This question is related to my other question. Please see that one for campaign background, rather than me repeating it all here.

I don't want the players to feel "trapped" and forced into a "tunnel", even though it's exactly what I do. Currently, I think I achieve this, here is how I have done it.

I have created 7 different ways to bring the players into a situation where the super-being is "pushed" inescapably into "freezing" them, as a consequence of their acts. I have enticed them into getting themselves into this situation by using their archetypes. One of the players is a brute that wants to fight and the other has a very physically weak character, so he needs to protect the brute from himself. The players created those characters by themselves.

Is there a better way to achieve my main goal (bring them into the frozen situation while activating the next game situation) while not bringing a "tunnel" effect?


4 Answers 4


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.



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 of railroading because the players are party (no pun intended) to guiding the events to the pre-established conclusion.
  • Lets players know that there's a point at which the predestination stops, where they'll regain true agency
  • Invests the players in your history and worldbuilding like little else, because they took part in it!

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 rough edges. Some general rules that I kept in the forefront of my mind (even to the point of having them as stickies in front of me on my screen)

  1. Never invalidate a player's decision. That's the primary way to make the rails that they're on very visible to them; it's like they reached the invisible border in a video game.
  2. Create a flowchart that leads to your desired end, and update it as the players choose things that might lead them off the path that you set up. In order to not invalidate players' decisions, you have to be willing to create new paths towards your desired end on the fly. I use a mindmapper for this process, organically creating and connecting
  3. Realize that sometimes you're going to need time to think, and that your first decision isn't necessarily the best decision. If you're in doubt about the effect of something, be willing to take a minute to consider and make the decision. My players smoke, so calling a smoke break worked for me- maybe there's something like that you can take advantage of.
  4. Know that things won't go as smooth as you'd like all the time, and be willing to work around that. Because you can't know what every player will do in every situation, and your wits sometimes won't go as fast as events, things won't go smoothly, and you have to be willing to accept that.
  5. Less is better. The more you plot and plan to steer the players towards your goal, the more rigid your mindset will become towards the options. A skeleton of a plan that allows for a few options, and tools that you can use to help speed up the adaptation process is better than trying to rigidly plan everything.
  6. Broaden your toolbox. In some games, it can take a while to create a fully fleshed out character, but that's not the only obstacle to your creativity. Sometimes during the game, I had problems coming up with names of all things. A list of names and (depending on the game) characters that fit roles will go far in helping you to adapt to players' actions.

One last thing that I learned after the fact- that the things that I was making up were not as bad as I thought. One of the players decided to do something totally off the rails, and I had to make up a complete scene from scratch. After, I said something made someone realize that I had made it up on the spot. And they said they were really surprised, because it was their favorite scene of the night.


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 playing I would want to know that the game I signed up was set up that way. If I signed up for a fantasy game and was told "AHA, it's cyberpunk after all" I maybe pissed off.

While you cannot predict what players will do, you can hint and direct them in the right direction. So, this method requires a lot of preparation and making sure that you push the right buttons. Foreshadowing can have a great impact there but it is tricky to get right. If the players added things in their background, you can play on those. Direct the players into what would be logical decisions for them. If they do not take the bait, mention "Dude, your character has background X, why are you not playing that?"... The risk is that they will come up with good reasons for doing what they do. In a little more risky aspect, make the characters ask the super-being for a cure/favour/whatever and get frozen as a result.

The important thing here is to leave the players the illusion of choice.

You can always make the super-being take the offensive. The characters go to sleep one night, wake up a thousand years later some place else. After all, the super-being are "super" and therefore smarter and more resourceful than the characters.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, as I did it, they know which game they will play afterwards, and that they work for superbeings fighting each other. They take great pride in being "chosen" actually :p +1 for the favor/cure idea. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kheldar
    Aug 31, 2011 at 14:21

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