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Herabec
2011-12-08, 01:31 PM
Hello all!

My previous campaign has, unfortunately, come to an end due to half the group moving out of the country and new people joining, so to make things simple, starting with a new campaign setting. Now, I've had a lot of ideas coursing through my mind about this setting, and one of the things I'd really like are for fate and destiny to play large roles.

Questions I want the group to end up asking over the course of the game are 'What does it mean to have free will? Can we control our destinies? Can we change fate?'

The beginning of the overarching campaign plot would be when, at a pivotal moment, the group manages to change something that should have been a certainty. However, this doesn't happen until later in the campaign. (It's a 4th edition campaign, and by my estimations, this point won't arrive until levels 9-12)

My main concern, is that with these plot points pertaining to fate and destiny, how do I as the DM manage to ensure that certain things happen without railroading the group into doing things?

Yora
2011-12-08, 01:33 PM
Isn't the concept of destiny in itself railroading of the purest kind?

Herabec
2011-12-08, 01:45 PM
Isn't the concept of destiny in itself railroading of the purest kind?

I suppose so. I guess what I'm going for is 'How to railroad a party for a short period of time without their realizing they're riding my carefully plotted train?'

Shadowknight12
2011-12-08, 01:48 PM
My personal advice is that grabbing someone's neck and forcibly rubbing their faces against a piece of paper with the words "WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE FREE WILL?" is a terrible way to get someone to question anything philosophically. It only leads to anger and broken noses.

What I'd do in your case was to give them complete freedom to do whatever they wanted, then showing them how everything they do furthers the plan of some unseen force, how everything falls into place without a hitch and how it's dubious if it's all pure, utterly random luck, true predestination or if the unseen force is just really good at compensating for random variables.

Then I'd lead them to a pivotal point and have them choose between four possible 'endings.' In the first one, it was all true predestination. Nothing they do can possibly change what is to come. They will always do exactly what they were meant to do. If you're feeling merciful, that means that they were meant to stop the bad guy at the last moment. If you're feeling cruel, it means the bad guy was always going to win. This ending carries the "Only For Mature Audiences(TM)" label.

In the second one, the unseen force was just very good at compensating for random variables, so just play him as a powerful and incredibly wise and intelligent (but ultimately fallible) villain.

In the third one, there is no unseen force. It was all just ominous, but ultimately random, happenings. OR IS IT? --> Then segway into the next campaign.

In the fourth one, it's all in the characters' heads. They were all in some kind of accident (or they're dead!) and everything that happens is a reflection of their linked subconscious. Then as the realisation hits them, everything begins to crumble around them, as they're faced with the choice to keep on living in their fake reality (where nobody but them have free will) or wake up/move on to the afterlife.

EDIT:


I suppose so. I guess what I'm going for is 'How to railroad a party for a short period of time without their realizing they're riding my carefully plotted train?'

There's no 'trick' to achieve this. You just have to be more cunning than your players. This can only be achieved by knowing where their blind spots are and manipulating them accordingly. We cannot tell you how to do this as we do not know your players.

Also, I find this very idea quite despicable, since it defeats the purpose of playing a game. If they're going to be following a scripted plot, why aren't they watching a movie, reading a book, playing a videogame or watching a TV show? The point of a tabletop game is interactivity and freedom of choice. If you don't have that, you end up with a poor man's book/movie, and you're pitting yourself against things that are far above you in terms of quality.

Con_Brio1993
2011-12-08, 02:05 PM
Also, I find this very idea quite despicable, since it defeats the purpose of playing a game. If they're going to be following a scripted plot, why aren't they watching a movie, reading a book, playing a videogame or watching a TV show? The point of a tabletop game is interactivity and freedom of choice. If you don't have that, you end up with a poor man's book/movie, and you're pitting yourself against things that are far above you in terms of quality.

As long as they have the illusion of choice it doesn't really defeat the purpose of the game.

Shadowknight12
2011-12-08, 02:07 PM
As long as they have the illusion of choice it doesn't really defeat the purpose of the game.

That's pretty much like saying that cheating doesn't really defeat the purpose of fidelity so long as the other person doesn't find out.

Con_Brio1993
2011-12-08, 02:26 PM
That's pretty much like saying that cheating doesn't really defeat the purpose of fidelity so long as the other person doesn't find out.

It is kind of different. If I understood the OP, the players still have freedom of choice. They can do anything they want. It is just at the some point the DM will find a way to make it an in-universe point that all their actions had been destined to occur.

Out of game the players had total freedom, which is the point of a tabletop game. In game the DM simply spins it so that their character actions were "destiny."

Shadowknight12
2011-12-08, 02:45 PM
It is kind of different. If I understood the OP, the players still have freedom of choice. They can do anything they want. It is just at the some point the DM will find a way to make it an in-universe point that all their actions had been destined to occur.

Out of game the players had total freedom, which is the point of a tabletop game. In game the DM simply spins it so that their character actions were "destiny."

I seriously hope that's what he meant. What I got was that he wanted to lead the players into making the decisions and actions he wanted (and had, presumably, pre-planned), and wanted an easy trick on how to achieve that.

The_Ditto
2011-12-08, 02:54 PM
As long as they have the illusion of choice it doesn't really defeat the purpose of the game.

Isn't that quote direct from the Matrix :smalltongue:

Herabec
2011-12-08, 03:10 PM
I seriously hope that's what he meant. What I got was that he wanted to lead the players into making the decisions and actions he wanted (and had, presumably, pre-planned), and wanted an easy trick on how to achieve that.

Then clearly, I worded it wrong. Brio got it right.

gkathellar
2011-12-08, 03:10 PM
That's pretty much like saying that cheating doesn't really defeat the purpose of fidelity so long as the other person doesn't find out.

Except that one is actually about moral responsibility to yourself and the other is about crafting an experience for a group of people? This isn't even apples and oranges, it's like ... I don't know, cup ramen and twinkies? They're both packaged food, sure, but one is soup and the other is synthetic pastry.

I mean, if you're a cunning DM and you have a group of players for years and years, then you often know exactly what they're going to do, sometimes before they do. When you put together a game for those players, it's not unfair to put that knowledge into practice, so long as it actually improves their enjoyment of the game. There's nothing ethically problematic about crafting a game around people's expectations and likely actions.

That said, OP, most DMs aren't that cunning (including most that think they are), and trying to craft a game around a Batman gambit usually fails. I would say it's far better to make the struggle between free will vs. destiny explicit than to attempt "subtle" railroading and have it blow up in your face. Hell, even making the universe's railroading into a real narrative tension, a tangible force in the story, could theoretically work. Destiny's presence as an active force is meaningful, in its own way.

But don't try to control your players with manipulation unless you really can think through every single thing they'll ever attempt.

The_Snark
2011-12-08, 03:22 PM
I don't think that's quite what he means, but I don't think it's objectionable either.

My impression is that he wants to build a world where fate and predestination are established facts. Maybe everything is predestined, or maybe only certain important events are, but the point is that free will is limited. Then, at some point, the PCs go off the rails. They foil something that was fated to happen. They're breaking cosmic rules, and nobody knows quite what's going on with that, except that they're no longer fettered by what everyone thought was an inviolable law.

The question is, how do you impress that on the players? Because in order to make this idea work, you have to start out in a world where destiny is inviolate, and the players have to know it, or else it won't have any impact when they violate it. If you spring it on them out of the blue, they'll just shrug and go "so we foiled the prophecy, great, next adventure?" But at the same time, you don't want to take away his players' choices, even if it's just for the prelude/opening act, because railroading is no fun (and often backfires spectacularly).

So how do you convey a sense of inevitability while still letting your players make their own choices and affect the world?

Firstly, I think, you want to make it clear to the players that this is part of the setting: some things are fated to happen, and they'll happen no matter what, and the conflict between this and free will is one of the themes you want to explore. If your players react really badly to this, you might want to reconsider running this premise.

My advice would be to have destined events happen in the background of your campaign, never too close to your party. Maybe the whole world is predestined, but you don't need to plan out all of itójust a few big flashy events that have been foretold. (In case it needs to be said, try not to involve your players in these. Any prophecies involving the PCs should be invented after the fact, or else made vague enough that you can interpret them several different ways.) Make sure your players hear about these events, let the ramifications affect them, maybe task them with preparing to ride out the aftermath of prophesied battles and cataclysms, but don't put them in a position to interfere. Keep them on the fringes of predestined events, too distracted or busy with other matters to try and throw a wrench into the works. Maybe put them in a position where they have to struggle against fate and lose once or twice, but only if you're sure they're getting into the spirit enough to enjoy it, and only if you're confident in your ability to improvise a way to stymie them. But mostly, you want to use hearsay and rumor and news of far-off events to build that sense of inevitability.

Then, once your players have accepted that fate is something you just have to work around, you let them break it.

Edit- You might invite your players to participate in the fate theme by letting them invent their characters' fates, to a certain degree. Does a character want to be the destined slayer of X, or doomed to die at the battle of So-and-So? Let them! Such characters will be more affected when it turns out that their destinies aren't as certain as they thought.

Con_Brio1993
2011-12-08, 03:33 PM
Isn't that quote direct from the Matrix :smalltongue:

I never watched the Matrix, so that is a cool coincidence if true.

Yora
2011-12-08, 03:37 PM
Truth is truth.

Totally Guy
2011-12-08, 04:03 PM
I've got to tell you guys about how destiny works in Burning Wheel. But first I've got to tell you about how it is played.

Characters each have three Beliefs which are statements about what the character wants to do and why. The GM tells the players of the initial situation, the player writes a belief about that situation. The GM starts with the situation and continues to challenge the beliefs of the character. The direction of the story goes toward those things that arise in play that'll conflict the beliefs. When the player follows or in some cases opposes the belief they gain experience pretty much.

The game doesn't work if you plan ahead a story and expect everyone to follow it.

I had a player who was a knight and he had the belief that he'd find and take back his legendary ancestral weapon no matter the cost. In pursuing that belief he did terrible things. He abandoned his post in war to kill his rival who was fighting on his own side. He killed a young noble of but 17 who was a member of the order he sought to rejoin. And eventually he had an elf he knew aid him bit the aid was not free. The elf said that he'd help him but a terrible destiny would follow. The knight agreed and the elf told him that it was his destiny to be killed by the very weapon he sought.

The mechanic was as such: The elf was able to change the players belief. If was no longer about getting his ancestral weapon back. It was about dying to it.

One of the players main sources of experience was through him taking steps towards fulfilling this prophecy. Struggling with the implications of the prophecy also counted.

The elf that dished out the prophecy was in fact another player in the group. And he too had to keep this same belief. He'd get experience for taking steps towards this ultimate conclusion.

The knight did in fact die by his own weapon. He'd become a very bad man through his desperation.


Anyway, the point is that destiny does not have to be a railroad. The example I gave was an extreme case. The players can be motivated to follow a their destiny if they get a hand in saying what it is and getting rewarded for it. A player that can declare a prophecy (which could have easily gone wrong) is a very powerful element in enabling the players with the means to choose their own directions for the game.

prufock
2011-12-08, 04:19 PM
This makes me think of a few scenarios.

1 - The vague prophecy.
In this scenario, there is some sort of prophecy indicating that free will is NOT free, that things will play out in a certain way. Prophecy should be a known, established thing in this universe. Then you supply a prophecy (or multiple) that is anathema to the PCs, giving them cause to want to prevent it.

The trick is that the prophecy is vague, and seems to suggest one thing, while being open to other interpretations. This way, no matter what the PCs do (and they should have total character control) the prophecy fits within the bounds of the outcome.

The prophecy can be subtle, tricky, or whatever. For instance, "You will betray your friends." It doesn't say which friends, and it doesn't say how. It doesn't even say that it will happen on purpose.

2 - the Backup plan aka the Xanatos Gambit
This is similar to the "unseen force" that ShadowKnight12 suggests, but it doesn't have to be unseen. The baddie has set up things so that no matter what course of action the PCs take, he wins or benefits in some way.

3 - Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in
Very similar to the first, this one has a tricky prophecy in which trying to prevent it actually causes it. Alternatively, just when they think they've stopped the prophecy, they realize they've been chasing the wrong thing, or that the problems have just started.

All of these rely on the dirty tactic of sort of "tricking" the players. They all occur in fiction quite often, tricking either the characters or the reader, or both. It can be fun, and done right it can be mind-blowing, but it requires some careful planning. You can't always see what your players will do.

GungHo
2011-12-08, 04:26 PM
My main concern, is that with these plot points pertaining to fate and destiny, how do I as the DM manage to ensure that certain things happen without railroading the group into doing things?
Do what every fortune-teller/flim-flam man does... make the prophecy vague enough for it to be fulfilled by many conditions, including success and failure. Additionally, some things may not be within the PC's control, so it's easy to make those things happen.

What will irritate people, though, is if you turn it all around and make the PCs the villians of the story. Sure, maybe the princess could never be saved, but you can't turn it around and make them the killers unless you have the right kind of trust with your group or unless you build it up to where she was evil all along (and be prepared to be called a hack).

Additionally, if they really did manage to save her from all harm, you're going to have to be quick minded and figure out how you can still make your prophecy work in some way without destroying their heroism. While you could just have her hit by a Coors Light truck when someone says "see, she dodged that silver bullet after all", be prepared to have a coaster thrown at you like a ninja star.

NichG
2011-12-09, 05:02 AM
This reminds me a little of Chrono Cross, where at the start of the game you see everyone go to the oracle (save points) to find out how their life is going to go and what choices they should make. Its an everpresent part of life even in small, undeveloped villages. Everyone knows their future to a detailed level. Then dimension-hopping shenanigans ensue and you see the universe where this wasn't the case, and fate was not followed to a T.

That said, trying to run that as a tabletop game would fall apart rather quickly since the PCs would nearly as the first thing they do break the prediction of the oracle just to see what'd happen.

A better way to do it might be to treat fates like magic items in the setting. You can go and buy a fate from a fortune teller or whatever, and then the fate makes certain things happen for you by twisting events, die rolls, and the like. Sometimes fates of certain kinds just don't stick to people, i.e. people who are already involved in contradictory fates. The fortune tellers are actually all agents of some deity or force that wants the world to accept fate because that gives it power over the world - they can either be unconscious agents (i.e. fated to help it) or actual extraplanar entities disguising themselves.

Mechanically, a 'fate' creates automatic successes on any random elements directly leading to the fate being satisfied, and automatic failures on any random elements that lead against the fate. It's very heavyhanded and obvious out of character that some strong mechanical effect is pushing events.

Along come the PCs. They interact with this system, maybe even get fates of their own, whatever, but basically all is normal. Then at some point, throw a fight at them that they're 'destined' to lose despite it being CR-5. When they manage to win or at least avoid losing the fight, there's a palpable 'snap'. Upside: Fate mechanics no longer are able to work against them. Downside: Fate mechanics no longer work for them either. They have broken fate and now it has no hold on them.

If you want to make it still be a philosophical question, have it so that some entity opposing the Fatesmith set it all up to happen, set the PCs up to break free, and they're really just following a 'higher' fate that overrode the weaker ones. Then the true question is if the PCs can break free of this secondary Xanatos-like figure.

horngeek
2011-12-09, 05:16 AM
Here's how I'd handle it: prophesies are vague, might have advice, but don't set much down in stone.

Saying that, for example, the PCs are fated to be the ones to stand against the Great Evil (tm) is good. Saying they're fated to do so in an incredibly precise way is bad.

NichG
2011-12-09, 10:08 AM
Oh, another idea:

Play it from the other side. Have the PCs be the ones in charge of writing fate and destiny. At first its a neat power that they gain access to somehow, but then the things they write interfere and tangle and make everything more complicated, coming back to themselves. Bonus points if at some point the PCs are fated to use the scribe of fate to write a particular fate!

That way, its not railroading so much as letting the PCs railroad themselves.

0Megabyte
2011-12-10, 09:20 PM
In this world, is the destiny of the mankind controlled by some transcendental entity or law?

Is it like the hand of God hovering above?

At least, it is true that man has no control, even over his own role playing games...

Oh, Berserk. Why did this thread make me think of you?