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50

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 ...


35

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 ...


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 ...


14

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, ...


13

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 ...


12

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 ...


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. ...


8

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, ...


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, ...


6

An extenstion of @gomad's thoughts: The play's the thing Rethink outcomes. You could flip expectations around and not make the verdict the important outcome. The outcome that matters to the new PC is: Length and Severity of the sentence. Change the injustice to being not just about guilt, a decidedly binary result, but instead be all about the nature of ...


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 ...


6

In my experience, the amount of sandboxing or railroading can be contingent on how long your gaming session happens to be. If I am running a full long session (say about 6 hours) then I think that the players prefer lots of sandboxing. I like to just put out the map and say, "Go anywhere... do anything." If I am running a shorter session (say about 3 ...


6

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 ...


5

The way I see it, I want to say "life is not fair". If you were Ceaucescu, you tried to fight even though you know the jury was going to convict you anyway. If you were Robespierre, you talked until coughing cut your speech off to try to turn the tides of history, even though you knew the rich merchants from Bordeaux had bought the Assembly. If you ...


5

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 ...


3

Depends on the gaming group. Some groups want and need a clear Focus, lest they stall and dither, and a 'standard published adventure' (in most cases providing One specific goal or setting) -- so termed for neutrality; 'railroad' has negative connotations -- is what they're accustomed to and what they need. Other groups may prefer an array of options, ...


3

I am not going to repeat the railroading vs sandbox argument above, however I submit that most games have some soft, positive railroading - the "read the pink box" section that begins any published adventure. GMs set expectations of the kind of play, because they've prepared the social event according to what they expect the players to do. One way it ...


3

I've had to do something similar before, and in my experience, you have to deal with Macro vs. Micro, and be willing to take steps away from your goal in order to make it there, and improvise on the fly. This is very hard to make a smooth experience, and the first time you do it, you'll have to be willing to take breaks in order to smooth over some of the ...


3

FLASHBACK I've said it before and I'll say it again: There's a well-established technique for letting the players in on "how it came to be this way." It has several advantages: Lets the players know from the start that what they're doing is fleshing in the details of what will become their situation, but that the situation itself is fixed. Avoids charges ...


3

Simple answer would be: Railroading should be dosed depending on the player's taste. I think you should never try to control in what direction the party is going..but if the players are walking in an area of your world you didn't prepared yet, I suggest being honest with them and say: Okay I didn't planned that, so we'll make the journey important for this ...


3

In addition to the back-story requirements others have written about, a method I use is to have an inciting event where characters no matter their background are drawn together for story purposes. The tavern they all just happen to be in is attacked by a bandits (rather than them just forming an adventuring party) and only the party and one noble is left ...


2

I started my campaign with a huge Tournament that lasted several days and consisted of several events. People had to sign up in teams of four, so I started out by telling my players that they'd met through 'Participants Wanted'-posters on the capital market place and decided to form a team. It also had the benefit of forcing them to pick a team name that I ...


2

No, you don't have to railroad them 'a little bit'. You need players who's characters have ambitions in life (beyond drinking in a tavern...unless they have no money) and the players simply pursue their PC's ambition. When they complete their ambition, they are done. No 'I wanna play forever' - if you want forever, then just railroad it. If your players ...


2

I bet that your players will find option 8, then go for option 9! ^_- You could tell them that the end game (of part one) is kinda planned and thus you will need them to go to Location X where X will be apparent when they get there. It is getting the players to meta decision what their characters will do but that is no bad things. Of course, if I was ...


2

To get the outcome you want, can you have a set of bigger and bigger obstacles in their way until they give up, with the option that if they don't give up something much worse than simply losing the case will happen. The fun can be seeing when the party realises that there is no way to win and switches from winning the case to saving their skin. For ...


1

As many others have said, its largely a matter of taste. I know some players that hate railroading and want a sandbox style of play. Some of them want to go so far as deemphasize the DM's role and the sessions come close to collaborative writing done verbally. But they enjoy them and in a game that is what matters. Personally, I prefer much more of a ...


1

It is a matter of taste and circumstances of the campaign. It is the same amount of work to create a campaign as a linked series of adventures, as it would to offer complete freedom of choice. Since the freeform campaign is less commonly known a detailed explanation is needed. The free form nature of role-playing games are difficult to manage. It is ...


1

I’m confused. The other players are also part of this event or are not? What people are trying to express here, is the concept that your event becomes flat and dull if the focus is overly on getting to the end. Your question is bothersome for its lack of details. Since we have no clue as to the importance of this event to the character, we’re left only to ...


1

Note I use "accused" here to mean the character who is on trial in the flashback. Have the group (maybe even the "accused") play the prosecution and/or witness(es) against. Then it becomes the party's goal to see that injustice happens. This way the players "win" by achieving the historical result. Maybe different people have different goals... if the ...



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