D&D General [+] Players, what do you like about railroads?

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The definition of railroading used here is having no choices in the larger arc of the story. You as a player will follow the referee's script and there will be no deviations. Round-by-round choices don't prevent something from being a railroad. The railroad is usually masked with the illusion of choice, i.e. no matter what choice you make...the adventure is that way, or more forceful means of keeping the players from deviating from the "correct" path.

A lot of referees who enjoy running railroads say that their players enjoy this style. Okay. I have my doubts. So I thought I'd ask.

Two questions for the players. Do you like railroaded games? If so, what do you like about railroad games?
Two questions, two answers.

1. Sometimes but by no means always. Short-term railroad sequences embedded within a bigger not-railroad campaign can IME work quite well.

2. Because a railroaded adventure or sequence means that for that period of time I can switch my brain off and not have to think. Instead, all I have to do is react in-character (appropriately or otherwise!) to whatever's put in front of me, and just let stuff happen.

And if-when I find the railroad is getting annoying and-or boring, it can also be fun to try to bust out of it.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The thing about railroaded adventures is that the narrative tends to make sense in my experience. Which means that a party that was built during Session 0 to be part and parcel with the adventure will more often than not make the same logical choices that the adventure expects or forces you to make. Which means at the end of the day the group doesn't actually feel railroaded because they got to make all their choices on their own.
I call that "the players railroading themselves", and I've done it as a player.

In a 3e game I played in the DM knew how several of the PCs, including mine, were likely (as in, almost certain) to react to various hooks and-or situations; and so he could give us choices of A, B, or C and be so sure we'd choose A that he never bothered prepping B or C. We railroaded ourselves for him. :)
 

GrimCo

Adventurer
I call that "the players railroading themselves", and I've done it as a player.

In a 3e game I played in the DM knew how several of the PCs, including mine, were likely (as in, almost certain) to react to various hooks and-or situations; and so he could give us choices of A, B, or C and be so sure we'd choose A that he never bothered prepping B or C. We railroaded ourselves for him. :)
That's called playing along and being good sport. :D And if everybody at the table has fun, it's all well and good. You save DM time on prep work and you still get to do what you would do anyway. Win win.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I call that "the players railroading themselves", and I've done it as a player.

In a 3e game I played in the DM knew how several of the PCs, including mine, were likely (as in, almost certain) to react to various hooks and-or situations; and so he could give us choices of A, B, or C and be so sure we'd choose A that he never bothered prepping B or C. We railroaded ourselves for him. :)
And this is exactly why I (and I believe you) feel that playing face-to-face at a table with a consistent player group is the best way to get good games to happen. Because we all know what each of us at the table enjoys, we all know what we tend to want to do, and all know how lawful versus chaotic we tend to be when presented with story and what are the things we will latch onto for a better game.

Now I have no problems playing with a random assortment of people when it's a one-shot at a convention... but if I had to make my whole RPGing life be purely online at places like Roll20 or FG and just go from random game to random game with random other players all the time... just hoping they aren't schmucks... is not something I'd ever want to subject myself to.

I mean, if that was the ONLY option available, then so be it... but at that point I'd set my expectations so low that I'd just think that any gaming is good gaming at that point. But to play games in that way AND have expectations to be able to play in whatever idiosyncratic style I have to play in... requiring these rules and those extra bits and bobs, using that obscure system with this method of presentation... and then discover I can't sit down at any table that even remotely looks or plays like that... it'd be no wonder so many people are so cranky all the time.
 
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aco175

Legend
I do not mind the linear-dungeon railroad or adventure path. The DM says we are going to play the Age of Worms path and the players all say cool, then we sign up for it and should follow along. The true railroad where the DM brings his dungeon based on Romeo and Juliet where you ride through each scene knowing that you cannot escape death at the end is junk. Maybe an one-shot or convention play. It might even be a cool session 0 lead in to a larger campaign with new characters trying to solve what happened in that.

The true railroad would be fine to play in for a while with a new DM learning to run the game. If my son wanted to run something and came up with this, we would play and try to aid him in running it. I would like to think that my group would not try to foil things and let him learn from running things.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
This is a [+] thread.

This is not about linear adventures. If the game goes from A to B to C and the players willingly engage, that's linear but not a railroad.

The definition of railroading used here is having no choices in the larger arc of the story. You as a player will follow the referee's script and there will be no deviations. Round-by-round choices don't prevent something from being a railroad. The railroad is usually masked with the illusion of choice, i.e. no matter what choice you make...the adventure is that way, or more forceful means of keeping the players from deviating from the "correct" path.

A lot of referees who enjoy running railroads say that their players enjoy this style. Okay. I have my doubts. So I thought I'd ask.

Two questions for the players. Do you like railroaded games? If so, what do you like about railroad games?
Decided to stop reading after a few post, and that I wanted to respond to this before reading too far into this.
I mostly DM and the group that I DM for do not seem to be all that interested in the story. They appear to want to be told where to go next.
I have also recently played (for the first time in a long time) with a DM (new to the business) that really wanted to run a dramatically significant story but had decided to run the Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen, which from my experience as a player seems to be a hard railroad. However, it was also a perfectly satisfactory D&D campaign.

The point I am getting at here is that the only real difference between your linear adventures and the railroad is the attitude of the players.
If the players are content to follow the breadcrumbs of the adventure it can be a perfectly satisfactory game of D&D.
Now, if the players place more priority on agency and character focused drama the rails become shackles and they find the experience un fun.
As long as the set pieces are fun, many players will find the game satisfactory. I think that this is the key to popularity of the standard WoTC adventure path. Most players are casual and play to relax and let off steam.
 
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Oofta

Legend
I think there's a very fuzzy line between a linear campaign and a true railroad. So my definition of one versus the other may differ a bit.

To me a linear campaign has a set number of events and obstacles that can potentially be approached or bypassed, but must in some way be overcome. There is a specific predetermined goal but details on how you get there is up to the party. A true railroad dictates how you overcome those events and obstacles.

I try to run a game that's a linear sandbox in that I don't know exactly where the game is headed and people are absolutely allowed to go left instead of right or thwart an opponents plans through clever play. But there's always a clear direction to go, clear goals for the party to achieve because that's what my players ask for.

Which is to say that there is a broad spectrum of styles of play and there's even quite a bit of variance in what people would consider a railroad. Modules are almost always linear and if someone is running a module I know what I'm signing up for. It's just about the only thing people are willing to run so when I do get to play I just accept that it's what I'm going to be doing and go with the flow.

In the same way, convention and game day modules are more on the railroad side of the linear spectrum. But I still enjoy them because I enjoy seeing different DM styles, meeting and playing with new people, getting new perspectives. I get to just sit back, likely talk in a funny accent with a character that is writ large in broad easily recognized brushstrokes. I don't have to worry too much about analyzing motives or deep moral dilemmas (which are far too often badly handled "force the PCs to choose between two equally evil options" anyway). I can just sit back, have fun, make bad jokes and roll dice.

Sometimes it's kind of nice just to shut off your brain and enjoy playing.
 

Players like railroads if they feel that they are not being railroaded.

"you don't have a choice, you have an illusion of choice!"
Honestly I just define "railroading" as "when the players feel they are being arbitrarily limited" - which is indeed subjective on two levels. If the players are enjoying the game, it is not a railroad, because a railroad is a specific type of not-fun game. You might tolerate a railroad in certain circumstances, but if you enjoy it you're not feeling railroaded.

CF a boring game - no one enjoys a boring game. People might enjoy a kind of game you find boring (ie shopping sprees) - but they don't enjoy the fact that it's boring. They just either don't find it boring or don't mind the boring bits more than they enjoy the fun bits.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Sometimes it's kind of nice just to shut off your brain and enjoy playing.
That's the impression I'm getting from quite a few of the people responding positively to the question.

It makes sense though. Abnegation or submission is one of the eight types of fun discussed in the MDA framework as initially described here (PDF).

"Switching off" is literally the opposite of what I'm looking for in playing RPGs, so it also makes sense that this mode simply does not compute for me.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think there's a very fuzzy line between a linear campaign and a true railroad. So my definition of one versus the other may differ a bit.

To me a linear campaign has a set number of events and obstacles that can potentially be approached or bypassed, but must in some way be overcome. There is a specific predetermined goal but details on how you get there is up to the party. A true railroad dictates how you overcome those events and obstacles.

I try to run a game that's a linear sandbox in that I don't know exactly where the game is headed and people are absolutely allowed to go left instead of right or thwart an opponents plans through clever play. But there's always a clear direction to go, clear goals for the party to achieve because that's what my players ask for.

Which is to say that there is a broad spectrum of styles of play and there's even quite a bit of variance in what people would consider a railroad. Modules are almost always linear and if someone is running a module I know what I'm signing up for. It's just about the only thing people are willing to run so when I do get to play I just accept that it's what I'm going to be doing and go with the flow.

In the same way, convention and game day modules are more on the railroad side of the linear spectrum. But I still enjoy them because I enjoy seeing different DM styles, meeting and playing with new people, getting new perspectives. I get to just sit back, likely talk in a funny accent with a character that is writ large in broad easily recognized brushstrokes. I don't have to worry too much about analyzing motives or deep moral dilemmas (which are far too often badly handled "force the PCs to choose between two equally evil options" anyway). I can just sit back, have fun, make bad jokes and roll dice.
My definition differs a bit.

To me railroading is when nothing you say or do matters to the outcome. This applies equally to illusion of choice or blatant railroading.

Illusion of choice is when the DM presents you with two doors and informs you that one leads out and the other is one way deeper into the dungeon. Then no matter which one you choose, you end up through the door that leads deeper into the dungeon. The choice was illusionary and you are just doing what the DM wants you to do.

A blatant railroad is when you come to a wall and you try to climb over it and get informed it's unclimbable. Then when you want to fly over a strong downward wind keeps you from being able to rise. And so on. The DM is doing this because he wants you to go down the passage and kill the Jabberwocky first.

I view illusion of choice to be the worst of the two. The DM is lying to me in order to waste my time forcing me down his path. I'd much rather see the railroading so that I can decide whether I want to stay in the game(which might happen if it's with friends) or leave the game.

Where my definition differs from yours is that the obstacle may have multiple ways to be overcome. The DM doesn't have to dictate the method. Only force you down the path. In the Jabberwocky example the DM might have dropped clues to the Vorpal Sword being hidden nearby, but be open to other methods of defeating it. Then once dead the magical winds suddenly vanish and/or handholds appear on that wall enabling you to now go in that direction.
Sometimes it's kind of nice just to shut off your brain and enjoy playing.
That's called just being a player. Man, when I can stop DMing and just play, it blows my mind how much easier it is. I don't have to worry about a bunch of NPCs, their goals and what they know, juggling four PCs, knowing what's happening in the world, answering questions, etc.

It doesn't take linear or railroad to shut off my brain and enjoy playing. It just takes me not being DM. :p
 

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