the Jester said:Imho, it's tricky but possible to have a heavily plot-driven adventure without railroading. The key is knowing your group and what motivates them.
You have to finesse the pcs into following the plot, rather than beating them over the head with it. It helps to be flexible enough to adapt your stuff to lead the pcs to the end you want while allowing them to choose the path to the end. Better still is knowing the group well enough that you can preplan the path based on predicting which way they'll jump.
This is still railroading.
It's elegantly done. Well done even. But railroading all the same. It is keeping the players on the path.
When you know your group well - you can set it up without them even knowing. The man in the curtain remains hidden.
The railroad is just as substantial as it ever was; it is a difference of elegance and style.
I do not mean this in the pejorative or as a criticism. On the contrary, it is artful DMing.
But don't kid yourself about what you are doing. Or worse, let detractors think that it cannot be done artfully.