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This mentality of OP wizards in 3rd, 4th, 5th...


D&D 4th Edition (and Beyond)

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Liberty's Edge

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Let’s remember the root of where this argument started.

Scott was arguing that Wizard’s can always leave to memorize spells and come back, and that any consequences added by the GM for this would be unfair on the part of the GM.

The rest of us are saying that the pause button comes with consequences and that if the players can regroup, so can the BBEG. And most of us are saying the BBEG is going to look at the party make up when deciding strategy, if the party makes the mistake of giving the BBEG information about the party (for example, when the party retreats).

At this point, Scott seems to be the only one staying with the “Nothing changes, we just keep leaving and coming back to the same stuff” argument.

So, on topic, the strength of the Wizard class is that since they can know pretty much any spell, they have the ability to have the right spell at the right time. The weakness of the Wizard class is that it may have used that spell earlier in the day…the wizard is probably the class most vulnerable to an extended work day.

If your players can leave and come back with no consequences so the Wizard can rememorize the right spell for the never changing situation they are dealing with, you may have problems with the wizard, since Schrodinger’s Wizard is undefeated.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Hitdice wrote:
Thread seems to have gone from OP casters to sandbox vs static world, but here goes:

I think it is because play style effects how practical the 15 min adventuring day is. Some styles it is a lot more practical than in other styles and really I think that is a big reason why these debates happen. If a wizard is OP I think has a lot to do with the style of games you play in.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
ciretose wrote:

Let’s remember the root of where this argument started.

Scott was arguing that Wizard’s can always leave to memorize spells and come back, and that any consequences added by the GM for this would be unfair on the part of the GM.

The rest of us are saying that the pause button comes with consequences and that if the players can regroup, so can the BBEG. And most of us are saying the BBEG is going to look at the party make up when deciding strategy, if the party makes the mistake of giving the BBEG information about the party (for example, when the party retreats).

At this point, Scott seems to be the only one staying with the “Nothing changes, we just keep leaving and coming back to the same stuff” argument.

So, on topic, the strength of the Wizard class is that since they can know pretty much any spell, they have the ability to have the right spell at the right time. The weakness of the Wizard class is that it may have used that spell earlier in the day…the wizard is probably the class most vulnerable to an extended work day.

If your players can leave and come back with no consequences so the Wizard can rememorize the right spell for the never changing situation they are dealing with, you may have problems with the wizard, since Schrodinger’s Wizard is undefeated.

True but the reason the thread has moved off topic, is because i think style of play plays a huge role in the 15 min adventuring day concept. Which is the number one factor on if casters are OPed or not next to melee. The more breaks the group takes to get back spells the more OPed the casters will be. The fewer breaks and the more the group pushes on where casters run low on spells and use them less often the less OPed they feel. I think that's how we got "off topic" but I think it is a relevant to the main topic at hand.

But of course like everything that is just my opinion and is neither more nor less valid than anyone else s. :)

Shadow Lodge

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ciretose wrote:


So, on topic, the strength of the Wizard class is that since they can know pretty much any spell, they have the ability to have the right spell at the right time. The weakness of the Wizard class is that it may have used that spell earlier in the day…the wizard is probably the class most vulnerable to an extended work day.

…or neglected to memorize that spell at all for the day.


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Scott Betts wrote:
cranewings wrote:

Obviously when someone says something is boring, they are talking about from their perspective. Sorry I didn't preempt my post with a disclaimer that says I don't believe in a heaven of ideals where in is the definition and list of boring things. I think games like what you are describing are boring.

The idea that a GM can give an illusion of player agency if he "is halfway decent" is VASTLY overstated. Any player that cares about player agency can tell right away when he is being lied to. For your illusion of player agency thing to work, you have to have a PC group full of people who aren't looking for real agency and don't mind being lied to. That's what it is, lying, and it is transparent.

As far as the problem of the players enjoying it, sorry, but I care at least as much about my own enjoyment and letting them win when they make wrong choices is boring to me. I've noticed that when players think their is something real at stake, win or loss of the game in this case, they try harder and it makes it more satisfying for them. If they never lose, then it was probably never hard. To make an omelet you have to break a few eggs and all that. Players feelings are the eggs sometimes.

See, from my perspective, you just take the whole thing way too seriously for a game that involves pretending to be magical elves around a dinner table with some friends. And this is coming from a guy who already takes D&D way too seriously.

Fair enough. That's an easy out. I do take it seriously. I spend 2-3 hours a week preparing for something and then 3-4 hours a week entertaining 4-6 grown adults with the words that come out of my mouth, adults who adjusted their schedules to be there and share in it, I'm absolutely going to take it seriously. This is why I always have too many people wanting to play my game. Nothing is so boring as a GM who doesn't take it seriously.


I've hit upon the best solution.

I'm going to run D&D with Pendragon-style magic.

The arcane spellcasters never run out of magic. They can cast as many spells as they want, up to the maximum spell level they are capable of casting, every time they cast.

The catch is, they have to sleep for an hour per spell level they cast or face accelerated aging penalties.

Done. The casters can go through a dungeon, wipe out everything and collect the treasure and XPs, and pay for it by doing their sleeping later, after they get back to town.

Everybody happy.

Except the melee fighters, who never get to do anything, and the rogue-types, who never get to do anything, and the healer types, who never get to do anything, and....

Maybe I should be running a different game....


Better idea, have feats for non-casters have scaling benefits where each time a new feat is gained all previous feats known improve to the next level of benefit for that feat, depending on how long the feat has been in the non-casters repetoire. Not the best answer BUT it would lend itself nicely to putting a plug in caster non-caster disparity arguments. Check out Iron Heroes from Malhavoc Press and take a look at the Feat Mastery system.


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The argument between railroad and open world games is a tricky one. I tend to believe the best way to play is somewhere between the two extremes, as with most things in life.

As a GM I strive to avoid railroading, but truly open world gaming either requires tons of work (much of which won't be used), or no work beyond random tables.

I don't personally classify a campaign having some story thread running through it as railroading. Railroading to me is forcing the pcs not only to follow a broadly detailed storyline, but also how they follow it, and yes having invisible 'it actually doesn't matter what you do' plots going on behind the screen. There's nothing worse as a player imo to feel like nothing you do makes any difference - I even had a GM once who had a mechanic that wouldn't allow us to suicide our pcs to get out of his damn 'story'.

Naturally, good GMs are good at covering up the mechanics of the campaign, I've used monsters I expected the pcs to fight at one location in a completely different location, when they missed them first time. They don't know that, so they don't care.

I hate time limit adventures personally, they often go hand in hand with railroading. You MUST go there and do this, and you must do it in this amount of time. Heck, how about you just run my pc for me then?

It's a fine line. I do like a detailed setting and story, truly open settings often lack direction ...

Liberty's Edge

I like to think of timelines as a choice for the PC. You can put this off, but if you do it will be harder when you get around to it.

Like most things in life.


Josh M. wrote:
Scott Betts wrote:


The best games are the ones where the DM embraces the rails, while giving the PCs the illusion of wide-open choice.

Um, wow. This speaks volumes. Hey, if your players are cool with knowing their choices make absolutely zero impact on the story, then it's all good.

Did you even read what I wrote?


Josh M. wrote:
Sorry, I'm not a fan of illusions or deceiving my players.

Sure you are. The DM-player relationship is founded on deceit, or at the very least plausible deniability. It's the worst-kept secret in D&D - the game allows the DM to lie or omit with impunity, and that allowance improves the game experience. You've never given a monster 10 extra hit points? Never tacked on an extra spell? Never had a monster make a saving throw it shouldn't have? Never acted like your BBEG planned that cool thing that just happened all along? Come on. Tell me you haven't.


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Kthulhu wrote:
ciretose wrote:


So, on topic, the strength of the Wizard class is that since they can know pretty much any spell, they have the ability to have the right spell at the right time. The weakness of the Wizard class is that it may have used that spell earlier in the day…the wizard is probably the class most vulnerable to an extended work day.
…or neglected to memorize that spell at all for the day.

The Wizard doesn't need to have "that one perfect spell" to be successful. That's a pretty terrible myth. The Wizard should have an arsenal of spells that are useful in a wide variety of situations, with significant overlap. The Wizard should also have an arsenal of equally-versatile consumables, thanks to all that character wealth he's saving by not participating in the +whatever rat race.


I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?


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I believe JoshM already stated that he didn't particularly enjoy running APs for that reason? I'm a reactive Gm and I don't run APs because I roleplay and describe the scene better when I'm playing my own npcs / not reading from a script. When I run a campaign I create an antagonist and work out what thier goal is and how they plan to bring it about. Then I work out where the campaign begins and how the characters enter the plot. Then I react to the players. Of course I guide the story via plot hooks but player decisions matter every session. They give me plot hooks and help me work out how they get from the beginning to the end. If they ignore a situation then that situation comes back ten times worse in ten sessions time. If they defeat the BBEG early then his number 1 henchman continues his plans or his organisation tears itself apart and the PCs have to take care of five scrub fires instead of 1 forest fire or the BBEGs evil plan is completely foiled and the world enjoys a few years peace before some other evil arises.

YMMV. Everyone is different, nothing I've said makes me better or worse than the guy next to me. The important thing is that the group has fun. If my players enjoy the game then tick! Job done.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Scott Betts wrote:
I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?

I don't think that rail roads are boring and bad, just not my preferred style. As for how I see AP's I like them just fine, but I am prepared to take them off afield and leave the AP behind if the group decides not to follow it. Letting them go back to it if and when they want. Like for example if I was running RotRL and the group bailed after the first AP, I would do other stuff with them but have the events of RotRL keep happening. They would hear about the murders, about the fort and ogres, about the eventual giant attack etc. If one of those things drew them back in, I would tweak what I needed to to make it fit and work and pick up the AP at that point.


Aubrey the Malformed wrote:


"Plot armour" is your term for [i]deus ex machina[i/]. "Magic" is my term for "deus ex machina". What makes you think that Gandalf casts like a high-level wizard in D&D? I'll tell you - your expectations of playing D&D. Which is a game, not a literary requirement. You are presumably one of these people who tries to work out what level characters in novels are.

Actually magic and plot armor both fit. I also don't try to use magic level with relation to novels. I advocate against it because it does not mesh well.

Quote:

There are no "rules" as to what magic in a novel can do, so it is down to the whim of the novelist. Gandalf couldn't fight off Saruman, and had to be rescued by a big eagle - so now he's teleporting to Mount Doom?

Sigh. My point was that if the author was to say this guy can do X,Y, and Z I could end the story early.

Quote:


I'm glad you're not writing this stuff - The Lord of the Rings trilogy (all three pages of it). It also demonstrates why casters in D&D are stupidly over-powered. If they can screw up the plot of a novel, why suddenly aren't they screwing up the game?

Novels are not games. We agree on that. A lot things don't happen in the game for the sake of fun. In Age of Worms as an example the PC's are laying the smacketh down on a certain organization. Had the 2nd to the last boss been playing according to his intelligence he kills them before they can get to him. That however makes for sad PC's. Many stories work the same way.

Quote:


I'll say it again - "magic" in novels does not demonstrate the intrinsic superiority of magic in every way, shape and form and why it should be so in D&D. D&D has instead filtered backwards into fantasy literature and created the expectation that magic is all-powerful among impressionable readers.

Many stories have had the protagonist beaten by the villain, but they played around too much and end up dying. That is how this list get made. Evil Overlord List


Scott Betts wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Sorry, I'm not a fan of illusions or deceiving my players.
Sure you are. The DM-player relationship is founded on deceit, or at the very least plausible deniability. It's the worst-kept secret in D&D - the game allows the DM to lie or omit with impunity, and that allowance improves the game experience. You've never given a monster 10 extra hit points? Never tacked on an extra spell? Never had a monster make a saving throw it shouldn't have? Never acted like your BBEG planned that cool thing that just happened all along? Come on. Tell me you haven't.

I have fudged for players, but never for monsters. Sometimes I openly tell them after the session, especially if they made a tactical error. Yeah it sucks when my BBEG dies because the dice gods gave the party 3 crits in a row, but things happen. Rolling a 1 against a save at the wrong time is also annoying, but what if I fudge the the roll, and a PC dies. That is not fair. Had I ended the fight when it really should have ended that never comes up.

Yeah my players enjoy epic fights that take everyone down to single HP or make it so that only 1 or 2 party members are alive, but when they get that 1 or 2 round boss fight they enjoy that two, because they know the next fight won't be so easy most likely.


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Scott Betts wrote:
I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?

Having a goal that needs to be accomplished is a good thing. Making the enemy hang out an enemy HQ, no matter what the players do is something entirely different. I want my players to win, but I don't hand out victories, even if I do help them out.

I don't have a hard timer on when players have to get to the bad guy unless the adventure calls for it, but if they are not taking things seriously the bad guy might move on. This has led to them having to take on two bosses at once. They were able to kill one, but they had to retreat, and lost two party members.

In short the ritual to end the world might complete itself if the PC's don't take it seriously. I guess there is some railroad in my game, but not so much that you can ignore the threat completely and know the BBEG will be hanging out waiting for you no matter how long you take.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
ciretose wrote:

I like to think of timelines as a choice for the PC. You can put this off, but if you do it will be harder when you get around to it.

Like most things in life.

Actually, I find that if you ignore most things in life, they just go away in the end. Obviously not much of a plot for a campaign, but since we were waxing philosophical...


Scott Betts wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Sorry, I'm not a fan of illusions or deceiving my players.
Sure you are. The DM-player relationship is founded on deceit, or at the very least plausible deniability. It's the worst-kept secret in D&D - the game allows the DM to lie or omit with impunity, and that allowance improves the game experience. You've never given a monster 10 extra hit points? Never tacked on an extra spell? Never had a monster make a saving throw it shouldn't have? Never acted like your BBEG planned that cool thing that just happened all along? Come on. Tell me you haven't.

Over half of my players are DM's, many of whom have run the game much longer than I have. When I give a monster those super secret "10 extra HP" it's because the monster has 1 more HD than a normal version would.

If I fudge stats on something, chances are someone in my group IS going to notice.

As far as fudging rolls, that's an entirely other topic that would require even more derailing than this one already has, but if "you even read what I wrote" you would have seen I've already covered this too:

My preferred style of DMing: Fun > Story/Plot > Mechanics

Fun comes first; any part of the story or game mechanics can and will be adjusted or flat out tossed, in the name of the fun of the game. This includes the rare altered monster saving throw, etc. Secondly, for the sake of the story going on, the mechanics can and will be adjusted as needed. Game mechanics are just a toolkit to help us tell the story, so they will be bent and torqued in whatever way my group sees fit (any time this is done, it's after a group discussion and vote).

But there's a BIG difference, to me at least, between adjusting game mechanics to better fit the group, and flat out lying to your players about their possible impact on the game setting, making them little more than cardboard cutouts sitting at your table. But, if your group has fun sitting around while you tell them everything they are going to do, have at it. Fun is what counts, so if your way works, you're doing it right.

I'm not just talking about AP's and modules, since those are pretty much written as railroads; players participating in a pre-written adventure have to expect a lot of outcomes are going to be already assumed.


But, ranting aside, fun is what matters. If your group enjoys the games you run, then there's nothing bad I can say about that. We're pretty much just on opposite sides of the spectrum, DM-wise, but the game is the thing.

Liberty's Edge

Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
ciretose wrote:

I like to think of timelines as a choice for the PC. You can put this off, but if you do it will be harder when you get around to it.

Like most things in life.

Actually, I find that if you ignore most things in life, they just go away in the end.

Like jobs :)

Liberty's Edge

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Scott Betts wrote:
I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?

Easy. Adventure Paths are outlines.

Some of them are more railroad than others (I am looking at you Second Darkness) but for the most part they try really hard to create scenarios rather than plots.

In other words, they describe events that are happening and how to encourage your to players to care about those events enough they want to do something about them. Nearly all of the good modules are written in an open ended way that allows players to find their own way through them.

The less popular ones (Hi Second Darkness and Council of Thieves) become fixated on complicated plots that they force the players through.

A macguffin is not a railroad.

Liberty's Edge

Scott Betts wrote:
I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?

Because the wizard doesn’t need to buy all the spells in his spell book, above the two they get each level?

And the fact that you are arguing for them relying on consumables while pointing out how they don’t need to spend money like everyone else is kind of amusing.


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I have a problem with the overuse of the word railroad. Railroading is putting the PCs on a course of action that they cannot change, not matter what they do--like being on a set of rails they cannot deviate from.

It is not setting out lures or clues or other enticements to lead them to make the decision the GM wants them to make--like following a road they can leave whenever they wish.

As long as the PCs have a choice, they aren't being railroaded.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
ciretose wrote:

Easy. Adventure Paths are outlines.

Some of them are more railroad than others (I am looking at you Second Darkness) but for the most part they try really hard to create scenarios rather than plots.

In other words, they describe events that are happening and how to encourage your to players to care about those events enough they want to do something about them. Nearly all of the good modules are written in an open ended way that allows players to find their own way through them.

The less popular ones (Hi Second Darkness and Council of Thieves) become fixated on complicated plots that they force the players through.

A macguffin is not a railroad.

Well, you've clearly been reading different APs to me. First off, they are published monthly - you don't actually know where they are going until six months after the fist one is published. Now, you can wait for the whole thing, but the publishing schedule is such that you could wander off the beaten track and discover you can't get back when you get the next installment. So doing your own thing could be tricky.

More fundamentally, they are actually pretty sequential in nature - you do A, then B, then C. Sure maybe you do A, then C, then B if it doesn't disrupt things, but significant deviation requires more work by the DM. If you could just stroll about doing whatever, and didn't actually have to adapt the thing, then I'd agree that they are just outlines. But they don't work like that. If you have to adapt it to get away from linearity, that pretty much proves they are linear.

The strength of the APs is not that they are non-linear, it's the detail of the world and the cool encounters and situations. I like the APs, and I like the way they develop a campaign over a large number of levels. I've got no beef with them. But they do railroad, and the writers and editors have admitted as much. When they have notes about what to do to adapt it, those notes are always about how to get things back on track and moving to where they were headed before some unfortunate continuity error.


Jerry Wright 307 wrote:

I have a problem with the overuse of the word railroad. Railroading is putting the PCs on a course of action that they cannot change, not matter what they do--like being on a set of rails they cannot deviate from.

It is not setting out lures or clues or other enticements to lead them to make the decision the GM wants them to make--like following a road they can leave whenever they wish.

As long as the PCs have a choice, they aren't being railroaded.

Precisely why many of us take notice of the phrase "illusion of choice." If the players have no real, tangible choice in the matter, it's just a set of rails.


Josh M. wrote:
Precisely why many of us take notice of the phrase "illusion of choice." If the players have no real, tangible choice in the matter, it's just a set of rails.

I agree with you. But I must point out that a GM who is very good at manipulating his players into making the choices he wants them to make is still not railroading them.

Taking advantage of player gullibility is not railroading. It's just good GMing. :D

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
Josh M. wrote:
Jerry Wright 307 wrote:

I have a problem with the overuse of the word railroad. Railroading is putting the PCs on a course of action that they cannot change, not matter what they do--like being on a set of rails they cannot deviate from.

It is not setting out lures or clues or other enticements to lead them to make the decision the GM wants them to make--like following a road they can leave whenever they wish.

As long as the PCs have a choice, they aren't being railroaded.

Precisely why many of us take notice of the phrase "illusion of choice." If the players have no real, tangible choice in the matter, it's just a set of rails.

Illusion of choice that is indistinguishable from actual choice is, from the perceivers point of view, the same thing. The only person who knows differently is the DM (if it's done right). We are getting philosophical. If you played through a campaign thinking you were a amover and shaker, get to the end feeling thoroughly fulfilled, and then the DM turns round and goes, "Suckers! I played you all the way!" would you feel cheated? Possibly. But then, if you enjoyed it at the time, what's the issue? What, exactly, did you miss out on?

In reality, it's actually somewhere in the middle. Most players have a degree of choice - they have full control over tactics, but little to no control over the broader events in the world if they aren't involved. Note that this doesn't mean "players will always succeed" either (or, more completely, success and failure is not pre-determined for specific situations) - it is perfectly possible for them to fail. But DMs for decades have been fudging background details to channel their players in specific directions, largely irrespective if they succeed or fail. It changes the details, but not the overall result. And if the overall threat/BBEG in a campaign arc is still there, it will have to be addressed at some stage.


ciretose wrote:
Scott Betts wrote:
I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?
Easy. Adventure Paths are outlines.

600 pages is not an outline. You may choose to utilize them in that way, but adventure paths are designed to be more or less complete experiences.


Jerry Wright 307 wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Precisely why many of us take notice of the phrase "illusion of choice." If the players have no real, tangible choice in the matter, it's just a set of rails.

I agree with you. But I must point out that a GM who is very good at manipulating his players into making the choices he wants them to make is still not railroading them.

Taking advantage of player gullibility is not railroading. It's just good GMing. :D

Eh, that depends. I don't know how vocal everyone else's players are, but when my players are not digging an adventure or story arc, they make it pretty loud and clear. If I try to sneak elements from the abandoned arc into another direction, they'll call me out on it in a heartbeat. It's happened. Pretty much cemented my belief in letting the players do their thing, and just keep the world moving and let them be accountable for their actions/inaction.

I had this discussion with another DM friend of mine yesterday, in fact. The way he put it; "if the Mountain is where the story is happening, and the players go somewhere else, move the Mountain."

I've tried it before, it doesn't always work. My players notice when a "mountain" pops up in front of them, metaphorically speaking.


ciretose wrote:
Scott Betts wrote:
I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?

Because the wizard doesn’t need to buy all the spells in his spell book, above the two they get each level?

And the fact that you are arguing for them relying on consumables while pointing out how they don’t need to spend money like everyone else is kind of amusing.

I think you've missed the point. First, they are not "relying" on consumables in the way a Fighter relies on his sword and armor. Second, the fact that they don't need to spend money on the +whatever rat race allows them to purchase and maintain that arsenal of consumables.

I've been very clear about both of these points, and have raised them multiple times. Let's not lose sight of what's been said.


Josh M. wrote:
Jerry Wright 307 wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Precisely why many of us take notice of the phrase "illusion of choice." If the players have no real, tangible choice in the matter, it's just a set of rails.

I agree with you. But I must point out that a GM who is very good at manipulating his players into making the choices he wants them to make is still not railroading them.

Taking advantage of player gullibility is not railroading. It's just good GMing. :D

Eh, that depends. I don't know how vocal everyone else's players are, but when my players are not digging an adventure or story arc, they make it pretty loud and clear. If I try to sneak elements from the abandoned arc into another direction, they'll call me out on it in a heartbeat. It's happened. Pretty much cemented my belief in letting the players do their thing, and just keep the world moving and let them be accountable for their actions/inaction.

I had this discussion with another DM friend of mine yesterday, in fact. The way he put it; "if the Mountain is where the story is happening, and the players go somewhere else, move the Mountain."

I've tried it before, it doesn't always work. My players notice when a "mountain" pops up in front of them, metaphorically speaking.

This just sounds to me like you have a group of players who are unwilling to meet you halfway. When I start a game, I explain that we'll be playing through a certain adventure path, give them a rough idea of the theme, and ask that they meet me halfway in playing through it - I will do my best to develop solid, convincing reasons for their characters to participate in the course of the AP's events, and I ask that they play characters that will bite accordingly when the plot hooks are dropped.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
Josh M. wrote:
Jerry Wright 307 wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Precisely why many of us take notice of the phrase "illusion of choice." If the players have no real, tangible choice in the matter, it's just a set of rails.

I agree with you. But I must point out that a GM who is very good at manipulating his players into making the choices he wants them to make is still not railroading them.

Taking advantage of player gullibility is not railroading. It's just good GMing. :D

Eh, that depends. I don't know how vocal everyone else's players are, but when my players are not digging an adventure or story arc, they make it pretty loud and clear. If I try to sneak elements from the abandoned arc into another direction, they'll call me out on it in a heartbeat. It's happened. Pretty much cemented my belief in letting the players do their thing, and just keep the world moving and let them be accountable for their actions/inaction.

I had this discussion with another DM friend of mine yesterday, in fact. The way he put it; "if the Mountain is where the story is happening, and the players go somewhere else, move the Mountain."

I've tried it before, it doesn't always work. My players notice when a "mountain" pops up in front of them, metaphorically speaking.

The other definition of good DMing is "give the players what they want". There's a lot of "My DM does X, and that's why he's a great DM". Actually, the correct formulation is "My DM does X, I really dig X, and that's why he's a great DM". Some players are relaxed about some stuff and not about other stuff, and it varies by group. Playing D&D is, after all, and interaction between DMs and players with diverse attitudes and views. Which is why the elevation of non-railroading as the acme of DMing is false - it depends on what a group of players and a DM want.


Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Jerry Wright 307 wrote:

I have a problem with the overuse of the word railroad. Railroading is putting the PCs on a course of action that they cannot change, not matter what they do--like being on a set of rails they cannot deviate from.

It is not setting out lures or clues or other enticements to lead them to make the decision the GM wants them to make--like following a road they can leave whenever they wish.

As long as the PCs have a choice, they aren't being railroaded.

Precisely why many of us take notice of the phrase "illusion of choice." If the players have no real, tangible choice in the matter, it's just a set of rails.

Illusion of choice that is indistinguishable from actual choice is, from the perceivers point of view, the same thing. The only person who knows differently is the DM (if it's done right). We are getting philosophical. If you played through a campaign thinking you were a amover and shaker, get to the end feeling thoroughly fulfilled, and then the DM turns round and goes, "Suckers! I played you all the way!" would you feel cheated? Possibly. But then, if you enjoyed it at the time, what's the issue? What, exactly, did you miss out on?

In reality, it's actually somewhere in the middle. Most players have a degree of choice - they have full control over tactics, but little to no control over the broader events in the world if they aren't involved. Note that this doesn't mean "players will always succeed" either (or, more completely, success and failure is not pre-determined for specific situations) - it is perfectly possible for them to fail. But DMs for decades have been fudging background details to channel their players in specific directions, largely irrespective if they succeed or fail. It changes the details, but not the overall result. And if the overall threat/BBEG in a campaign arc is still there, it will have to be addressed at some stage.

If you are clever enough to completely fool your players the entire time, then my hats off to you. I just don't run games that way.

I dunno, maybe my players are some kind of exception, and not the rule. The storytelling in our games is incredibly cooperative; often times all I have to do is start up some kind of situation and just referee the numbers while the players play out an intricate story of events themselves. For me, the idea of trying to fool them into doing something they might not want to do, is a completely foreign concept.

After having countless curveballs thrown to me, I've learned to not plan too far ahead, and just "go with the flow." For instance, one session, the party's CG cleric wound up in a social encounter with the BBEG du jour; a LE half-fiend war cleric. We wound up RP'ing the discussion for over an hour in-character, and at one point I had convinced the good cleric to join the evil one. I wasn't even really trying to, but the good cleric agreed with the finer points of the evil one, and suddenly the entire campaign was flipped on it's head.

Good luck getting back on the rails when something like that happens. I happened to enjoy it, a whole new slew of campaigns ideas arose just from that discussion. That kind of 180 degree side-flipping doesn't usually get covered in most modules I've read.


Scott Betts wrote:
I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?

Adventure Paths (or any adventure module, really) are not railroads. They are published detailed interlinked events and scenarios that may or may not occur depending on the players' choices.

As ciretose says, hopefully the AP is presented in such a manner that the players are invested enough that they care about these events and scenarios, and make decisions that will lead to the next event that would logically occur based on the "most likely" actions of the PCs and NPCs involved (which is what an AP is).

But the players don't have to.

Therefore, not a railroad.

(Some people are grossly misrepresenting what a "railroad" is. A railroad is an event or sequence of events that will occur regardless of the decisions the players make. While one can make an AP a railroad, a GM doing his/her job means that an AP isn't one - he/she will have logical events occur based on the PCs' actions. That may require additional work from the GM... nothing new there and welcome to GMing.)


Scott Betts wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Jerry Wright 307 wrote:
Josh M. wrote:
Precisely why many of us take notice of the phrase "illusion of choice." If the players have no real, tangible choice in the matter, it's just a set of rails.

I agree with you. But I must point out that a GM who is very good at manipulating his players into making the choices he wants them to make is still not railroading them.

Taking advantage of player gullibility is not railroading. It's just good GMing. :D

Eh, that depends. I don't know how vocal everyone else's players are, but when my players are not digging an adventure or story arc, they make it pretty loud and clear. If I try to sneak elements from the abandoned arc into another direction, they'll call me out on it in a heartbeat. It's happened. Pretty much cemented my belief in letting the players do their thing, and just keep the world moving and let them be accountable for their actions/inaction.

I had this discussion with another DM friend of mine yesterday, in fact. The way he put it; "if the Mountain is where the story is happening, and the players go somewhere else, move the Mountain."

I've tried it before, it doesn't always work. My players notice when a "mountain" pops up in front of them, metaphorically speaking.

This just sounds to me like you have a group of players who are unwilling to meet you halfway. When I start a game, I explain that we'll be playing through a certain adventure path, give them a rough idea of the theme, and ask that they meet me halfway in playing through it - I will do my best to develop solid, convincing reasons for their characters to participate in the course of the AP's events, and I ask that they play characters that will bite accordingly when the plot hooks are dropped.

So when the players make a decision as to what their characters would do, and if it doesn't fall right in line with the pre-plotted script, that's "refusing to meet halfway?" Um, wouldn't forcing the players to go down a path that their character may not be willing to go down be the same? Not every plot hook is a winner, and if they are not interested, then they just are not interested. When that happens, have fun forcing players into an adventure they wanted nothing to do with. It's not fun.

Scott, we're just not going to see eye to eye on this. You force your players through your story. You're giving them a grand experience, and they're just along for the ride. If they have fun with it, kudos to you.

My groups and I work together to flesh out and develop our own collaborative story. I'm humble enough to know that not every plot I think up is a guaranteed Oscar-nominee, and my players are creative enough to come up with things they would like to see and do in the game setting.

No, it's not always pretty. Yes, my group disagrees about things and the game can suffer from too many egos. yes, several plots have been abandoned, many hand-written adventures have been shelved. But, when it does work, its far and away more satisfying that just telling them a story and rolling some dice.

Some people are content just going on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, others actually want to be the pirates. To each their own.

Liberty's Edge

If you think the good APs are railroads, talk to different players on the same AP and you will find out how wide the road is.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

I removed a post and the replies to it. The condescension needs to stop.


Arnwyn wrote:
Scott Betts wrote:
I'm also curious for those who believe that rail roads in tabletop gaming are boring or bad, what is your opinion of adventure paths, which are basically railroad-incarnate (save, arguably, Kingmaker)?

Adventure Paths (or any adventure module, really) are not railroads. They are published detailed interlinked events and scenarios that may or may not occur depending on the players' choices.

As ciretose says, hopefully the AP is presented in such a manner that the players are invested enough that they care about these events and scenarios, and make decisions that will lead to the next event that would logically occur based on the "most likely" actions of the PCs and NPCs involved (which is what an AP is).

But the players don't have to.

Therefore, not a railroad.

(Some people are grossly misrepresenting what a "railroad" is. A railroad is an event or sequence of events that will occur regardless of the decisions the players make. While one can make an AP a railroad, a GM doing his/her job means that an AP isn't one - he/she will have logical events occur based on the PCs' actions. That may require additional work from the GM... nothing new there and welcome to GMing.)

I think it is easy to be down on APs because they sound like they should be railroads. I've never had any interest in them because of how bad I thought the modules in Kobalt Quarterly and Dungeon were, so I assumed more of the same, but I try not to tell people not to play the APs or that I know anything about them.

It is very easy to just assume the worst about them.

Liberty's Edge

If your players have to meet you halfway, you aren't doing a very good job creating hooks.


The AP's put goals in front of you. Yeah it is assumed that the PC's will try to achieve said goals. That is not railroading, not to me anyway^^. Railroading to me is more along the lines of you must accomplish the goal by doing it "this way exactly."

^^I also believe there are different levels of railroading.

Back to the main topic though, wizards are not OP. If you allow the PC's to control the pace of the world, along with having the bad guys just hang out until the PC's show up in order to start the world ending event they can be an issue*. It is not much different than psions being allowed to nova because you the GM have one fight a day, and the players catch on to it. That does not mean either class is broken. It just means that it does not mesh well with your style of play**.

*I once had players figure due to player experience and metagaming where the last boss was. They simply rested so they could fight him at full power. I have since learned to be less predictable, but my point also is that if I had made the world move on instead of stopping time for them things would have very different.

**I was a skills based player in SW Saga. The GM was a narrative GM who ignored skill rolls in favor of what he wanted with regard to the story, but he also liked combats. I figured out pretty quickly that my character while fine in another game was not going to do well in this one if I kept focusing on skills so I asked him could I tweak it, and everything was solved. The issue was not the class I was playing, but a combination of what I was playing, and the GM I was playing under.


The only AP I've played (and am still quite early doors) is Kingmaker ported into my homebrew world (using my preferred BRP system) and I've tinkered with it quite a bit and will be adding greatly to it, it will change a LOT as time goes by, to better fit it into my game world and preferred style of play.

I own most of the other APs mind you, but I just tend to mine them for ideas - which you shouldn't regard as somehow disparaging or a sign I don't like them. I do. I just don't like setting off on a very long campaign having everything pretty much mapped out - I find campaigns work better growing at their own pace and in directions suggested by how things play out. The Paizo APs are extremely good adventures, full of great ideas, they are well worth the money, but yeah ... generally speaking playing them all the way through more or less as written isn't for me.

Dark Archive

I often finding myself having to meet GMs halfway on a lot of pre-made adventures. Especially in regards to organized play, I assume there's sort of a player-GM contract. I had that very discussion with a friend of mine, I can't recall the hook but it was in LFR and my character probably wouldn't have gone along for the adventure.

However, at that point as a player I had a choice of continuing to adventure as best I can, or to sit around and wait for my buddy to finish playing. Seeing as how I didn't want to play on my PSP for 4 hours, I met the DM halfway and just went with it.

Though now that I think of it, this may have more to do with some of the none so engaging hooks made available by organized play campaigns :/

ciretose wrote:
If your players have to meet you halfway, you aren't doing a very good job creating hooks.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
ciretose wrote:
If your players have to meet you halfway, you aren't doing a very good job creating hooks.

Isn't creating decent hooks for your adventures pretty much what "meeting your players halfway" means?

Liberty's Edge

Steve Geddes wrote:
ciretose wrote:
If your players have to meet you halfway, you aren't doing a very good job creating hooks.
Isn't creating decent hooks for your adventures pretty much what "meeting your players halfway" means?

Giving your players motivation to play with you is about as basic a GM duty as you can get.

If you players have to fake being interested, you've kind of failed at your main job.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I kind of take people wanting to play as a given. I don't think it's a DM duty at all.

The DM has a world with things happening in it, the players have characters. Hooks help them get interested in what's happening. It sounds halfwayish to me and I don't understand the comment I quoted.

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