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63

Powerful drama requires powerful motivations. When everyone at the table agrees that they want a Horror game, they must craft their characters around these motivations. If they don't buy in, then you get the kind of power-fantasy where the heroes do the quite sensible thing of feeding Cthulhu a couple cases of dynamite and legging it. That isn't horror, ...


52

Railroading is forcing the characters into the prewritten story that the master created. It's generally frowned upon, because it disrupts the free-will oriented nature of roleplaying. In some cases however, some railroading is required. A typical example is the following. Suppose the characters enter a city, and find a riot or similar event. The most ...


41

My very first time as a GM, I showed up to the session with a great pile of notes and plot. Half an hour later I threw it out and started improvising because they'd gone in a totally different direction. Over the years most of my players have been willing to follow a railroad if I ask them to, but I've developed a totally different kind of session prep which ...


38

Since he was wrongly convicted, you could use that to your advantage. Have the group argue the PC's innocence (in the flashback), and better yet, give them plenty of time to prepare the defense. Let them totally outshine the prosecutor. Then have the (corrupt?) "Judge" say something like, "well, we can't let him go because then it would encourage everyone ...


31

Tell Them Your Goals If you haven't already, I would start by telling them essentially what you just said here. That there is no "one true plot". Tell them that introducing an evil person / problem does not make it the overriding campaign unless they want it to be. Tell them that you are willing to follow along with their character's background goals. ...


28

Write the story as if the characters were not there. Make sure that all your NPCs have motivations, goals and personalities. This is what would happen if the world was run like clock work. This is your story. Now, add the characters into the mix. Let the story be modified by what the characters do. The NPCs will react, and depending on their ...


22

I think you're metagaming. You, the GM and player, know that continuing to pursue the truth will lead to madness. Your characters don't know that. They don't know the risks yet. Your characters are just finding out (possibly for the first time) that "magic" or something like it is real. If you, in real life, just found out that magic was real, wouldn't you ...


19

The great thing about a rotational DMing system is that you can propose things to the group to check out without making it seem like you're targeting a specific person. They might realize they're the biggest offender, but it's still a more tactful solution when you present something like, "Hey, here's something that I think could help us all improve as DMs!" ...


16

"Railroading" and "sandbox" are two opposite ends of a spectrum, and as a result both are good in varying degrees. Really, railroading is any in-play modifications the GM makes to the world to accomplish his own story or other goals. In computer gaming it's called "linear." You are going to go from set piece A to B to C, most likely in that order, your ...


16

I set a limited numbers of must, might and should rules for character creation. Those generally look like: Your character must agree to do X — plot of the game. For example, work for Black Mesa, help NPC X, need work because of repayment on space ship, yadda, yadda… Your character must have Y — linked to theme of the game. For example, be a known hero, ...


14

I prefer the other version of the question. How much plot guidance is too little. Aim for a smidge more guidance than the bare minimum and you'll have a party with plot without risking too much railroading. As everyone said, how much guidance is something that will vary from group to group. Even within a group it'll vary from session to session. I ...


14

Different playstyles You virtually say that you and the GM in question do not want to play the same type of game. The answer, as with so many things, is to talk to them. But the topic should be how to get into the same style of game. If the GM is playing a mostly tactical game and expects most of the drama and fun to come in handling tactical situations, ...


13

Put the players into story telling mode. A situation with a fixed outcome is not fun to game, but it can be fun to story tell. I had a similar situation two sessions ago. We're fast forwarding through the levels because the game is coming to a close soon. The players had about a thousand miles of travel ahead of them. I figured we could skip that and ...


13

In addition to the excellent answers already posted, let me suggest that you look at the kinds of protagonists that Lovecraft wrote about; police investigators ("The Call of Cthulhu", "The Horror at Red Hook"), artists looking for unique experiences ("Pickman's Model"), and people who actually wanted to find out more about the squiggly things under the bed ...


12

It's a good idea to make sure everyone in the group understands what the point of the game is about, so they can build appropriate characters. Sometimes people go in building "survivalist" characters, which means the motivations also don't fit the genre expectations. It's also important to remember that the key point of horror stories is some point of ...


11

TALK TO YOUR DM Simply talking to your DM may entirely solve this problem. Talk before or after play, not during play; this allows the DM to plan, adapt, and see what you are talking about. Say that you feel like "all we're doing is bashing people's faces in," and you'd like to solve problems in different ways. Perhaps your should mention that you enjoy ...


11

It sounds like your problem is that your adventure's plot requires your players to have a specific set of encounters in a specific order. This kind of required linear progression is, as you have realised, a railroad. The way to avoid a railroad is not to require any or all of the encounters, and to not require them to play out in a specific order. Have you ...


10

Stop writing. :-) Think of villains and places. Feel free to write those down, but purely in terms of their past and present. You don't know their futures any more than the players know their characters' futures, so why write about that? This sounds like valadil's response, but I'm taking it a step further: don't even worry about your NPCs "doing stuff." ...


10

The wishy-washy answer is "Exactly as much as it's fun for your group". I've personally run both kinds of extremes, with the same group, having fun in both occasions. Now that we got that out of the way: I currently prefer to write down the major plot points I want to present, and improvise around them or away from them if the players lead somewhere else. ...


9

I generally start my campaigns with one or two "common thread" requirements that all the PCs must incorporate. I usually pick one Location thread and one Experience thread. For example, I might say that 'You must be living in X town at the start of the campaign' and 'You have suffered greatly at the hands of the evil Y Empire.' These threads are mandatory, ...


9

How to run this, procedurally Consider this - every week, the players show up and they manage to improvise and play, without having to preplan every "if this happens, then I'll do this". They simply look at their character sheet and improvise based on a basic understanding of their character, right? As a GM, you can do that too. Set up your characters, ...


7

It originates in the concept of rail travel: it's on tracks, you can only go forward or back. The simplest example of a railroad plot is a dungeon of one way doors that PC's can't jam open nor blast through, or the infamous "Teleport Dungeons" of both Gygax and St. Andre... You are dumped in a room, have an encounter, survive it or not, find the exit, ...


7

It's often easier (and generates more interesting stories) if there's some pre-design criteria designed to link the characters. However, it's not necessary, you can do "random folks" games fine. There's often some element of metagaming to them - most traditional D&D campaigns started with various different people in an inn and some guy shows up ...


7

1. WALK AWAY In your case, since he's on the rotation, simply opt out when he's GMing. Hopefully, you get asked why, and it starts the conversation needed. If not, well, at least you are no longer suffering his GMing. 2. Discuss with the group Don't discuss it with just him - discuss it with the group as a whole. It's a group level issue. Odds are that ...


7

There are a variety of ways to do this: Focus on the prophesy itself. If you cast doubts on the validity of the prophesy, the players may be more likely to leave it alone. For example, well-respected representatives for the forces of good declare that some of the named parties in the prophesy couldn't possibly be involved in something nefarious like that. ...


6

Have you considered asking your players? Tell them, "this frozen situation is the premise for my game. Write a character who would find himself in the situation and explain to me how he got there." If you let your players write it, it isn't really railroading anymore.


6

The only thing I would add to Sardathrion excellent response is that you can manipulate the direction of the campaign by manipulating the characters. There are several ways of doing this. The first is use the character background to increase the chance that the player will pursue certain goals. For example if the character desire is to recover a lost family ...


6

In addition to wax eagle's answer, I have one critical suggestion: Flashback These events are all in a PC's past. He's going to have to tell them about it sometime. When he does, play moves to the events of the trial. Other forms of fiction use this technique all the time, precisely to flesh out the details of events whose final outcome is known. For ...


6

Even if all the players know that one outcome is pre-determined, that does not mean that there cannot be other sources of either success or failure. The devil is in the details as they say. Maybe the family of the victim ends up being convinced (or not) of the character's innocence? Maybe the judge ends up being sympathetic but has to give a guilty ...


6

First. Make sure everyone in your group understands that this is a no win situation. I feel like if they know they cannot win from the outset they will not be too disappointed whenever what they try does not work, at least to the full extent they were hoping it would. This does not have to be stated out right, it can be more subtle, but I feel like at least ...



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