All Aboard the Invisible Railroad! | EN World | Dungeons & Dragons


What if I advised you it was doable to lock your gamers on a decent railroad, however make them suppose each choice they made mattered?

Then I might suppose you’ve got somewhat a excessive opinion of your skill to constantly and faultlessly outwit 4-5 different folks for a sustained interval. I discover most gamers are very smart, and might fairly shortly work out that they are being deceived. A intelligent and chary DM can sustain the charade for some time, but it surely by no means lasts ceaselessly.

Whereas this may occasionally sound just like the evil GM talking, I’ve my causes. Firstly, not each GM has time to craft an enormous marketing campaign. There are additionally loads of GMs who’re daunted on the prospect of getting to determine each eventuality. So, this recommendation is obtainable to assist folks scale down the strain of being a GM and provides them choices to reuse and recycle their concepts and channel gamers by an thrilling journey that simply doesn’t have as many choices as they thought it did. All I’m suggesting here’s a approach to verify each alternative the gamers make takes them to an superior encounter, which is surly no dangerous factor.

It’s a dangerous factor whether it is introduced deceptively. It is not the rails which might be the problem–it is their (alleged) invisibility. Placing somebody in a cage after they suppose they’re utterly free is questionable at finest.

A Caveat​

I ought to add that used too typically this technique can have the other impact. The vital factor right here just isn’t to remove their feeling of company. If gamers realise nothing they do modifications the story, then the journey will shortly lose its attract. However so long as they don’t realise what is occurring they’ll suppose each alternative issues and the story is fully of their palms. Nonetheless, I ought to add that some gamers are used to being led round by the nostril, and even desire it, so so long as nobody factors out the “emperor has no garments” everybody could have an amazing recreation.

Yeah…that is precisely the issue I’ve. If their pleasure depends upon by no means, ever realizing that they have been deceived, then the sport is eternally on the sting of collapse when it does not must be. It is actually not that arduous to really let gamers have company either–nor to recycle previous concepts into new issues if you did not have the time or alternative to make use of them whenever you initially meant. Recycling does not must take the type of “it is actually precisely what I used to be initially planning on doing, however I’ve simply quantum-superposition’d it from being south of the Darkish Marsh to being west of the Fireplace Cliffs.”

This is not even company within the first place, so we’re not precisely off to a superb begin.

This variant on the concept above works with any dungeon, though it may additionally apply to a village or anyplace with separate encounters. Primarily, you create ten encounters/rooms and whichever door the participant character’s open results in the subsequent one in your listing. You may create as complicated a dungeon map as you want, and the participant characters can attempt any door in any order. However no matter door they open after room 4 will all the time result in room 5.

At one level, I truly did one thing like this….kind of. It is from the Gardens of Ynn complement, which (apart from this one small flaw) is definitely fairly glorious. Once I solicited suggestions from gamers after the journey to Ynn, one in all them spoke up about how when he realized that I might roll to search out out what the subsequent space was after they selected which option to go, it bled away all pressure and impression. He knew that, no matter would occur, it was random, so there was no technique or preparation concerned. Just a few new factor the occasion hadn’t seen earlier than. (Technically that was me very barely tweaking it as a result of I did not need to must maintain utterly re-drawing my map each time they hit a brand new room.)

Ought to I do one thing like this once more sooner or later, I’ll attempt to generate a set of labyrinths upfront, after which choose between them when the journey begins, in order that it is nonetheless random and I am nonetheless shocked by what particularly occurs, however there is an precise set of rooms and selecting to go in path A truly really is completely different from selecting to go in path B (until, contextually, it is not due to magic BS or no matter.)

So whereas this has some potential, I’ve truly gotten direct participant suggestions about how this isn’t nice, and if I have been truly hiding it from the gamers, that may have gone over like a lead balloon.

What Path Do You Take within the Wilderness?

Frankly that is a lot worse than the three doorways. Not less than there, you are making it clear that they are selecting even when the “alternative” is basically not a alternative in any respect, only a random choice. With this methodology, you are actually simply straight up mendacity to them about whether or not or not they’re making decisions. There isn’t any path besides “ahead,” you are simply letting them consider there’s.

Earlier than You Depart the Village…

….why not simply speak to them? This is not even doing something that simply saying, “Alright guys, time for remaining preparations earlier than you head out. Is there any remaining enterprise you’d wish to cowl, something you might need forgotten?” would not. Like…at the very least with the others you are attempting to be environment friendly with assets. That is actually simply “they will choose up on the hints! There isn’t any must talk with them!” What doable benefit does this present?

Following the Clues​

Lastly we come to the commonest invisible railroad that isn’t ever thought of railroading (paradoxically). Investigative adventures often dwell and breathe by permitting the participant characters to uncover clues that result in different clues. Such adventures are literally brazenly railroading as every clue results in one other on a proscribed path. The gamers aren’t compelled to comply with the clues, however what else are they going to do? The gamers are making some extent of following the railroad within the data it can take them to the denouement of the journey. What makes one of these railroading entertaining is that the gamers really feel intelligent for having discovered the clues that lead them alongside the trail. So in the event that they begin to divert an excessive amount of the GM can put one other clue on their path or allow them to discover the subsequent one just a little simpler and you’re again on observe.

Right here I have to outright disagree with you. Sure, it’s one doable choice that that is finished in a railroading vogue. It’s ABSOLUTELY NOT going to ALWAYS be railroading. The issue is, you’ve got presumed a linear sequence of clues…which means, you’ve got presumed the rails. You may have clues which might be simply…current. They do not particularly level to subsequent clues. They’re simply single items of data. I do know this as a result of that is how I did a homicide thriller. There have been clues within the kitchens, clues on the physique (some actual, some faked), clues within the sufferer’s bed room, clues that may very well be gleaned from speaking to the servants. No clue straight led to another clue; it was on the gamers to decide on the place to look and who to speak to. There have been intentionally-placed false leads, and there have been useless ends. (The gamers tried to resurrect the sufferer, for instance; it solely partially labored, nevertheless, so the sufferer wasn’t going to revive quick sufficient to stop the diplomatic incident the gamers needed to stop.)

The gamers needed to motive, had to make use of IRL info I knew they’d (e.g. that livor mortis takes at the very least 2 hours to be noticeable, so the sufferer could not presumably have been killed by the one that discovered his physique), contradictions between statements made by the suspects, and peculiar variations within the experiences between completely different individuals who had no motive to lie. I had ready for as many doable outcomes of this thriller as I may: failure to determine any offender in any respect, positively figuring out the mistaken particular person, having two or extra believable suspects and not using a clear identification, figuring out the appropriate offender however not the rationale for the homicide, or really discovering every thing. The gamers have been persistent and intelligent and labored out nearly every thing, together with the key motive. There was no railroad right here, as a result of I used to be keen to just accept basically each doable end result from the investigation. The one thriller they did not clear up was who was preserving one of many tertiary suspects below management through addictive medication. (I feel it simply received misplaced within the shuffle, to be sincere, but it surely is the one element of the thriller that by no means received solved.)

There was no “observe” to get again onto, as a result of the gamers have been absolutely answerable for whether or not the thriller was truly solved, or not. And so they very, very a lot appreciated that their success was theirs, not one thing I ensured would occur.

Now, all this may occasionally all appear just a little manipulative,

As a result of it’s. Blatantly so. There isn’t any “appear” about it.

however modifying occasions in response to what the gamers do is part of many GM’s instruments. Any trick you employ is often okay so long as you do it to serve the story and the participant’s enjoyment.

I strongly disagree with this sentiment. Tricking folks is never clever, and by no means vital.

That mentioned, by no means take away participant company so you may make sure the story performs out the best way you need it to.

This order is unattainable to obey whereas implementing the opposite issues you’ve got described right here. Both you truly do respect participant company, and thus don’t power the story to finish up within the form or location you need it to be, otherwise you do be sure that issues find yourself going the place you needed them to go anyway, and thus don’t respect participant company. (Be aware that, when you’ve got a frank dialog along with your gamers, that is somewhat a special story; you’re nonetheless respecting their company, by giving them the chance as gamers to decide on whether or not or to not take part. It is not preferrred to say “please simply do X factor, even in case you won’t usually, as a result of it is vital for this to occur.” However at the very least you are respecting them and their company.)

This kind of railroading ought to solely be used simply to make the sport extra manageable and liberate the GM to focus on operating a superb recreation as an alternative of desperately attempting to create contingencies. So, keep in mind that you could by no means prohibit the alternatives and company of the gamers, at the very least knowingly. However it’s nice to verify each highway goes the place you need it to, so long as that’s to someplace superb.

Once more, your directions are straight contradictory. You advocate knowingly making it so no matter path the gamers select to go within the wilderness, it can all the time result in the haunted home (or no matter different location you bear in mind.) That’s straight and particularly proscribing the alternatives and negating the company of the gamers. They don’t even have a alternative of the place to go. They will have any colour they need, so long as the colour they need is black.

Your Flip: How do you employ railroading in your video games?

I do not. Ever. Full cease. I’ve by no means wanted to, and I see no motive to start out. I’ve all the time been sincere with my gamers. The characters I play will not be all the time sincere with them. However I, as DM, have by no means lied to my gamers. And doing so has enriched my recreation in methods too quite a few to rely.



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