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Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, off to a good start

Elfcrusher

Explorer
Some folks clearly have a much stricter definition of railroading than I do. Before you can call it a railroad the players have to be aware of, and actively refuse, the plot hook.

If the players burn down the house, destroying clues that lead to the next part of the adventure, and the DM introduces another pathway to learning about the ship, he still hasn't forced them to actually go to the ship. They may even want to go to the ship, but they wouldn't know about it because they burned the house down.

Sandbox Zealots often seem to, in my opinion, largely disregard the realities of DM preparation and planning. The game just works better when the DM has time to plan an adventure, balance the fights, prepare notes, print out monster stats, etc. I find absolutely nothing wrong with taking the DM's bait and engaging in the story he has prepared.

Maybe I've just played with "bad DMs" but every time I've found myself in a pure sandbox, with everybody pursuing random leads and trying to turn every NPC into an adventure, I've been bored out of my mind.
 

Elon Tusk

Villager
If a DM adds an innocent to the house after the PCs set it on fire in order to teach the PCs a lesson, that seems like the definition of punitive. It flies in the face of the realism people are calling for.
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
If a DM adds an innocent to the house after the PCs set it on fire in order to teach the PCs a lesson, that seems like the definition of punitive. It flies in the face of the realism people are calling for.
What if he does it just because he thinks it makes for an interesting plot twist?

If the DM is the kind who likes to "punish" his players then that's a problem, but (as with metagaming) it's easier to stop playing with people who aren't fun than it is to try to prescribe/proscribe certain actions that we think correlate to certain motivations.
 

Elon Tusk

Villager
What if he does it just because he thinks it makes for an interesting plot twist?

If the DM is the kind who likes to "punish" his players then that's a problem, but (as with metagaming) it's easier to stop playing with people who aren't fun than it is to try to prescribe/proscribe certain actions that we think correlate to certain motivations.
It seems like instances of punitive motivations are pretty clear...

As the DM, I know what is in the house, but if my PCs pull a stupid move like that, I'm definitely inventing consequences regardless of what is actually in the house. Punitively? Yeah, a little bit, try to teach them to think things through before taking action. At a minimum, I'd put the body of an innocent townsperson in the rubble, killed by the PC's actions.
 

Paul Farquhar

Explorer
If a DM adds an innocent to the house after the PCs set it on fire in order to teach the PCs a lesson, that seems like the definition of punitive. It flies in the face of the realism people are calling for.
I wouldn't do that.

However, the PCs have no way of knowing there are no innocents in the house, so I might rule burning it down without checking first incompatible with a lawful good alignment. Not that it matters much in 5e.

It has just occurred to me that the former owner of the house was an alchemist and, knowing alchemists, it would be unlikely to be still standing if it was built from flammable materials...
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
It seems like instances of punitive motivations are pretty clear...
I think you missed my point.

The poster in question seems like a DM I wouldn't enjoy. It's not the specific action he describes that's a problem, it's the attitude behind it. My advice is to not try to categorize/define certain behaviors, because there can *always* be a different motivation behind those behaviors. (Again, just like with "metagaming".)

So, the response to him should have, in my opinion, "If that's your reason for doing such a thing, maybe there's a mismatch between player and DM expectations."
 

Paul Farquhar

Explorer
Some folks clearly have a much stricter definition of railroading than I do. Before you can call it a railroad the players have to be aware of, and actively refuse, the plot hook.
That definitely isn't my definition of railroading. I would say any situation where the outcome is the same no matter what the players do is railroading. It's possible that players may not be aware of the railroad, and so long as that is the case then some degree of railroading is acceptable, but I would keep it to a minimum.

And the whole point of adding Chapter 1 is to GoS is to make it unnecessary - there is stuff to do in town even if the players decide they aren't interested in investigating haunted houses.
 

Elfcrusher

Explorer
I would say any situation where the outcome is the same no matter what the players do is railroading.
I think that's a workable definition, even if we could find edge cases where it doesn't work.

For example, I would not consider "the heroes learn about the ship signaling system" as the sort of outcome we mean by this.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
But if the GM always decides the outcome, and decides it based on stuff the players have no knowledge of, then they also may as well read a novel.

If the players don't know about the ship, don't know that burning down the house will destroy clues to the ship, if they just decide to burn down the house for whatever reason, then the only person who is actually playing the game in deciding that because of the house-burning, the PCs find no clue to the ship is the GM. It's all just the GM making decisions off-screen. Which to me seems the very paradigm of railroading.
I think there is an interesting conversation to be had here.

What if you append the rider "because the GM's decision-making on content introduction has rendered this excerpt of play obtuse or outright opaque" to "If the players don't know about the ship"?

Personally, I think moments of GM Force can be more than just willful subordination of the action resolution mechanics or player autonomy. I think GM Force can also be moments of clumsy or inept GMing which effectively leads to a kind of "Force-by-proxy."

I think that might be contentious (you or everyone else may disagree with me in here). However, I think there are plenty of moments of play where sincere, but poor, GMing leads to an obtuse or opaque experience for the players...and the resultant play feel like (because it basically is for all intents and purpose) a GM Force-fest.

A reflective GM would likely introspect, analyze the play experience. Perhaps they discern that the system has flaws in its content introduction procedures (thereby they should play something else)...or perhaps they're playing at cross-purposes with the system (trying to impose a play paradigm upon the system that it cannot deliver)...or perhaps their own content introduction was poorly conceived. If its the last of the 3, a humble GM would admit their mistake and work on their game.
 

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