All Aboard the Invisible Railroad!

What if I told you it was possible to lock your players on a tight railroad, but make them think every decision they made mattered?

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Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

While this may sound like the evil GM speaking, I have my reasons. Firstly, not every GM has time to craft a massive campaign. There are also plenty of GMs who are daunted at the prospect of having to figure out every eventuality. So, this advice is offered to help people scale down the pressure of being a GM and give them options to reuse and recycle their ideas and channel players through an exciting adventure that just doesn’t have as many options as they thought it did. All I’m suggesting here is a way to make sure every choice the players make takes them to an awesome encounter, which is surly no bad thing.

A Caveat​

I should add that used too often this system can have the opposite effect. The important thing here is not to take away their feeling of agency. If players realise nothing they do changes the story, then the adventure will quickly lose its allure. But as long as they don’t realise what is happening they will think every choice matters and the story is entirely in their hands. However, I should add that some players are used to being led around by the nose, or even prefer it, so as long as no one points out the “emperor has no clothes” everyone will have a great game.

You See Three Doors…​

This is the most basic use of the invisible railroad: you offer a choice and whichever choice they pick it is the same result. Now, this only works if they don’t get to check out the other doors. So this sort of choice needs to only allow one option and no take backs. This might be that the players know certain death is behind the other two doors ("Phew, thank gods we picked the correct one there!"). The other option is for a monotone voice to announce “the choice has been made” and for the other doors to lock or disappear.

If you use this too often the players will start to realise what is going on. To a degree you are limiting their agency by making them unable to backtrack. So only lock out the other options if it looks likely they will check them out. If they never go and check then you don’t need to stop them doing so.

The Ten Room Dungeon​

This variant on the idea above works with any dungeon, although it might also apply to a village or any place with separate encounters. Essentially, you create ten encounters/rooms and whichever door the player character’s open leads to the next one on your list. You can create as complex a dungeon map as you like, and the player characters can try any door in any order. But whatever door they open after room four will always lead to room five.

In this way the players will think there is a whole complex they may have missed, and if they backtrack you always have a new room ready for them, it’s just the next one on the list. The downside is that all the rooms will need to fit to roughly the same dimensions if someone is mapping. But if no one is keeping track you can just go crazy.

Now, this may go against the noble art of dungeon design, but it does offer less wastage. There are also some GMs who create dungeons that force you to try every room, which is basically just visible railroading. This way the players can pick any door and still visit every encounter.

This idea also works for any area the player characters are wandering about randomly. You might populate a whole village with only ten NPCs because unless the characters are looking for someone specific that will just find the next one of your preset NPCs regardless of which door they knock on.

What Path Do You Take in the Wilderness?​

When you take away doors and corridors it might seem more complex, but actually it makes the invisible railroad a lot easier. The player characters can pick any direction (although they may still pick a physical path). However, it is unlikely they will cross into another environmental region even after a day’s walk. So as long as your encounters are not specific to a forest or mountain they should all suit “the next encounter.”

So, whichever direction the players decide to go, however strange and off the beaten path, they will encounter the same monster or ruins as if they went in any other direction. Essentially a wilderness is automatically a ‘ten room dungeon’ just with fewer walls.

As with any encounter you can keep things generic and add an environmentally appropriate skin depending on where you find it. So it might be forest trolls or mountain trolls depending on where they are found, but either way its trolls. When it comes to traps and ruins it’s even easier as pretty much anything can be built anywhere and either become iced up or overgrown depending on the environment.

Before You Leave the Village…​

Sometimes the easiest choice is no choice at all. If the player characters have done all they need to do in “the village” (or whatever area they are in) they will have to move on to the next one. So while they might procrastinate, explore, do some shopping, you know which major plot beat they are going to follow next. Anything they do beforehand will just be a side encounter you can probably improvise or draw from your backstock of generic ones. You need not spend too long on these as even the players know these are not important. The next piece of the “proper adventure” is whenever they leave the village so they won’t expect anything beyond short and sweet. In fact, the less detailed the encounters the more the GM will be assumed to be intimating it is time to move on.

Following the Clues​

Finally we come to the most common invisible railroad that isn’t ever considered railroading (ironically). Investigative adventures usually live and breathe by allowing the player characters to uncover clues that lead to other clues. Such adventures are actually openly railroading as each clue leads to another on a proscribed path. The players aren’t forced to follow the clues, but what else are they going to do? The players are making a point of following the railroad in the knowledge it will take them to the denouement of the adventure. What makes this type of railroading entertaining is that the players feel clever for having found the clues that lead them along the path. So if they start to divert too much the GM can put another clue on their path or let them find the next one a little easier and you are back on track.

The "Good" Kind of Railroading​

Now, all this may all seem a little manipulative, but modifying events in reaction to what the players do is a part of many GM’s tools. Any trick you use is usually okay as long as you do it to serve the story and the player’s enjoyment.

That said, never take away player agency so you can ensure the story plays out the way you want it to. This sort of railroading should only be used just to make the game more manageable and free up the GM to concentrate on running a good game instead of desperately trying to create contingencies. So, remember that you must never restrict the choices and agency of the players, at least knowingly. But it is fine to make sure every road goes where you want it to, as long as that is to somewhere amazing.

Your Turn: How do you use railroading in your games?
 
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Andrew Peregrine

Andrew Peregrine

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
For me, placing a magic item just because a player has requested it is a type of fudging. If it makes sense the villain would have a holy avenger then place it, but if you're placing it because your paladin player wants one, that's not being a neutral arbiter.

But that's a wild tangent and I don't want to take the topic further off the invisible rails.
I hand place about half the items and roll the other half. I NEVER hand place an item that was requested. The world doesn't work that way unless they are actively searching out the item in fiction, and then there will be a chance they might eventually find it.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
For me, placing a magic item just because a player has requested it is a type of fudging. If it makes sense the villain would have a holy avenger then place it, but if you're placing it because your paladin player wants one, that's not being a neutral arbiter.
Ok, I see where you’re coming from. For me, my opposition to fudging isn’t that it isn’t neutral, but that it’s deceptive.
But that's a wild tangent and I don't want to take the topic further off the invisible rails.
🤣
 

For me, placing a magic item just because a player has requested it is a type of fudging. If it makes sense the villain would have a holy avenger then place it, but if you're placing it because your paladin player wants one, that's not being a neutral arbiter.

But that's a wild tangent and I don't want to take the topic further off the invisible rails.
that seems weird... I mean I would feel that way if I gave random bear #17 a holy avenger to drop, but any place I put it, it will make sense.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
For me, placing a magic item just because a player has requested it is a type of fudging. If it makes sense the villain would have a holy avenger then place it, but if you're placing it because your paladin player wants one, that's not being a neutral arbiter.

But that's a wild tangent and I don't want to take the topic further off the invisible rails.
It's as simple as the character taking proactive steps in the world to see if there are indeed holy weapons of that sort. Perhaps they attempt to recall lore, use divination spells, or consult a sage. If it makes sense for the setting, the DM can say they exist and the player can have the character quest for it. That's not fudging or railroading in the slightest in my view.
 

that seems weird... I mean I would feel that way if I gave random bear #17 a holy avenger to drop, but any place I put it, it will make sense.

It goes back to the random treasure tables early in the hobby. While treasure tables would slant what kind of magic items might show up in a given treasure, and would slant how frequently higher powered ones showed up, they didn't actually slant what treasures high powered ones would show up in. So you could find a basic +1 sword and a vorpal blade anywhere a magic sword showed up.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
Which should be a sign that they don’t want you to do it. When people don’t want you to do something, the appropriate response is to not do it, not to do it anyway and try to hide it.
But, yet again this is not a universal truth.
Yes, because moving things around behind the scenes isn’t inherently wrong, what’s wrong is doing it without the players’ knowledge or consent. If you talk to them about it and they agree they don’t have a problem with it, then go right ahead, have fun.
But if the players don't know what your doing why does it matter? And why do the players get all this power to control the DMs actions?

cidentally, @bloodtide , this is exactly what I meant by not being respectful to your players. You are absolutely not showing any respect whatsoever to a player that doesn't want to participate in this kind of gaming. You are, in fact, actively putting down such players and painting them as nasty, mean, and petty. Is there any wonder, then, why I have said so many times that this is a matter of being respectful, and that there's a deficiency of respect going on here?
I don't see it the same way. The word "respect" is not one that you and I would agree on a definition of, just like railroading.

't know that the other side is up to trickery?
As I said, a lot of people are clueless and don't know. A lot of people.


Avoiding encounters started in Basic and 1e. But I never claimed it's some sort of badge of honor, big or otherwise. This is purely about agency, so why don't you address that instead?
It did? Can you tell me where?

Unforfunetly I don't know what "agency" is in your definition.

I'm not choosing not to play the game. The DM railroading me is preventing me from playing the game. Only through agency can players actually play the game. Illusionism fools the players into thinking that they are playing the game when they are not.
Well, I'm not sure your talking about playing the same game as I play. I can railroad hard and every has a great time on the adventure and loves it...even when they were "deceived" in your words.

Now the hostile "agency" group that avoids all encounters in the game and just sits around for hours is not playing the game.

first what makes the plot silly?
second your right you CAN run the game on hard rails or the soft rails suggested by the OP. I just think you need to be honest about it.
Well, "love" is a silly thing to do in a D&D game: if you real want to play a love game try Hearts RPG or some other such game. I wish there could be more honesty too, but too many players are so extreme to make it impossible.
um I'm not sure what you mean... I played the NPCs so I at least did SOME of the DM work.
From your posted story a couple of pages ago: Any ideas you had about the game you just tossed away. You did whatever the players told you to do. You were not even making a game together: they told you what to do and you did it.

I mean they adventured into many places, Im not sure where you get the idea of it there being no adventures.
Because you did not mention any?
You do realize that is what every DM does right?
No. Not every DM. Some DMs make the game for themselves and the players.

It goes back to the random treasure tables early in the hobby. While treasure tables would slant what kind of magic items might show up in a given treasure, and would slant how frequently higher powered ones showed up, they didn't actually slant what treasures high powered ones would show up in. So you could find a basic +1 sword and a vorpal blade anywhere a magic sword showed up.
I love this myself, and as I run an Old School type game always, I make it a feature. I embrace randomness.
 

pemerton

Legend
I literally don't get why people would care about effectively blind choices, especially if they would be fine with improvising or randomising the outcome. It doesn't make any sense to me.
Because they are assuming the tropes and procedures of "hidden board" gameplay, even when they are not using its underlying principles and imperatives.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't really have a stake in this ongoing discussion, since my GM style is totally different than the one which seems to be the subject of this thread, but I'll try to offer some perspective on this by taking the scenario and moving the furniture around such that the stakes are actually meaningful.

The player characters finish clearing out a dungeon and enter a room full of treasure, wherein they find a magic lever. The party's wizard casts identify on said lever, and relays to the rest of the group that it is a magic device that has an 80% chance of conjuring a legendary magic item, and a 20% chance of flat-out killing the rube that decided to pull it. Boldly, the rogue makes the attempt, dice are rolled, and seconds later she's a pile of gore because the DM rolled a 19 on the percentile in front of everybody; pure bad luck. All of the information they needed to make an informed decision was present, the unbiased truth was right there where everyone could see, and it will probably be remembered as a funny moment going forward.

Compare this against a similar scenario, where the wizard's spell only reveals "there is a chance of conjuring a legendary magic item, but a small chance of being killed." The rogue, plucky woman that she is, still makes the attempt - but the DM has already decided beforehand that no matter what he rolls, pulling the lever blows someone up. The chance of success was merely an illusion! The only way to avoid the DM's ploy was to not engage with it at all. It's incredibly spiteful to do this, and will likely lead to several weeks of polite discussion on EN World.

Ultimately, it's a matter of trust. The players trust that the GM will be a fair judicator that impartially interprets the outcomes of what their characters do instead of a despot that subjects the group to their will regardless of what actions they take.
I agree that the two examples you set out contrast strongly, but I don't think the contrast shows that the main issue is trust. I think the contrast shows that there is a difference between the GM playing by the rules - including the very local rules that have been established about a particular situation in the fiction - and a GM just making stuff up, especially stuff that is adverse to the players!

Classic D&D is replete with the sort of thing you describe - see eg the Appendices in Gygax's DMG, especially Appendix A and Appendices G and H. There are also the percentage chances of success on Augury and Divination spells. The game system these create, via their interactions, have a certain lottery flavour. And like a lottery, their fairness depends on the dice actually being rolled and the appropriate outcomes applied.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It did? Can you tell me where?
It encouraged you to steal treasure and get away rather than fight monsters, since monsters killed you and gave a small fraction of the XP that treasure did.
Unforfunetly I don't know what "agency" is in your definition.
You should try reading my posts sometime. I've been very specific about it several times.
Well, I'm not sure your talking about playing the same game as I play. I can railroad hard and every has a great time on the adventure and loves it...even when they were "deceived" in your words.
And the same thing would have happened with no players. It's only you playing the game when you railroad. Lying to your players and making them think they're playing is pretty bad.
Now the hostile "agency" group that avoids all encounters in the game and just sits around for hours is not playing the game.
No idea what you are talking about. You're creating yet more Strawmen, because that's not something I've ever said.

For all that you just said, you still evaded everything. Do you have a real response for an argument that I've made?
 

pemerton

Legend
And yet it is one of the few pieces of advice that is 100% consistent through ALL editions of D&D.
This isn't right. Moldvay Basic doesn't tell the GM that they can't be guilty of cheating. Quite the opposite - there is a lot of advice on how to be fair and balanced. I believe that Mike Carr gives similar advice in the intro to module B1. And Gygax in his PHB and DMG absolutely assumes that the GM will stick to their prep, and gives detailed explanations of when a GM might depart from random rolls for content determination (wandering monsters and finding secret doors) - clearly a great deal of thought has been given to the relevant principles, and there is no suggestion that a GM is free to depart from those willy-nilly.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
that seems weird... I mean I would feel that way if I gave random bear #17 a holy avenger to drop, but any place I put it, it will make sense.
Story emerges in an interesting way when we get weird results from tables and then have to come up with a reason for it to make sense in context. Perhaps this was a once great paladin of the order of the ancients who was cursed to become a ravenous bear and now, having been released from his curse by blessed death, they can pass along their holy avenger to someone worthy so long as they pledge to slay the hag that lay the hex and blights the forest to this day.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This isn't right. Moldvay Basic doesn't tell the GM that they can't be guilty of cheating. Quite the opposite - there is a lot of advice on how to be fair and balanced. I believe that Mike Carr gives similar advice in the intro to module B1. And Gygax in his PHB and DMG absolutely assumes that the GM will stick to their prep, and gives detailed explanations of when a GM might depart from random rolls for content determination (wandering monsters and finding secret doors) - clearly a great deal of thought has been given to the relevant principles, and there is no suggestion that a GM is free to depart from those willy-nilly.
It's on page B3

"While the material in this booklet is referred to as rules, that is not really correct. Anything in this booklet (and other D&D booklet) should be thought of as changeable - anything , that is, that the Dungeon Master or referee thinks should be changed."

If the DM can change anything, he literally cannot cheat, because there are no rules except that which he decides is a rule.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
But if the players don't know what your doing why does it matter?

Because, if you're playing a campaign where the players think their choices matter (ie not a published module with a set beginning, middle and end) many actually want those choices to MATTER. if the DM presents 3 supposedly distinct plot hooks and the PCs bite on one, most players want that one to be pursued not for all 3 to actually be the same plot disguised as 3 separate choices.

And why do the players get all this power to control the DMs actions?
The players, in D&D, have almost no power over the DMs actions at all.

The point is, if the entire "story" is completely set by the DM, beginning, middle and end, the players ALSO have no real power over their own actions. That's the point of contention here.
 

pemerton

Legend
This doesn't make sense to me, I don't understand what this means in practice. Please respond to the actual examples or make your own.

GM describes that there is a room with a red and a green door. Please tell me what according to you are acceptable methods for the GM to decide what is behind the green door when a PC decides to open it.


It is framing a situation, then deciding what happens once the players declare an action.

<snip>

Is according to the rules of D&D the GM allowed to describe that there is a red and green door? Is according to the rules of D&D the GM allowed to decide what is behind the red and green doors? Answer to both is clearly "yes." That's all that is happening here.
This whole discussion (of which your post is a part) rests on so many unstated assumptions that it's hard to unpack them all.

One of those assumptions is that what situation a GM frames ought to be connected, or ought to appear to be connected, to where the players have their PCs go. This assumption comes right of out dungeon-crawling, "hidden gameboard" play. Why people who don't engage in that sort of play would still hang on to the assumption I don't know, but we can see that they are.

Another assumption is that it is important that players have some control/influence, even if it is blind control/influence, over what scenes their PCs are framed into. Hence the obsession with whether or not the players can make choices that will let their PCs "avoid" the ogre. Again, this assumption comes right out of dungeoneering play - where part of the skill of play is for the players to choose whether to enter a room and run the risk of its inhabitant in exchange for the chance of treasure, or to bypass a room because they're not ready to tackle it yet. (You can replace the word "room" with "level" and still have an accurate description of classic dungeoneering play.)

Suppose instead of an ogre who wants to kill the PCs, and who might drop treasure if they defeat it, we make it an encounter with a prophet. Or with a water-seller. Or with the PCs long-lost cousin. What if the logic of the encounter, in the fiction, is not to provide a wargame-style challenge or a chance of running a risk in exchange for loot, but rather to foreshadow, or to provide an opportunity, or to link present events to resonant backstory? There are good and bad ways for a GM to set up those sorts of encounters, but we won't get much insight into those by pontificating about the way random ogres are placed behind dungeon doors.

The previous paragraph has also brought to light a third assumption: that the meaningfulness of an encounter is nothing beyond its risk/reward profile in dungeon-crawling terms. As opposed to, say, what the player might decide their PC will part with for the chance to obtain water. Or how the player will have their PC respond to the return of their cousin.

And there is a closely-related fourth assumption: that meaning flows predominantly from the GM's control over the fiction. That is, that all the players are brining is a willingness to run risks of being bopped on the head by ogres in exchange for the chance of grabbing some loot, and that more-or-less everything else about the fiction will flow from the GM. But what if the player is the one who establishes that their PC has a long-lost cousin? Or that their PC is waiting for a particular sign? Or that their PC is trapped is lost, parched, in the desert? And so the meaning of the GM's decision making about who or what the PC meets isn't driven by the logic of dungeon-crawling, but by other sorts of logics - is the GM honouring or thwarting the way the player has introduced these stakes into the game? For instance (and borrowing, with slight alteration, an example from Luke Crane's Burning Wheel rulebooks), if the player establishes as their PC's raison d'etre that they are searching to find their long-lost cousin, then the GM who has the player meet the cousin in the first encounter of the first session has probably made a bad GMing decision. The decision doesn't become any better because the GM rolled percentile dice first ("There's a 20% chance the person behind the red door is the cousin") or because the GM decided in advance that the cousin lives in a hut to the north of the village (so if the PCs head north they meet the cousin, but if they head south they don't). In RPGing where the players are the primary source of meaning, the decisions that GM's have to make to honour that meaning and avoid running roughshod over it rarely have anything to do with these conventions of "hidden gameboard" play.
 

pemerton

Legend
letting a player do what they want is never railroading
In the OP, the player is allowed to choose which door their PC opens. The GM doesn't stop them doing that; they just decide what will happen next independently of which door the player chose for their PC. Yet many people think that can be railroading.

And in your example, what the player wants to do is not climb a tree. What they want to do is find a clue. And you've already decided that the are not going to succeed at that. Hence you've decided they can't do what they want to do. That's the railroading.

I dexided... cause I know that what really happened didn't have to do with that tree.
When you say "I know what really happened" all that means is I wrote this story where things went this way and not that other way. The game's fiction isn't some sort of independent object of knowledge. It's stuff that people make up - in this case, you've made it up, and on the basis of what you've made up you're telling the player that their declared action ("I search the tree for a clue") fails.

because the search IS meaningful... I don't understand why "you find nothing" isn't an answer!!?
By this measure, opening the red door and having the GM tell you there is an ogre there; even though they would have said the same thing if you had your PC open the green door instead; is meaningful, because "You see an ogre" is an answer to "What's behind the door".

If the DM knows that nothing is up there because he already knows where the useful information is, he is not forcing the PC down his path and invalidating agency. The player has full agency to climb the tree and look or not, the DM simply knows the answer to the what the player is seeking in advance and can tell him. There's no illusionism involved. There's no railroading involved.
Here is the illusion: the GM allows the player to declare the action, with the intention of finding a clue, while already knowing that nothing will be found.

Here is how the illusion could be avoided: the player says "I wonder if there is a clue in the tree" and the GM replies "No, there's not."

Lets take a game I have pitched before but not actually run yet (it's in my to be played pile) where there is a mostly human kingdom that flourished until a king married and elven woman as his second wife after his first died in child birth... since then it has been hundreds of years of her rule as queen as both the pure human royal line (from that kings siblings and his children with first wife) and his half elf descendants with her all grew up had families and grew old... so now as she is sick there are A LOT of claimants to the throne and being a human kingdom this has never happened before.
That is the general idea. The specifics will change based on who is playing and what they are playing (and adding to the world) but one of the plots I have in my head is the question of if the 500 year old elf is really just getting sick or if she is being MADE to be sick. Since this is only a rough idea I can't admit to having the answers now... but I will by the time game 1 or 2 kicks off. If I decide she was poisoned by coronial mustard then there is no clue to be found in any trees.... because neither mustard or elf would have been in the tree. BUT if a PC chooses to climb a tree I wont tell them not to or that they can't, I will just tell them there is noting up there and move on...
As per my reply just above to Maxperson, that last sentence is where the illusion is found.

More generally, what you have just described seems to me to be a railroad: you have decided in advance what play will be about (this sick elf, the claimants to the throne, the possibility of mustard poisoning, etc). As you present it, the players' role is to learn this stuff that you as GM have made up in advance.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Here is the illusion: the GM allows the player to declare the action, with the intention of finding a clue, while already knowing that nothing will be found.
No such illusion exist. The intention is not to find a clue. The intention is to see if one is there. The player doesn't create clues or not based on declarations.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
But, yet again this is not a universal truth.
Right, which is why you should talk to your players about it to find out if they’re ok with it or not.
But if the players don't know what your doing why does it matter?
If I sleep with your partner or spouse and you don’t know I’m doing it, why does it matter?
And why do the players get all this power to control the DMs actions?
They don’t get to control the DM’s actions. The DM is under no obligation to run the game in any way they don’t want to, just like the players are under no obligation to play in a game they don’t want to. If you talk to each other about these things ahead of time, you can make sure everyone who is participating is doing so because they want to, and the people who don’t want to can leave.
 

pemerton

Legend
reread the skill challenge, the DM decides if an action or skill is appropriate (and again the going joke from the time Tony 'did a push up for insight') in fact one of the very examples was that during a negotiation you can declare all intimidate checks to count as fails without a roll if you decide that intimidating isn't what is needed.
I've read it many times.

The "appropriateness" is not about "does this fit the GM's preconceived plot?". It is about "does this make sense in the situation presented to the player?" The example given (4e DMG p 75) is of trying to use Diplomacy to help survive a desert crossing.

If the PCs are looking for clues in a wooded area, what is inappropriate about trying to find a clue by looking in the trees?

As for the Duke example, that is not a rule that the PCs can't find a clue. It is about methods that will or won't work, and can be learned by making a successful Insight check (4e DMG p 76). It's analogous to an immunity to a particular damage type. It doesn't involve the GM deciding, in advance, whether the players can get what they want out of the encounter.

Whereas your example of the clue is exactly that: you have decided, in advance, that the players can't get what they want out of their action declaration.

It's on page B3

"While the material in this booklet is referred to as rules, that is not really correct. Anything in this booklet (and other D&D booklet) should be thought of as changeable - anything , that is, that the Dungeon Master or referee thinks should be changed."

If the DM can change anything, he literally cannot cheat, because there are no rules except that which he decides is a rule.
Remind me not to play Moldvay Basic with you!

It's obvious that Moldvay is referring, on page B3, to things like XP required to gain a level, or to the treasure and encounter tables, to the ways spells work, to monster stats, etc. Roughly speaking, we could call these the mechanical/mathematical elements of the game.

He is not saying: you can change all the principles of play, so that the game no longer resembles what I told you to do at all, but you're still playing the game I wrote for you! (And even for what he does suggest might be changed, I don't think that he is saying a GM would do that all in secret, without telling the other players.)

Moldvay sets out, in detail - especially in chapters 4 and 8 - a set of play procedures for playing a hidden gameboard dungeon-crawler. If you ignore those procedures you are hardly playing his game anymore. And if a GM tells someone "I'll run some Moldvay Basic for you" and then ignores all the principles and procedures that Moldvay sets out, that would be tantamount to cheating.
 

pemerton

Legend
No such illusion exist. The intention is not to find a clue. The intention is to see if one is there. The player doesn't create clues or not based on declarations.
This is sophistry.

If we use this approach to characterising players' action declarations, there is never any illusionism because the intention is never anything more than "find out what the GM says happens next". And that intention is always honoured.

Or to put it another way: a player can agree to be railroaded, allowing the GM to decide in advance whether or not attempts to find clues have any chance of success. And likewise a player can agree to be railroaded, allowing the GM to decide in advance whether or not attempts to find or avoid ogres or bandits have any chance of success.

There's no difference in the structure of play between the two cases, except that for some reason many people are happy with the first sort of railroad but not the second.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Remind me not to play Moldvay Basic with you!
Hah! I'm not saying I run my games that way, only that it's written that way. Spiderman comes to mind. With great power comes great responsibility. The DM can abuse his authority, but cannot cheat. I prefer not to do either. ;)
It's obvious that Moldvay is referring, on page B3, to things like XP required to gain a level, or to the treasure and encounter tables, to the ways spells work, to monster stats, etc. Roughly speaking, we could call these the mechanical/mathematical elements of the game.
He was very clear that there are no rules in the book and that the DM can change any or all of them. Like Gygax he then cautions the DM about changing things, but there are no limitations implied.
Moldvay sets out, in detail - especially in chapters 4 and 8 - a set of play procedures for playing a hidden gameboard dungeon-crawler. If you ignore those procedures you are hardly playing his game anymore. And if a GM tells someone "I'll run some Moldvay Basic for you" and then ignores all the principles and procedures that Moldvay sets out, that would be tantamount to cheating.
Sure, if you change enough the game changes. That's not the point. The point is that there isn't a single rule in the book that is not subject to DM change. Further, since there are no rules and they are all guidelines, the DM is free to just create a rule stating that he cannot cheat. But again, that's not to say that the DM can't abuse his authority.
 

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