Thursday, July 31, 2008

The great rail(roading) wars

As a player, I can handle quite a bit of plot railroading as long as it’s interspersed with cinematic scenes and meaty roleplaying. Because of this, I probably inject a tiny bit too much control over the games I run — but then again, maybe not, seeing as how I’m so painfully conscious of it.

But there comes a point, even for me, when the game is lost; when the GM seems hell-bent on “running us through an adventure,” rather than crafting a nuanced, shared story with the players. This happened last weekend during a game I was playing (not GMing, thankfully). There was a crystal-clear moment when all the players caught each other’s eyes and shared a thought: “This is not working.” We were being force-fed the plot in huge, detail-starved chunks. Entire scenes would be glossed over in the GM’s haste to move us through the story — which, I should point out, was a premade adventure from the RPG's publisher. The thing was, I’ve been gaming with this group off and on for more than a year, and I’ve seen some fairly obvious instances of plot railroading from the GM before. This was several orders of magnitude worse. It was deeply unsatisfying, and a good object lesson about what not to do in an RPG.

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