On "Illusionism" (+)

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't see any benefit to doing this - appear to offer a choice, but then negate that. Why have apparent branching paths with the ogre down whichever one is taken? Why not a single linear path with the ogre on it?
Or have the ogre just on one path but not the other? I agree with this.
I'm against deceiving the players. I think this is different though from standard tropes like "the PCs arrive just in time to stop the evil ritual" - these aren't necessarily deceiving the players. Though if the players deliberately metagame it like it's a video game and go back to town for a long rest thinking the scene will be suspended in time, it's ok to have the ritual complete. These days I'd probably warn the players first, though.

And of course it's fine for NPCs to seek to deceive the PCs. I think a deceitful GM is breaking the table contract, but deceitful NPCs are just doing their thing.
Once in a while deceiving the players can be a useful thing to do. An example of such might be where they think they're on a mission to accomplish X but the real (but unknown to the players) reason they're there is to do thing Y. So, they could be for their own reasons exploring a crypt in hopes of recovering the Shield of Dozain that was buried with some knight or other; but you-as-DM just want them to break the seal on that crypt because doing so will cause bigger headaches later.

As for "arriving just in time to stop the ritual" tropes, I'm less of a fan all the time. The PCs never arrive on time; they're either too early or (much more often) way way too late.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When this happens I always smile evilly and say "1 hp left! Bad luck!" and they groan. :LOL: Of course if it had 27 hp left and they do exactly 27 hp damage, I tell them that too, and they smile. :cool:
I don't give hard numbers but if you do 20 points after which the target only has 5 left I'll almost always say something like "It's wobbling, probably can't take another one of those!".
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You could follow the more bland approach. The players figure out the evil plan will be done on Friday night. So on Monday they sneak in and destroy the macguffin...and save the day. Then the characters go to a tavern to drink. Not a very exciting game. And sure, some players from that small group will be as happy as a clam that they avoided the big endgame fight. Most gamers though....want that big finish.
Most GMs want that big finish.

But players? Not in my experience, because often that "big finish" is bloody dangerous and players would prefer to up the odds of their characters' survival by avoiding or short-circuiting it if at all possible. It's what characters with a) a sense of self-preservation and b) a natural desire to take the path of least resistance would reasonably try to do.

Now, if it's known or assumed that the threats are largely illusionary and that the "big finish" isn't going to kill any characters then the players can (and maybe will) use that meta-knowledge and let the big finish occcur as planned, but that's not how I roll.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
Railroading can be used at different scales. For an extreme example, we ran a Marine Corps campaign where missions were ordered by HQ. There was NO player agency in the selection of adventures. But once on site, the mission was more or less a Big Dumb Object that the players could interact with in any way you like. If not usually this extreme, this is a model for adventures often used here - GM sets up the situation, players resolve it any way they like.
 

Most GMs want that big finish.
That's my whole point.

Outside the game EVERY player wants to have a demi god like all powerful character they can talk about forever. They would LOVE to endlessly tell the amazing story of how there tefiling ninja assassin killed a a red dragon on the edge of an erupting volcano just before the Red Dawn.

But.....

Nearly all players know and realize that would be very hard, they would have to stay focused, pay attention, have huge amounts of game/rule/social/real life mastery and so forth. Plenty of players think they could "never" do it. So when they get in the game, they have their characters run and hide from challenges and encounters.

No one wants to tell the story of "yea, there was this amazing fun and exciting encounter, but my character ran the other way to a fishing pond where they caught ten tiny fish"

IME, I never see as much happiness on the faces of my players as when they pull off some amazing, unforeseen by scenario author, way to win, and I tell them "That wasn't even supposed to be possible!" One small example - running Barrowmaze, there's a lot of "This door can only be opened by X" stuff. So I tell them "You don't have X, so opening that lock is Nearly Impossible - DC 30!" - then they go to town finding all the ways to lower the DC and raise their roll until they can open it - they love that stuff. That it short circuits the plot seems to be a bonus.
Yea, a lot of DM are not all that forward thinking so they get surprised or such by the players....though I'm sure a lot more DM just set themselves up that way.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
That's my whole point.

Outside the game EVERY player wants to have a demi god like all powerful character they can talk about forever. They would LOVE to endlessly tell the amazing story of how there tefiling ninja assassin killed a a red dragon on the edge of an erupting volcano just before the Red Dawn.

But.....

Nearly all players know and realize that would be very hard, they would have to stay focused, pay attention, have huge amounts of game/rule/social/real life mastery and so forth. Plenty of players think they could "never" do it. So when they get in the game, they have their characters run and hide from challenges and encounters.
Not run and hide, necessarily, but instead do what they can in-character to mitigate the danger and increase their odds of success.

They're still gonna fight that dragon, but ideally at a time and place of their choosing rather than the dragon's.
No one wants to tell the story of "yea, there was this amazing fun and exciting encounter, but my character ran the other way to a fishing pond where they caught ten tiny fish"
I'd be quite happy telling the story of sneaking in and assassinating a red dragon in its sleep; even more so if the DM had somehow let it slip that the intent was that we'd fight it straight up the next day. :)
Yea, a lot of DM are not all that forward thinking so they get surprised or such by the players....though I'm sure a lot more DM just set themselves up that way.
Huh?

Are you suggesting it's a bad thing when (not if) a DM gets surprised by the players?
 


Committed Hero

Adventurer
If you are using a technique to fudge when the ritual happens so that whenever the PCs arrive, it's just in time to witness and stop the ritual, then that is Illusionism. You are playing with the fact that the players have limited ability to view what is happening outside of their character's knowledge to arrange events in such a way that you think they will be most dramatic. The exact time the ritual occurs is "Sometime in a two week period, when the PC's arrive", which is very much not realistic and not driven by carefully planning and imagining what the NPCs are doing off stage.

I am curious to know how many people have played in a campaign (not a one-shot) that ended - or at least changed dramatically - because the PCs didn't act to stop Nyarlathotep when they needed to. Not that they tried and died, but they essentially ignored the timetable. Or to use another idea upthread, the duke has been assassinated and they didn't care to try and stop it. Do you plan for both outcomes? Is one as fun as the other, for you and for the players?

I'm trying not to cast a judgement, I am just interested in whether it happens (for me, it never has in 40 years. I played one game where we did try to protect a politician but failed, although we were proactive about it and knew explicitly that the attempt was coming).

One other issue: regardless of the ogre's presence on a particular path, there should still be a myriad number of ways the players can choose to encounter it, right? Is that "enough" choice? I do think there is a spectrum of player autonomy beyond which point the decisions are of no utility to the game. Like which inn to stay in if there is a selection of 20 in a given town.
 
Last edited:

Not run and hide, necessarily, but instead do what they can in-character to mitigate the danger and increase their odds of success.

They're still gonna fight that dragon, but ideally at a time and place of their choosing rather than the dragon's.
The trick is to balance this vs the epic plot story. It can be fun for some to exploit the fiction and do a meta game twist, but it's more often much more fun to do things the standard dramatic epic way.

It's fun to subvert expectations some of the time, it's not so much fun when it becomes the rule of play.

I'd be quite happy telling the story of sneaking in and assassinating a red dragon in its sleep; even more so if the DM had somehow let it slip that the intent was that we'd fight it straight up the next day. :)
Right, some gamers like the luke warm game. Play out the story for a couple minutes, then kill the big bad in their sleep in a very easy effortless encounter....and then adventure over. In this type of game the players can "save the world" maybe ten times in a night. And this type of game is fine if this is the game everyone wants.

The rest of the gamers want that edge of an erupting volcano fighting the red dragon to stop the dragon flight.

Huh?

Are you suggesting it's a bad thing when (not if) a DM gets surprised by the players?
It's not a bad thing. I think a lot of DMs let it happen, and the rest can't see it coming.
 

Celebrim

Legend
The big problem here is the players that love to ruin adventures and wear it like a big bright badge are only a small part of gamers. Maybe only 25% get into a game with the goal of ruining the adventure. Though often they won't admit it and will hide behind the classics: "It's what my character would do" or "it happened by accident".

Often enough you will have 3-4 players that want to have fun immersed playing the game, and only one player waiting for their chance to pounce and ruin the game for all. This is where the GM really needs to toss around some Power and stop the one player("sorry, rocks fell on your character, you can't ruin the adventure"). Many games get into trouble as the GM is unwilling to do that.

A game, more so an Adventure, Is an Artificial Fiction. It's not "real", it does not make "sense" and it does not fit into a "real world situation simulation".

The GM is aware of this and set up the game for it. Things 'just happen", amazingly, to be the most exciting/fun/dramatic/etc. Just look at nearly any fiction. Everything happens at the last moments, on the edge, with a chance for huge failure. The players should be aware of this too....but most are not. Most players get lost in their game character and "can't see the forest through the trees". Not to mention so many players only play the game for the betterment of their own personal character, ego and fun.

In the best games...the Heroes show up right before the big bad is summoned at midnight and face the ticking clock of can they stop the summoning AND most likely can they stop the Evil that is summoned when they fail. This is an epic fight and a tale of tales that gamers will be talking about forever.

OR

You could follow the more bland approach. The players figure out the evil plan will be done on Friday night. So on Monday they sneak in and destroy the macguffin...and save the day. Then the characters go to a tavern to drink. Not a very exciting game. And sure, some players from that small group will be as happy as a clam that they avoided the big endgame fight. Most gamers though....want that big finish.

John Wick, is that you?

That is very passionately argued. But I hope you realize while making that argument that all you are arguing for is the superiority of railroads over other forms of play. Your argument is essentially that railroads make better games because GM understand what players want and good players don't try to ruin the game by thwarting the GMs plans for them, and that GMs should take advantage of the fact that no game is a perfect simulation (and indeed in your argument no game should be) to manipulate events such that they come out in the way that the GM desires. This in your opinion results in the most exciting game. Games where the big climax is subverted by player action are by your argument bland.

And I certainly don't deny that this approach can lead to fun, nor do I deny that there are some tables that like it. But I can't help but note just how your argument drips with condescension toward the players. You say things like:

"The players should be aware of this too....but most are not. Most players get lost in their game character and "can't see the forest through the trees". Not to mention so many players only play the game for the betterment of their own personal character, ego and fun."

And then you reason that GMs should protect the ignorant self-defeating players from themselves. And I can't help but think that the path you outline has a lot of dangers in it and that is not as likely to result in everyone having fun as you think it does.

I would personally argue that more games get into trouble when "This is where the GM really needs to toss around some Power and stop the one player("sorry, rocks fell on your character, you can't ruin the adventure")." than are fixed by those sorts of applications of GM power.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top