Judgement calls vs "railroading"

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
For the record, I'm 100% fine with "illusion of choice" instead of genuine choice, as long as the illusion is impenetrable.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

First, a little science. We are all aware of how in our daily lives, we are constantly confronted with the illusion of choice- even the illusion of consciousness. Our body will react to something, and then our mind will, later, fill in the false belief that we chose that action.

That illusion isn't necessarily as false as it's sometimes made out to be. Brains are neural networks; almost every decision is made by weighing multiple factors against each other. When you ask someone "Why did you do X?", it's not obviously true that you must be asking them "which factor tipped the balance?" and indeed, figuring out what tipped the balance may be very difficult to do. A simpler, more intuitive question would be "What was the biggest factor in favor of doing X?" and it's possible that it is that question which people were answering.

Why am I eating a cheeseburger? Because cheeseburgers are delicious.
Why am I not eating a cheeseburger? Because I want to get fit.

These are both valid lines of reasoning, and yet only one of them will come to pass, perhaps based on whether or not my co-worker asks me to join him for lunch. Will that mean that the the co-worker's invitation was the deciding factor? Nope. It might only be 5% of the reason--and there are other days when that 5% won't be enough to tip me one way or the other, and I'll do my thing regardless of what he does. Arguably it would in fact be FALSE to say that my co-worker is responsible for me eating that cheeseburger, especially if he is 5% of the reason and their deliciousness is 30-40%.

Even if you are 100% rational, it's very tricky to ever pick a single dominant reason why you did something, because there usually isn't a single dominant reason.
 
Last edited:

It seems like a pretty clear divide. If the DM is using the best of their ability as an impartial adjudicator to determine the truth of a situation, then they are making a judgment call. If the DM is letting their personal preference factor into that, then they are railroading.

As the DM, you know everything about the state of the world, because the world exists as you see it. The other players can only potentially know as much about the world as you tell them. As such, it is only fair that you are honest in your presentation, and tell them what you actually imagine to exist, rather than what you want to imagine to exist.
 


Eric V

Hero
Science? Last I checked (c1989, I think it was - wow, I should keep more current, but philosophy of mind just isn't high on my list of interests), the Behaviorists were a school of philosophy, and not a very well-regarded one, at that.

;)

Neuroscience, Benjamin Libet and quantum physics all seem to back up the behaviorists. :)
 

pemerton

Legend
As the DM, you know everything about the state of the world, because the world exists as you see it.
Well, clearly this isn't true as a general proposition about RPG refereeing.

For instance, in the episode of play that I described neither I, nor anyone else at the table, knew whether or not there was a vessel in the room suitable for catching blood until after the player had made a check that established that his PC had spotted one.

I would think that Railroading is a thing the DM will do (or not do) regardless of which tools he is using
Well, some GMing tools/techniques are not consistent with railroading. For instance - just to pick one example - if a GM is running a game using Dungeon World or some similar PbtA system, then there can't be railroading, because the GM doesn't have enough control over (i) the consequences of action declarations, and (ii) the introduction of new content into the shared fiction.

Once you let the PC be at an event, you must let them alter it, or at least try to alter it.
By "must", I take it you mean "must, if the game is going to be one that you want to participate in"? Clearly there are some tables where the PCs are present at events but the events can't be altered - and not just because (i) the PCs already tried and failed, and (ii) the game has a no-retries rule.

all D&D by its very nature has some elements of railroading. Are you sitting down to play a module or an adventure path?

<snip>

And the DM will regularly make judgment calls to move the narrative along. So long as the DM is making those calls to move the table's narrative along, and not his own, that's fine. It's all about the illusion.
I'm not sure that things must always be illusion, however.

Not all RPGing involves narrative at all. A classic dungeon crawl - I'm thinking, say, White Plume Mountain or Hidden Shring - might just involve the GM running the monsters and adjudicating the traps. That sort of game doesn't really have a narrative (beyond a sequence of events) but doesn't seem to have illusion, either.

And if the game does have a narrative, but the referee is overt about the context and reasons for framing some particular scene, then that also might mean that there is no illusion. In the episode of play I described, I don't think there was any illusion. The presence of the (decapitated) wizard in the (other) wizard's tower, the assassination, the collecting of the blood - all were established at the table through open processes.

I think an AP is a different kettle of fish, but that's why I personally don't care for them.

As an aside - I think that this is WAY too broad. By my read this would include, for example, plots where there's a time limit where an event is going to happen and there's nothing the PCs can do to stop it, but they can mitigate its effects. It would also include any GM-run NPCs having plans and counter-plans that take into account possible interference to keep their plans on track. In fact if the PCs are up against a big bad mastermind then by the definition that you give here any adventure against him/her would be a railroad as they react to the PCs' actions to get their plans back on track. And given that your post uses "railroad" as a derogatory term for "roleplaying through a narrative", I assume that you didn't mean either of those things to count as a "railroad".
I hadn't intended the usage to be derogatory, but clearly (with a nod to [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION]) it signals a preference.

The things you describe I would consider railroads, unless - with your first example - the time limit is established either at the start of the game (so it's not just the GM's pre-conceived story) or is the result of some prior action declaration by the players, in a context of no re-tries (in which case it wasn't pre-conceived at all but was established by the players as part of their play of the game).

To elaborate with respect to NPC counter plans, etc - I would use these as the result of (failed) actions declared by players, not as inputs into the resolution of declared actions.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
I hadn't intended the usage to be derogatory, but clearly (with a nod to [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION]) ...
Possible alternatives to 'railroad' for "the GM shaping outcomes to fit a pre-conceived narrative " we might try (just brainstorming):

  • linear
  • directive
  • DM-driven
  • tailored campaign
  • phantasmal protagonism
  • DM authorship
  • Storytelling
  • DMing (or "GMing D&D")
  • Narativistic
  • Simulationist
  • Not Gamist Enough by Half
  • None of that Forge Stuff
    or, of course..
  • Really D&D

Obviously, in descending order of seriousness.
 

Well, clearly this isn't true as a general proposition about RPG refereeing.

For instance, in the episode of play that I described neither I, nor anyone else at the table, knew whether or not there was a vessel in the room suitable for catching blood until after the player had made a check that established that his PC had spotted one.
Yeah, I probably could have worded it better. I just meant that there is nothing which is known, which is unknown to the DM. The vessel definitely existed within the room (or did not exist within the room) before you-as-the-DM became aware of it, but there was no higher authority that you could have consulted in order to find out the truth of the matter. The only possible sources that you could consult are your unbiased determination of what should be there, and your biased determination of what you want to be there.
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Was there one and only one path through the adventure with no deviations?
If no, then not a railroad.
Did the players notice there was only one path through the adventure?
If no, then not a railroad.
Did the players dislike the adventure because of that?
If no, then not a railroad.

So no, altering probabilities for individual events is not necessarily railroading. It might be if you do it to a high degree with no finesse and it upsets your players.
 

transtemporal

Explorer
the action was in a bedroom in a mage's tower,

Roleplaya! ;)

It might be getting close to railroading just by deciding there is a chance there isn't a vessel in the room. Its a bedroom inhabited by a humanoid. Logically there is a container of some kind, or someone is carrying a container that can hold liquid. That shouldn't require a roll IMO.

The only "GMing crime" you're committing here is possibly making your railroading too obvious. The point at which you stubbornly dig your heels in for no logical reason is the point the players can see the metamachinery of the gameworld which may not be a good thing.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top