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Railroads aren't always bad, are they?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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thejeff wrote:
I'm so putting in a pit trap with a (possibly dead) tiger in it.

A taxidermy tiger which is playing dead?


dysartes wrote:
thejeff wrote:
I'm so putting in a pit trap with a (possibly dead) tiger in it.
A taxidermy tiger which is playing dead?

No. A tiger that may or may not be dead. Won't know until someone falls in the pit.

</explains the joke>


Lucy_Valentine wrote:


As a sort of tangent, I don't know if anyone's mentioned the difference between linearity on a strategic and linearity on a tactical scale? [..] But if individual combats can only be won in one specific way, that annoys me immensely.

Depends what you mean; but I think there is leeway here. Having the old "You have to destroy McGuffin X during the fight in order to kill the BBEG" is a form of this isn't it? And that's certainly often a more interesting fight than "Kill the dude."

I am slowly moving towards having more fights with "has to be done in a certain way" kinda deal; but with indicators of what that is. I can see having it be like the Gallows Tree Zombie where there's a way to make life easy and there's the harder way to do it; or like a Troll.

But even a boss who changes resistances or that kind of thing is pretty typical of RPGs and is a way of saying "you pretty much need to beat him by doing X."

In your case, if I had a colossal giant that can easily gib you but you can anticipate it's attacks; there's only one real way to beat it: "Dodge the attacks and hit when it's not swinging" or w/e. If you attempt *anything* else [except maybe running away or the objective is to get something in the room and not to kill it] you'll get smashed under a massive club. But that to me is a totally (in terms of Pathfinder anyway) a more interesting fight.

Similar, the scene in God of War where you move statues to block the never-ending swarm of Harpies; that has only one way to really end it, but it's also an interesting fight and fairly memorable.

____

More clarification from your end would be good; but IMO; anything that turns it into a different puzzle than "Can I damage it quick enough" is good.


In a sense, if you are relying on disabling the normal tactic to introduce the players to using other tactics, you are telling said players that you do not know the weaknesses of that strategy. This leads further into using the same tactic on everything not expressly immune.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

No, not all railroads are bad. I had a group that literally could not decide what to do if I gave them a wide open world, but which was pumped if I gave them a direction, or even the appearance of a direction.

Then there are bad railroads. I was in a Legend of the Five Rings game, where with starting characters the GM decided he was going to run the Second Day of Thunder without telling us. He was running a module for much more advanced characters, so we went through about 3 PCs in the first session. Then, because we couldn't hack it, we ended up more watching the events from the sidelines. Worse, when we tried to go 'off the rails', and just leave the stuff we couldn't deal with behind... the rest of the world may as well have not existed. As my wife put it, it was a railroad through a box canyon with no windows. And I'm not even getting into him screwing over my character with the artifact and so-called boon I rolled.

There's a continuum between good and bad for both sandbox and railroad games, and it's best to know what works for your group. My group got to the beginning of Part 2 of Kingmaker, and we realized that the way the adventure path was set up was going to piss them off in short order, so we abandoned it.


That reminded me, just because of the metaphor, of a game I was in back in college. The common extended mystery plot is often described as an onion, where you peel away the layers one at a time to finally reveal what's actually going on.
In this case every time we peeled away a layer, the GM took the onion away and gave us a new one.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

In a 3.0 campaign, we were told "Next session, you're going to march through the portal and fight the Ice-Balor."

We were level 4.

We didn't want to go through the portal.

But we had no choice.

We didn't want to fight the Ice-Balor.

But we had no choice.

My barbarian 2/fighter 2 DID get to outwit the Ice-Balor by waiting for it to make an AoO and THEN trying to disarm it. And I succeeded!

But that was after spending a round or two missing, and watching everyone else missing, and everyone else dying and almost dying.

Then the DM Deus Ex Machina NPC killed Ice-Balor, which then blew up and killed all the PCs, who then got raised from the dead by the DM DXM NPC, AS A FAVOR, SO WE OWED HIM!

Ugh. At least I got a big shiny axe out of the deal.

That I used to Sunder open Daern's Instant Fortress in one hit.

We had a really dumb DM. So dumb, he thought he was smart.

So dumb.


Usually, people who hate railroads aren't asking for a sandbox.

They're happy with a linear adventure as long as it's flexible enough to allows the story to play out in a number of different ways.

Shadow Lodge

The types of railroads I dislike are the sorts of adventures that essentially require the group to be invested in a particular storyline, and generally fail if they do not care or want to do something else. Worse if you bring a character that has motives or desires contrary to the plot's railroad.

I do not see Railroad as opposite of Sandbox, though they often can be, and a large part of it also relates to how the individual DM interprets and handles it. Sandbox just tends to be either less well planned out to offer a small variety of challenges, which is more optimal for less mechanically sound groups/players, (both good and bad).

Railroads tend to be more focused on offering challenges, where Ive played in Sandbox games where the majority of the session was us not accomplishing a single thing, just wasting time until something happens that might as well be unrelated, as our actions or choices do not really matter.

This is a large reason Im not a fan of Paizo's APs, as the focus for writing is heavily centered on player/character buy in, rather than on trying to make a good story that could go many different ways. Just my preference, but I prefer stories that are designed to be more tailored around the party than those that intend for parties to be tailored around the story plot.


I think its been established that linear/Railroads can be bad or good. I think the term railroad has become a one word shut down phrase in adventure design like mary-sue has in literature. Folks are so focused on railroads being bad, they cant see any good despite liking the flavor, encounters, etc. YMMV


DM Beckett wrote:

The types of railroads I dislike are the sorts of adventures that essentially require the group to be invested in a particular storyline, and generally fail if they do not care or want to do something else. Worse if you bring a character that has motives or desires contrary to the plot's railroad.

I do not see Railroad as opposite of Sandbox, though they often can be, and a large part of it also relates to how the individual DM interprets and handles it. Sandbox just tends to be either less well planned out to offer a small variety of challenges, which is more optimal for less mechanically sound groups/players, (both good and bad).

Railroads tend to be more focused on offering challenges, where Ive played in Sandbox games where the majority of the session was us not accomplishing a single thing, just wasting time until something happens that might as well be unrelated, as our actions or choices do not really matter.

This is a large reason Im not a fan of Paizo's APs, as the focus for writing is heavily centered on player/character buy in, rather than on trying to make a good story that could go many different ways. Just my preference, but I prefer stories that are designed to be more tailored around the party than those that intend for parties to be tailored around the story plot.

The solution of course is not to run adventures without player buy in. :)

Trickier than it sounds, but really doesn't work otherwise.

That's pretty much my experience with full on sandbox. Lots of floundering around looking for things to do.

For published adventures, it's really hard to write an adventure that could go many different ways and still be ready to run in all of them. For something on an AP scale, it's practically impossible. It's a trade off to make a published adventure reasonable. Personally I prefer campaigns that might need player buy in to the premise, but allow a lot of flexibility in how they approach that premise.
Not really possible to publish an AP where the party is free to do something else rather than the entire book 4 :)


Planpanther wrote:
I think its been established that linear/Railroads can be bad or good. I think the term railroad has become a one word shut down phrase in adventure design like mary-sue has in literature. Folks are so focused on railroads being bad, they cant see any good despite liking the flavor, encounters, etc. YMMV

Well, it all depends on whether the players are getting railroaded willingly or not... if they have specific goals and desires and the proposed adventure does not serve those, or worse, prevents the pursuit of same, it's bad, but if it gives them a purpose they otherwise lack, or serves to promote the party as a united group, it can be good... I ought to know, I've just started a game (as a player) where the characters do need some degree of railroading to act as a coherent whole, because otherwise, we'd have a warlock who wants nothing more than helping people and getting away from his homeland, a cleric who knows nothing about the world but wants to promote her deity, an elf whose desires and motives I don't even know, and a wizard who'd be just happy spending his life in a library... without a modicum of prodding, these 4 would not even be a party.


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DM Beckett wrote:
This is a large reason Im not a fan of Paizo's APs, as the focus for writing is heavily centered on player/character buy in, rather than on trying to make a good story that could go many different ways.

Isn't that pretty much any pre-written adventure, not just Paizo's?


Well, some APs are particularly obnoxious that way, like when the characters get geased to do what's expected of them (Rasputin, eat your heart out).


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Some APs can be obnoxious, but on the other hand expecting a degree of player buy-in for any game is sort of expected whether it be AP or homebrew. I'm sure every GM has had that horror story of that one PC who plays the lone brooding edgelord who makes a fuss about accepting the opening plothook because /reasons or similar. Much easier to go pre game "Hey guys we're going to be doing game around *themes here* please make characters who'd want to do that"


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I think addressing the question of whether players are interested in investing in a particular storyline belongs in the pre-campaign discussion along with what kinds of character are suitable for the campaign the DM has in mind; I don't expect drastic mismatches to show up after that given a set of people who know the game and their expectations reasonably well and are on the same page as to intended playstyle. (Someone just starting out who is not good at judging what sort of classes work in what sort of contexts can go wrong here, but a character whose response to every plot hook you might offer them is "nah, I want to go start a restaurant" really should not get through that step unless you all actually want to start a campaign about running a restaurant.)

I also think that, since any given instance of a campaign will consist of one single linear thread of stuff happening one event after another, the question of railroad or sandbox is immaterial at some levels. From the players' point of view, whether going west leads to a bunch of orcs next because it was written that there were orcs to the west, or the next interesting encounter the DM had in mind was that bunch of orcs and the DM put those orcs in front of whichever direction the players chose, should be invisible, to my mind.


the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:

I think addressing the question of whether players are interested in investing in a particular storyline belongs in the pre-campaign discussion along with what kinds of character are suitable for the campaign the DM has in mind; I don't expect drastic mismatches to show up after that given a set of people who know the game and their expectations reasonably well and are on the same page as to intended playstyle. (Someone just starting out who is not good at judging what sort of classes work in what sort of contexts can go wrong here, but a character whose response to every plot hook you might offer them is "nah, I want to go start a restaurant" really should not get through that step unless you all actually want to start a campaign about running a restaurant.)

I also think that, since any given instance of a campaign will consist of one single linear thread of stuff happening one event after another, the question of railroad or sandbox is immaterial at some levels. From the players' point of view, whether going west leads to a bunch of orcs next because it was written that there were orcs to the west, or the next interesting encounter the DM had in mind was that bunch of orcs and the DM put those orcs in front of whichever direction the players chose, should be invisible, to my mind.

It's more a question of when the PCs decide they really don't want to deal with the orc plot, but go and investigate the ghouls under the graveyard instead, but they're pushed to go meet the orcs anyway.

Some kinds of Schrodinger's encounters work either way and somethings can't be avoided once they've been set in motion - if they've pissed off the big bad and he's sent assassins after them, they probably can't easily avoid them. Generally though, if the PCs are actively avoiding something, they shouldn't be forced into it.

And yeah, I've had the character completely uninterested in anything going on in the campaign. One guy memorably complaining about the lack of glass-blowing plotlines. :)

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Klorox wrote:
Well, some APs are particularly obnoxious that way, like when the characters get geased to do what's expected of them (Rasputin, eat your heart out).

Is that really railroading, though?

Or is it a case of an NPC having a spell/ability in their repertoire, and it making absolute sense for them to use it?

"I have a hammer, that I'm itching to use, and you people just burst into my home, looking like a bag of nails."

I'm not going to begrudge an NPC enchanter using an iconic enchantment spell, as you just know if a PC had the same spell, they'd be spamming it every session, like a monkey hammering a typewriter that shot bananas into its face every time it filled a page.


it's not even like we went to beard the enchanter in its lair, it wass definitely writer's fiat to geas the characters into performing the mission, and when the character does not want to go to that inhospitable place, that's definitely uncool.


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thejeff wrote:


It's more a question of when the PCs decide they really don't want to deal with the orc plot, but go and investigate the ghouls under the graveyard instead, but they're pushed to go meet the orcs anyway.

The fundamental problem there seems to me to be the word "pushed".

On one level, if the campaign has been agreed from the beginning as "we are working our way up the threat ladder to see who is behind the orcs", players who ignore the orcs in favour of incidental ghouls are every bit as much not playing along as players who ignore the orcs to go start a restaurant. (I view requiring "characters who will respond to X by doing Y" as a legitimate, and sometimes essential, part of pre-game discussion, at least in terms of getting the plot rolling initially. Because otherwise you risk tonal mismatches on the scale of someone trying to play a particularly goody-goody paladin in Skull and Shackles, or a scurvy self-interested rogue in Wrath of the Righteous.)

On another, it strikes me as something of a lack of success on the DM's part not to make plot-significant orcs more interesting than incidental ghouls. And one could cope with that by having the ghouls not lead anywhere beyond themselves so that the PCs end up going back to the orcs after the ghouls are dealt with, or have them turn out to be working for whoever the orcs are also working for, or coming up with some plot to tie the orcs into the ghouls directly.

Quote:


Generally though, if the PCs are actively avoiding something, they shouldn't be forced into it.

Forced, absolutely not. Seduced, otoh, is one of the most fundamental arts of DMing. In order to object to rails players first have to be able to see them.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:

(Someone just starting out who is not good at judging what sort of classes work in what sort of contexts can go wrong here, but a character whose response to every plot hook you might offer them is "nah, I want to go start a restaurant" really should not get through that step unless you all actually want to start a campaign about running a restaurant.)

"Okay, roll your Profession [chef] check."

"...uh, nat 1. That's a 6."

"Well, that's not good. You don't cook the chicken for long enough and accidentally poison the local duke."

Now I kind of want to run a one-shot where the players are playing people working in a tavern and have to deal with all kinds of crazy adventuring groups.

On a more serious note, I think railroads do tend to be in the eye of the beholder. If a group is enjoying the adventure, they might not be inclined to complain about doing what it expects (since that's probably what they want to do anyway). The trick as a GM is to get the players to want that, rather than forcing them. Though player buy-in is important. If you want to run a pyramid-spelunking adventure and your group hates the idea and would rather be fighting demons, no one is going to have a good time.

Both as a player and a GM, I prefer specific plotlines (I like APs for just that reason), but I like a certain amount of flexibility within that for the party to do things. (My cleric of Milani decided to spring a bunch of slaves while we were playing Shattered Star. It was fun.) I've found I can't get that invested in purely sandbox adventures because it doesn't seem like there are any real stakes involved besides "survive this encounter and accomplish this short-term goal." Just a difference in preference, I guess.

Shadow Lodge

Klorox wrote:
it's not even like we went to beard the enchanter in its lair, it wass definitely writer's fiat to geas the characters into performing the mission, and when the character does not want to go to that inhospitable place, that's definitely uncool.

The buy-in on this adventure path was that the players had to have characters that were interested in protecting their homeland from invaders. There's also a very good chance that the players likely knew that they would be going to said inhospitable location (depending on which one we're talking about) when the campaign started. I don't see how it's unreasonable for the GM to expect that his players who have agreed to play this adventure make characters who are willing to go on the adventure.

If the character didn't want to protect his homeland, then the character could've refused. Then the player could roll up a new character that did want to protect his homeland. The NPC provided his option, then used geas to make sure the characters stuck to that option after they chose it (seeing it's in his best interest that they do so).

There are ways that the PCs could have branched from here, of course. For example, the PCs all could have refused him, then journeyed to the capitol and tell someone in power what's going on, with developments following from there. However, the players have now saddled the GM with a homebrew adventure that he expressly decided not to do, given he chose to run something published. Some GMs are willing to do so; others don't have the time or ability.

In the end, the AP recommended that the geas was to be used as a reminder to the PCs that the world is falling apart, and that maybe deciding to spend months treasure hunting in the Spider's Nest is counterproductive to saving the world. It wasn't meant to stop an afternoon galavanting in the Crooked House, or some downtime to help them better prepare the next leg of their journey. By the time the PCs have the chance to become jaded about the whole thing, they should have the resources to just straight up get the geas removed if they so desire.


I feel like if you know you're playing an AP and you don't want to stay on the path, you might realize that this is perhaps not the game for what you want.


yeah, that's the problem of not knowing all the data in advance... you sign up for a game, and then you discover that you are geased into doing something you (player ANS character, each for his own reasons) absolutely don't want to do.


Klorox wrote:
yeah, that's the problem of not knowing all the data in advance... you sign up for a game, and then you discover that you are geased into doing something you (player ANS character, each for his own reasons) absolutely don't want to do.

In that AP?

What you're geased into is the AP. I agree it's more heavy handed than I prefer, but it really is a matter of do this or play some other adventure.

Grand Lodge

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

Besides, by the end of it I had a way to break the geas if I wanted, and nearly turned on the party in the final battle.


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Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Some APs can be obnoxious, but on the other hand expecting a degree of player buy-in for any game is sort of expected whether it be AP or homebrew. I'm sure every GM has had that horror story of that one PC who plays the lone brooding edgelord who makes a fuss about accepting the opening plothook because /reasons or similar. Much easier to go pre game "Hey guys we're going to be doing game around *themes here* please make characters who'd want to do that"

Yup, as a player I consider it my responsibility to create a character that will be involved in the main story.

As a DM, if a player ever asks me to tell them why should be motivated... I'll ask them to leave the room and come back when they have an answer.

DM's have enough work to do, asking them to hold your hand and spoon feed you motivation is absurd. (In other words, I wholeheartedly agree with you)


thejeff wrote:
Klorox wrote:
yeah, that's the problem of not knowing all the data in advance... you sign up for a game, and then you discover that you are geased into doing something you (player ANS character, each for his own reasons) absolutely don't want to do.

In that AP?

What you're geased into is the AP. I agree it's more heavy handed than I prefer, but it really is a matter of do this or play some other adventure.

Yep, I liked Kingmaker or RotRL much better than that AP, the environment is a lot more hostile than I like to have to deal with, or at least more than I was ready to deal with at the time... now, knowing that if I hadn't dropped out too early I might have done very interesting things concerning a certain eastern country and a certain mad monk at a well known time, I might keep up and bear with it...


Irontruth wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Some APs can be obnoxious, but on the other hand expecting a degree of player buy-in for any game is sort of expected whether it be AP or homebrew. I'm sure every GM has had that horror story of that one PC who plays the lone brooding edgelord who makes a fuss about accepting the opening plothook because /reasons or similar. Much easier to go pre game "Hey guys we're going to be doing game around *themes here* please make characters who'd want to do that"

Yup, as a player I consider it my responsibility to create a character that will be involved in the main story.

As a DM, if a player ever asks me to tell them why should be motivated... I'll ask them to leave the room and come back when they have an answer.

DM's have enough work to do, asking them to hold your hand and spoon feed you motivation is absurd. (In other words, I wholeheartedly agree with you)

I don't think I've ever asked, but I've certainly had GMs set up hooks to motivate my character. It's part of the job.


thejeff wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Some APs can be obnoxious, but on the other hand expecting a degree of player buy-in for any game is sort of expected whether it be AP or homebrew. I'm sure every GM has had that horror story of that one PC who plays the lone brooding edgelord who makes a fuss about accepting the opening plothook because /reasons or similar. Much easier to go pre game "Hey guys we're going to be doing game around *themes here* please make characters who'd want to do that"

Yup, as a player I consider it my responsibility to create a character that will be involved in the main story.

As a DM, if a player ever asks me to tell them why should be motivated... I'll ask them to leave the room and come back when they have an answer.

DM's have enough work to do, asking them to hold your hand and spoon feed you motivation is absurd. (In other words, I wholeheartedly agree with you)

I don't think I've ever asked, but I've certainly had GMs set up hooks to motivate my character. It's part of the job.

Good for them, but I'm with Iron in regard to motivation for at least the opening bits. As a GM, I can lead a horse (the player) to water, but I can't make them drink. That's on the players unless I've dropped them into the campaign with absolutetly no background. I'm fine making personal quests and hooks later but I expect players to come in with at least a vague motivation for getting started (or at least roll with it and not raise a fuss).


Tarik Blackhands wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Some APs can be obnoxious, but on the other hand expecting a degree of player buy-in for any game is sort of expected whether it be AP or homebrew. I'm sure every GM has had that horror story of that one PC who plays the lone brooding edgelord who makes a fuss about accepting the opening plothook because /reasons or similar. Much easier to go pre game "Hey guys we're going to be doing game around *themes here* please make characters who'd want to do that"

Yup, as a player I consider it my responsibility to create a character that will be involved in the main story.

As a DM, if a player ever asks me to tell them why should be motivated... I'll ask them to leave the room and come back when they have an answer.

DM's have enough work to do, asking them to hold your hand and spoon feed you motivation is absurd. (In other words, I wholeheartedly agree with you)

I don't think I've ever asked, but I've certainly had GMs set up hooks to motivate my character. It's part of the job.

Good for them, but I'm with Iron in regard to motivation for at least the opening bits. As a GM, I can lead a horse (the player) to water, but I can't make them drink. That's on the players unless I've dropped them into the campaign with absolutetly no background. I'm fine making personal quests and hooks later but I expect players to come in with at least a vague motivation for getting started (or at least roll with it and not raise a fuss).

Depends I guess on how much they (or to a lesser extent the characters) know about what they're going to get involved in.

Most of the homebrew games I've been in, we certainly know world and setting background up front and maybe some things about the theme/style/basic concept, but what even the starting plot arc is usually a mystery, much less the bigger scale one. I do tend to play characters designed to "get found", so they may not start with a pre-built motivation for the main story, but they'll jump on any reasonable one that comes along.

The Exchange

I think if you signed up to play an AP, expect to be railroaded. I can only run APs, and not any sandbox, because I can't come up with things on the fly. I think as a GM you have to railroad, but leave the players on how they choose to achieve the said objective.

Most of the time I run from my phone, so any mapwork and stuff needs to be prepared before hand.


thejeff wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
Tarik Blackhands wrote:
Some APs can be obnoxious, but on the other hand expecting a degree of player buy-in for any game is sort of expected whether it be AP or homebrew. I'm sure every GM has had that horror story of that one PC who plays the lone brooding edgelord who makes a fuss about accepting the opening plothook because /reasons or similar. Much easier to go pre game "Hey guys we're going to be doing game around *themes here* please make characters who'd want to do that"

Yup, as a player I consider it my responsibility to create a character that will be involved in the main story.

As a DM, if a player ever asks me to tell them why should be motivated... I'll ask them to leave the room and come back when they have an answer.

DM's have enough work to do, asking them to hold your hand and spoon feed you motivation is absurd. (In other words, I wholeheartedly agree with you)

I don't think I've ever asked, but I've certainly had GMs set up hooks to motivate my character. It's part of the job.

Is there some part of my post you disagree with, or need clarification on?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I don't think most APs are railroaded, linear yes, but not railroaded. Like RotR for example, its linear path based on "you find clues about this thing, you follow up on the clues" but nobody ever tells you "Do this thing", at most they hire you but nobody forces you. The APs that are actually bit railroady tends to be ones were you work for someone evil, probably because in character wise it makes sense for them to force you and meta wise, good/evil parties both have reasons to not accept quests :P

(in general, all of railroady moments in aps that have them seem to stem from "We are assuming that GM told player's nothing about what the ap is about, so we include method to make sure every character has "reason" to continue". Like, seriously, sometimes not having player's be blind about what they are getting into is better, our gm for ap you were discussing just straight up told us "You are getting plot geas since you are going to work for this character to save the world")

But yeah, I think everybody has it about right, railroad =/= linear. Linear is progressing through only one way(well, obviously if you never bother following on trail of clues, you never find what is on the other end of trail), while railroad is forcing players to do things in one way("you HAVE to follow this path or do this one thing to follow the path or else!...").


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"Here's what needs to be done, figure out how to do it." is fine.

"Here's what needs to be done, and here's how you're going to do it." is not.


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I like to leave some obvious rails lying in plain sight, but leave it up to the PCs if and when they follow them, and how. Some groups dutifully follow along. Others ignore them, and that's OK, too -- a good DM can improvise. My favorite groups to DM for tend to be the ones who ride one set just long enough to see where it's headed, and then derail and cut me off at the pass.

What I don't do:

  • Move encounters, etc. so that they always end up in the PCs' way. By doing so, what you're telling them is that the world rearranges itself just so that the story you're telling won't have room for their decisions in it. Even if they don't catch on right away, it's an abuse of their trust.
  • Always have the adventurers travel at the speed of plot. When you do that, you're telling them point-blank not to play a ranger, because getting lost doesn't matter. You're telling them it's preferred for everyone to be a dwarf, because movement speed doesn't matter. You're telling them that shortcuts are pointless except to avoid encounters. You're telling them that teleporting 200 miles gets you there exactly as fast as crawling 200 miles.

  • The Exchange

    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
    Kirth Gersen wrote:
    Move encounters, etc. so that they always end up in the PCs' way. By doing so, what you're telling them is that the world rearranges itself just so that the story you're telling won't have room for their decisions in it. Even if they don't catch on right away, it's an abuse of their trust.

    To me, that depends a bit on the reason for the players deviating from the plot. I would never do this if they explicitely tried to avoid that encounter, but on the other side, I like recycling not-used stuff and if the Players aren't even aware that they left something out, I feel free to reuse that at an opportune time.

    Quote:
    Always have the adventurers travel at the speed of plot. When you do that, you're telling them point-blank not to play a ranger, because getting lost doesn't matter. You're telling them it's preferred for everyone to be a dwarf, because movement speed doesn't matter. You're telling them that shortcuts are pointless except to avoid encounters. You're telling them that teleporting 200 miles gets you there exactly as fast as crawling 200 miles.

    Totally agree on that. It's also why I try to work with the players to get a good impression on what they want out of the game, so that I can cater to their preferences instead of just doing my (or the AP's) thing.

    Grand Lodge

    Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
    WormysQueue wrote:
    Kirth Gersen wrote:
    Move encounters, etc. so that they always end up in the PCs' way. By doing so, what you're telling them is that the world rearranges itself just so that the story you're telling won't have room for their decisions in it. Even if they don't catch on right away, it's an abuse of their trust.
    To me, that depends a bit on the reason for the players deviating from the plot. I would never do this if they explicitely tried to avoid that encounter, but on the other side, I like recycling not-used stuff and if the Players aren't even aware that they left something out, I feel free to reuse that at an opportune time.

    That comes back around to the idea of prepping situations instead of plots. If they never visit the location where things are happening, it's fine to move that encounter somewhere else. You get to consider what changes the new location cause to the encounter, what advantages the enemy has been able to put together with the extra time, and what disadvantages might come into play.


    Kirth Gersen wrote:


  • Always have the adventurers travel at the speed of plot. When you do that, you're telling them point-blank not to play a ranger, because getting lost doesn't matter. You're telling them it's preferred for everyone to be a dwarf, because movement speed doesn't matter. You're telling them that shortcuts are pointless except to avoid encounters. You're telling them that teleporting 200 miles gets you there exactly as fast as crawling 200 miles.
  • What do you mean by "speed of plot", then?

    When I think "travel at the speed of plot" I think of low-level PCs who can't teleport maybe having half a dozen significant encounters over a 200 mile crawl which are opportunities to present them with plot, whereas PCs who are high enough level to plausibly teleport that distance are unlikely to bother with the crawl so you need to get your plot-significant elements in elsewhere. And that difference has been a visible part of AP design at least as far back as Age of Worms.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    I figure the intention is that in the situation of "Soon, the evil wizard Jim will raise an army of undead and usher a new age of darkness!" the gist is that Jim will never actually get close to ushering in that age of darkness no matter how long the PCs spend faffing around with side quests/getting lost/etc. Whether it takes them 2 hours or two weeks, they'll confront Jim at the climax of his ritual, etc etc.

    Grand Lodge

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    Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
    the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
    Kirth Gersen wrote:


  • Always have the adventurers travel at the speed of plot. When you do that, you're telling them point-blank not to play a ranger, because getting lost doesn't matter. You're telling them it's preferred for everyone to be a dwarf, because movement speed doesn't matter. You're telling them that shortcuts are pointless except to avoid encounters. You're telling them that teleporting 200 miles gets you there exactly as fast as crawling 200 miles.
  • What do you mean by "speed of plot", then?

    Speed of plot means that the party always arrives at exactly the time you desire. Just in the nick of time to see the climax, or too late to stop the villain from accomplishing their mission. No clever tricks or shortcuts can change the time of arrival, because the plot demands it. No failures or setbacks on the road mean anything, because the time it takes to get there is immaterial.


    TriOmegaZero wrote:


    Speed of plot means that the party always arrives at exactly the time you desire. Just in the nick of time to see the climax, or too late to stop the villain from accomplishing their mission. No clever tricks or shortcuts can change the time of arrival, because the plot demands it. No failures or setbacks on the road mean anything, because the time it takes to get there is immaterial.

    And would you, as a player, find the suspicion that was going on a more annoying reduction of agency than being told "you wandered off and spent time investigating something different, so the BBEG completed their evil plot off-screen according to their fixed timescale and something apocalyptically terrible just happened without you getting a chance to stop it" ?

    Most of the players I have played with would have hated the latter.

    Grand Lodge

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    Mostly I wouldn't prep an apocalyptic plot.

    But if the party keeps ignoring the growing signs of bad juju, they've had their chance to go stop it, and chose not to.


    The whole speed of plot thing seems more an issue in later D&D and PF. In AD&D one turn (out of combat) was ten minutes, and a round was one minute, so it was built into the game mechanics that combat wasted (well, related to is a better term, I guess) dungeon exploration time. Nothing against PF, but it seems like speed of plot is built into 3.5/PF, if only because the combat rounds are so short that they don't really relate to actions outside of combat.

    The Exchange

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
    TriOmegaZero wrote:
    That comes back around to the idea of prepping situations instead of plots. If they never visit the location where things are happening, it's fine to move that encounter somewhere else. You get to consider what changes the new location cause to the encounter, what advantages the enemy has been able to put together with the extra time, and what disadvantages might come into play.

    Well said.

    the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
    And would you, as a player, find the suspicion that was going on a more annoying reduction of agency than being told "you wandered off and spent time investigating something different, so the BBEG completed their evil plot off-screen according to their fixed timescale and something apocalyptically terrible just happened without you getting a chance to stop it" ?

    Probably yes. As a player, I want my actions AND non-Actions to have consequences, and if the GM simply freezes the villains in time until I find the time to deal with them, that would annoy the hell out of me.


    WormysQueue wrote:


    the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:
    And would you, as a player, find the suspicion that was going on a more annoying reduction of agency than being told "you wandered off and spent time investigating something different, so the BBEG completed their evil plot off-screen according to their fixed timescale and something apocalyptically terrible just happened without you getting a chance to stop it" ?
    Probably yes. As a player, I want my actions AND non-Actions to have consequences, and if the GM simply freezes the villains in time until I find the time to deal with them, that would annoy the hell out of me.

    Ah, OK, gotcha. I wasn't necessarily thinking that players who choose to wander off to investigate something completely different would necessarily know the villains were up to their villainy.


    Hitdice wrote:
    The whole speed of plot thing seems more an issue in later D&D and PF. In AD&D one turn (out of combat) was ten minutes, and a round was one minute, so it was built into the game mechanics that combat wasted (well, related to is a better term, I guess) dungeon exploration time. Nothing against PF, but it seems like speed of plot is built into 3.5/PF, if only because the combat rounds are so short that they don't really relate to actions outside of combat.

    I'd think we were more talking about travel time, sidequests or downtime (crafting, etc).


    I remember having to railroad my party a couple of times. The biggest one was when, instead of exploring the headquarters of the cult they're fighting and wiping the cultists out, they decided to camp out in town and keep watch on the clock tower in the middle, since one of the citizens had said they'd seen the BBEG appearing at the top at completely random times.

    The BBEG, being more or less a demigod with the mentality of a spoiled child, got bored and teleported them into the middle of the lair, right outside the quarters of one of the high priests.


    My preference as GM is to run a heavily railroaded introduction followed by an open sandbox.

    As an example: the PCs start as condemned criminals together in prison. If they don't escape they will be executed. The first few sesssions will be about the escape from prison and escape from the city where they committed their alleged crimes. Once free from the city the campaign opens up and they can do whatever they want. The railroad introduction gets the characters to work together, learn about the world they are in and also time to develop their own goals. If I start with a sandbox it always seems to go nowhere.


    CorvusMask wrote:

    I don't think most APs are railroaded, linear yes, but not railroaded. Like RotR for example, its linear path based on "you find clues about this thing, you follow up on the clues" but nobody ever tells you "Do this thing", at most they hire you but nobody forces you. The APs that are actually bit railroady tends to be ones were you work for someone evil, probably because in character wise it makes sense for them to force you and meta wise, good/evil parties both have reasons to not accept quests :P

    (in general, all of railroady moments in aps that have them seem to stem from "We are assuming that GM told player's nothing about what the ap is about, so we include method to make sure every character has "reason" to continue". Like, seriously, sometimes not having player's be blind about what they are getting into is better, our gm for ap you were discussing just straight up told us "You are getting plot geas since you are going to work for this character to save the world")

    The APs are naturally limited because the adventure has to fit into six 100-page modules where only half the pages are directly about the adventure. Linear is not necessary, but linear paces well. Yet sometimes the adventure has too much potential and the players see the big picture beyond the straight line.

    In Tide of Honor, the 5th module of the Jade Regent adventure path, the players are supposed to lead a revolution against the corrupt oni-controlled government of Minkai. A revolution involves thousands of people, who cannot fit into the module. Instead, the module sends the PCs off independently on several missions important to the revolution. The players do not get to chose the missions, so some reviews complained that Tide of Honor is railroady.

    My players chose to not lead a revolution. They planned a change of leaders without a change of government, because they had the true heir to the throne in the party. As my wife says, they derailed the module so much that the rails were only a glint of steel on the horizon. I reworked and relocated the scenes in the module to fit the player's plan, and we continued. The module had good world-building, so it could be reworked.

    If the GM has time to rework the module, then the railroad becomes a streetcar system that takes the players anywhere in the big city.

    Meraki wrote:
    the nerve-eater of Zur-en-Aarh wrote:

    (Someone just starting out who is not good at judging what sort of classes work in what sort of contexts can go wrong here, but a character whose response to every plot hook you might offer them is "nah, I want to go start a restaurant" really should not get through that step unless you all actually want to start a campaign about running a restaurant.)

    "Okay, roll your Profession [chef] check."

    "...uh, nat 1. That's a 6."

    "Well, that's not good. You don't cook the chicken for long enough and accidentally poison the local duke."

    Now I kind of want to run a one-shot where the players are playing people working in a tavern and have to deal with all kinds of crazy adventuring groups.

    That would be the group in my Iron Gods campaign. During session zero where the players learned the plot hook--the town wizard Khonnir Baine has disappeared on an important mission and the town wants him found--two players selected the Local Ties campaign trait. The young dwarf gunslinger Boffin had worked for Khonnir Baine for 12 years as an assistant. Making her own blunderbuss was just part of her tinkering habit. The half-elf magus Elric regularly took jobs as a field agent for Khonnir Baine, due to their common interest in Androffan archeology. The party became filled with mostly ordinary people who volunteered for this dangerous mission. They startled the villain of the 1st module, "You're not Technic League. You're not mercenaries. You are just townsfolk. Go home." They defeated her anyway. The party's playing style was unusually responsible; for example, they would check with the town council before doing anything drastic in town. Because of that, the town guard took care of criminals and no combat occurred in town. And in the character's downtime between modules, they set up two new businesses in town and purchased one existing business, because that was important to them. The party skald arranged concerts.

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