Wednesday, May 2, 2018

I've been working on the railroad

Railroading is one of the things people complain about a lot in roleplaying circles.  GMs that force players down a single unavoidable path are generally not good at their job, and most of the time the players feel it.  They aren't telling their own story, they are just reading a script.  Thing is though, railroading isn't an I/O kind of thing.  There are degrees of railroading, and you can easily do it too little as well as too much.

I think in my home campaign with Wendy and Pinkie Pie I have been railroading too little.  Pinkie Pie likes running around a fantasy world exploring and brawling and getting into trouble but she has trouble making good decisions when the consequences aren't clear. 

Case in point:  The characters beat up a notorious gangster and his gang.  Then they went to the gangster's house to find information they needed.  While they were robbing the house the town watch appeared nearby, and the characters noticed this from the window of the gangster's house.  I figured that the characters would immediately run but instead they sat around looting more thoroughly, taking their time.  Then the watch finally came to the front door of the house and arrested everyone.  It turned out that Pinkie Pie figured that since they killed the gangster they were entitled to his stuff...  these sorts of misunderstandings are rife in the game so far.

I try to give characters lots of rope to hang themselves, should they have a mind to.  I give them plots to pursue, but I am fine with them pursuing whichever of those plots they have a mind to, in whichever way they want.  This works for mature gamers but has some real issues with smaller folks who have less experience.  They just don't understand how all their adult level decisions will play out.

So they joined the army.

I didn't force them into the army, exactly.  I just had important people recognize their exploits and offer them a cushy job in the Empress' Swords, the unit of powerful people that handle most security in the realm.  (There are also people called the Empress' Daggers that are the spies and scouts, but the characters in the group are good at bashing, not deception and trickery.)  The characters were a little suspicious of the Empress and her motives but the villains in the story so far are dedicated to taking down the Empress so the characters ended up being willing to work for her since the enemy of my enemy and such.

Now they have a home base and missions to go on.  I am definitely going to keep their missions exciting and unpredictable so they aren't railroaded too hard but they seem to like the idea of actually knowing what to do instead of starting each session with "so... where are we going to go now?"  I probably should have done this in the first place, as having a bunch of organized, planned excursions is a good way to be introduced to a world and you can slowly give the characters more freedom from that point.

I led off with 25% railroading in my eagerness to avoid 100% railroading.  I think that my new strategy of 60% railroading will be more successful though, with this group at least.

1 comment:

  1. I'm drowning in the irony over here as I recall the start of my campaign where you had an open world and everyone sat around waiting for plot to happen.

    Okay fine, there were some flaws, and that's not an entirely accurate description, but I've found that most groups want relatively clear direction. They don't mind choosing how to do X, or having to choose between X and Y, but if you ask them what they want to do, they have already forgotten the plot and what happened last time.

    A notable exception is when Brent recently initiated some things and it was amazing - opened up all kinds of ideas for me and got him more engaged.

    It helps to have mini-plots for individual PCs I think? That's been working well when I've happened to get it up and running.