the battle with the main bad guy didn’t occur in the “real” hideout after all, so now you have to invent the actual hideout someplace else…). Maybe the characters don’t find out right away who they killed? It’s not like the big bad guy has a note in his pocket saying “I am the big bad guy”, so maybe the characters find out another way later on? Perhaps there is a change in the “modus operandi” of whatever evil-deeds are going on, for example the troll attacks on the villages suddenly change to goblin attacks, because goblins are the 2IC’s henchman of choice? Or the dark-alley murders stop, and instead some money-transportation stage coaches get hit? There are lots of ways of subtlely letting your characters know that something big changed, and then leave them to work out what it was…

    I don’t actually plan out every detail of my campaigns for this reason. I work out a series of events that will happen somewhere, and I make a plan whereby my characters should be somewhere in the vicinity at the time, but if they didn’t show up to the village til a day too late, then so be it: they find all the houses burnt down and they miss their chance to save the villagers! This is a more immersive approach, rather than aiming for epic. It is hit-and-miss, but probably no more so than other strategies. It’s also a really great challenge of your creative powers to tell a _good_ story completely on the fly. There is a big payoff if you nail it.


  11. Telas says:

    Be advised, there’s a definite line between “people who discuss gaming theory” and “people who actually game”.

    The talkers (vs gamers) are very similar to the self-proclaimed martial artists who will roundly criticise no-holds-barred fighting (UFC, Shooto, Vale Tudo, Pride, etc), but will never actually spar with anyone. Or the Monday-morning quarterback who played football that one year in high school. Or the drama critic who makes horrid movies (Valley of the Dolls, anyone?).

    Last year, I got in a debate with a alleged gamer, and he made some pretty strong comments about D&D that had no basis in my experience. I asked him when he last played, and after some evasion, he finally said that he had played a high-level 3.0 game two years ago.

    And these days, it’s just fashionable to criticize. *shrug*

  12. Telas says:

    BTW, that post was not aimed at either side in the debate. There are inexperienced critics on either side of almost any debate.

    As for this one, both sides have a point. It really comes down to what you want out of a game, and acknowledging that it’s probably not going to be what everyone else wants out of a game.


  13. Dan Hemmens says:

    Be advised, there's a definite line between “people who discuss gaming theory” and “people who actually game”.

    No, there isn’t. It’s just fashionable to say there is.

    Your “alleged gamer” probably gave up on D&D those two years ago because he had legitimate issues with it and has probably been playing other games since.

    Saying “your criticisms of D&D are invalid because you no longer play D&D” is bad enough, but to equate “no longer playing D&D” with “not being a gamer” is ludicrous.

  14. Smith says:

    I haven’t necessarily agreed with your previous material on railroading, as havign the players derail your plan only to pull a switcheroo and put th eplan back on the rails is, IMO, still railroading, but this I wholeheartedly agree with:

    “In any case, my point was that the DM should work towards making a thrilling tale, even if it means altering the undiscovered aspects of the gameworld. The point isn't to follow the predetermined path, but to follow whatever route looks to be most exciting for your players. I'm willing to make whatever changes, retcon or no, planned or no, to achieve that end. ”

    I believe that the best campaigns are the ones in which the DM sets the options, but the players make the story based upon their choices and how the world reacts to them. The DM might do some behind the scenes adjustments to be able to reuse old plans, but at a minimum the players must have the illusion of free will. If the basic idea is that the PCs must retrieve the MacGuffin to defeat bad guy X and prevent him from carrying out his evil plan, and the PCs figure out a way to stop the evil plan without retrieving the MacGuffin or defeating bad guy X and they succeed, that’s ideal. If the DM has to substitute bad guy Y for X, that’s OK, if done logically. What’s bad is if no matter what decisions the players make, their PCs are forced to first retrieve the Macguffin, then defeat bad guy X in some predetermined way. If my decisions as a player don’t matter, I might as well be reading a novel or watching a movie.

  15. Doug Brown says:

    Not repay evil with evil, or whatever, but:

    That Locri guy’s post is priceless. “Interesting thoughts?” You give him, oh, 1×10^35 more credit than he deserves. He offers nothing but question-begging and silly ad hominems.

    And if you weren’t so immature, you’d agree with me.


  16. Nathanael says:

    From the perspective of both a GM and a Player (of tabletops and a few MMOs)…

    I think both LotR:O and KotOR are good examples of how I like my stories in my tabletop RPGs. I like having stories and plots available for the taking, and I like being aware of the various things that can be done. However, I also like having the choice if/when to do them. I’m not fond of the typical Final Fantasy “Oh, but you must!” railroad approach, nor am I fond of the Morrowwind “Here’s the world, go do stuff” techniques.

    I think it is safe to say that I like having the railroad tracks laid down, but I also prefer to be driving an ATV when (or if) I (choose to) follow them.

  17. Jim in Buffalo says:

    I was going to write five or six long paragraphs detailing my exact take on this topic, but then I had to go to the bathroom and when I came back I forgot it all.

  18. bruce says:

    The example of the major villain dying early and being replaced there have been complaints of “I would have felt cheated…”. Well, only if you found out. It’s only railroading if the players find out you’ve done it.

    We played in a game once where we were chasing a NPC whom the DM had decided was going to get away. However we were making all out rolls and catching him. The DM had him make a 90 degree turn while running at full speed (remember the TV series Automan anyone?). It was obviously contrived and see all knew we were railroaded with no chance of catching him no matter what we did. However if he had done it subtly we would never have realised. (As he runs past the door of the local tavern, a crowd of rough looking characters step out into the street. Roll your to avoid running into them…) But we were young and inexperienced and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    In the example of the players vs 300 mercs, by fudging die rolls to keep them alive when they did something stupid and refuse to run away just railroading as well (hey, the DM isn’t letting us die, we can do what we want…) It made for a heroic and memorable story, but next week it was time to re-roll new characters. If they were happy with that fine.

    This discussion seems to be spending a lot of time stripping off the paint and looking underneath to see what’s there instead of just enjoying the picture. RPGing has to have an amount of co-operation between players and DM to work. The DM is not God. He doesn’t have a detailed background for every character you meet or every square inch of the imaginary world the characters are walking round in. If you want to believe in the Wizard of Oz, don’t go looking behind the curtain.

  19. bruce says:

    Hey, if you use the little left and right v shapes while posting, it deletes them and what you’ve written between them…

  20. pseudosilence says:

    Shamus, I didn’t post earlier, cuz, well, I agree with you. Your approach seems pretty reasonable, and I’d probably have a blast playing in your game.

    Just to throw a little support into all the discussion.

  21. Telas says:

    Dan Hemmens @ 13:
    Your “alleged gamer” probably gave up on D&D those two years ago because he had legitimate issues with it and has probably been playing other games since.

    He may well have legit issues with D&D (God knows I sometimes do), but it’s not valid to use a single imbalanced experience with an old version of a game for a one-sided flamewar. :)

    Saying “your criticisms of D&D are invalid because you no longer play D&D” is bad enough, but to equate “no longer playing D&D” with “not being a gamer” is ludicrous.

    I agree with you, which is why I didn’t make that comparison. I equated “no longer gaming” with “not really being a gamer”. The Forge and many other gaming forums are full of people who tear apart rulesets without actually playing them. I’m merely suggesting that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. ;)

  22. “The example of the major villain dying early and being replaced there have been complaints of “I would have felt cheated…”. Well, only if you found out. It's only railroading if the players find out you've done it.”

    And it’s only theft if you get caught?

    Seriously. The point at which you say “this is bad if you get caught” is the point at which you admit that “this is bad” and lose the debate.

    Dan Hemmens nailed it earlier in the thread: Railroading is about negating the contribution your players are making to the game. The entire structure of an RPG is designed SPECIFICALLY for the players to contribute in exactly the fashion that railroading negates.

    Playing in a railroaded RPG campaign is like playing a game of Monopoly where you can’t buy property and aren’t required to pay rent. Sure, you may be rolling the dice and moving your piece around the board, but you’re not exactly playing the game.

    There’s a reason why the archetypal player response to railroading is: “I’m just going to sit back, relax, and let you finish your novel.”

    If you want to write a story, write a story. If you want to GM an RPG session, then GM an RPG session.

  23. Attorney At Chaos says:

    IMHO, knowing what your group wants and playing towards that end is the key. Playing towards your original storyline may or may not be a major part of that. Every year I get more experience DMing (around 30 years now….). Every year I spend less effort in pre-detailing the universe and plotlines and spend more effort modifying things based on what the players are actually doing.

    Party of 1st-3rd level adventurers needs to sneak into a walled city.

    Preparation 25 years ago: I work out 7 ways they can accomplish this. Standard stuff – they have thieves so they could contact the local smugglers guild, they can go up the sewage outfall, they can wait two days for a major ceremony they know will be held outside the city and then sneak into the crowd going back inside, etc. etc.

    Actual result 25 years ago – they don’t try ANY of the 7 ways I planned for. The party splits and tries ways 8, 9 and 10. (Group trying 8 gets captured, group trying 9 gets in, single person trying 10 should have been captured but the dice are kind – needs AND GETS a roll of 00 on percentile dice. Group 9 meets player 10 and they break the 8s out of jail.)

    Preparation nowadays: None. See what they come up with and evaluate it on the spot. Enjoyment level about the same, much less wasted effort and frustration for the DM.

    Just like the above tactical situation, much the same thing happens with strategic (plot) situations. I just never know which item the players will fixate on. They might fixate on an item that I improvised on the spot, something which had no importance whatsoever in my plans – up until the point they fixated on it. Well, this is cooperative storytelling as far as I’m concerned. If it’s important to them it becomes important to me and I’ll improvise something around their fixation. They may or may not ever make it back to the story I originally had in mind, but they’re generally happy playing the game that THEY chose.

    If the big bad is at all intelligent he will have reasonable contingency plans. Maybe INVISIBILITY and FLY at low levels, maybe CONTINGENCY (TELEPORT) or GEMJUMP at higher ones. He should not be impossible to kill but if he is posing as a merchant and the group only takes precautions to keep a merchant from fleeing in this spontaneous fight I’d expect him to get away. But if PCs toss in a DIMENSIONAL ANCHOR or ANTI-MAGIC FIELD and prevent his escape, so be it. Shifting the storyline around is something I’m prepared to do at any time.

    Besides, quite often the players will come up with storylines that sound BETTER to me than what I had planned. If they are discussing the situation and one of them comes up with some “I’ll bet this is what is happening” that sounds better than my own intended storyline, I may adopt their premise on the spot. They feel good about having “figured it out”. Since I’m not wedded to my own storyline, I don’t feel bad about abandoning it for something better. IMHO the overall enjoyment of the players is just as high if not higher going in with an open storyline.

  24. Arson55 says:

    Railroading debate…I don’t think I’ve ever had players jump the tracks completely during a campaign once the story has gotten started. I’ve had them ignore the initial hooks frequently. I try a few reserve hooks and if they don’t get a bite, I start scrambling for a new plot (I run a lot of diceless games so I generally don’t have to worry about stats for the bad guys) sometimes it works, more frequently it doesn’t. At that point, I call the game off, admit I don’t know where it is going, and we take a break for awhile. I think over things while we dosomething else, and we come back later with a new setting and new ideas for a plot.

  25. Alan De Smet says:

    “Immature”? Gah! That’s a crude and sloppy way to escape debate. It’s one of the things that drives me so mad about The Forge. There is lots of really interesting discussons there, but if you disagree with some of the core beliefs (like that GNS might not be the One True Organizing System, or that maybe system doesn’t matter quite as much as they think), they fall back to “You just don’t understand. We’ll try explaining it in small words once more.”

    As to railroading, I appreciate your point Shamus. And you’re definitely right; how you tweak the story strongly depends on your players. If you know your players well enough, they’ll never suspect they’ve been railroaded.

    There is another option, although it’s not applicable to all cases: if the players are about to stomp the boss bad guy in Act I or II, can you reframe the scene so that it’s actually Act III?

    By way of example, several years ago I was running a moderately epic Deadlands campaign which had the PCs running all across the US trying to save their brainwashed town from a variety of third parties struggling for control. In what I guess you’d call Act II, the PCs defeated who they thought was the Real Bad Guy, only to discover that they’d misinterpreted the situation. At that point the Real Bad Guy made what was supposed to be a very brief appearance before an escape, entering into Act III proper. Instead the players burned Fate Chips (like action points) like mad and made and insane attempt to catch him. Well, so be it. I did what I could to make their capture an exciting moment and turned it into the climax, making it a very abbreviated Act III. It wasn’t what I planned, but it made my players happy and was a pretty good end to the story.

  26. Locri says:

    I feel I have to respond a bit to the post since my blog has been dragged into it. Thank you though, I’m actually strangely honored to be linked to from a blog that is far more popular than mine will ever be.

    I get the impression that you are saying that I add petty insults because I said (although possibly poorly) that you haven’t had a lot of experience DMing before your first game. I’m not sure why that would be a problem considering that you yourself have admitted that on the podcast interview you did a bit ago. I didn’t mean it as an insult and I’m sorry if it came out that way. The truth of the matter, though, is that the way you phrased your first post on railroading made it sound like you were very entrenched with the idea of not letting the characters do anything outside of your predefined plot.

    That, more than anything, is what I was railing against (pun not really intended). Possibly my choice of words was bad, but does that make sense?

    And to Doug Brown:

    What question-begging am I doing? I can see about how saying there is a lack of experience might be called an ad hominem the way that I phrased it, but an argument against the person is EXACTLY the case that it is. It’s impossible to argue someone lacks experience without directing it at a person. I’ll also note that it was a rather off-the-cuff entry that I definitely didn’t expect to be throughly scrutinized, otherwise I definitely would have put more effort into explaining exactly what I meant and possibly offering something more than what I wrote.

    Getting back on topic, I think Shamus’s second post on the topic illuminated his views on the subject a bit more, but I still tend to agree with a lot of the replies that it is important to be flexible and not let your elaborate plans get in the way of the players’ enjoyment.

  27. Laithoron says:

    22 Justin Alexander Says:
    “If you want to write a story, write a story. If you want to GM an RPG session, then GM an RPG session.”

    Back when I was first learning D&D, part of the hook was that I finally had a way of objectively describing the characters I wrote about in my short stories. When I heard that the original Dragonlance stories were written based off of how events turned out from being roleplayed by an actual D&D group, I was was absolutely fascinated. Instead of a single author writing a story or a play with many characters, You instead had many people cooperating to flesh out a single work. To me, it seemed like an ingenious way to craft a tale. Just as truth is stranger than fiction (because fiction has to make sense) when You throw in the dynamics of perhaps illogical choices or some randomness, there’s no telling what You’ll get.

    A good case in point from the current WotC-published campaign I’m DMing happened several months back…

    The party had learned of an approaching army of indeterminate size. While heading out to investigate, they came across a well-guarded choke-point: a long stone bridge spanning a deep, white-water filled chasm. Now the adventure designers had concluded that the only viable option was for the characters to (at some point) decide to take out this bridge to delay the advancing army. In addition to outlining the enemy positions and general tactic, they also gave some notes on how to take out the bridge as well as “2-meter-wide ventilation shaft”.

    Now the party leader (yes, the players acknowledged a leader) was fairly set on not destroying the bridge if it wasn’t absolutely necessary “” at least not until determining the size of the enemy force. The truly ironic thing, which involved absolutely NO “railroading” on my part was that the party accidentally ended up taking out the bridge in felling one of their enemies. You see they had easily finished off the cannon-fodder but not before the lone, young green dragon had quaffed a potion of invisibility and circled around for a sneak attack. Having witnessed the party in action for several rounds, I decided the most logical choice of action would be for it to try swallowing our airborne pixie-warmage and then make a snatch to bowl the cleric into the rapids far below. After all, the pixie was the only one who could damage him and without the cleric’s healing, the others could be whittled down at his leisure…

    Well the pixie got swallowed sure enough, and the cleric, who was standing between the two towers anchoring the bridge on one side got snatched and was about to be bowled into the warlock standing on the south-side of the centerspan which would have dropepd them *both* over the edge. However, the unexpected happened. The minotaur ranger (whom the dragon dismissed as a real threat due to insufficient ranged attack capability) was atop one of those towers. When the dragon “split the wicket”, the player nailed both his timing and his die rolls and leapt onto the dragon’s back with a Golden Axe-style critical hit that killed the as-yet-unscathed dragon in ONE hit! (We’re playtesting a variant Wound Point damage system.) Given the dragon’s initial trajectory, speed and the fact that it suddenly had a 900 pound minotaur surfing his carcass, the beast plowed right into the cliff beneath the south-east support tower on the far side.

    “Wait, the south-east support tower?” I thought, “I read something about that…” A quick check of the adventure text while the rest of the players were cheering and I discovered that was the DeathBridge’s key weakspot. I didn’t suddenly fudge the weakspot but instead allowed the spectacular to happen. The minotaur made his reflex save and leapt clear of the collapsing tower even as the span began to shudder and the party ran both ways to escape a nasty fall.

    Cinematic to be sure, but as a writer that’s an resolution I never would have imagined for that key encounter. Suffice it to say that there was a healthy share of XP awarded solely for style points and the players were talking about that night for weeks and months following. The funny thing is, some might say it could have been “railroading” to make the bridge collapse even though the party had not yet decided to take it out. However, it would it then have *not* been railroading to spontaneously change the adventure so that it didn’t? Either way, the players were greatly amused and respected the fact that I hadn’t pulled my punches (I showed them the design notes) and played it fair and square which resulted in the unlikely happening.

    Moral of the Story: When the DM and players are all working to have a fun time, sometimes the story is more memorable and exciting when You let the unexpected play out.

  28. Hal says:

    Y’know, they should write pre-made campaigns like a “choose your own adventure” book.

    If the players decide to take the door, turn to page 5.
    If the players decide to kill the guard, turn to page 8.
    For all other decisions, turn to page 13.

    Heh. I loved those things.

  29. Carl says:

    I think Attorney At Chaos’ post just about sums up this whole big misunderstanding of a conversation, in that he initially seems to think that he disagrees with Shamus, but really he ends up agreeing. Shamus’ point is all about having the flexibility as a DM to rearrange the storyline at need depending on the players’ actions rather than being wedded to one storyline! The fact that he chose the controversial term “railroading” to describe it just got a bunch of people’s hackles up who didn’t really seem to comprehend what he was talking about.

  30. Shamus says:

    Locri: I see the problem. If you’d used “inexperienced” instead if “immature” I would have got what you were saying. The way it reads to me now, it sounds like I’m childish, not lacking in experience. (And I am, as you point out, not very experienced.)

    Glad we could straighten that out.

  31. Shamus says:

    Justin Alexander: Like I asked you in the last thread – are you aware of how combative you sound? I don’t think you’ve posted here once that it didn’t sound like you were spoiling for a fight.

    I like talking about this game. I enjoy conversations with other people about a hobby we all love. I don’t like when someone strides in here with the YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG attitude. You’re not sitting at my table. What the hell are you so exercised about?

  32. Traiden says:

    Leave the poor man alone. I have just started playing D&D as the Newb DM for my group of Newbs, I have some experience with RPing through my online profile on gaia. So I felt I can run things well, wrong! The players have little idea how to play the game at all and are interested in only wholesale slaughter… even those playing as supposedly good characters. The cleric – I reach for my crossbow and aim it at the bar tender. The other characters are all elves, god I hate these people… the first thing they do when walking into a store is ask for the bows when they have no gold! I am ranting… let me get back on my original topic. You have all types of DMs and all kinds of Players. Just because you don’t like the way someone is running a campaign, be it be to much RPing and not enough fighting or visa-versa, does not mean you have to flame the man to hell over his style of PLOT MOVEMENT.

  33. Stranger says:

    Seriously, the whole thing I believe is “as long as the players are enjoying it, then there’s no foul”.

    I also support the statement of: “It’s only wrong if you get caught” in this case. The GM’s role in the world is to make it fun and interesting, and the players shouldn’t be trying to cry foul at him for making an honest effort. Of course, that’s assuming the GM *IS* making an honest effort . . . there are many who don’t, and those are the ones who train players to hate “railroading”.

    There has to be some kind of balance between “structure” and “free roaming”. Make a game too structured and you might as well make an interactive story (I know there are players who would enjoy playing in those, though). Make it too open and all it becomes is a game of the players running around and seeking out whatever interests them (money, loot, women, positions of power high enough to sate even the most avaricial soul . . .). I know there are players who would love that too.

    NEITHER of these are wrong . . . they’re just not MY cup of tea, and a lot of people I know wouldn’t like it either.

    It REALLY all boils down to: “What do the players want, or expect, from the game?” Their GM should meet this expectation, or possibly exceed it, rather than bring his own wants and expectations to the table. Without the players, you don’t have a game to GM, so treat them right and you’ll have more fun and more mileage out of the game than you imagined at first. You might even net a SECOND game in the future with the same group.

  34. Penny7b says:

    I think a lot of the argument comes from a fundamental difference of opinion about who should be making the story, the GM or the players. If you’ve got some very proactive players who have a good understanding of the game world, then (in my experience) it’s usually best to let the players drive the story. I know my players are very proactive and have a great understanding of the tropes and assumptions of the genre, so they’ll happily build a three act hero’s journey story with only minimal steering from me. But sometimes you’ve got more reactive or even passive players, or players who are inexperienced or don’t know the game world very well, in that case it’s probably better to direct them a bit more strongly.

    And I’ve always been of the opinion that if you haven’t revealed it to the players yet, then it’s not canon, it’s just a draft.

  35. Stranger says:

    #34 – “And I've always been of the opinion that if you haven't revealed it to the players yet, then it's not canon, it's just a draft.”

    The best words to GM by by far :)

    Malum consilium quod mutari non potest . . . “It is a bad plan that cannot be changed”.

  36. Dave says:

    The problem is with the players.. not the DM.. in the original Gygax bible.. the DM is always right…

    Players want the world to hinge on their decisions.. fine.. but each player wants _their_ character to be the important one.. and a DM has a group to think about.. and many players always hit.. always manage to max damage.. always save.. then whine when the DM tries to make the game fun for everyone and not just appease whatever short-coming the player has in their real-world existance.

    Shamus is absolutely right.. the problem is with his that he is naive.. The players don’t want to see the man behind the curtain.. they don’t wanna know that you saved their asses over and over because of their stupidity.. A derailer is just a spoiled brat.. if you change everything for him/her you’ll have a very boring game.. I say kill the spoiled brat at his own game.. don’t fudge the dice .. let the game kill him. Treat the others as you should.. and let the rules kill the derailer.. eventually he’ll ever figure out D&D is a social game.. or he’ll go away.. either way works for your game.

  37. Mavis says:

    I’ll pop up with a ‘sorry!’ since I’m one of the people who did not answer your specific question. I think it was that I’d simply missed the first thread and so said what I wanted to say there.

    I’ll admit I’m tempted to post again in that thread since the little back and forth about co-operative games is interesting. But I won’t….

    Personally I’ll change things at the drop of a hat both to fit round what my players are doing if it’s cool and fun, and to block it if it’s cool. But players have to be a) able to change the world and b) fail.

    Actually that’s a good point. Your currently framing the situation in a negative way “the players are stoping my plot x”. But the total opposite is also an example of the same issue – or at least I think so.

    I have plot X. It’s all going well, the players don’t quite know what’s going on yet. While trying to work out the plot – the players come up with plot Y. They love plot Y – I think it’s cool – better then plot X in fact. Should I change the world (and retrospectivly change the world) so that it was Y all along?

  38. Josh says:

    Mavis: do you mean that the players come up with a theory that Plot Y is what is going on? Or that the players pro-active actions effectively create a new plot, Plot Y?

  39. Knight says:

    A note from a player whose DM was rather attached to the “The enemy teleports away” trick.

    Let’s just say that my mage ALWAYS has Dimensional Anchor memorized. Sometimes multiple copies. >:)

  40. Mavis says:


    I mean the players suggest that the plot is theory Y. They think it’s cool. You think it’s cool. It make sense. And it’s better then X.

    Are you ‘cheating’ the players to make it so that Y is true – and always has been…..

  41. Josh says:

    Mavis – thanks for the clarification.

    I wouldn’t call it “cheating”, but I wouldn’t do it either. I’m a big believer in games taking place in a “real” world, for a range of reasons. Some of them have something to do with my ability to actually keep things consistent (I guarantee that if I started monkeying around with the background and plot in that way that I’d wind up with holes you could drive a truck through), and some just have something to do with my seeing the game as an interesting interaction between the player characters’ actions and the world and plot I have invented. What I might consider doing would include: (a) ripping off the players’ idea for another game or story arc within the campaign, (b) considering whether their theory has strategic merit, i.e. might the villain (if there is one) have the same idea, and introduce it as an innovation on his part, (c) consider somehow absorbing the idea into the existing plot, without actually retconning what had gone before.

    I think an earlier poster made an interesting point that by sticking to a consistent world you sometimes get unexpected and interesting outcomes. Stuff you had never forseen can come about. If you keep changing things to suit what sounds cool, then you tend to restrict those possibilities. Cool things only happen if you spot them and help them to happen – rather than them emerging from the interaction between PCs, NPCs and world. It’s a personal preference that I like the latter.

    Also, I’d be peeved as a player if I discovered that the GM did this. Granted, I might never find out – but I would hate to think that all my previous investigations had been essentially meaningless as there was no “real world” for me to investigate. Like discovering that the town you’ve been wandering through is actually made out of plyboard scenery, and there isn’t really anything behind it.

  42. Mavis says:


    You say “Cool things only happen if you spot them and help them to happen -”

    Well as a GM – I’d say that’s what I’m doing. I’m helping it happen. The interatctions between me and my players – and also the characters and the NPC’s – have created a cool thing. So let it happen……

  43. Josh says:

    Mavis: Sorry, my phrasing wasn’t clear. What I was trying to say was that if you chop and change the background to suit what you think will be cool, then cool things can only happen if you spot them and help them to happen. In effect, you are excluding other (more natural, IMO) ways of cool stuff emerging.

    It’s kinda like the distinction between state-run industry and the free market… if you as GM make all the important decisions then the game could be very cool, or not so cool, depending on how good you are at picking out interesting things and making them happen. If you play it a bit more laissez-faire, then sometimes really apalling things will happen like the players destroying a carefully crafted and potentially enjoyable plot, leaving you scrambling to adapt; but other times spectacularly interesting things can happen which you might never have foreseen. Maybe there’s some kind of triangulated “regulated market” approach that will combined the virtues of both…

  44. Bruce says:

    #22 “The example of the major villain dying early and being replaced there have been complaints of “I would have felt cheated…”. Well, only if you found out. It's only railroading if the players find out you've done it.”

    And it's only theft if you get caught?

    Seriously. The point at which you say “this is bad if you get caught” is the point at which you admit that “this is bad” and lose the debate.

    That may work in a moral debate, but this is a game. The outcome is the “bad”, not the action. The outcome is that the players have lost the illusion of the game world reality. If you made something up on the spot which made no sense, it would still ruin the illusion. When you watch LOTR it looks like a real world, but spotting an actor with a wrist watch is bad because it spoils the illusion and instead of seeing an army of middle earth marching to war, you see a lot of men dressed up in skirts, waving rubber swords.

    I don’t advocate a strict A-B-C path, but the boundaries of the world can only reach so far. I don’t see the difference between having a rough plot-line and amending it to fit what happens and doing it all off the top of your head. If the illusion is maintained you have done your job.

  45. moonglum says:

    So shamus, gettign to the conclusion of your story is all important, what do you do when your players fianly relsie this, have teh charicters sit down in a room and wait for deus de machina to get them to the climax?

    Josh very easy solution to your false problem…never cearfluy craft a plot..

  46. moonglum says:

    talking to the fiction writer in my group last night…her response was that in her novels she can’t get her characters to fallow out the plot…its just a frame work, she lets her characters run free and in the end the story is a lot different then she intended…so at least one (I have heard similar statements form others as well) writer railroads her fictional characters less then you guys are advocating for players.

  47. Telas says:

    I’m of the “triangulated” approach myself (even though my degree’s in Economics, and there’s very little “cool” about regulation ;) ). GMing is an art; it’s not a rigid science where there’s only One Way To Do It.

    I’ve played in a number of “sandbox” games, and even ran my game that way for a bit. And here’s the issue as I see it: the game turns into a beauty contest among the players. The most personable player (“Charismatic”, to use a game term to refer to a real person) is the one whose game is played. So you end up doing whatever Johnny wants to do because he’s more persuasive/stubborn/outgoing. For a shy or confrontation-averse personality, it’s actually worse than following the DM’s plot.

    Now, if you have a group of players that are all old friends, and have their social interaction worked out, this may work fine. But most of my games have had at least one pick-up player, who can’t understand why we always have to do what Johnny wants to do. I think this is complicated because a lot of gamers game to get away from social hierarchy BS. (Remember Shamus’ sordid tale from the FLGS?)

    My sig on a number of boards is “A game is only as balanced as the GM.” A good GM is the key to any RPG, and one element of a good GM is listening to the players, and letting their characters’ actions affect the game world. Another facet of good GMing is to give each player some time in the spotlight.

    I think there seems to be a false assumption that the mere presence of a plot means that any player input is ignored. As someone who writes plot-driven adventures (and has done so since my alpha-player missed a session, and the players all sat around asking “I dunno; what do you want to do?”), I make damned sure that character actions impact the world. When the PCs approached a Lizardman village peacefully instead of the expected attack, I let their approach work out. It wasn’t what I had foreseen, nor it wasn’t what I had prepped for, but it worked out in the end. (Of course, they first had to win in a trial by combat against the guys trying to turn the village against them, but…)

  48. Josh says:

    Moonglum: Argh nooo! I can’t be doing with games where you just make the plot up as you go along. With rare exceptions, players can normally see right through such games and tell what a paper-thin world they’re dealing with. Of course, there are some GMs who are so good at improvising that this isn’t a problem – but I don’t think I’m one of them :)

  49. moonglum says:

    I think the crux of the railroading debate is that some of you fell that its ok to quietly keep players from derailing your story. while some of us feel that its not possible for a player to ever derail a story as they are the ones laying the tracks.

    while it would end for a rather boring game to go in completely unprepared as a gm. have anything more then a rough outline for the story (and hell take a que from the guys writing Battlestar Galatica, don’t get more then two games ahead of the players) is just setting yourself up for heartache. Sure have a goal for the game, but don’t strongly script out the path to that goal…that will only set you up for hart ache.

    Players may be happy with a choose your own adventure for a while, but eventually they will figure out that they have no control over the story, at that point you will just be playing with your self.

  50. Josh says:

    Telas: I agree that “sandbox” by itself is never enough. You need GM plot to keep things interesting and give players something to do when they don’t have any ideas of their own. Indeed for me GM plot is normally the primary driver. Not to mention the fact that IMO a world where stuff only happens if the players prod it appears barren. And like you, I’d argue that having interesting GM plot doesn’t mean that players can’t make interesting decisions to change the direction that plot is moving (or ignore it outright). But for me there must be a plot that exists independent of the players before you can get that interesting interaction.

  51. Dan Hemmens says:

    And it's only theft if you get caught?

    Seriously. The point at which you say “this is bad if you get caught” is the point at which you admit that “this is bad” and lose the debate.

    I think, frequently, when people say “It’s only bad if you get caught” what they really mean is the somewhat less pithy “it’s only bad if it violates your group’s social contract.”

    Players aren’t stupid. I’d lay even money that, nine times out of ten, they notice when you try to “subtly” railroad them. It’s just that eight and a half times out of those nine, they actually don’t care. If I’m playing a traditional D&D game, then I don’t want to do much apart from follow the plot and kill the monsters. I’ll view it as a CRPG with (hopefully) a better AI.

    The point is not that people don’t *notice* railroading, it’s just that they frequently expect it.

  52. Dan Hemmens says:

    Moonglum: Argh nooo! I can't be doing with games where you just make the plot up as you go along. With rare exceptions, players can normally see right through such games and tell what a paper-thin world they're dealing with.

    Bugger, long post, deleted due to lack of anti-spam-word.

    My basic point was: like the “it’s not railroading if you don’t get caught” argument, you’re making a fundamental mistake in assuming that the job of the GM involves deceiving the players somehow. If I make something up as I go along, the players will know it, because I’ll be completely up-front about it.

    Also: I don’t see why a plot you made up five minutes ago is “paper thin” but a plot you made up five days ago isn’t.

  53. moonglum says:

    Josh: you make one major point that I think shamus is missing. the players need to be allowed to ignore the plot if they so chose. it is not the GM’s job to fight with the players…as the gm Your story cannot be derailed, as it is not your story to tell. The story may go in a direction that you never imagined…roll with it, your plot needs to be fluid enough to handle this.

    If you insist on having strongly structured and scripted plots remember this…give someone a choice and they will always chose the wrong one.

  54. Dan Hemmens says:

    I'd argue that having interesting GM plot doesn't mean that players can't make interesting decisions to change the direction that plot is moving (or ignore it outright).

    That’s true, but the acid test comes from what you *do* if the players ignore the “plot” outright.

    If the players ignore your GM-driven plot, so you ignore it as well, and engage fully with what the players decided to do instead, then that’s one thing. If on the other hand you let the players ignore your plot, but then just let them wander around aimlessly until they get bored and come back to the plot, that’s quite another.

  55. Josh says:

    Moonglum, Dan:
    I wouldn’t say that I literally plan the campaign out like some kind of script. But I think through the likely things the players might do, where they might go, and what things might happen along the way. So there’s plenty of scope for manoeuvre within that framework (in other words MG, I think I’m agreeing with you :))

    The advantage of planning it five days in advance rather than five minutes, is that you can spot potential inconsistencies and fix them – and likewise you can spot potential links and make them. The resulting plot will be better thought out, and likely have more in the way of twiddly details that I like. When you make it up on the fly you can still get something good, but it will require luck, judgement and the ability to make it sound like you didn’t just make it up.

    Of course, if your players are happy with you being honest and saying “I’m making it up as I go along” then that’s all good – it wouldn’t be my style (well, possibly late at night while drunk, when my inhibitions are loosened ;)), but if it works, great!

  56. Josh says:

    That's true, but the acid test comes from what you *do* if the players ignore the “plot” outright.

    Yes, true. For me if they were literally wandering into territory I hadn’t thought about at all, I might be tempted to say “you know what guys, I didn’t plan for this happening, and I have no idea what will happen next – let’s call it a day, I’ll go and do some thinking and then we’ll come back next sesh”. But I would hope that my prep was sufficient to have some way of reacting to what the players do… the point is that I don’t just invent something from nowhere, because therein lies the plywood set problem.

  57. heartflare says:

    Disclaimers: I’ve been playing for less than 10 years, I’ve only played with one group, and I’ve never GM’d. I dodged the “geek bullet” in high school and started gaming when I was old enough that I should have known better. :)

    Warning: Novel to follow.

    Two of my experiences come to mind with regards to the whole “railroading” debate. Again, same exact group of people, but different GMs, different game systems, different world settings.

    First game, d20, been running through this for a few years (on and off) at this point. GM is generally pretty big on planning things out for us, in order to keep the game (and our enjoyment of it) moving. We never end up having to call a session b/c the GM has run out of ideas, and he’s excellent at letting us play things out, even when they go a bit wonky from his plan.

    So, an NPC comrade (with whom we’ve had a sometimes-shaky relationship) is arrested on (we’re pretty darn sure) false charges. No way he could have done this, but he’s put on a show-trial with the *sure outcome* of a death sentence. We are unaware that the GM has planned the whole trial (yeah, it’s a frame-up), and is arranging us into a daring prison-break scenario, after which we will have to flee the city (where we were kinda getting bored hanging around anyway).

    As Heroes of the City, we manage to convince the Powers That Be to let us into the trial. (This was the first wobble on the tracks.) We’re listening to the testimony and we know it’s just not right, but we can’t prove it. We’re scrambling for ideas. One of us comes up with the idea for Zone of Truth, but none of us can cast it. We role/roll and manage to convince one of the judges to cast the spell. (The train hits a larger bump.) We role/roll well again and get the judges to allow us to ask questions of the witness. (Small flashes of “uh oh…” creep onto the GM’s face.) Somehow we manage to hit on the ONE AND ONLY EXACT QUESTION WE NEED to exhonorate our friend. (THAR’ SHE GOES!!!!) So, no jail sentence, no prison break, no leaving town in a hurry.

    The GM could have fudged/altered anything along the way — not let us talk our way into trial, not had a spell available, fudged the rolls behind the screen, etc. But he let us play it out as he watched his plan crumble before him. We didn’t realize what he had intended for us till after the gaming session, so there was no intent to derail. It just kind happened. And the GM was actually amazed and impressed that we’d been able to pull it off. He adjusted and adapted and scrambled for some “and later we’ll do something like this” ideas he had running around in the back of his mind. It worked.

    2nd game, RoleMaster, different GM, HEAVY on planning and script. She’d created her own world setting, and it was very impressive and VERY detailed. Now I’m generally a go-along/get-along player, more than happy to follow a hook even when it’s an obvious one. Problem was, my character would have had no interest. I didn’t want to derail the game, but there was no way that my character was going to run off on a (granted, necessary) adventure and leave her younger sisters when they seemed to be in danger/vulnerable. (The GM can be blamed in part for this, as she created the whole family structure.) So, in order to play my character true to type, I (player) was prepared to sit out the session and I (character) did not try to convince the other characters to stick around the homestead.

    Well, this would have ruined the GM’s plans. So she started sending visions and suggestions from multiple other NPCs. My character held her ground. Finally, the GM sent the sisters in to tell me that *a goddess* had told them that I needed to go on this trip. Her next step was going to be direct divine intervention. I had ABSOLUTELY NO CHOICE in what my character was going to do unless I stood up from the table and walked away.

    THAT, folks, is railroading in the worst sense of the word. As a player, I REALLY resented it, and it pretty much killed the rest of the session for me.

    Thus endeth the novel.

  58. Dan Hemmens says:

    When you make it up on the fly you can still get something good, but it will require luck, judgement and the ability to make it sound like you didn't just make it up.

    Can I just press you a bit more on this, and ask what you actually mean by “plot”.

    Sorry if it sounds like a really pedantic question, but I think it might help us get on the same page.

    Perhaps a concrete example is in order here:

    Suppose a player, in response to my epic backstory says “screw this, I’m going to find a brothel” I would probably, if I was on the ball at that point, try to make a point of coming up with a “plot” which made the character’s trip to the brothel into an interesting event instead of a throwaway line. I might, for example, introduce a sympathetic prostitute who’s looking for somebody to help her get out of the life she’s in, or have the PC run afoul of the local thieves’ guild, or something.

    Is there anything in that which you, as a player, would object to? Would you feel that I’d “obviously just made it up” and that it therefore didn’t fit into the world?

  59. moonglum says:

    josh, thats why I have a fleshed out and structured world (well at least region…any where the players may wnader to in one games travle time…if they have to take a boat it gives me time to plan :) ) with a very lose story…there is no where the players can wander that dosn’t at least have a rough framework (I tend to fall back on some random town generation for small towns and whatnot )

  60. Erazmuth says:

    I would have to agree, as a player.. knowing no matter what im fighting the big bad? I’d start screwing around..cause, no matter what, im fighting the big bad.

    Then you get the PC’s who murder shopkeepers for no good reason.

    Now if the second in command or some other villain takes over, great..but make him WEAKER than the original big bad guy. That way the players feel like they really did accomplish something useful. By ganking him early, they made their job easier later on.

    In essence, they feel like they got away with something. Players love to feel like they got away with something. Im pretty sure thats universal.

    If it is some other situation, like they join the badguy.. I generally allow that to happen. Again though, each campaign I play is after the last one ends. So if they go evil in the first one, they are just the guys who need to be brought down in the second ,again, think star wars, If the player of the character “Anakin Skywalker” no matter how much you prod, joins the sith..don’t force him not to. Just make sure his next character has to fight against him , perhaps make him Chewbacca next time so he doesn’t turn to the dark side..again.

  61. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    Hehe. “Bite marks all over my ankles”. I have milk all over my monitor now. My boss has no problem with me laughing, but I think he’s getting cranky with me spewing my drinks all over the company’s electronics. :)

  62. Dan Hemmens says:

    The problem is with the players.. not the DM.. in the original Gygax bible.. the DM is always right…

    “The DM is always right” is a remarkably easy thing for a DM to believe.

    Tell me, if *all* of your players “whine” when you “try to make the game fun for everyone” does that mean that *all* of your players are spoiled brats?

    If you say “the DM’s job is to make the game fun for everyone” and “the DM is always right” what you wind up with is the statement that “whatever the DM wants to happen is, by definition, most fun for everyone, and anybody who doesn’t think so is a bad player.”

    This is obviously nonsense, but a surprising number of people genuinely believe it, even if they don’t admit it to themselves.

  63. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    I am reading this at work, so my time is limited. Please forgive me if this post regurgitates something someoen has already said. Earlier, Nathanael brought up CRPGs:
    “I think both LotR:O and KotOR are good examples of how I like my stories in my tabletop RPGs. I like having stories and plots available for the taking, and I like being aware of the various things that can be done. However, I also like having the choice if/when to do them. I'm not fond of the typical Final Fantasy “Oh, but you must!” railroad approach, nor am I fond of the Morrowwind “Here's the world, go do stuff” techniques.”
    The one thing that this argument does not take into account is that in a CRPG you are the only one who is requiring entertainment. When playing a tabletop RPG (TTRPG?) you have to consider the entertainment of the whole group, including the DM. So you feel like going exploring right now. How does everyone else feel about that? Will you be taxing your DM’s imagination by doing this? Will it be fun for everyone, or just you? Trust me: if it is only fun for you, eventually the others will make sure that is won’t be fun for you for long. The reason the “determined derailing” attitude by players can be so infuriating to me is because I make it my personal goal to craft an enjoyable evening for all involved. When one person won’t play along, it can ruin the fun for all.

  64. Roxysteve says:

    Shamus Says:
    After reading a few comments on earlier posts, I think I'm finally getting what is upsetting the derailers: It isn't any one particular change, but the very idea that the DM would make these sorts of changes. For them, it is breaking trust with the players.

    I see how that would be really upsetting for players who expect a deterministic world.

    Deterministic? I expect these players eschew the non-determinism of the “saving throw”, right? Riiiight.


    PS :o)))))))))

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