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HidesHisEyes
2016-11-14, 12:00 PM
Since my thread about "GM-led vs player-led adventures" and the very interesting discussion that followed it, I've started thinking about player freedom slightly differently.

It seems to me there are four levels of player freedom, sort of like levels of magnification. All four levels are present in every game, but the amount of freedom or agency the players have at each level can differ.

At the most zoomed in level you have combat. In combat the players act individually and do whatever they like within the limits of the rules and the battlefield the GM has designed. You make choices about what action to take, whom to attack, where to move, what spell to cast. Other challenges exist at this level - you make choices of exactly what to say in an interaction scene - but in D&D at least it is mainly combat.

The next level up is exploration. You make choices about which path to take, which dungeon room to go in next, and also choices of approach like whether to fight the guard, sneak past or talk your way past. Personally I think railroading at this level is unforgivable. The players should have a definite goal but they should be left to figure out how to achieve it themselves.

The next level you could call the campaign level. This is where the group decides what the objectives are. Power is divided between GM and players in some ratio. This is where my earlier distinction between GM-led and player-led games resides, although as many people pointed out it's not a clear binary distinction.

And finally you have the metagame: decisions about the type of game you're playing. Are the player characters adventurers who crawl dungeons and kill monsters or detectives who solve mysteries or what? This is where I feel power should be weighted towards the GM, purely because it's much easier to be a player in a game that's not your favourite type of game and still have fun, than to GM a game you're not interested in and do the work necessary to make it fun for both you and the players.

All of this is my way of trying to get a handle on the difficult task of knowing how much freedom, and what type of freedom, to give players when GMing, since I don't think either "Dictatorial GM" or "total sandbox freedom" reliably make for a satisfying game, and I need some organised way of thinking about the nuances involved to make my games work.

2D8HP
2016-11-14, 12:26 PM
I don't think either "Dictatorial GM" or "total sandbox freedom" reliably make for a satisfying game,Fun is in the balance.
And the perception of "Railroad" or "not railroad" is in the set-up (see here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?504775-Player-led-games-vs-GM-led-games&p=21394839#post21394839)).

Darth Ultron
2016-11-14, 06:53 PM
The concept of player freedom is vague at best. A lot of the freedom a player has is an illusion, as that is one of the draw backs of being a player. Most players just choose to ignore this, as they just want to have fun and not be a master of the universe. A player chooses to play a single character or so and willingly gives up 99% of their freedom to do so.

I'd refine your four levels to:
1.Encounter
2.Adventure
3.Campaign
4.Metagame

At the encounter level the players have the most freedom. During an encounter a character can do, or at least try to do, just about anything, within the boundaries of common sense, the game rules and the game setting.

At the adventure level players have a lot less freedom. The players can make some broad decision and have some freedom, but a lot of that is an illusion. There are only so many paths to 'spot X' and it's much more the players picking a path then blazing a new path. Picking one path from many is not exactly freedom. More so, for most choices you generally only have one choice that is the best and most likely to succeed. You might have one or two that are close to the best option and will still work. However after that, you mostly sink to long shots. Again this limits the freedom.

At the campaign level the players have very little freedom, at least in a typical game where the characters are ''just a group of adventurers''. The campaign is a lot like a river that the players can only make ripples in. Even if the players really dedicate themselves to changing the world and doing nothing else, they still won't be able to obliterate continents. With a lot of planning and long term game play they might be able to do it.

At the metagame level the players simply have no freedom. This is the game ''above'' the characters and the players can't be objective.

Of course, a lot of Dm simply solve the freedom problem by ''quantum ogre''ing the whole world, so amazingly, the whole world changes depending on what the players do. So when the players do ''something radical'' the DM has a ''whole kingdom fall'' and the players act all happy as they destroyed a kingdom....but, of course, they did not really do that, as the DM did it ''for'' the players and let them take the credit.

oxybe
2016-11-14, 08:05 PM
Darth Ultron, since you haven't answered what I asked in the mentionned thread, I'll ask again: what would you do in this situation:

You, the GM have just presented a potential quest hook to the party: Go in the neighbouring valley and rescue the captive princess before the dragon eats her during the full moon as part of a ceremony.

The players, after discussing, decide to decline that offer of employment. "Our characters don't really care much for the royalty and assaulting a dragon in it's lair is above our pay grade, quite honestly. There is taking acceptable and calculated risks and that dragon falls under neither conceits of acceptable risk or a calculated one" one of the players relays to you, the GM.

In character, they then respectfully decline the questgiver: their current skillset is not the one you should be looking for when it comes to hunting and killing a dragon and might further endanger the princess by giving the dragon an early warning.

Later, at their inn/cottage/lair/starbucks, they then begin discussing their next plans on what they would like to do: As the paladin is wanting to start looking for the materials and smith needed to get himself a suit of mythril fullplate, the barbarian gets it in his head now for a big adamantine greataxe. the wizard would like to increase the quality of his tools, and he's been thinking of getting a magical crystal ball for a while now, while the rogue would like to see if there's anyone in the area who can take the ironwood door they looted a while back (adventurers will be adventurers) and use it as material for a new crossbow.

So what would you do as gm: The party has declined your hook and are discussing among themselves what they are interested in doing (or at least look into the possibilities of doing) as a group... what do?

EvilCookie
2016-11-14, 08:58 PM
Later, at their inn/cottage/lair/starbucks, they then begin discussing their next plans on what they would like to do: As the paladin is wanting to start looking for the materials and smith needed to get himself a suit of mythril fullplate, the barbarian gets it in his head now for a big adamantine greataxe. the wizard would like to increase the quality of his tools, and he's been thinking of getting a magical crystal ball for a while now, while the rogue would like to see if there's anyone in the area who can take the ironwood door they looted a while back (adventurers will be adventurers) and use it as material for a new crossbow.

So what would you do as gm: The party has declined your hook and are discussing among themselves what they are interested in doing (or at least look into the possibilities of doing) as a group... what do?

The PC concerns are very resonable.
They explained it quite nicely, and it makes sense they declined.
I would let them have their freedom, and either make a different hook, or make adventures for them to collect the materials, find craftsmen etc.

You can also do something along the lines of: "the king demands you go rescue the princess, or you will be the next sacrifice"
It kinda makes sense in the world (the king wants to save his daughter), it still leaves the players a choice (try to fight the dragon, hire someone to do it, or just get away from the kingdom and the king), but it may also be seen as railroading.

Cluedrew
2016-11-14, 10:27 PM
I'd refine your four levels to:
1.Encounter
2.Adventure
3.Campaign
4.MetagameThat is a pretty good set of names, the only one that didn't just click in my head was number 2, but I can't think of a better name myself. Anyways, besides how styles of games you are not interested might change the amounts of freedom at levels 1-3 I have a comment about level 4.

I think you are confusing character freedom and player freedom. The characters can't do anything at that level because it exists outside of their universe. However players have an lot of freedom here because they can make requests of the group and, if all else fails, they can choose to not play. So while what you say holds true for characters it doesn't for players. Unless the players have been kidnapped or are otherwise forced to play against their will. But I think we can safely discount that option.

RazorChain
2016-11-14, 11:17 PM
I would define this differently


1) Character
You decide how your character feels, reacts, does and says within the boundaries of the rules. This applies both in encounters and within the larger scope of the campaign setting. This is where the players has most freedom

2) World
This is where the character interacts with the world. He wants to go somewhere but the GM puts things in his path that the GM has created. The GM is firmly in control here and the player has as much freedom as the GM allows. Hence the problem with railroading.

3) Metagaming
This is where the player can influence the game through making requests to the GM, decide what type of character he is going to play or even leave the game if he is dissatisfied. This is where the GM and Players should cooperate the most and games often fall a part because of bad communication between players and GM. This is where the players and GM decide what kind of game they want to play.

Martin Greywolf
2016-11-15, 03:41 AM
Honestly, these kinds of discussion are mostly a result of poor DM advice in most TTRPG books that just keep dragging on. Essentially, there should be no railroading as such whatsoever. Before you start to roll dice, both DM and players should sit down and discuss what they want to do during this next campaign they are about to play - what the setting should be like, what they want to do in it, what sorts of adventures they are looking for.

Once the game starts, there should be constant feedback loop between them and DM about what they liked, what they didn't like etc - as *players*, mind you, many things that suck monkey balls for PCs are awesome for their players. Of course, players may decide they want the DM to surprise them, but in that case, refusing the kidnapped princess task to go crafting stuff on the spot, without telling your DM about it, is just players being spiteful. Either talk it out with them, or go find new players.

As an example, one of my players has a character who is a member of a noble family - I wanted to do an adventure focusing on said family, so I talked it out with him, asked him if he was okay with a few decisions they'd make and if he'd go along with some things. He now knows rough outline of the adventure a bit early, but that's not much of a problem since he'd know that inside of the first 15 minutes of play anyway, and we're on the same page about what exactly is his family getting up to.

Darth Ultron
2016-11-15, 08:58 AM
So what would you do as gm: The party has declined your hook and are discussing among themselves what they are interested in doing (or at least look into the possibilities of doing) as a group... what do?

I would not care, though in the back ground story generally the ''worst'' will have happened. So in this case the princess would have been gobbled up or another adventuring group would be famous as ''heroes of the kingdom''.

I'm less forgiving once we go through a plot for a bit Once we are in, if the players want to be jerks and say ''oh, we just drop everything and do something else'' I would not be ok with that. Though in most cases I'd just leave the group; you want to have fun doing something else, you can do it without me. I know it can get really bad with the jerk players that ''like to start 1001 adventures'' but never finish one, so I won't stick around.


That is a pretty good set of names, the only one that didn't just click in my head was number 2, but I can't think of a better name myself. Anyways, besides how styles of games you are not interested might change the amounts of freedom at levels 1-3 I have a comment about level 4.

I think you are confusing character freedom and player freedom. The characters can't do anything at that level because it exists outside of their universe. However players have an lot of freedom here because they can make requests of the group and, if all else fails, they can choose to not play. So while what you say holds true for characters it doesn't for players. Unless the players have been kidnapped or are otherwise forced to play against their will. But I think we can safely discount that option.

Number 4 is really the big illusion one. Sure a player can say ''I want more mindless optimized combat roll playing'' or ''more dragons'' or ''lets fight a vampire'', but they will all be superficial. So even if the DM does say ''add more dragons'' the DM can do it in any of a billion billion ways...and it might not be what the player likes or wanted.

Lorsa
2016-11-15, 09:06 AM
Since my thread about "GM-led vs player-led adventures" and the very interesting discussion that followed it, I've started thinking about player freedom slightly differently.

It seems to me there are four levels of player freedom, sort of like levels of magnification. All four levels are present in every game, but the amount of freedom or agency the players have at each level can differ.

At the most zoomed in level you have combat. In combat the players act individually and do whatever they like within the limits of the rules and the battlefield the GM has designed. You make choices about what action to take, whom to attack, where to move, what spell to cast. Other challenges exist at this level - you make choices of exactly what to say in an interaction scene - but in D&D at least it is mainly combat.

The next level up is exploration. You make choices about which path to take, which dungeon room to go in next, and also choices of approach like whether to fight the guard, sneak past or talk your way past. Personally I think railroading at this level is unforgivable. The players should have a definite goal but they should be left to figure out how to achieve it themselves.

The next level you could call the campaign level. This is where the group decides what the objectives are. Power is divided between GM and players in some ratio. This is where my earlier distinction between GM-led and player-led games resides, although as many people pointed out it's not a clear binary distinction.

And finally you have the metagame: decisions about the type of game you're playing. Are the player characters adventurers who crawl dungeons and kill monsters or detectives who solve mysteries or what? This is where I feel power should be weighted towards the GM, purely because it's much easier to be a player in a game that's not your favourite type of game and still have fun, than to GM a game you're not interested in and do the work necessary to make it fun for both you and the players.

All of this is my way of trying to get a handle on the difficult task of knowing how much freedom, and what type of freedom, to give players when GMing, since I don't think either "Dictatorial GM" or "total sandbox freedom" reliably make for a satisfying game, and I need some organised way of thinking about the nuances involved to make my games work.

It appears my last post in your other thread should've been better placed here. However, as I have limited time to browse the forum these days, I didn't spot this thread earlier.

While I think your attempt at putting player freedom at different levels of magnification, I think it misses some important things.

The most obvious one is that your "metagame" level, where you place the decision of what type of game you're level has to be done by consensus. If the GM, by some strange method, forces the players to play a game they really don't want to, it's not railroading, it's bullying. Everybody needs to be, at the very least "okay" with the metagame level, otherwise there can't be a game at all. In my experience, it's usually a diplomacy roll between the involved people, where I, the GM, tries to convince the players to try some other type of game or setting, and they trying to talk me into GMing fantasy again. Since I still prefer a fantasy game to no game at all, I usually say yes in the end.

Then there are the other three levels, which I feel flow into each other quite a lot, or is a bit muddily defined. How exactly is a decision in "combat" different from a decision in "sneaking past the guard or bluffing it"? Both are declarations of in-game action, both are attempts to solve a situation or problem. Also, how is the choice of "which path to take during exploration" different to "objectives/adventures chosen"? Sometimes, they are equal as the declaration of "we will go to the Dungeon of Doom instead of the Tower of Troubles" is both an exploration decision AND an objective decision at the same time.

Moving the meta-game aside, as it is a place I feel everyone, GM and players both, need to have 100% freedom, I prefer to look at player freedom for different aspects of the game.

Like I mentioned in the other thread, these include things like "who decides how situations/problems/obstacles can be overcome", "who decides on the adventure/objective" as well as "who decides when/where scenes start/end and how they transition". Obviously these influence each other as well, but I feel it helps figuring out where in the game players have agency (and where they lack it) better than looking at combat/exploration/campaign.

To give an example, suppose the players choose to have their characters take on a job to smuggle some goods from City A to City B. They then say that, before they leave, they would like to speak to NPC X about something or other. However, the GM continues by saying that they now stand outside the gate of City B and must figure out how to get the goods past the guards (and allows them total freedom of choice in how to approach it).

In this scenario, it is obvious that the players have agency both with what adventure to pick, and how to approach/solve an encounter or situation. However, I would argue that they are still being railroaded, as they were not allowed to speak to NPC X. While they wanted to go to City B, they didn't want to go there just yet, they had other scenes in mind first. Skipping those and forcing them to to the encounter is removing their agency on the axis of "scene transition".

In order to have a good game, the GM most often still needs to have some measure of control over scene transitions, but too much control still equates railroading, and usually unhappy players. It's an aspect that is often being overlooked I feel.

HidesHisEyes
2016-11-15, 01:31 PM
It appears my last post in your other thread should've been better placed here. However, as I have limited time to browse the forum these days, I didn't spot this thread earlier.

While I think your attempt at putting player freedom at different levels of magnification, I think it misses some important things.

The most obvious one is that your "metagame" level, where you place the decision of what type of game you're level has to be done by consensus. If the GM, by some strange method, forces the players to play a game they really don't want to, it's not railroading, it's bullying. Everybody needs to be, at the very least "okay" with the metagame level, otherwise there can't be a game at all. In my experience, it's usually a diplomacy roll between the involved people, where I, the GM, tries to convince the players to try some other type of game or setting, and they trying to talk me into GMing fantasy again. Since I still prefer a fantasy game to no game at all, I usually say yes in the end.

Then there are the other three levels, which I feel flow into each other quite a lot, or is a bit muddily defined. How exactly is a decision in "combat" different from a decision in "sneaking past the guard or bluffing it"? Both are declarations of in-game action, both are attempts to solve a situation or problem. Also, how is the choice of "which path to take during exploration" different to "objectives/adventures chosen"? Sometimes, they are equal as the declaration of "we will go to the Dungeon of Doom instead of the Tower of Troubles" is both an exploration decision AND an objective decision at the same time.

Moving the meta-game aside, as it is a place I feel everyone, GM and players both, need to have 100% freedom, I prefer to look at player freedom for different aspects of the game.

Like I mentioned in the other thread, these include things like "who decides how situations/problems/obstacles can be overcome", "who decides on the adventure/objective" as well as "who decides when/where scenes start/end and how they transition". Obviously these influence each other as well, but I feel it helps figuring out where in the game players have agency (and where they lack it) better than looking at combat/exploration/campaign.

To give an example, suppose the players choose to have their characters take on a job to smuggle some goods from City A to City B. They then say that, before they leave, they would like to speak to NPC X about something or other. However, the GM continues by saying that they now stand outside the gate of City B and must figure out how to get the goods past the guards (and allows them total freedom of choice in how to approach it).

In this scenario, it is obvious that the players have agency both with what adventure to pick, and how to approach/solve an encounter or situation. However, I would argue that they are still being railroaded, as they were not allowed to speak to NPC X. While they wanted to go to City B, they didn't want to go there just yet, they had other scenes in mind first. Skipping those and forcing them to to the encounter is removing their agency on the axis of "scene transition".

In order to have a good game, the GM most often still needs to have some measure of control over scene transitions, but too much control still equates railroading, and usually unhappy players. It's an aspect that is often being overlooked I feel.

Really interesting posts, both this and the one on the other thread.

I think I could have been clearer about a couple of things. Regarding the metagame, I didn't mean to imply I think the GM just dictates the type of game and everyone has to go along with it or not play at all. I absolutely agree there has to be a conversation. But I also think it's fair for the power to be weighted - not totally but weighted - in favour of the GM since the GM is the one doing the work to give the players something to play, and it's very hard to do that work if you yourself are not interested in the type of game you're running. I think it's important for players to respect this and be willing to make concessions and try things they might not choose. Should the GM be prepared to make concessions too? Of course, just to a lesser extent.

For me all of these ideas are about trying to find a way to structure my games so that players have freedom and agency but the gameplay experience never, or very rarely, feels aimless or unsatisfying. In other words I'm coming at this from a gamist direction. As such, I see your point that there is no real difference between my levels of decision-making - from an in-universe point of view. If the characters are free to choose which orc to attack or how to get past the guard post, why shouldn't they be equally free to choose which adventure to go on next and when to set off? Well I think the difference is that the choice of when scenes begin and end is part of the game's structure, not part of its setting. It is a metagame decision, in other words, and one that has a big impact on the gameplay experience.

To be more specific, I find that if the players choose unexpectedly to set off in a whole new direction then I find that very difficult to deal with, right there at the table, and still give them something fun and satisfying. It may just be me, I may be bad at improvising or just not enjoy it a whole lot, but that is my thinking anyway. And my solution is not (anymore) simply to remove freedom at the campaign level, but to try and organise it so that such decisions are, as far as possible, hashed out either away from the table or at the end of the session. That way I have time to come up with something fun and satisfying.

To apply it to your example of the players wanting to go see an NPC before setting off for the other city, I would be asking "what are you doing next" at the end of a session or in between sessions, and if they said "go to the other city" then I'd say "is there anything you want to finish up here before you go?" Not because I don't believe in player freedom but because I honestly can't provide that kind of freedom without being organised about it.

Anyway, all of this is just my way of trying to run good games. Your way of thinking about it is different but if it works for you and your players then cool. I think thinking about it at all is probably what's important.

Jay R
2016-11-15, 03:31 PM
The essential moment of true player freedom comes by agreeing to play the game, or not to.

If you agreed to play chess, it isn't a loss of player freedom that your pawn can only move forward.

If you agree to play baseball, it isn't a loss of freedom that you have to hit the ball before you can run the bases.

And if you agree to play a D&D game with a specific quest, it isn't a loss of freedom to go on that quest.

Pugwampy
2016-11-15, 05:04 PM
I need some organized way of thinking about the nuances involved to make my games work.

Could you be specific ? This sounds like you are looking a formula for making a great session .

My favorite DM spent a couple hours typing out a 1-2 page story as his prep starting point . Sometimes he would even read it to us .

I try to imagine a cool combat scenario or wanting to try my luck and experiment with an idea . Then I figure out a silly story on how to coax the players to that point . I guess i consider myself a sandbox DM but i offer suggestions and jobs if they look at me for direction . I ask em what they want to do and offer consequences to their actions . I think player freedom is very important and i get a kick from adapting to what they want or where they go .

I do try to force my hand if they start wanting to be evil , because that kills the game and the fun .

HidesHisEyes
2016-11-15, 05:48 PM
Well that was more an explanation of my OP in this thread than a request for advice (although I'm always on the lookout for tips). I'm trying to come up with a workable structure for a campaign, I'd say, rather than a formula for a great session. I believe in player freedom but I also believe in structure. I'm sharing my thoughts as I try to reconcile the two, and seeing what other people's thoughts on it are.

RazorChain
2016-11-15, 10:33 PM
It appears my last post in your other thread should've been better placed here. However, as I have limited time to browse the forum these days, I didn't spot this thread earlier.

While I think your attempt at putting player freedom at different levels of magnification, I think it misses some important things.

The most obvious one is that your "metagame" level, where you place the decision of what type of game you're level has to be done by consensus. If the GM, by some strange method, forces the players to play a game they really don't want to, it's not railroading, it's bullying. Everybody needs to be, at the very least "okay" with the metagame level, otherwise there can't be a game at all. In my experience, it's usually a diplomacy roll between the involved people, where I, the GM, tries to convince the players to try some other type of game or setting, and they trying to talk me into GMing fantasy again. Since I still prefer a fantasy game to no game at all, I usually say yes in the end.

Then there are the other three levels, which I feel flow into each other quite a lot, or is a bit muddily defined. How exactly is a decision in "combat" different from a decision in "sneaking past the guard or bluffing it"? Both are declarations of in-game action, both are attempts to solve a situation or problem. Also, how is the choice of "which path to take during exploration" different to "objectives/adventures chosen"? Sometimes, they are equal as the declaration of "we will go to the Dungeon of Doom instead of the Tower of Troubles" is both an exploration decision AND an objective decision at the same time.


I agree the levels of magnification are unnecessary. The players control their characters while the GM controls the world. It doesn't matter at what level you look at it as the game is usually just interlocked scenes or encounters. The characters can interact with the world within the scope of the rules or what the GM allows them.

The GM ceding some control of the world to the players isn't normally bad but the other way around when the GM tries to wrest control of a character from a player is usually a bad thing.




Moving the meta-game aside, as it is a place I feel everyone, GM and players both, need to have 100% freedom, I prefer to look at player freedom for different aspects of the game.

Like I mentioned in the other thread, these include things like "who decides how situations/problems/obstacles can be overcome", "who decides on the adventure/objective" as well as "who decides when/where scenes start/end and how they transition". Obviously these influence each other as well, but I feel it helps figuring out where in the game players have agency (and where they lack it) better than looking at combat/exploration/campaign.

To give an example, suppose the players choose to have their characters take on a job to smuggle some goods from City A to City B. They then say that, before they leave, they would like to speak to NPC X about something or other. However, the GM continues by saying that they now stand outside the gate of City B and must figure out how to get the goods past the guards (and allows them total freedom of choice in how to approach it).

In this scenario, it is obvious that the players have agency both with what adventure to pick, and how to approach/solve an encounter or situation. However, I would argue that they are still being railroaded, as they were not allowed to speak to NPC X. While they wanted to go to City B, they didn't want to go there just yet, they had other scenes in mind first. Skipping those and forcing them to to the encounter is removing their agency on the axis of "scene transition".

In order to have a good game, the GM most often still needs to have some measure of control over scene transitions, but too much control still equates railroading, and usually unhappy players. It's an aspect that is often being overlooked I feel.

But I feel the power still rests with the GM in the meta-game. Unless all of the group are equally gifted GMs capable of running good games the players usually want the "best" GM to run a game. This GM usually has the final say in what he wants to run though the players can influence it or just leave the game. When game specifics have been hammered out then the GM can still veto things like characters, skills, talents, feats, backstories etc. If a player shows up with a clown character in a spec. ops game then I'm sure most GMs would veto the character. The inability of a GM to be in control can harm the game as much as not being able to negotiate and being too strict.

As for adventures/objectives these can both be decided in the game or the meta-game. Who sets them is not important. The direction isn't important if everyone agrees on going there. There are players that like railroady adventures an those who don't, the problem arises when the GM wants to railroad and the players don't want to or vice versa. Of course if objectives or the premise of the campaign is set beforehand for example dungeon delving and the players just hang around town and bully the town militia and start bar fights then it is a breach of contract. The same thing if the GM promised Dungeon Delving and doesn't deliver.


Who decides how situations/problems/obstacles can be overcome?
I feel that this lies both in the hands of the GM and the system. Certain systems steer you down the path of violence while others encourage smart thinking, or even talking, some even encourage combination of all three. But the GM is still firmly in control here as he can decide what will work and what won't in any given circumstances regardless of die rolls or rules.


Scene transitions are usually decided both by players and GM, when both are ready to end the scene it ends. Of course the GM can forcefully end the scene without listening to his players but that falls under bad Gming and railroading.



Really interesting posts, both this and the one on the other thread.

I think I could have been clearer about a couple of things. Regarding the metagame, I didn't mean to imply I think the GM just dictates the type of game and everyone has to go along with it or not play at all. I absolutely agree there has to be a conversation. But I also think it's fair for the power to be weighted - not totally but weighted - in favour of the GM since the GM is the one doing the work to give the players something to play, and it's very hard to do that work if you yourself are not interested in the type of game you're running. I think it's important for players to respect this and be willing to make concessions and try things they might not choose. Should the GM be prepared to make concessions too? Of course, just to a lesser extent.

For me all of these ideas are about trying to find a way to structure my games so that players have freedom and agency but the gameplay experience never, or very rarely, feels aimless or unsatisfying. In other words I'm coming at this from a gamist direction. As such, I see your point that there is no real difference between my levels of decision-making - from an in-universe point of view. If the characters are free to choose which orc to attack or how to get past the guard post, why shouldn't they be equally free to choose which adventure to go on next and when to set off? Well I think the difference is that the choice of when scenes begin and end is part of the game's structure, not part of its setting. It is a metagame decision, in other words, and one that has a big impact on the gameplay experience.

To be more specific, I find that if the players choose unexpectedly to set off in a whole new direction then I find that very difficult to deal with, right there at the table, and still give them something fun and satisfying. It may just be me, I may be bad at improvising or just not enjoy it a whole lot, but that is my thinking anyway. And my solution is not (anymore) simply to remove freedom at the campaign level, but to try and organise it so that such decisions are, as far as possible, hashed out either away from the table or at the end of the session. That way I have time to come up with something fun and satisfying.

To apply it to your example of the players wanting to go see an NPC before setting off for the other city, I would be asking "what are you doing next" at the end of a session or in between sessions, and if they said "go to the other city" then I'd say "is there anything you want to finish up here before you go?" Not because I don't believe in player freedom but because I honestly can't provide that kind of freedom without being organised about it.

Anyway, all of this is just my way of trying to run good games. Your way of thinking about it is different but if it works for you and your players then cool. I think thinking about it at all is probably what's important.


The best way to ensure that the players stay at the task at hand and their characters don't amble off aimlessly, forcing you to improvise, is to talk to them when an session or an adventure comes to close and ask them what they are going to do next. Even asking them what they want to see more of in the game can be really helpful. If one wants to get cool shiny weapons, another wants to explore his backstory and the third wants to kill things then you might as well combine the three.

This gives you time to prep for next session and you know what the players want from the game.

The second method is to give them something interesting to interact with or a plot hook. I usually have a trick or two up my sleeve when the players manage to foil my villains and we still have couple of hours left of gaming, small scenarios or even some plot hooks for larger adventures.

But the key is often to know your world and have other things happening in the background that the characters can get embroiled in. Sometimes my players just get sucked into some background things, like taking down a serial killer that was a kidney pie vendor, stopping a heretical priest from damning his church and his congregation or getting involved in rivalry between two merchant families in a small town.

Cozzer
2016-11-16, 05:21 AM
Personally, I like to tell my "main hook", the thing that the campaign is about, before the campaign starts. If a character outright refuses the "main hook", they become a NPC, and all the players know this from the beginning. If a player isn't interested in the main hook they know it before they created a character and got invested in the campaign.

In oxybe's example, my reaction would depend on the main hook. If the main hook was "mercenaries doing quests and gaining money", no problem. The king's quest was just one of the ways to do that. They'll deal with other problems to get the money they need for the mithril armor, or whatever. With such a main hook, the only thing a character can't do is stop being part of the mercenary band and retire, or join a rival band or whatever. The king will have to spend more money to get a more experienced and confident group to deal with the dragon offscreen.

If the main hook was something more restricting, like "this is a one-shot about a group of adventurers having to find a way to defeat a mighty dragon", then the characters will go and to their things offscreen while the players create a group of character that will accept the quest (or just drop the campaign, since apparently they weren't that interested in it). Outside of one-shots, though, it's very unlikely that I would create such a specific and restricting main hook.

This sort of ties into the "metagame" level of freedom, where I, as the GM, decide what sort of game I'm interested in GMing and ask the players if they're interested in playing it.

HidesHisEyes
2016-11-17, 01:23 PM
Personally, I like to tell my "main hook", the thing that the campaign is about, before the campaign starts. If a character outright refuses the "main hook", they become a NPC, and all the players know this from the beginning. If a player isn't interested in the main hook they know it before they created a character and got invested in the campaign.

In oxybe's example, my reaction would depend on the main hook. If the main hook was "mercenaries doing quests and gaining money", no problem. The king's quest was just one of the ways to do that. They'll deal with other problems to get the money they need for the mithril armor, or whatever. With such a main hook, the only thing a character can't do is stop being part of the mercenary band and retire, or join a rival band or whatever. The king will have to spend more money to get a more experienced and confident group to deal with the dragon offscreen.

If the main hook was something more restricting, like "this is a one-shot about a group of adventurers having to find a way to defeat a mighty dragon", then the characters will go and to their things offscreen while the players create a group of character that will accept the quest (or just drop the campaign, since apparently they weren't that interested in it). Outside of one-shots, though, it's very unlikely that I would create such a specific and restricting main hook.

This sort of ties into the "metagame" level of freedom, where I, as the GM, decide what sort of game I'm interested in GMing and ask the players if they're interested in playing it.

This seems like a really good way of running things, since the "main hook" provides a clear cut-off point to player freedom that everyone knows and agrees to before the game begins.

ComradeBear
2016-11-17, 02:52 PM
You can also have character creation happen together rather than separately. That way players are more likely to make characters with cohesive personalities and avoids the problem of "Dena the Savage hates wizards and thinks they are all evil, but still goes on adventures with Wiz the Mystic because reasons."

It also lets the party express concerns about other characters at the concept stage, before intense time investment has occurred.

Yes, this means that you'll essentially have a Session 0. But that's worth it to avoid big problems later.

BRC
2016-11-17, 03:21 PM
Darth Ultron, since you haven't answered what I asked in the mentionned thread, I'll ask again: what would you do in this situation:

You, the GM have just presented a potential quest hook to the party: Go in the neighbouring valley and rescue the captive princess before the dragon eats her during the full moon as part of a ceremony.

The players, after discussing, decide to decline that offer of employment. "Our characters don't really care much for the royalty and assaulting a dragon in it's lair is above our pay grade, quite honestly. There is taking acceptable and calculated risks and that dragon falls under neither conceits of acceptable risk or a calculated one" one of the players relays to you, the GM.

In character, they then respectfully decline the questgiver: their current skillset is not the one you should be looking for when it comes to hunting and killing a dragon and might further endanger the princess by giving the dragon an early warning.

Later, at their inn/cottage/lair/starbucks, they then begin discussing their next plans on what they would like to do: As the paladin is wanting to start looking for the materials and smith needed to get himself a suit of mythril fullplate, the barbarian gets it in his head now for a big adamantine greataxe. the wizard would like to increase the quality of his tools, and he's been thinking of getting a magical crystal ball for a while now, while the rogue would like to see if there's anyone in the area who can take the ironwood door they looted a while back (adventurers will be adventurers) and use it as material for a new crossbow.

So what would you do as gm: The party has declined your hook and are discussing among themselves what they are interested in doing (or at least look into the possibilities of doing) as a group... what do?

I consider there to be a bit of a social contract between GM and player, at least as regards plot hooks.

The GM's job is to provide a plot hook that the PC's would bite, the Player's job is to bite the plot hook so that the game can happen, the GM's final job is to run the adventure.
If any part of that breaks down, the parties in question are justified in not doing their part.

If the GM failed to provide the PCs with a good plot hook, the Players are not obligated to break character and bite it, which means that the GM is then not obligated to run an adventure that day.

The loose plot hook gets resolved in the background, the princess dies, or gets rescued by somebody else, or the King is forced to pay an exorbitant ransom to the Dragon. There may be some consequences for the PC's down the line, but whatever.

The PC's have declared that they are more interested in improving their gear right now. The DM is not obligated to improvise an adventure on the spot that fulfills that desire. I see a few acceptable outcomes

1) If it makes sense, the PC's don't have any grand adventures at that time, they do some downtime, get some new gear, and spend some money, assuming they have the funds/materials/access to skilled crafters. GM Cuts session early.

2) If the PC's DON'T have the money/materials/access to crafters, the GM figures out what their next step is, then cuts session early and comes back next time with an Adventure that follows that next step.

3) If the GM is feeling confident, then they can try to improvise something Adventurous to happen, but they're not obligated to.

The Players rejected the plot hook, knowing that it was what the GM had prepared. They made this decision fully aware that the consequence might be not having a real session today.

“You see, I believe in freedom, Mr. Lipwig. Not many people do, although they will, of course, protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be completely without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.”- Lord Vetinari, Going Postal by Terry Pratchett.

HidesHisEyes
2016-11-17, 05:09 PM
The best way to ensure that the players stay at the task at hand and their characters don't amble off aimlessly, forcing you to improvise, is to talk to them when an session or an adventure comes to close and ask them what they are going to do next. Even asking them what they want to see more of in the game can be really helpful. If one wants to get cool shiny weapons, another wants to explore his backstory and the third wants to kill things then you might as well combine the three.

This gives you time to prep for next session and you know what the players want from the game.

Well yes, and that's exactly why I came up with the idea of levels of magnification. If I and the players are all on the same page, knowing that we play with a clear distinction between immediate decisions like "go left or right" and larger ones like "hunt orcs in the badlands" or "investigate the cult in the city", then the players know they should try not to blindside me with the latter kind of decision halfway through a session, and I know that I can focus on planning one adventure at a time and not have to be ready to improvise on any scale at any moment.




The second method is to give them something interesting to interact with or a plot hook. I usually have a trick or two up my sleeve when the players manage to foil my villains and we still have couple of hours left of gaming, small scenarios or even some plot hooks for larger adventures.

But the key is often to know your world and have other things happening in the background that the characters can get embroiled in. Sometimes my players just get sucked into some background things, like taking down a serial killer that was a kidney pie vendor, stopping a heretical priest from damning his church and his congregation or getting involved in rivalry between two merchant families in a small town.

Again, maybe I just suck at improvising, but I really don't see how it's possible to improvise a genuinely good adventure just from my existing stash of things happening in the background. I may drop hints at further adventures into play but if the players choose to pursue them then they need to tell me after the current adventure is resolved.

And by the way I feel this way from a player's point of view too - it's not just about wanting control or a stress-free life as a DM. My least favourite moments as a player are when everything grinds to a halt, we spend twenty minutes discussing what to do next, come up with something the DM hadn't planned for and spend the rest of the session playing something the poor guy is making up as he goes along.

Edit with additional thoughts: I CAN just about see my way to improvising a basic, mostly storyless hack-and-slash dungeon crawl pretty easily. Something like the dungeons in Skyrim. As soon as NPCs - in the sense of people with motivations, psychology and backstory - are involved I can't see how it's possible to make up something coherent on the spot.

Cluedrew
2016-11-19, 10:06 AM
So I was thinking about this and these four actually cover/spread two major axes.

The first (1-3) is scale, or perhaps scale of how far reaching the effects will be. Decisions made in combat about how to win this fight tend to be on a smaller scale than the navigation ones about where you go which are smaller than the campaign level decisions about what you are trying to do.

The other axis is how you express these choices and is where four really defines itself. This one doesn't actually fit on a line so well but I have three groups right now: decisions expressed through your character's decisions (and so it is tied to the character's freedom), then you have non-character mechanical choices (character creation and meta-game resources are the big ones) and finally out-of-game non-mechanical or just meta-game choices (such as choice of system).

We have talked about scale a lot so I am going to say more about the paths of expression:

Character freedom is pretty straight forward. A player makes a decision and the character also makes it. This is dependant on how much freedom the character has (sometimes also called character freedom) and the whether the player gets to make all of those decisions. I have seen at least two lengthy threads dedicated to the latter topic so it is a bit deal in its own right.

Mechanical freedom varies a lot. These are the choices made within the rule set that the character does not make. Character creation is the big one, it is at a higher scale (campaign level) than the other main example, meta-game resources (which in this context are not outside the game, just outside the game-world) which tend to be at the encounter level.

Meta-game freedom includes everything not covered by the rule-set, the big ones are choosing the rule-set/system, building the setting and adding details to it (although those may be covered in part by the rules). This one is tricky because it is entirely dependent on social convention, it is by definition not covered in the rules. Things like rule zero come really close to the line however. I actually have to thank Darth Ultron for this one, because I realized that he was speaking for a particular convention that just doesn't hold true in most of the games I play in.

The common conventions often do hand most of this over to the GM, but really it belongs to the entire group. The GM still uses it the most because of their role and, in a healthy game at least, the other players trust the GM to do a good job with it.

Feedback and responses are welcome, this is a first draft sort of thing.

Lorsa
2016-11-20, 06:36 AM
Really interesting posts, both this and the one on the other thread.

Thank you.


I think I could have been clearer about a couple of things. Regarding the metagame, I didn't mean to imply I think the GM just dictates the type of game and everyone has to go along with it or not play at all. I absolutely agree there has to be a conversation. But I also think it's fair for the power to be weighted - not totally but weighted - in favour of the GM since the GM is the one doing the work to give the players something to play, and it's very hard to do that work if you yourself are not interested in the type of game you're running. I think it's important for players to respect this and be willing to make concessions and try things they might not choose. Should the GM be prepared to make concessions too? Of course, just to a lesser extent.


But I feel the power still rests with the GM in the meta-game. Unless all of the group are equally gifted GMs capable of running good games the players usually want the "best" GM to run a game. This GM usually has the final say in what he wants to run though the players can influence it or just leave the game. When game specifics have been hammered out then the GM can still veto things like characters, skills, talents, feats, backstories etc. If a player shows up with a clown character in a spec. ops game then I'm sure most GMs would veto the character. The inability of a GM to be in control can harm the game as much as not being able to negotiate and being too strict.

I grouped these two responses as they are both similar in nature, speaking in favor of GM power at the meta-game level.

In a way, I think it depends what sort of meta-game decision we are talking about. I think we can all agree that nobody should be able to force anyone to play anything they don't want to play. As such, the power is actually equally distributed among all the participants. Everyone can decide to leave the table, GM and player both.

Since players and GMs have different jobs though, it is quite obviously so that the GM will have more power in designing the world. For most games, running the world is solely a GM's job, so designing it would be too. However, if players don't like the world, they can always leave the game. That's why I think everyone has equal agency, even if the responsibilities are different.



For me all of these ideas are about trying to find a way to structure my games so that players have freedom and agency but the gameplay experience never, or very rarely, feels aimless or unsatisfying. In other words I'm coming at this from a gamist direction. As such, I see your point that there is no real difference between my levels of decision-making - from an in-universe point of view. If the characters are free to choose which orc to attack or how to get past the guard post, why shouldn't they be equally free to choose which adventure to go on next and when to set off? Well I think the difference is that the choice of when scenes begin and end is part of the game's structure, not part of its setting. It is a metagame decision, in other words, and one that has a big impact on the gameplay experience.

I think everyone wants the gameplay experience to be as good as possible. Or well, everyone should, in an ideal world. Not really sure that has anything to do with being gamist, it's just being human.

You are quite right that scene transitions are more abou meta-game structure. However, they are very important for player freedom, and often overlooked in discussions. They also do tie into in-game decisions. If the players say "our characters go to NPC X", then it would be strange of the next scene took place after this meeting, ignoring the characters' decision completely.

GMs who are railroading are often very reluctant to play scenes which they have not decided before the game, or planned in advance. So if you want to allow for player freedom, consider this aspect as well and not only if they are allowed to choose their own quests/adventures.



To be more specific, I find that if the players choose unexpectedly to set off in a whole new direction then I find that very difficult to deal with, right there at the table, and still give them something fun and satisfying. It may just be me, I may be bad at improvising or just not enjoy it a whole lot, but that is my thinking anyway. And my solution is not (anymore) simply to remove freedom at the campaign level, but to try and organise it so that such decisions are, as far as possible, hashed out either away from the table or at the end of the session. That way I have time to come up with something fun and satisfying.

In my experience, players rarely set off in whole new directions unexpectedly. Of course, it depends what you think of as "new direction".

Improvisation is an important skill for any GM. You can also think about it like this; the players are constantly forced to improvise what they do in the situations they are placed in, so why should the rules be different for the GM? If the players can improvise, why can't you?

Also, to be honest, most players require very little in order to feel that it's fun and satisfying. We humans are emotion-junkies, and for some reason emotions can come from the smallest of situation.



To apply it to your example of the players wanting to go see an NPC before setting off for the other city, I would be asking "what are you doing next" at the end of a session or in between sessions, and if they said "go to the other city" then I'd say "is there anything you want to finish up here before you go?" Not because I don't believe in player freedom but because I honestly can't provide that kind of freedom without being organised about it.

Anyway, all of this is just my way of trying to run good games. Your way of thinking about it is different but if it works for you and your players then cool. I think thinking about it at all is probably what's important.

It is always good to come up with a structure or idea that works for you. The big problem I can see with your system is that you always have to supply new quests at the end of a session. I guess you know this already, but it's something to be aware of.

In general, it is always good to ask players about their future plans at the end of a session. I do that too, so I can make some plans and preparations for it.



Who decides how situations/problems/obstacles can be overcome?
I feel that this lies both in the hands of the GM and the system. Certain systems steer you down the path of violence while others encourage smart thinking, or even talking, some even encourage combination of all three. But the GM is still firmly in control here as he can decide what will work and what won't in any given circumstances regardless of die rolls or rules.

I realize that "can be overcome" might not be the best way to phrase it. In a more general sense, it involves player freedom to approach problems or situations in whichever way they like. It is also about whether or not the GM has decided, ahead of time, how something should be solved. Obviously, in the end, the GM has to be the arbiter of success or failure. The problem arise when the GM has to break logic and verisimilitude in order to uphold the "one and true solution".

Maybe you can help come up with a better phrasing for this type of (potential) player freedom?

FreddyNoNose
2016-11-20, 02:35 PM
The essential moment of true player freedom comes by agreeing to play the game, or not to.

If you agreed to play chess, it isn't a loss of player freedom that your pawn can only move forward.

If you agree to play baseball, it isn't a loss of freedom that you have to hit the ball before you can run the bases.

And if you agree to play a D&D game with a specific quest, it isn't a loss of freedom to go on that quest.

Very well said.

But there are the snowflake players who it has to be about them. They want all choices, no limits and no consequences. The GM can't kill them because that is wrong. What those players should do break out a word processor and write their own stories.

The DM has to be there to challenge the players and give rewards and punishments (AKA Consequences for those who don't get that's what it means). A DM should do that but a softie GM will not and will ruin my game experience. It will see less like a world and more like a group story telling session where we all pat each other on the back for being geniuses and hugs all around.

Legato Endless
2016-11-20, 07:58 PM
And if you agree to play a D&D game with a specific quest, it isn't a loss of freedom to go on that quest.

Yes, but what about players who game without a specific quest? What then? Are they to be left by the ossified vision of a singular thing?

I don't think it's a coincidence that GMs advocate (as oppose to merely appreciate) a more 'railroaded' game often talk in quests.

Because usually that's what their vision of the game is bound to. Instead of plying the depths of all the narrative forms of storytelling, they remain glued to aping the quest genre because their thinking remains stolidly route.

There's really no reason you can't replicate almost any of the narrative types of popular fiction with a tabletop game. Yet here gaming sits, 7 decades post Tolkien, and based on sheer volume it's 90% some redux on the Odyssey.

The Feedback loop talked about earlier is good thinking. The GM and players can often feed off each other, and then go into inventive new directions. Perhaps the quest begins something more settled? The problem with the railroad isn't just that is doesn't occasionally let players do something they should, something logical, the problem is it often presumes you must spend the afternoon playing Basketball, when really everyone would be happier if you all sat down for tea and dancing 20 minutes in.

The railroad or no game crowd forgets that narratives evolve. And these are often as not richer than whatever the 'author' originally presumed would happen. And considering some of the best loved works in fiction were written out on an episode by episode basis, I don't really buy the argument that a narrative that isn't set largely beforehand is somehow automatically superior, as that's not born out frankly in any other medium.

Thrudd
2016-11-20, 08:44 PM
I see these as the broad categories of player choice in an RPG:

1- Meta-game character building choices: players have a range of freedom in this area depending on the game system and GM. It can range from the GM handing out pregenerated characters to players having free reign to choose anything the game system allows.

2- Campaign goal choices: This will always be dictated somewhat by the game system. Within the parameters the game system/theme allows, this ranges from no player freedom (running games like most modern adventure paths, or an old-school episodic module structure) to almost total player freedom (in an old-school hexcrawl style game).

I consider this to basically be the freedom to make strategic in-character choices regarding what adventures/quests/jobs/locations to engage in and being able to retreat or abandon them and seek new ones if desired. Also includes the freedom to choose what your character's long-term goals may be (build a castle, usurp a throne, become a god, collect all the artifacts, destroy all dragons, etc), and to pursue those goals however you wish.

3 - Adventure choices: Describes the range of freedom players may have in approaching and addressing a specific scenario with a given goal. In most games, players should have total or near-total freedom at this level, to use strategy and tactics in-character to overcome challenges they are presented with. The GM designs the environment that the characters will experience, the players are free to explore and interact with that environment as they see fit in the pursuit of the agreed-upon goal (find a treasure, rescue somebody, kill the monster). This is the classic "dungeon".

Some games/GMs may present adventures as a series of events forming a story rather than an open scenario with a goal. This is where GM control can get into "railroad" territory, if the players lack the freedom to alter the events. A "choose your own adventure" style story with branching paths to different predesigned events and/or GM improvising events based on logic and setting knowledge would be required to avoid railroading in an event-based adventure as opposed to a scenario/location based adventure.

The outcome of the player's choices at this level will be dictated partly by game rules and partly by the GM following their adventure plan and making logical rulings based on the scenario (probably informed largely by the adventure/module notes).

4- Encounter choices: Players should always have total freedom at this level, within the parameters given by the game's rules. This is the freedom to make tactical and role playing choices as their characters in the interest of overcoming a specific challenge the players have been presented with.

Outcomes at this level should be predominantly decided by the game rules/dice. GM control here is relegated to making tactical and roleplay decisions on behalf of NPCs and monsters and adjudicating results when the rules are unclear about something.


I consider the freedom to choose what game to play as a function of the social group, it has nothing to do with the game itself. It should be a given that all the players have agreed to play the game the GM is offering to run. Any conflict at this level (not understanding the rules of the game, not accepting certain restrictions and parameters or the setting inherent in the game) are interpersonal/communication issues and not game issues.

That one player who insists on being a Drow even though he has been told there are no Drow in the setting, or wants to play a Jedi in a Star Trek game, or whatever, has inter-personal/psychological problems and not player-freedom/GM-tyranny problems.

Jay R
2016-11-20, 10:43 PM
Yes, but what about players who game without a specific quest? What then? Are they to be left by the ossified vision of a singular thing?

The same thing that happens to people who don't want to have to hit a ball before they run. The former find a different D&D game to play, and the latter find a different sport besides baseball to play.

A group game or sport is a co-operative joint venture. And that means that the group has to play a game that they are all willing to play. If somebody won't enjoy playing in Brian's game, then he looks for another game to play in. And if somebody won't enjoy having to hit a bat with a stick before running, then he looks for a non-baseball game to play in.

And if they can't find the game they want, then they should run it, roviding for others what they want to see.

My statement about player freedom including choice of what game to play in applies equally well to people who don't like quests as to the ones who do.


I don't think it's a coincidence that GMs advocate (as oppose to merely appreciate) a more 'railroaded' game often talk in quests.

Because usually that's what their vision of the game is bound to. Instead of plying the depths of all the narrative forms of storytelling, they remain glued to aping the quest genre because their thinking remains stolidly route.

Wow. Insult received.

But possibly - just possibly - you don't know the entire motivation of a person you have never even met, and whose experience you don't know.

Possibly all the people in the entire world who disagree with you aren't all exactly alike in their motivations and experience, and a blanket statement about them might be unfair and untrue about many of them.

In my case, maybe it's because after forty years of role-playing, starting with original D&D in dungeon and wilderness exploration games before it ever crossed our minds to include a specific quest, I've eventually decided that a game with some sort of quest structure is the form I can create best, and maybe the people who want to play in my games accept that.

Or maybe you're right, and every single person with a different opinion from yours "remain[s] glued to aping the quest genre because their thinking remains stolidly route".

But I suggest that you at least consider the possibility that all people who disagree with you aren't all exactly alike, and maybe you should provide analysis instead of insult.


There's really no reason you can't replicate almost any of the narrative types of popular fiction with a tabletop game. Yet here gaming sits, 7 decades post Tolkien, and based on sheer volume it's 90% some redux on the Odyssey.

The best way for you to fix this, if you think that's the state of role-playing, is for you to run games the way you think they should be run, and explain to others how to do it, and why you think they'd have more fun that way. But you've provided no clear example of what you would like to see, just some unfair and untrue characterizations about 90% of all role-playing.

I haven't seen 90% of all games, and wouldn't presume to try to characterize them. certainly 90% of the games I've played don't fit that. And even if I restrict it to the quest-like structures I've run, or played in, in the last ten or so years, they generally do not match your description.


The Feedback loop talked about earlier is good thinking. The GM and players can often feed off each other, and then go into inventive new directions. Perhaps the quest begins something more settled?

I'm playing a quest structure right now, and it simply doesn't fit what you describe. My character background is providing extra possibilities, and my character asked questions about his own goals in the midst of the party's quest. Feedback loops are part of virtually all games I've played in the last several years.


The problem with the railroad isn't just that is doesn't occasionally let players do something they should, something logical, the problem is it often presumes you must spend the afternoon playing Basketball, when really everyone would be happier if you all sat down for tea and dancing 20 minutes in.

The solution to that is exactly what I wrote in the post that started this harangue. Each player should only play in games that they enjoy.

Why are you accusing me of the opposite of what I said?

I have no problem with people running different games from mine. And the people who enjoy them should play in them. I have no idea why you are replying to my words with such phrases as "The railroad or no game crowd" or "the argument that a narrative that isn't set largely beforehand is somehow automatically superior". These expressions are just not fair or accurate descriptions of anything I wrote.


The railroad or no game crowd forgets that narratives evolve.

Please stop making up insults about people you haven't met. My quest narratives do evolve. And the players in my most recent game are asking me to continue it.


And these are often as not richer than whatever the 'author' originally presumed would happen. And considering some of the best loved works in fiction were written out on an episode by episode basis, I don't really buy the argument that a narrative that isn't set largely beforehand is somehow automatically superior, as that's not born out frankly in any other medium.

You're replying to me, and I have never claimed that my narrative is set largely beforehand. That simply isn't the argument I made, so it is completely irrelevant that you won't buy it. I won't buy it either. My argument is that we all have to agree to play together, in a way we all enjoy, and that player freedom starts with choosing to play, or not to play, in a specific game.

I'm kind of annoyed that we had to waste time on all these false claims you made about me, my position, my gaming, and my argument.

2D8HP
2016-11-24, 08:47 AM
The GM ceding some control of the world to the players isn't normally bad but the other way around when the GM tries to wrest control of a character from a player is usually a bad thing..
Not usually for this player as it wrecks my sense of exploring a "world".

In a recent "adventure", all the PC's were invited for a meeting with a NPC, and eventually it became silent, the DM said
Is everyone waiting for me again? so,

Well the rest of us were shown to our rooms. We need time skip to the next day, unless you want everyone to say "I go to bed"

All right, time-skip it is. I'd assumed you might have wanted to commiserate or strategize before hitting the sack.
Trying to escape being "locked into lameness", in a mute room by I said 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.

This ended the game for me. While deep in my mind I know that the games "world" is just a contrivance, I do want some sense of a "world" to explore, so I want a clear division of players controlling the wills of their PC's, and DM"s being responsible for the environment, but I want the environment to be more than an "empty room".

The game got started weirdly in that a player, posted a notice that they had a 10th level PC they wanted to play so the conceit was that the PC's were all retired adventurers coming together to face an old threat, so I'm guessing that the DM expected continuing player Worldbuilding?
It seemed promising at first, but just got lame fast.
The DM said they were running three other games besides that one, and I think that he was just burned out and why he volunteered to DM at all puzzles me.

Cozzer
2016-11-24, 09:31 AM
Well, there are a few games that work like that, with the players and the DM figuring the details of the world together as they go along. But unless you're playing with a ruleset that explicitly favors that playstyle (FATE, for example), I think the default assumption should be "the players discover a world created by the GM and interact with it", rather than "the players create the world together with the GM".

(I tried GMing a game of the "create the world together" kind, but it was sort of underwhelming for me and my group too. Though in our regular games, it happens quite often that the players suggest details of the setting and the GM takes the "sure, why not" route and sometimes even makes them regular features of the setting.)

Max_Killjoy
2016-11-24, 11:10 AM
Yes, but what about players who game without a specific quest? What then? Are they to be left by the ossified vision of a singular thing?

I don't think it's a coincidence that GMs advocate (as oppose to merely appreciate) a more 'railroaded' game often talk in quests.

Because usually that's what their vision of the game is bound to. Instead of plying the depths of all the narrative forms of storytelling, they remain glued to aping the quest genre because their thinking remains stolidly route.

There's really no reason you can't replicate almost any of the narrative types of popular fiction with a tabletop game. Yet here gaming sits, 7 decades post Tolkien, and based on sheer volume it's 90% some redux on the Odyssey.

The Feedback loop talked about earlier is good thinking. The GM and players can often feed off each other, and then go into inventive new directions. Perhaps the quest begins something more settled? The problem with the railroad isn't just that is doesn't occasionally let players do something they should, something logical, the problem is it often presumes you must spend the afternoon playing Basketball, when really everyone would be happier if you all sat down for tea and dancing 20 minutes in.

The railroad or no game crowd forgets that narratives evolve. And these are often as not richer than whatever the 'author' originally presumed would happen. And considering some of the best loved works in fiction were written out on an episode by episode basis, I don't really buy the argument that a narrative that isn't set largely beforehand is somehow automatically superior, as that's not born out frankly in any other medium.


If anyone recalls my comments about being condescendingly preached at by a certain sort of "story now" disciple... here's a perfect example.

PinkSpray
2016-11-24, 11:10 AM
Awesome thread here with some great opinions. While probably not as insightful I'll add mine: players should get as much freedom as they need. Every group I've ever run games for has had a mix. Some players are passive and need some guidance. Some were much more active allowing me to sit back and enjoy their creativity. Most of the players I've gamed with are a mix of both depending on the day.

It's really important for the GM to know the players. What kind of game they want, what kind of character they want to play, what kinds of challenges they expect to face. Having that GM-to-player discussion will inform you (the GM) as to what level of freedom each player wants.

I find players newer to RPGs tend to need less freedom-more guidance. Meaning, they wont always be sure what they want to or can do in-game. Those players can actually benefit from a little railroading. As they get more experienced and comfortable as gamers, the GM can "take off the training wheels" and let those players deal with more choice. I think this is why the older modules from the 70's and 80's were so railroady: all of us were new to RPGs and needed those "training wheel"-type adventures to learn what we could do.

The more-experienced players usually have a strong vision of what they want from the game so the GM can take input from them before and during the game to enhance the fun. This isn't always the case as I have had new players who were much more active than my RPG veterans, but again, if the GM takes the time to learn what the players want it should provide a good map for who needs what amount of freedom.

Also on rules, most game designers encourage GMs to alter their game's rules if it will create a better play experience for the group. So don't get bogged down in the "Rules As Written" dogma. The purpose of play is fun first and foremost.

Legato Endless
2016-11-24, 06:07 PM
Wow. Insult received.


That...was not my intention. I was being admittedly very pedantic and blunt, but it wasn't meant to include you and your games, I was making a broad universalist point jumping off your question (which I misconstrued the meaning of). My failure to include a transition though certainly makes my statement much more offensive.

My apologies. I haven't gamed with you, and when I've seen you post on the forum, I've had no reason to think ill of you. I am sorry.


But possibly - just possibly - you don't know the entire motivation of a person you have never even met, and whose experience you don't know.

I don't think the motive matters though. I think the effect does. And the effect is that we tend to live in hobby with a rather notable amount of prescriptivist baggage, be it mechanics, narrative, player boundaries etc.. On the narrative side, that's my point.

I mean, the Giant has tired and played out arguments for over a decade with people quibbling about how he runs his pastiche of D&D. It's not particularly hard to find a thread on a larger forum, be it Reddit, RPG.net, or here, where someone asks how to do something structurally unconventional as player or DM, and a sizable number of responses concern how you can't or shouldn't do that. A recent example from here was a DM asking how to run a campaign with an explicit protagonist and supporting cast, and a goodly number of responses were...don't do that. Because that's not how these things are done. Reasons!

I don't think I need to meet everyone to make claim about trends in a hobby. Especially a hobby where aside from the play by post, most things are only known anecdotally. I see it at Cons, I saw it last month when I volunteered for my local pathfinder charity event.


Possibly all the people in the entire world who disagree with you aren't all exactly alike in their motivations and experience, and a blanket statement about them might be unfair and untrue about many of them.

I don't think the motive is relevant. I think when people game almost everyone's motive is to have a good time. At least individually, and hopefully communally. The problem is what we believe gets us there. The purest motives don't intrinsically justify the methodology. Now, not everyone is individually motivated for something experimental. Sure. But I don't think the amount of preaching that happens to other people about acceptable structure and bounds is always innocent in this matter either.


The best way for you to fix this, if you think that's the state of role-playing, is for you to run games the way you think they should be run, and explain to others how to do it, and why you think they'd have more fun that way. But you've provided no clear example of what you would like to see, just some unfair and untrue characterizations about 90% of all role-playing.

True, but even given doing all this, occasionally one is guilty of irritated ranting.


I haven't seen 90% of all games, and wouldn't presume to try to characterize them.

While not communicated well, I was very much being hyperbolic. 90% more literally intended as: annoyingly prevalent.