What would be some good metics to evaluate RPG rules/systems?

Celebrim

Legend
Ok, so we're using the terms very differently.
Not as differently as you seem to think.

"Loss of agency" would be the GM saying, "No, you wouldn't do that because of (insert reason)..."
Yes, but railroading almost never happens that way. Very rarely is a GM running a railroad so inept at running a railroad that they just start playing your character for you or telling you what your character does. I'm sure it happens, but most railroading employs much more subtle techniques than that.

You say that the dice can't take agency from the player because the player still has full control over the propositions he makes. But you are assuming that the dice are fair and the mechanics are chosen to represent accurately the state of the world. But that doesn't have to be true. I can run a railroad purely by manipulating the probabilities of success, by making progress away from my chosen story goal prohibitively hard while progress toward my chosen story goal is much more likely to succeed. I simply only need tell the player that for everything he wants to do, he fails because what he wants to do is too hard. So in this case, despite the player having the full ability to declare an intention to attack and kill an orc, because the orc is an important NPC to my plot and he's supposed to get away at this time, I need only make his defenses high enough that the PC's intention always fails. And note, in this manner I get as a GM exactly what I want, but I never have to explicitly say "No." I am in fact saying "No.", but I'm pretending that it is simply the way the dice go.

(Which is kinda funny, since most people use "sandbox" and "railroad" as opposite ends of a spectrum, when really you could quite easily have a sandboxy railroad.)
Linear is the opposite of sandbox. Linear tends to imply some sort of agreement by the players to stay on rails, with our without any heavy handed railroading technique. Remember, I'm defining agency as the ability to affect the direction and outcome of the story, and if the story is linear and prewritten then I don't have a lot of agency. I might have enough to enjoy it, or I might not care about agency, or I might actually prefer to play in a linear game for the different payoffs that can have. Note that "railroading" and "a railroad" are subtly different ideas. Railroading is a verb. Railroad is a noun. "A railroad" is simply a dysfunctional linear game where despite the fact the participants don't like the direction the story is going and are trying to change it, they cannot actually change it.

You can engage in railroading in a sandbox. In fact, several railroading techniques are designed to create the illusion of a sandbox - "Small World" for example is a technique of giving the illusion of a sandbox while presenting the players hooks which you know that they are unlikely to turn down so that, despite the fact that they believe that they are making their own choices, you have manipulated them into making very predictable choices. Basically you make all or almost all of the fun only in the direction you want them to go.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
Mmm...I think you're making some assumptions about why other people do things.

Yes, but railroading almost never happens that way. Very rarely is a GM running a railroad so inept at running a railroad that they just start playing your character for you or telling you what your character does. I'm sure it happens, but most railroading employs much more subtle techniques than that.
That seems...broad. Maybe you have access to data I don't, but I can only speak to the vanishingly small number of games I've personally witnessed, plus maybe what I've heard anecdotally about another vanishingly insignificant data set, which is that I've seen/heard of two distinct flavors of this DM behavior:

1) The DM wants to preserve their carefully prepared plot.
2) The DM is trying to enforce preferences for how the game should be played.

Now, I can see how in some ways these are similar, that in terms of restricting outcomes #1 is "macro" and #2 is "micro", so if you wanted to you could subsume both phenomena under the same term. But there *is* a difference between controlling what actions a character is allowed to make (or what thoughts he/she is allowed to have, etc.) and preventing those actions from affecting the plot. And I think it's an important distinction (not "important" on the scale of global warming or institutionalized racism, but in the context of RPG philosophy) because they are symptoms of different DM..."issues", have different implications for game design, and probably have different remedies.

You say that the dice can't take agency from the player because the player still has full control over the propositions he makes. But you are assuming that the dice are fair and the mechanics are chosen to represent accurately the state of the world.
Just as an aside: no, I'm not. Anyway...

But that doesn't have to be true. I can run a railroad purely by manipulating the probabilities of success, by making progress away from my chosen story goal prohibitively hard while progress toward my chosen story goal is much more likely to succeed. I simply only need tell the player that for everything he wants to do, he fails because what he wants to do is too hard. So in this case, despite the player having the full ability to declare an intention to attack and kill an orc, because the orc is an important NPC to my plot and he's supposed to get away at this time, I need only make his defenses high enough that the PC's intention always fails. And note, in this manner I get as a GM exactly what I want, but I never have to explicitly say "No." I am in fact saying "No.", but I'm pretending that it is simply the way the dice go.
Maybe I'm missing something subtle, but this strikes me as a bit of semantic sleight-of-hand to demonstrate that two different things are the same. Like using chemistry to show that physics and biology are really the same science. Sure, you can make those connections, but why is that useful? "The existence of twilight does not disprove the difference between day and night." Etc.

Linear is the opposite of sandbox. Linear tends to imply some sort of agreement by the players to stay on rails, with our without any heavy handed railroading technique. Remember, I'm defining agency as the ability to affect the direction and outcome of the story, and if the story is linear and prewritten then I don't have a lot of agency. I might have enough to enjoy it, or I might not care about agency, or I might actually prefer to play in a linear game for the different payoffs that can have. Note that "railroading" and "a railroad" are subtly different ideas. Railroading is a verb. Railroad is a noun. "A railroad" is simply a dysfunctional linear game where despite the fact the participants don't like the direction the story is going and are trying to change it, they cannot actually change it.

You can engage in railroading in a sandbox. In fact, several railroading techniques are designed to create the illusion of a sandbox - "Small World" for example is a technique of giving the illusion of a sandbox while presenting the players hooks which you know that they are unlikely to turn down so that, despite the fact that they believe that they are making their own choices, you have manipulated them into making very predictable choices. Basically you make all or almost all of the fun only in the direction you want them to go.
Um, yeah. The bold part is pretty much exactly what I said, and the rest of it is in the same spirit as what I meant. Maybe you're just agreeing with me, and expanding on the idea? It's hard to tell, because your posts tend to come across (to me, at least) like you're lecturing to a pupil, not discussing with a peer.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
Mmm...I think you're making some assumptions about why other people do things.
I don't understand what you mean by that. I don't believe I have addressed the "Why?" in this discussion much at all.

That seems...broad. Maybe you have access to data I don't, but I can only speak to the vanishingly small number of games I've personally witnessed, plus maybe what I've heard anecdotally about another vanishingly insignificant data set, which is that I've seen/heard of two distinct flavors of this DM behavior:

1) The DM wants to preserve their carefully prepared plot.
2) The DM is trying to enforce preferences for how the game should be played.
Ok, so that sounds like answering "Why?", but hitherto I've been mostly answering questions of "What?" and "How?" I don't quibble with your examples of "Why?" someone might engage in "railroading", though if we made a list we could probably list other ones.

But there *is* a difference between controlling what actions a character is allowed to make (or what thoughts he/she is allowed to have, etc.) and preventing those actions from affecting the plot.
I suppose that there is, though I've never really thought deeply about the difference because in practice I've never really seen "controlling what actions a character is allowed to make" done by simple confrontation, and I suspect any attempt to do that would result in an immediate player revolt and you not getting asked to GM again. And secondly, while those two things are different, they are also an independent variable of the two motivations you outlined earlier. So for example, you could be trying to preserve your carefully prepared plot by either controlling player action or by preventing those actions from affecting the plot.

I've seen a lot of railroading by negating player choice so that no matter what they choose the same thing happens, and I know of a lot of discussion of railroading techniques, and I know of players that are so sensitive to that on account of having been burned so many times in the past that the slightest whiff of railroading in the game will cause them to bristle and revolt. So typically, I've always treated "No, you don't want to do that" as simply a crude subcategory of railroading, so crude in application as to be ineffective and not really worth discussing because it's neither advisable, needed, nor something that can be addressed except by table contract.

But, you know, I could be wrong. Are you asserting that it's a common technique that you encounter GMs employing all the time?

And I think it's an important distinction...because they are symptoms of different DM..."issues", have different implications for game design, and probably have different remedies.
I don't know which of the two distinctions you've drawn you are now talking about.

Maybe I'm missing something subtle, but this strikes me as a bit of semantic sleight-of-hand to demonstrate that two different things are the same.
You've lost me. What sleight of hand? What two different things? I'm trying to demonstrate that I can always protect my preferred plot and/or enforce my preferences on how the game should be played without resorting to telling the player what to do. Transferring agency from the player by negating his choice is for me the umbrella category of "railroading". I'm asserting that "No, you don't want to do that", what I call "Metagame Direction", is a subcategory of railroading that is and different only in that it's so confrontational, overt, and clumsy that you hardly ever see it performed. When you do see "Metagame Direction" performed, it's usually done with a bit of slight of hand borrowing from "False Choice" techniques where the DM interrupts the proposition->fortune->resolution cycle to provide the stakes to the player ahead of time, and then asks in some manner, "Do you really want to do that?"

And, honestly, there can be really good reasons for even doing that, for example the player is new to the system and is not correctly predicting for example how easy it will be for their character to leap over a 30' gap. That's railroading. You decide it won't be fun for the new player to leap to there own death in a jump they can't possibly make, so you negate their choice and explain to them the rules and the likely result of their proposition before saying, "Do you really want to do that?" Probably justified. Do that all the time though, and you're running a (rather inept) railroad.

Maybe you're just agreeing with me, and expanding on the idea?
Yes. But I did so because it wasn't clear that you agreed with me that "sandbox" wasn't the opposite of "railroad", because you prepended those comments with conditionals that indicated you were only entertaining the idea and not yet decided on it. So I wanted to further persuade you by offering an example of how it could be done. I can offer more elaborate examples if that one is not satisfactory.

It's hard to tell, because your posts tend to come across (to me, at least) like you're lecturing to a pupil, not discussing with a peer.
Well, a bit of both, but more to the point, I'm debating with a peer and this inherently involves some degree of lecturing. Consider your own comments:

"Are you defining "player agency" to mean that player actions can affect/change outcomes? If so, I think you're describing the inverse of railroading, but railroading and player agency are not antonyms."

Or even, "Mmm...I think you're making some assumptions about why other people do things."

These also have a lecturing tone, inevitable because they signal some degree of disagreement and a desire to correct my understanding.
 

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