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

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.

Yeah, one of the reasons I've made strong use of some randomization even in games where I'm doing a lot of improvisation is that, from lack of a better term, it keeps me honest. I'm not completely immune to steering things away from anticlimax and the like, but its too easy when you're just coming up with things to start to let your own biases and other issues turn things into an exercise in manipulating the players to an end, and that's not really what I'm there for. I may bake some assumptions into the tables when I make them, but if I'm doing things with tables in play, or even randomizing among, say, three things that could be happening that I come up with in a given situation, it tends to hose down any leans I have in that regard.
 

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bloodtide

Adventurer
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.
Ok, so classic D&D had a rule that had it make sense for characters to avoid combat and even gave them a reward for doing so. Ok, that was YEARS ago. Modern D&D has no treasure for XP rule. In modern D&D the main way to get XP is by winning encounters.

So in the modern game, why do so many players have a near obsession with avoiding encounters and not playing the game?


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.
Well, there are players there playing the game with me and having fun.
No idea what you are talking about. You're creating yet more Strawmen, because that's not something I've ever said.
Well, not just you, but many are making the point that the whole point of "agency" is for the players to avoid encounters. That example has been used dozens of times. If the DM has unavoidable bandits outside of town: wrong. If the players use "agency" to avoid an encounter, that is the beast game ever....though nothing happens.

For all that you just said, you still evaded everything. Do you have a real response for an argument that I've made?
I might have lost your argument in the pages and pages. Maybe you can re post it? Or summarize it?

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.
I don't think most players pick apart the game as much as you do. Most players are there to have fun. They don't really care to much about all that stuff.

Though three of the same plot hooks is not railroading
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.
My question was about how the DM could only take action after they asked the players for permission first.

Right, which is why you should talk to your players about it to find out if they’re ok with it or not.
They are not, that is why the railroad is invisible in the first place.

If I sleep with your partner or spouse and you don’t know I’m doing it, why does it matter?
Odd example.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
In modern D&D the main way to get XP is by winning encounters.
Is it?

The DMG says that the DM can award experience for noncombat challenges, or go with milestone XP or level advancement without XP. You can gain levels in 5e just fine without ever getting into a fight.

Yes, the DM can go traditional and give out most or all XP through fights, but it doesn't have to be that way.
So in the modern game, why do so many players have a near obsession with avoiding encounters and not playing the game?
You tell me, since you're the one stating it. I never said anything like that.
Well, there are players there playing the game with me and having fun.
I'm sure they are. They aren't playing the game, though. They're just along for your ride. That can be fun, but it's not my thing. Do they know that they are being railroaded?
Well, not just you, but many are making the point that the whole point of "agency" is for the players to avoid encounters.
I've never said that, though. It has to be possible to avoid them, which is very different than the point being to avoid them, which is your fabrication.
I might have lost your argument in the pages and pages. Maybe you can re post it? Or summarize it?
Agency is being able to make a choice that matters. If a player is on rails, overt or illusionary, that player has no choice and so can't be playing the game. To play the game you have to be able to make choices that matter.
I don't think most players pick apart the game as much as you do. Most players are there to have fun. They don't really care to much about all that stuff.
Yes and no. I have put terms to it and can discuss it. Players in my experience don't like to be forced into things. Players recognize when they are being forced into something against their will and generally hate it. Unless you lie to them and use illusionism to fool them, which is a technique designed to avoid them knowing that you are doing something they will hate.
Though three of the same plot hooks is not railroading
If you are presenting three false choices, because they are all the same choice, then yes that is railroading. You are forcing them down a path.
They are not, that is why the railroad is invisible in the first place.
So you know they aren't okay with being railroaded, so you hide it and do it anyway. Classy.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
They are not, that is why the railroad is invisible in the first place.
So, you’re just straight up admitting you hide the railroad because you know your players wouldn’t like it if they knew you were doing it? Ok, that’s… bold of you…
Odd example.
But an effective one, because it illustrates my point in a totally unambiguous way. Just because the wronged party isn’t aware they’ve been wronged, doesn’t mean the act wasn’t wrong.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
Is it?

The DMG says that the DM can award experience for noncombat challenges, or go with milestone XP or level advancement without XP. You can gain levels in 5e just fine without ever getting into a fight.

Yes, the DM can go traditional and give out most or all XP through fights, but it doesn't have to be that way.
You do know there are other encounters other then fights right?
You tell me, since you're the one stating it. I never said anything like that.
Your one of the people saying players must always be allowed to avoid all encounters. The choice is: path/door A leads to encounter and path/door B leads to nothing.

I've never said that, though. It has to be possible to avoid them, which is very different than the point being to avoid them, which is your fabrication.
So your saying it just needs to be possible in some vague theoretical way, but then the players won't do it?

Agency is being able to make a choice that matters. If a player is on rails, overt or illusionary, that player has no choice and so can't be playing the game. To play the game you have to be able to make choices that matter.
Well "choice" has nothing to do with playing many games, and RPGs are no diffrent. Players can play the game, have no "meaningful choices".....not even know or notice....and have fun.


Yes and no. I have put terms to it and can discuss it. Players in my experience don't like to be forced into things. Players recognize when they are being forced into something against their will and generally hate it. Unless you lie to them and use illusionism to fool them, which is a technique designed to avoid them knowing that you are doing something they will hate.

If you are presenting three false choices, because they are all the same choice, then yes that is railroading. You are forcing them down a path.

So you know they aren't okay with being railroaded, so you hide it and do it anyway. Classy.
I find most players don't mind being "forced" to play an RPG, as long as they have fun.

I'm too Old School to have class......I'm like school in summer time :)


So, you’re just straight up admitting you hide the railroad because you know your players wouldn’t like it if they knew you were doing it? Ok, that’s… bold of you…
There are BOLD RPGers and OLD RPGers........but there are no Bold, Old RPGers.
But an effective one, because it illustrates my point in a totally unambiguous way. Just because the wronged party isn’t aware they’ve been wronged, doesn’t mean the act wasn’t wrong.
Right, and this is where intention matters. Were they "wronged" into a wild emotional rollercoaster of a crazy fun game that they loved? Yes, they were.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
There are BOLD RPGers and OLD RPGers........but there are no Bold, Old RPGers.
What does that mean?
Right, and this is where intention matters. Were they "wronged" into a wild emotional rollercoaster of a crazy fun game that they loved? Yes, they were.
Well, you admittedly did something you knew they wouldn’t like, and then lied about it so they wouldn’t find out. So, yes, they were absolutely wronged.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You do know there are other encounters other then fights right?
Yep. So you can level without ever getting into one. Thanks for agreeing with me.
Your one of the people saying players must always be allowed to avoid all encounters. The choice is: path/door A leads to encounter and path/door B leads to nothing.
Nope! Never said that!
So your saying it just needs to be possible in some vague theoretical way, but then the players won't do it?
Who knows what they will do. Would they avoid some if they have advanced knowledge? Yep! Would they go after some directly if they have advanced knowledge? Yep! Will they hit some because they didn't check or failed their rolls? Yep!

I've never met a group that would avoid all or even most of them, though. The key is that they have agency, the choice to make those decisions.
Well "choice" has nothing to do with playing many games, and RPGs are no diffrent.
Objectively False. RPGs are very different from board, sports and card games.
I find most players don't mind being "forced" to play an RPG, as long as they have fun.
My players would probably punch me if I tried to force them to play an RPG. If players don't want to play, they don't play. Hell, I wouldn't want to force them to play in my game in the first place. If they don't want to be there, then they shouldn't be there.
Right, and this is where intention matters. Were they "wronged" into a wild emotional rollercoaster of a crazy fun game that they loved? Yes, they were.
So it's okay to steal as long as the person you steal from doesn't catch you and is still happy. Got it.
 
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So, you’re just straight up admitting you hide the railroad because you know your players wouldn’t like it if they knew you were doing it? Ok, that’s… bold of you…
So much for the argument that the only thing anyone here is talking about is doing stuff everyone is implicitly supportive of...

But an effective one, because it illustrates my point in a totally unambiguous way. Just because the wronged party isn’t aware they’ve been wronged, doesn’t mean the act wasn’t wrong.
Other examples:

"If the teacher doesn't know we're all copying our homework from the nerd in the class, so long as we turn it in on time, why does it matter?"
"If the customers don't know the bank is actually insolvent, so long as we can meet daily withdrawals, why does it matter?"
"If the employees don't know we've been shorting their pay, why does it matter?"
"If our theoretical physics papers are absolute fictions but published because no one knows enough to contradict us, why does it matter?"

I could give some more, shall we say, charged examples relevant to political events of the past few years, but I will instead leave those as an exercise for the reader.

There are BOLD RPGers and OLD RPGers........but there are no Bold, Old RPGers.
Being flippant doesn't respond to the thing said. It is unusual, and not particularly great, that you do something you KNOW will upset someone, and cover it up specifically because you know it will upset them. You have yet to explain why doing so is a good thing. This clearly differs from something like performance magic, where revealing the trick's inner workings is usually met either with mild disappointment or, more often, fascination at the actual process. (I'm thinking, for example, of how sleight-of-hand artists can achieve some genuinely shocking results with such minimal actions and the economy of attention.) The earlier example (I believe you gave it?) of a surprise party is also illustrative here: if someone told you "I do not want a surprise party, I don't like birthday parties, I just want a nice quiet birthday to spend with my family and maybe a close friend," and you threw them a surprise party anyway, don't you think that would be a problem?

Right, and this is where intention matters. Were they "wronged" into a wild emotional rollercoaster of a crazy fun game that they loved? Yes, they were.
They were wronged because they THOUGHT they had forged a story of their own with the freedom to choose a different path. Instead, they were sold a bill of goods, and there was always and only one path they could have taken. The freedom was a straight-up lie. The intention to make something cool and awesome does not excuse the action of deceiving someone into thinking they have freedom when they do not when it would upset them to know that that freedom wasn't real.

In fact, let's examine that "intention matters" angle:

"If the patient doesn't know we're pumping them full of experimental drugs to keep them stable, what does it matter?"
"If my daughter thinks she can do as she likes, but in actuality I have pre-approved every person she ever interacts with, what does it matter?"
"If my husband thinks he's still vegan, but I've been secretly feeding him meat to treat his anemia and B-vitamin deficiency, what does it matter?"
"If my Jewish friend loves my cooking, but doesn't know I use pork fat because nothing else tastes as good, what does it matter?"

In every case, the intention is to do something the speaker thinks is good for the person in question. In every case, it is still wrong.

Or, to give you an adage in return: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
 
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bloodtide

Adventurer
Well, you admittedly did something you knew they wouldn’t like, and then lied about it so they wouldn’t find out. So, yes, they were absolutely wronged.
Does not bother me at all. And it's not like they will ever know. The ends justify the means.

Yep. So you can level without ever getting into one. Thanks for agreeing with me.
I'm not the anti railroad agency players that run from all encounters are not even playing the game.


Who knows what they will do. Would they avoid some if they have advanced knowledge? Yep! Would they go after some directly if they have advanced knowledge? Yep! Will they hit some because they didn't check or failed their rolls? Yep!
Well, they will be railroaded right into all encounters in my game.

Objectively False. RPGs are very different from board., sports and card games.
True.....but the more "different" things are, the more the "same" they are...but we don't really want to talk about such "choice".


My players would probably punch me if I tried to force them to play an RPG. If players don't want to play, they don't play. Hell, I wouldn't want to force them to play in my game in the first place. If they don't want to be there, then they shouldn't be there.

So it's okay to steal as long as the person you steal from doesn't catch you and is still happy. Got it.
Well. I don't play with such physically violent people.

And...well....no comment.

You have yet to explain why doing so is a good thing.
I did pages ago. Deception, to do a good thing is not in any way wrong. It is so common and accepted nothing more needs to be said.


This clearly differs from something like performance magic, where revealing the trick's inner workings is usually met either with mild disappointment or, more often, fascination at the actual process.
Most players could care less, but many DMs are fascinated. When another DM is a player in my game and they not only have fun, but they watch all the other players having fun. They watch as all the other regular players get super focused and engaged when encountering the gnome Bix. Watching all the players express real emotions and go all out in the game to catch that annoying reoccurring gnome npc. And the DM playing asks how it's done: Railroading.


The earlier example (I believe you gave it?) of a surprise party is also illustrative here: if someone told you "I do not want a surprise party, I don't like birthday parties, I just want a nice quiet birthday to spend with my family and maybe a close friend," and you threw them a surprise party anyway, don't you think that would be a problem?
Uh, sure for that specific example. But lets take another (non birthday related) surprise party. So the person to be surprised DOES NOT say "I don't want it". So you set up the party and guests and food and such, and have to deceive and lie to them so they don't find out. When they are surprised with the party they love it and like being supprised.

They were wronged because they THOUGHT they had forged a story of their own with the freedom to choose a different path. Instead, they were sold a bill of goods, and there was always and only one path they could have taken. The freedom was a straight-up lie. The intention to make something cool and awesome does not excuse the action of deceiving someone into thinking they have freedom when they do not.
Well, the players just thought wrong. Don't know where they go such crazy idea from any way.


In fact, let's examine that "intention matters" angle:

"If the patient doesn't know we're pumping them full of experimental drugs to keep them stable, what does it matter?"
"If my daughter thinks she can do as she likes, but in actuality I have pre-approved every person she ever interacts with, what does it matter?"
"If my husband thinks he's still vegan, but I've been secretly feeding him meat to treat his anemia and B-vitamin deficiency, what does it matter?"
"If my Jewish friend loves my cooking, but doesn't know I use pork fat because nothing else tastes as good, what does it matter?"

In every case, the intention is to do something the speaker thinks is good for the person in question. In every case, it is still wrong.
Well the medical ones and religious one....no comment.
Meeting a child's friends is something a good parent does.

Try some:
A guy hates sci fi, is tricked into watching a sci fi movie and finds he likes it.
A guy hates country music, is tricked into listening some and finds it's not so bad.
Some guy gamers think "women can't play RPGs, and are tricked into playing a game with women....and discover women can play RPGs.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Does not bother me at all. And it's not like they will ever know. The ends justify the means.
Said every dictator ever.
I'm not the anti railroad agency players that run from all encounters are not even playing the game.
At this point this is just a deliberate smear by you against the other side. I have corrected you numerous times on this and literally no one but you has been saying that. That's all you heave. Smears and evasions.
 

Does not bother me at all. And it's not like they will ever know. The ends justify the means.
Seriously? You're literally actually going to say this.

Well, folks, I feel like that's case closed. "I don't care how bad the means might be, my noble ends are all the justification I need."

I did pages ago. Deception, to do a good thing is not in any way wrong. It is so common and accepted nothing more needs to be said.
You absolutely did not. I have responded to those things, and have not seen you actually give an argument of weight. I have, in fact, explicitly said why your arguments by analogy don't work. You have continued to use them anyway.

Most players could care less, but many DMs are fascinated. When another DM is a player in my game and they not only have fun, but they watch all the other players having fun. They watch as all the other regular players get super focused and engaged when encountering the gnome Bix. Watching all the players express real emotions and go all out in the game to catch that annoying reoccurring gnome npc. And the DM playing asks how it's done: Railroading.
That your players are having fun does not mean this is the only way for it to be fun. That's a classic logical fallacy (namely, false dichotomy: you have to railroad otherwise the players wouldn't have fun. This is false.)

Uh, sure for that specific example.
Yes, that is my point. Your "specific examples" keep not working because they aren't the same as the thing being discussed. You keep bringing up non-sequitur examples, things that aren't relevant, and pretending that they are relevant. Performance magic and watching movies doesn't involve any agency on the part of the audience, that's a vital difference between those things and playing a TTRPG, yet I have not seen a single statement addressing this fault.

But lets take another (non birthday related) surprise party. So the person to be surprised DOES NOT say "I don't want it". So you set up the party and guests and food and such, and have to deceive and lie to them so they don't find out. When they are surprised with the party they love it and like being supprised.
Except that, again, the whole point here is that the person DOES NOT LIKE SURPRISE PARTIES. That's the WHOLE POINT. By assuming the person DOES like surprise parties, you have literally just made the argument completely circular, you have assumed the thing you were trying to prove.

Making a fallacious argument doesn't make you wrong. But it doesn't do you any favors, and making repeated fallacious arguments casts doubt on your premise.

Well, the players just thought wrong. Don't know where they go such crazy idea from any way.
You explicitly said you WANT them to think it, and will do whatever it takes to ensure they never stop thinking it. You literally just said that in the post I quoted.

Well the medical ones and religious one....no comment.
Why not? They are extremely relevant and demonstrate exactly the problem here. A person who has a very strong reason to oppose a particular state of affairs, being deceived by people who genuinely think well of them. Why should these be passed over without comment? By ignoring them, you are tacitly admitting that there are examples which poke holes in your argument, but which you refuse to engage with.

Meeting a child's friends is something a good parent does.
That's not what I said. I said pre-approving every single person the child interacts with. That means the child is never allowed to meet anyone the parent doesn't want them to meet. That's quite a bit different--and, I hope you'll agree, dramatically more draconian.

Try some:
A guy hates sci fi, is tricked into watching a sci fi movie and finds he likes it.
Except that, again, you are assuming the person starts liking sci-fi. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about someone who gets tricked into watching a sci-fi film and doesn't like it when he realizes it's sci-fi.

A guy hates country music, is tricked into listening some and finds it's not so bad.
Again, you make this circular by presuming appreciation. Further: you cannot have someone listen to country music, or watch a sci-fi movie, etc. without them, y'know, learning that it is country music or sci-fi. That's a pretty clear fault in the analogy, because as you literally just said, you work to make sure your railroading will never be observed.

That's two problems with these examples. One, you know that the players will not only not be happy, but will in fact be angry if they learn that you tricked them into a railroad. Two, you actively work to ensure the railroad will never be discovered. That makes your examples both circular and not actually analogies. This isn't even an argument by analogy--it's a pure non sequitur!

Some guy gamers think "women can't play RPGs, and are tricked into playing a game with women....and discover women can play RPGs.
See above. Both of the critical faults remain: in order to achieve this you have to reveal that the person was playing with women, and you have to assume the person actually is happy after the reveal. You have explicitly stated that both of these statements are false, that you specifically try to prevent such a reveal from occurring, and that if such a reveal did occur, it would guaranteed cause at least some of your players to become upset.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You absolutely did not. I have responded to those things, and have not seen you actually give an argument of weight. I have, in fact, explicitly said why your arguments by analogy don't work. You have continued to use them anyway.
I also refuted his examples point by point, and he also did not respond to me on them. Funny that.
 

bloodtide

Adventurer
At this point this is just a deliberate smear by you against the other side. I have corrected you numerous times on this and literally no one but you has been saying that. That's all you heave. Smears and evasions.
It's the example all ways given: the players avoid and run from any encounter. Then they brag about it-"yea, the DM had an encounter planned, be we showed him...HA....we ;picked the south road and nothing happened!"


That your players are having fun does not mean this is the only way for it to be fun. That's a classic logical fallacy (namely, false dichotomy: you have to railroad otherwise the players wouldn't have fun. This is false.)
Ok, for this vague statement, it's not the only way.

Yes, that is my point. Your "specific examples" keep not working because they aren't the same as the thing being discussed. You keep bringing up non-sequitur examples, things that aren't relevant, and pretending that they are relevant. Performance magic and watching movies doesn't involve any agency on the part of the audience, that's a vital difference between those things and playing a TTRPG, yet I have not seen a single statement addressing this fault.
Well, because I'm not talking about agency, I'm talking about accepted deception.


Except that, again, the whole point here is that the person DOES NOT LIKE SURPRISE PARTIES. That's the WHOLE POINT. By assuming the person DOES like surprise parties, you have literally just made the argument completely circular, you have assumed the thing you were trying to prove.
Right, I said that ONE person who hates surprise parties....well, just leave them alone. Everyone else, surprise them.

You explicitly said you WANT them to think it, and will do whatever it takes to ensure they never stop thinking it. You literally just said that in the post I quoted.
If I said what I want the players "to think" it would be "not much" or "nothing much".

Why not? They are extremely relevant and demonstrate exactly the problem here. A person who has a very strong reason to oppose a particular state of affairs, being deceived by people who genuinely think well of them. Why should these be passed over without comment? By ignoring them, you are tacitly admitting that there are examples which poke holes in your argument, but which you refuse to engage with.
I doubt the forum rules will allow this, so skip.
That's not what I said. I said pre-approving every single person the child interacts with. That means the child is never allowed to meet anyone the parent doesn't want them to meet. That's quite a bit different--and, I hope you'll agree, dramatically more draconian.
No? Are you a parent? Good parents pre approve such things when possible.


Except that, again, you are assuming the person starts liking sci-fi. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about someone who gets tricked into watching a sci-fi film and doesn't like it when he realizes it's sci-fi.
Well, no, that is what your talking about. I'm talking about a person tricked into a railroaded game....and they have fun. And even if they found out, they could still accept they had fun.

Again, you make this circular by presuming appreciation. Further: you cannot have someone listen to country music, or watch a sci-fi movie, etc. without them, y'know, learning that it is country music or sci-fi. That's a pretty clear fault in the analogy, because as you literally just said, you work to make sure your railroading will never be observed.
Not so. There are plenty of "stealth" sci fi movies and country music that don't "look or sound" like "what people think".

That's two problems with these examples. One, you know that the players will not only not be happy, but will in fact be angry if they learn that you tricked them into a railroad. Two, you actively work to ensure the railroad will never be discovered. That makes your examples both circular and not actually analogies. This isn't even an argument by analogy--it's a pure non sequitur!
Some will like it, some will hate forever.....I concentrate on the ones who liked it.

Story Time: So a couple weeks ago a D&D group of young players wanted to play a spelljammer campagin after all the hype. They posted an add at the libiary and got no responses. This is a group that would agree with much that you have said. But they really wanted to play spelljammer. So......they come to me. Needless to say we agree on nothing...except we all play D&D. They ask me to DM. I mention our play styles don't match, they say they want to play. They want to know what kind of game it will be and do a whole "session 0" thing. I refuse to tell them anything and have them make clueless berk groundling characters.

That was in the recent past. And the game is still going on. The game is a pure railroad...and "worse" things(to them anyway). And yet...they are all still in the game. They have so much fun every week, and can't wait to come back for more. It's too soon to say if any of them might learn the truth or if they will have to stay deceived forever. They are down right amazed how fun the game is, as they have heard lots of "horror stories" (mostly true, but often told with word salad jargon that they like). So the game rolls on, and they will likely never know. I've even slyly mentioned they are riding The Great Space Coaster(though they are all WAY to young to know of that show), but as long as they don't hear the trigger jargon buzz word "railroad", they are clueless.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Why not? They are extremely relevant and demonstrate exactly the problem here. A person who has a very strong reason to oppose a particular state of affairs, being deceived by people who genuinely think well of them. Why should these be passed over without comment?
Because he doesn’t think they’re wrong.
 


It's the example all ways given: the players avoid and run from any encounter. Then they brag about it-"yea, the DM had an encounter planned, be we showed him...HA....we ;picked the south road and nothing happened!"
I've literally never seen or heard of this. Ever. You are the first person to ever speak of such a thing to me.

Well, because I'm not talking about agency, I'm talking about accepted deception.
Then you aren't talking to anyone in this thread, because both the opening post and essentially everyone since then has been. Like, as much as I may hold the written text of the opening post to account for what read like fig-leaf excuses, it DOES actually explicitly say to not take away the players' agency. That's literally part of the topic.

Right, I said that ONE person who hates surprise parties....well, just leave them alone. Everyone else, surprise them.
Okay. Now...what if that one person (because it only takes one!) is expected to be involved in most activities because, say, they're your spouse and you really love to include them in the things you do? You'd be terribly disrespectful to throw those surprise parties knowing you'd be dragging your spouse into a party they would legitimately dislike attending.

If I said what I want the players "to think" it would be "not much" or "nothing much".
That does not sound good to me. "I want my players to not think much of anything." That's...what? I want my players to be thinking constantly! I yearn for their critique.

I doubt the forum rules will allow this, so skip.
Then I will consider the point conceded; if you refuse to refute the examples, then your claim that there is no such thing as a well-meaning but still wrong deception has been given two counter-examples.

No? Are you a parent? Good parents pre approve such things when possible.
Again, you are thinking of this as "I want to check in on the things my child likes." That is not what I am saying.

I am saying that this parent literally doesn't even allow their child the possibility of meeting someone, AT ALL, EVER, that has not been pre-approved. The child is kept inside an enclosed bubble. The only people allowed into that bubble are EXCLUSIVELY those the parent has approved in advance. She cannot meet a friend and ask for the parent's approval. She will ONLY be allowed to even START meeting people after those people have been reviewed and approved by the parent. And she is never told this. She thinks she meets people just because they're people she happens to have run into. This is false. Literally no person she has ever met, in her entire life, is someone that her parent has not, in advance, reviewed and deemed acceptable.

That is why I am calling it draconian. I absolutely agree with you that a good parent takes interest in the people their children meet, and works to ensure that their child forms healthy relationships with constructive people. This is not that. This is, "I will never even let you realize that you only met people I chose for you to meet in advance." This is "Truman Show" type stuff.

Well, no, that is what your talking about. I'm talking about a person tricked into a railroaded game....and they have fun. And even if they found out, they could still accept they had fun.
....so you're willfully only talking about circular examples. In that case, I'm just going to ignore every instance of examples like this in the future, because they are pointless.

Not so. There are plenty of "stealth" sci fi movies and country music that don't "look or sound" like "what people think".
Sorry, don't buy it. Both genres are quite obvious. There's a reason you chose them for the example.

Some will like it, some will hate forever.....I concentrate on the ones who liked it.
Then you are concentrating on people irrelevant to the thread.

Story Time: So a couple weeks ago a D&D group of young players wanted to play a spelljammer campagin after all the hype. They posted an add at the libiary and got no responses. This is a group that would agree with much that you have said. But they really wanted to play spelljammer. So......they come to me. Needless to say we agree on nothing...except we all play D&D. They ask me to DM. I mention our play styles don't match, they say they want to play. They want to know what kind of game it will be and do a whole "session 0" thing. I refuse to tell them anything and have them make clueless berk groundling characters.

That was in the recent past. And the game is still going on. The game is a pure railroad...and "worse" things(to them anyway). And yet...they are all still in the game. They have so much fun every week, and can't wait to come back for more. It's too soon to say if any of them might learn the truth or if they will have to stay deceived forever. They are down right amazed how fun the game is, as they have heard lots of "horror stories" (mostly true, but often told with word salad jargon that they like). So the game rolls on, and they will likely never know. I've even slyly mentioned they are riding The Great Space Coaster(though they are all WAY to young to know of that show), but as long as they don't hear the trigger jargon buzz word "railroad", they are clueless.
So...in contravention of what you said before, you did in fact MAKE them clueless. That was your goal. You specifically intended that. And you do these things, knowing that (a) you did NOT have to, you COULD have done something that wasn't railroading "and worse" (whatever that means), and (b) they WILL be upset should they ever find out.

To be honest, I'm done arguing here. You clearly know what you're doing has an enormous potential to hurt the people you do it to. You do it--"and worse"--anyway, without remorse, without even a second thought. I have nothing further to say to you. I hope the truth doesn't harm the people you run for so much that they decide never to play again, because that would be a tragedy.
 

pemerton

Legend
Don’t put PCs into life or death situations if you aren’t ok with them dying to unlucky rolls. There’s no shame in ruling that PCs only get injured or something instead of dying, and in my opinion, better that than to fudge rolls or change monster HP mid-combat.
Interestingly, Gygax expresses exactly the same opinion in his DMG.

There's no illusion in telling a player that their PC, who has just lost all their hit points, suffers some consequence other than dying!
 

Interestingly, Gygax expresses exactly the same opinion in his DMG.

There's no illusion in telling a player that their PC, who has just lost all their hit points, suffers some consequence other than dying!
Which is part of why I keep saying illusionism is never necessary. There is no gameplay consequence that can be produced by illusionism which cannot be produced without it.
 


pemerton

Legend
So I just skimmed couple of last pages, but I just want to say that I don't really agree with @bloodtide's attitude, but it certainly helps me better understand why some people have so strong feelings about this... :unsure:
My feelings are motivated by what I enjoy in play as a GM and as a player. I enjoy being creative, and sometimes provocative; I don't want to be a storyteller.
 

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