Nah, We'll Pass...

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of course there are those that will say there is nothing gained by losing the exploration of the unknown that occurs with collaborating on the content one is going to take part in...and this is a bold faced lie. It is a lie that is necessary because the truth undermines not only a healthy portion of D&D's thematic genre (delving into the unknown) but that chips away at the very foundation of roleplaying games appeal. Saying that it is only important that the characters be surprised and that it is immaterial whether or not the players are so deeply misses the point of roleplaying that it makes a lot of other nonsensical statements that go along with that notion make far more sense.

While I agree that it is more fun (as a player) to explore the unknown, I think you are very heavily over-exaggerating here. I've played in a lot of games/storytelling with no DMs - in it either everyone has a rough idea what will happen ("Our characters will take this mission because it's in Russia" or "Wouldn't it be awesome if we got to fight vampires in our next mission") or no idea ("Let's go on a mission! We'll make it up as we go along"). Each person has the responsibility (and ability) to drive the story forward, make complications and make resolutions. Playing in this way has not destroyed the foundations of roleplaying games, only given me a better sense of storytelling. I feel this no DM system is similar in part to Iserith's "yes, and" system of partial player creation. The boredom only set in when some players spent too long 'planning', and not enough time 'doing.'

That said, in DnD I enjoy exploring other people's worlds. Only because the 4e rule system was set up with the omnipotent DM in mind.

As an aside: In anyone aware of a good game system that could be played on a long road trip? I'm assuming it'd have to be heavy RP with minimal dice rolling.  DM optional.

Let me be simple: There should be NO seperation between player and character.

I agree it is more fun when the player is also exploring, but I disagree about the seperation.

There should often be one - my lvl 1 character probably doesn't know about the resist 10 necrotic that all Lich have, but I the player do. Similarly I am not amazingly charismatic or have a good singing voice, but my bard does. Rolling a natural 20 I could say he sings so well that woodland animals come to land on his shoulders - it would amuse me, but in character the bard would be awed. A seperation is why the 'R' is in 'RP.'

I will on occasion prepare an encounter I don't intend to use, in an environment I am completely unfamiliar with, with traps, challenges and monsters I have not used before, in combinations I haven't used before. I will build labyrinthian complexes and then toss it into a pile of unused maps I have been collecting for years, why? To keep my improv sharp.

How does detailed prepping help your improv? Do you mean you have now learned a cool combination you can use later?
I agree it is more fun when the player is also exploring, but I disagree about the seperation.

There should often be one - my lvl 1 character probably doesn't know about the resist 10 necrotic that all Lich have, but I the player do. Similarly I am not amazingly charismatic or have a good singing voice, but my bard does. Rolling a natural 20 I could say he sings so well that woodland animals come to land on his shoulders - it would amuse me, but in character the bard would be awed. A seperation is why the 'R' is in 'RP.'



This whole heatedly. The idea that a player and their character should be in constant concert with one another promotes metagaming habits, and defeats the whole purpose of roleplaying entirely. Just because I, as a DM, know that any given situation in a prefab adventure will likely end up going in a particular direction doesn't mean my character should react as such when the actual roleplay experience is part of my fun as a player. I might be inclined to agree that those that are there mostly for the gaming aspects wouldn't see much point in separating character and player knowledge too readily, but if you're going to enjoy the story, suspension of disbelief is vital. It's the same with any other medium. Knowing where a book will be going does not automatically make it any less of an exciting read. Knowing where a movie is headed does not automatically make the climax and worse off than if it was a complete surprise. Knowing that there will be Kobolds in the dungeon doesn't make it less interesting to face off against them and their plots.

Player immersion does not require character buy in. It requires player buy in. That I find something exciting and fun does not guarantee the character feels the same way, and vice versa. They are not synonymous with one another.
I think you guys misunderstand what Yagami meant by that. Yagami, correct me if I'm wrong, but you mean the player should become the character and act only within the limits of that character, no? In that regard, there should be no seperation.

While the seperation of player knowledge and character knowledge is encouraged to aid better roleplaying?
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Ah... Well if that's the case that would make a bit more sense.
Zippy-zippy,

To answer your question, yes.  I think its useful to build detailed encounters even if you don't plan on using them, because it makes you more familiar with traps, puzzles, monsters, layouts, etc.  But using them may actually constrict the players ability to explore at their own discretion.  That and my prepared encounters are exceptionally lethal.  I have a much better sense of what the PC's can survive or overcome on the fly. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
While I agree that it is more fun (as a player) to explore the unknown, I think you are very heavily over-exaggerating here. I've played in a lot of games/storytelling with no DMs - in it either everyone has a rough idea what will happen ("Our characters will take this mission because it's in Russia" or "Wouldn't it be awesome if we got to fight vampires in our next mission") or no idea ("Let's go on a mission! We'll make it up as we go along"). Each person has the responsibility (and ability) to drive the story forward, make complications and make resolutions. Playing in this way has not destroyed the foundations of roleplaying games, only given me a better sense of storytelling. I feel this no DM system is similar in part to Iserith's "yes, and" system of partial player creation. The boredom only set in when some players spent too long 'planning', and not enough time 'doing.'



Yes, and none of this removes all mystery, suspence, or exploration from the game as you say. The process is simply different than in the traditional adventure game model.

That said, in DnD I enjoy exploring other people's worlds. Only because the 4e rule system was set up with the omnipotent DM in mind.



Collaboration and "Yes, and..." are actually discussed in the 4e DMG's.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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I can guess at what they want and be right most of the time. Or I can ask and be right all of the time. I don't see the downside.



I don't know how you handle normal social interaction, but reading people, particularly friends, is not so difficult as to be "guessing". Read and React to your players. These are basic social skills.

More importantly, rather the railroad them (either by forcing them or getting "buy-in" to do so) I prefer to give Players as wide a range of options as possible, allowing them to make real choices for their characters, and give myself room to improvise and adapt. What is "right" is what they choose to do in the game.

And I'm saying I'm not putting pen to paper until I know what they want. Why create content you're not sure they're going to like? You yourself say that improvisation is worse than prepared content. (I don't agree with that, but let's use your assumptions for a moment here.) So why would you risk having to improvise because you created your content in a vacuum and have no guarantee the players will show an interest in it?



First, Players know as much and as little about what they "want" as the DM does.  They really can't know if they don't want that content until they are in it. Secondly there is no "vacuum" in reading and reacting to the players. If they don't accept the NPC's offer, then I ask them what they are doing and roll with it. based on their choices, in game, I will adapt my content accordingly.

Example:
 
NPC: After you storm the Tower and get the Amulet of Someevildeitywithalousyplot and bring it back to us, we will be able to use it to defeat the  Dark wizard forever, Wuahahahhahhaha

PCs: Um, ya, well, good luck with that, sorry we can't do that at this time, and good day.

DM: You are turning him down flat? What will you all be doing then?

PCs: Well you did mention there was troubles with the Orcs raiding setlers and small towns, we're going to travel out there and see if we can do something about that....

Conclusion: the Players aren't interested in being pawns between one faction and the other, they are looking for to be more ultruistic heroes, So while they deal with some Orcs I will adpat the material to make it more Heroic and represent it to them from another, more altruistic, source.

That is an example of what I am getting at, I've prepared enough of the setting to give them options, so improvising is not a problem because i have a good framework to use. A good DM can Read, React, Improvise and Adapt to the Players, Shaping the plot to fit with the PC's behaviour.

They're limited only be their imaginations and the fiction that has been established previously by the others. It really has nothing to do with some quest I came up with to run them through.



Not really an answer to what do you do if half way through a fight the PCs ignore your enemy's and start fighting different ones that they decide are there. "I attack the Hobgoblin Ninjas"   
  
The reason you don't want me to use the word properly, I think, is because you're doing exactly that - railroading - but you can't admit it to yourself. It's okay, man. It's just a tool. As long as you have your players' consent to do it.  It doesn't make you a bad DM, so you can stop with the denial. It's not my preference, but DMs who toil away at making plots set themselves up for needing to use this tool, in one form or another. You just don't consider the particular railroading you're doing to be railroading.



The reason it is a bad term is because "railroading" is used to express when the DM forces the players, mostly WITHOUT there consent. I don't consider what I am doing, or suggest doing for others as Railroading, because I believe Railroading to be one of the worse DM traits possible, it's a game as a player I would walk away from.

Reading and reacting to the players and adapting your material to them is not railroading.

It's everyone's job to make it interesting. I think you abdicate your part in that when they go off your plots so that they get bored and go back to what you have prepared. No wonder you consider prepared content better than improvisation.



That is quite a  conclusion to get from Reading and Reacting to the Players and adpating the material to suit their choices and goals. What the players choose to do tells the DM alot about what their goals are, and he can identify their needs and adapt his material accordingly. I also have repeatedly stated that the better developed setting will allow players to make interesting choices. 

Your prepared material can be adapted to have what the players want, so you can let them run their subplot (a good time to find out what they want) and adapt that material and bring them back to it. Or if the Players come up with more interesting pursuits, you can file it for some other game and follow that instead.

To improvise, all one needs is imagination, collaboration, a good resource like the Compendium, and to shed one's fear of losing control. Well, that and practice.



And preperation, lots and lots of preperation. The more tools you have at yoru disposal the better you can improvise with. Prepare your material with room to adapt it. Adapting material to imrpovise is a thousand times more effective then improvising new material  

Do you mean adapt your material so that "all roads lead to Rome?"



No, rather I create an organic world with multiple different roads to Rome, with room for other roads created by the PC, and leave what they want to do with Rome when they get there open, as  well as have other destinations planned should they want something else. Players can follow my plot hooks or create their own, I will Read and React accordingly, identify their goals and needs and adapt to it accordingly.


Lets loook at this
You've got some set piece encounters with tough monsters, maps and handouts, some quirky NPCs, and (you hope) an engaging plot that should carry you through this session if not the next one, too.



Will your improvised material have maps and handouts? etc etc? Well then Prepared material is superior to improvised material right there. If you don't run this plot, will what the players do instead be as involved or as engaging or enough to carry you through this session if not the next one? 

This is important because after they finish whatever it is they want to do instead, you will need to offer them up a new plot hook, thats why it is a good idea to use this time to identify what it is they want or need and then adapt accordingly. You should be able to adapt your material to meet those needs and present it again using other means (such as placing the plot hook elsewhere, but adapted to what they are after) or abandon the plot altogether to come up with something else.

Your NPC quest-giver provides some context for adventure and begs the PCs help him resolve the situation in exchange for a reasonable reward. The players decide they're not interested in that and turn the quest-giver down.



Why did they turn him down? Is the NPC's goals in line with theirs, do they agree with how he want's them to "resolve" the situation, do the players think the reward is "reasonable" You could get buy-in and skip this, but you loose the opportunity to instead adapt the material to the Player's choices. Could they negotiate a better reward? Could they find a different way to resolve the situation? Is there are different party they could do this for?  Are there loose ties they want to deal with before moving on to this quest? Why abandon good material if the situation is salvagable?

Asking them what they are going to do and running with it, and then adapting the material to fit their needs if possible is not railroading. It is far better then railroading the players with "buy in" and skipping the opportunities for them to make and effect  choices  in the game.
   
    
Props, maps, handouts, NPC profiles, or whatever, don't necessarily make a game better than one that doesn't have those things, because a game can have all those things and fall utterly flat for the players. Make them, if you enjoy them, but entertain no illusions that any of them will see the light of day in your games, or get the reaction you expect if they do. That way lies frustation and resentment.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Props, maps, handouts, NPC profiles, or whatever, don't necessarily make a game better than one that doesn't have those things, because a game can have all those things and fall utterly flat for the players. Make them, if you enjoy them, but entertain no illusions that any of them will see the light of day in your games, or get the reaction you expect if they do. That way lies frustation and resentment.



Not really, no. I've never once been frustrated or resented something if my players weren't interested in what I made. Why would you be?
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I don't know how you handle normal social interaction, but reading people, particularly friends, is not so difficult as to be "guessing". Read and React to your players. These are basic social skills.



So is directly asking people for their input.

More importantly, rather the railroad them (either by forcing them or getting "buy-in" to do so) I prefer to give Players as wide a range of options as possible, allowing them to make real choices for their characters, and give myself room to improvise and adapt. What is "right" is what they choose to do in the game.



What is right is what they say they want in a game and what they choose to do in that game.

First, Players know as much and as little about what they "want" as the DM does.  They really can't know if they don't want that content until they are in it.



Sure they can. It's very easy. You ask, they tell you.

Secondly there is no "vacuum" in reading and reacting to the players. If they don't accept the NPC's offer, then I ask them what they are doing and roll with it. based on their choices, in game, I will adapt my content accordingly.

Example:
 
NPC: After you storm the Tower and get the Amulet of Someevildeitywithalousyplot and bring it back to us, we will be able to use it to defeat the  Dark wizard forever, Wuahahahhahhaha

PCs: Um, ya, well, good luck with that, sorry we can't do that at this time, and good day.

DM: You are turning him down flat? What will you all be doing then?

PCs: Well you did mention there was troubles with the Orcs raiding setlers and small towns, we're going to travel out there and see if we can do something about that....

Conclusion: the Players aren't interested in being pawns between one faction and the other, they are looking for to be more ultruistic heroes, So while they deal with some Orcs I will adpat the material to make it more Heroic and represent it to them from another, more altruistic, source.

That is an example of what I am getting at, I've prepared enough of the setting to give them options, so improvising is not a problem because i have a good framework to use. A good DM can Read, React, Improvise and Adapt to the Players, Shaping the plot to fit with the PC's behaviour.



I can do the same thing, whether I've mentioned a problem with orcs before or whether the players just made it up on the spot as a challenge they'd like to overcome. This thread and previous threads along the same lines indicate you have all roads lead back to Rome or that you consider your prepared plots better than improvised content because your improvised content is made boring on purpose to get the players back to your plots. In other words, railroading.

Not really an answer to what do you do if half way through a fight the PCs ignore your enemy's and start fighting different ones that they decide are there. "I attack the Hobgoblin Ninjas"



So they're stating content they want to engage with. Bring on the ninjas! Of course, it would have to be in line with "Yes, and..." principles, meaning it can't have contradicted existing fiction. And they'd have to deal with complications arising from ignoring the enemies with which they are already engaged, as determined by the mechanics and agreed-upon failure conditions (should it come up).
  
The reason it is a bad term is because "railroading" is used to express when the DM forces the players, mostly WITHOUT there consent. I don't consider what I am doing, or suggest doing for others as Railroading, because I believe Railroading to be one of the worse DM traits possible, it's a game as a player I would walk away from.



I think you just classify your particular form of railroading as something other than it is.

Reading and reacting to the players and adapting your material to them is not railroading.



It can be, if all roads lead back to Rome, for example.

Adapting material to imrpovise is a thousand times more effective then improvising new material



I disagree.

No, rather I create an organic world with multiple different roads to Rome, with room for other roads created by the PC, and leave what they want to do with Rome when they get there open, as  well as have other destinations planned should they want something else. Players can follow my plot hooks or create their own, I will Read and React accordingly, identify their goals and needs and adapt to it accordingly.



Everything still seems to be going to Rome though.

Will your improvised material have maps and handouts? etc etc? Well then Prepared material is superior to improvised material right there. If you don't run this plot, will what the players do instead be as involved or as engaging or enough to carry you through this session if not the next one?



Yes, my improvised material has maps. All easily created as needed, even collaboratively, so that the players have a hand in what features might be in a given combat encounter. And world maps we create on the fly very easily. Handouts I find less value in and don't use them often, but I don't see why they couldn't be created on the fly, too. Even by the players, especially those who have an interest and flair for that sort of thing. 

As to the rest, I don't use plots. They're not necessary.

This is important because after they finish whatever it is they want to do instead, you will need to offer them up a new plot hook, thats why it is a good idea to use this time to identify what it is they want or need and then adapt accordingly.



I don't need to offer them a plot hook if I don't use plots.

You should be able to adapt your material to meet those needs and present it again using other means (such as placing the plot hook elsewhere, but adapted to what they are after) or abandon the plot altogether to come up with something else.



All roads lead to Rome and so do all choices, I guess, huh? That's fine with buy-in. But don't call it anything other than what it is - railroading. Also fine with buy-in.

Why did they turn him down? Is the NPC's goals in line with theirs, do they agree with how he want's them to "resolve" the situation, do the players think the reward is "reasonable" You could get buy-in and skip this, but you loose the opportunity to instead adapt the material to the Player's choices. Could they negotiate a better reward? Could they find a different way to resolve the situation? Is there are different party they could do this for?  Are there loose ties they want to deal with before moving on to this quest? Why abandon good material if the situation is salvagable?



I would directly ask them questions like this. But again, I don't use plots, plot hooks, or quest givers, so it would rarely come up if ever.

Asking them what they are going to do and running with it, and then adapting the material to fit their needs if possible is not railroading. It is far better then railroading the players with "buy in" and skipping the opportunities for them to make and effect  choices  in the game.



I've shown in several posts where what you're doing is likely railroading, but you just can't admit it to yourself. It's okay, man. If your players enjoy your game, railroad all you like.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Eh, it's not railroading.

Railroading means there's only one path and the players must follow that path regardless of what they choose.

If there are multiple ways to reach the final destination and any combination of things can happen to the players between points A and B, then it's not railroading. It's especially not railroading if the path they took alters the contents of the destination.

For example:

The players need to get to dark castle 1. But on the way there, they decided to stop off in a town for a bit and rescue it from some bad ass orcs. While they were busy and not messing with the dark castle, it got darker. Or possibly turned into rainbow and unicorn castle Zeta.

If railroading had been involved, they would have never had the option to save the town. And the castle wouldn't have had a chance to change. 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Railroading is not inherently bad. If the players want to be on those rails, they're not likely to mind, even if they notice. Players who don't want to be on those rails are the ones who will definitely notice and be displeased. If they know their players and what they want (such as by asking explicitly), a DM can railroad without issue or shame.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

However many stops there are or however many times you change trains on the way to the final predetermined destination has very little to do with the existence of the rail. If you have a plot, you have a rail. If you push them to get on that plot (and there are many, many ways to do this some of which are more obvious than others), you're railroading. And as Centauri mentions, it's not a bad thing if your players accept it and buy-in.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Props, maps, handouts, NPC profiles, or whatever, don't necessarily make a game better than one that doesn't have those things, because a game can have all those things and fall utterly flat for the players. Make them, if you enjoy them, but entertain no illusions that any of them will see the light of day in your games, or get the reaction you expect if they do. That way lies frustation and resentment.



No, they don't always make the game better, but I've never seen where they've made the game worse either. Nor has a pre-drawn dungeon map for an encounter ever being poorly received or complained about.

Any material can fall utterly flat for the players, improvised or prepared, so that realy isn't relevant. 

Nor does everything I prepare see the light of day, that is what I mean by fully developing the setting, it means preparing content for alternate choices, allowing for multiple solutions to resolve plots, and plots that may or may not ever emerge (which I sometimes recycle in later games if unused)


Impoovising to adapt existing, prepared material is better then improvising new, random, material.  
Railroading is not inherently bad. If the players want to be on those rails, they're not likely to mind, even if they notice. Players who don't want to be on those rails are the ones who will definitely notice and be displeased. If they know their players and what they want (such as by asking explicitly), a DM can railroad without issue or shame.



Yes it is inherently bad, because the term explicitly relates to the player NOT wanting to be on that train, it means to be FORCED onto that path, just like a train MUST follow the rail, cannot deviate from the path and MUST make all the stops schedualed, no matter what the player wants or tries to do.

It very explicitely refers to a forcing the player, as in the phrase "being ran over by the train", "being railroaded" as a train is seen as being unstoppable.

If the DM has provided interesting content, and the Players willingly follow that content because that is where they want to go, then that is not railroading. The players are doing what they want to do and the DM is giving them what they want. It's a specific style of DMing jerkery that most are opposed to.

Ideally to satisfy what the players want, the DM will create content that goes in the direction the players are wanting to go, and give them options to blaze the trail of their choosing. Adapting a plot to fit what the players want is not railroading, it's reading and reacting.
Props, maps, handouts, NPC profiles, or whatever, don't necessarily make a game better than one that doesn't have those things, because a game can have all those things and fall utterly flat for the players. Make them, if you enjoy them, but entertain no illusions that any of them will see the light of day in your games, or get the reaction you expect if they do. That way lies frustation and resentment.



No, they don't always make the game better, but I've never seen where they've made the game worse either. Nor has a pre-drawn dungeon map for an encounter ever being poorly received or complained about.

Any material can fall utterly flat for the players, improvised or prepared, so that realy isn't relevant. 

Nor does everything I prepare see the light of day, that is what I mean by fully developing the setting, it means preparing content for alternate choices, allowing for multiple solutions to resolve plots, and plots that may or may not ever emerge (which I sometimes recycle in later games if unused)


Impoovising to adapt existing, prepared material is better then improvising new, random, material.  



It is possible to make a game worse by presenting a map, once the map is presented to the players it becomes a script.  It is harder to deviate from prepared material that has been revealed to the players, and to often preparing material is synonymous with scripting.

You can never prepare enough content for every conceivable alternate choice.  Which means again that often preperation means scripting, you may in fact be giving the players choices from a predetermined list, but not free will. 

The last point is just flat out false and a complete straw man.  Please explain how totally improv material is necessarily random?  Take a short story for example, typically under ten pages.  Many authors can write a short story on command and may never actually review it before publishing.  This does not mean that the story is somehow incoherent, random, or poor in comparison to something someone labored over.  Especially if that labor is focused on controlling variables, i.e. the players.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
Yes it is inherently bad, because the term explicitly relates to the player NOT wanting to be on that train, it means to be FORCED onto that path, just like a train MUST follow the rail, cannot deviate from the path and MUST make all the stops schedualed, no matter what the player wants or tries to do.



Some players like and expect that. I can even enjoy a game like that if the DM has created a good rail.  I wouldn't DM for a game like that, however.

If the DM has provided interesting content, and the Players willingly follow that content because that is where they want to go, then that is not railroading. The players are doing what they want to do and the DM is giving them what they want. It's a specific style of DMing jerkery that most are opposed to.

Ideally to satisfy what the players want, the DM will create content that goes in the direction the players are wanting to go, and give them options to blaze the trail of their choosing. Adapting a plot to fit what the players want is not railroading, it's reading and reacting.



Plot is content, but content does not necessarily mean you have a plot. If you have a plot - a predetermined sequence of events however complex - you have a rail. If you have a rail, you might railroad, even inadvertently. It's just that simple. To avoid that (if that's what you and your players want to do), don't create plots.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

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It is possible to make a game worse by presenting a map, once the map is presented to the players it becomes a script.  It is harder to deviate from prepared material that has been revealed to the players, and to often preparing material is synonymous with scripting.



True that, but how to make such materials work without scripting the PC's choices is a seperate topic.  But somethign i have said before here is preparing material with room to improvise. In the case of a map, I would recomend it being an old map, with enough inaccuracy of scale/vagueness to allow for changes. Mostly handouts are simply to hand over larger volumes of information without having them have to listen to it at length, or waste game time with.

You can never prepare enough content for every conceivable alternate choice.  Which means again that often preperation means scripting, you may in fact be giving the players choices from a predetermined list, but not free will. 



No, you can't prepare for every choice they make, but you can predict and prepare a good many of them, or prepare enough content to know the general situation and have something to improvise with.

The last point is just flat out false and a complete straw man.  Please explain how totally improv material is necessarily random?  Take a short story for example, typically under ten pages.  Many authors can write a short story on command and may never actually review it before publishing.  This does not mean that the story is somehow incoherent, random, or poor in comparison to something someone labored over.  Especially if that labor is focused on controlling variables, i.e. the players.



Which is more known, "A Tale of Two Cities" or "A House to Let?" Effort will produce results, and it is silly to say otherwise. Totally improvised material can be and often is good. I am saying that preparation will provide tools to make improvision easier and better, I don't see that as a straw man.

Quoted from one of the articles in my signature because I think it lays it out very well:


DON’T PLAN SPECIFIC CONTINGENCIES: Whatever approach you take, the key aspect is that you’ll usually be laying out what would happen if the PCs don’t get involved. If you get some ideas about contingency plans, go ahead and jot them down, but don’t waste too much time on them.

I say “waste your time” because that’s exactly what most contingency planning is. The basic structure of contingency planning is: If the PCs interfere at point X, then the bad guys do X2. If the PCs interfere at point Y, then the bad guys do Y2. If the PCs interfere at point Z, then the bad guys do Z2.

Of course, if the PCs don’t interfere at point X, then all the time you spent prepping contingency X2 is completely wasted. Even more importantly, if the PCs do interfere at point X then point Y and point Z will generally be fundamentally altered or even cease to exist — so all the prep work that went into Y2 and Z2 is also wasted.

This is where situation-based prep usually gets maligned for requiring more work: People think they need to try to prepare themselves for every conceivable action the PCs might take. But, in point of fact, that’s not situation-based prep. That’s plot-based prep juiced up on Choose Your Own Adventure steroids. It’s the type of prep you would need to do if you were programming a computer game.

But you’re not programming a computer game. You’re prepping a scenario for a roleplaying game. When the PCs choose to do X or Y or Z (or A or B or C), you don’t need a pre-programmed reaction. You’re sitting right there at the table with them. You can just react.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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MrCustomer,

Comparing the popularity of a novel to a short story is not a method for determining quality, a lot of popular stuff is total garbage, twilight for example.  Not to mention they are not quite they don't appeal to the same demographic.

I suppose that we both prepare, we differ in how...you prepare material, I prepare myself.  Not to say that those are exclusive, I'm sure its a bit of a mix, but it is a different method.  You could say that you focus on the content, I focus on a skill. 

Would you agree with that?

...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
I think you guys misunderstand what Yagami meant by that. Yagami, correct me if I'm wrong, but you mean the player should become the character and act only within the limits of that character, no? In that regard, there should be no seperation.

While the seperation of player knowledge and character knowledge is encouraged to aid better roleplaying?



I do not overly care about the seperation of player and character knowledge so long as it does not infringe on another players ability to play their character as they see fit. For instance, if someone wants to be sneaky about something, the other player at the table choosing THAT MOMENT to get suspicious and start snooping on them is, frankly, rude.

The only other issue I have with such situations is when players try to use OOC knowledge to justify doing something in-character. Things like "Well we are only level X so these guys couldn't be Y" sort of game-thinking. And the reason I don't like it is because it is a stupid approach and it can get people dead.

But yes the player should become the character. Acting within the limits of a character and acting through them is a HUGE TASK unto itself. It should demand all of the players attention. They should be able to devote their attention and effort towards it without having to worry about creating, populating and, effectively, running the game in even minor ways for the DM (who apparently can't fulfill their own role well enough to do so on their own) because that takes away from the player experience.

If the players have to take away from their character to do work that is supposed to be the DMs job that is a disservice to the players. Period.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Props, maps, handouts, NPC profiles, or whatever, don't necessarily make a game better than one that doesn't have those things, because a game can have all those things and fall utterly flat for the players. Make them, if you enjoy them, but entertain no illusions that any of them will see the light of day in your games, or get the reaction you expect if they do. That way lies frustation and resentment.



Not really, no. I've never once been frustrated or resented something if my players weren't interested in what I made. Why would you be?



Don't bother. He's using fallacious reasoning.

THAT something could still be bad with greater effort does not mean less effort and greater effort are equivalent.

An excellently run game with excellently used props will always be better than an excellently run game without props.

He is also making an assumption that DMs WILL become frustrated. Sounds more like a personal problem though.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

If the players have to take away from their character to do work that is supposed to be the DMs job that is a disservice to the players. Period.

As someone who strongly adheres to collaborative mapping, I disagree entirely.  I find that encouraging players to engage in the various scenes can be a powerful way to pull them in and participate, and I see no harm in having the players stop acting as their characters and instead being a mini-DM for a moment, allowing them to shape the map or scene.

The main issue is that it takes a lot of trust between DM and players to have this happen well, but otherwise I see nothing wrong with giving players "work that is supposedly the DMs job".
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57047238 wrote:
If you're crossing the street and see a city bus barreling straight toward you with 'GIVE ME YOUR WALLET!' painted across its windshield, you probably won't be reaching for your wallet.
I Don't Always Play Strikers...But When I Do, I Prefer Vampire Stay Thirsty, My Friends
This is what I believe is the spirit of D&D 4E, and my deal breaker for D&D Next: equal opportunities, with distinct specializations, in areas where conflict happens the most often, without having to worry about heavy micromanagement or system mastery. What I hope to be my most useful contributions to the D&D Community: DM Idea: Collaborative Mapping, Classless 4E (homebrew system, that hopefully helps in D&D Next development), Gamma World 7E random character generator (by yours truly), and the Concept of Perfect Imbalance (for D&D Next and other TRPGs in development) Pre-3E D&D should be recognized for what they were: simulation wargames where people could tell stories with The Best Answer to "Why 4E?" Fun vs. Engaging
If the players have to take away from their character to do work that is supposed to be the DMs job that is a disservice to the players. Period.

As someone who strongly adheres to collaborative mapping, I disagree entirely.  I find that encouraging players to engage in the various scenes can be a powerful way to pull them in and participate, and I see no harm in having the players stop acting as their characters and instead being a mini-DM for a moment, allowing them to shape the map or scene.

The main issue is that it takes a lot of trust between DM and players to have this happen well, but otherwise I see nothing wrong with giving players "work that is supposedly the DMs job".

Right. I find it far more immersive for me to tell the DM what I see, than for the DM to tell me what I see. But the only way I can do that is if what I tell the DM is guaranteed to be right, to be something the DM can work with and build from. And the only way that can be guaranteed is if the DM and I are on the same page (edit: in terms of tone and mood and established fiction) and trust each other to strive for an entertaining game, rather than a game of "gotcha."

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

If the players have to take away from their character to do work that is supposed to be the DMs job that is a disservice to the players. Period.

As someone who strongly adheres to collaborative mapping, I disagree entirely.  I find that encouraging players to engage in the various scenes can be a powerful way to pull them in and participate, and I see no harm in having the players stop acting as their characters and instead being a mini-DM for a moment, allowing them to shape the map or scene.

The main issue is that it takes a lot of trust between DM and players to have this happen well, but otherwise I see nothing wrong with giving players "work that is supposedly the DMs job".

Right. I find it far more immersive for me to tell the DM what I see, than for the DM to tell me what I see. But the only way I can do that is if what I tell the DM is guaranteed to be right, to be something the DM can work with and build from. And the only way that can be guaranteed is if the DM and I are on the same page (edit: in terms of tone and mood and established fiction) and trust each other to strive for an entertaining game, rather than a game of "gotcha."



Which is exactly why the collaborative only works in select groups, unfortunately not all groups will reach this level of collaboration, great when it happens-but its not always possible or even preferrable. 

...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
The many pick-up groups for whom I DM when I'm not doing so for my regulars must thirst for collaboration like this then because they're lapping it up and asking for more. Either that or I'm extremely lucky to find random groups of people of varying ages and gaming experience who all dig it. Ancedotal? Certainly. But this is what I'm seeing.

I'm not saying it's right for everyone, but I think it's selling the approach short to suggest that it only works in select groups. Many people like to contribute and see their ideas in play and don't need a dividing line to tell them where their contributions can begin and must end (at their characters).

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The many pick-up groups for whom I DM when I'm not doing so for my regulars must thirst for collaboration like this then because they're lapping it up and asking for more. Either that or I'm extremely lucky to find random groups of people of varying ages and gaming experience who all dig it. Ancedotal? Certainly. But this is what I'm seeing.

I'm not saying it's right for everyone, but I think it's selling the approach short to suggest that it only works in select groups. Many people like to contribute and see their ideas in play and don't need a dividing line to tell them where their contributions can begin and must end (at their characters).



I've played with a ton of different groups, I can only speak to my experience and I'd say it works in about half the groups I've played with.  A lot of it comes down to the DM selling the style, and honestly, I enjoy mixing it up so I don't always run the same way.  I've had it vary from being wildly successful to a total failure, it really depends on the group-well, players within the group.  It really only takes one player trying to screw the game or DM to slow the game progression down or upset other players at the table, so I personally believe that more than half of the players would like to play that way, but because of a minority of outliers it sometimes prevents it.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
If the players have to take away from their character to do work that is supposed to be the DMs job that is a disservice to the players. Period.

As someone who strongly adheres to collaborative mapping, I disagree entirely.  I find that encouraging players to engage in the various scenes can be a powerful way to pull them in and participate, and I see no harm in having the players stop acting as their characters and instead being a mini-DM for a moment, allowing them to shape the map or scene.

The main issue is that it takes a lot of trust between DM and players to have this happen well, but otherwise I see nothing wrong with giving players "work that is supposedly the DMs job".



Actually, what you're discussing requires less trust as it reduces the barriers between roles at the table. In doing so, it means the players do not have to trust the DM as implicitly as they would otherwise because of the amount of control they get to exercise. The DM also need not trust that the players will respect that he is acting in the games best interests and adjudicating as fairly as possible.

The disconnect you're experiencing is that you experience less distrust with your style but that does not indicate an increase in trust. To illustrate this, note how there was mention earlier of "That way lies frustation and resentment."...and that is the voice of someone who IMPLICITLY mis-trusts DMs because he believes (probably because he feels that way) that a DM whose material goes unused will build up resentment towards his players for them "picking wrong" in a way that is not in accordance with what the DM has pre-prepared. Really, that is a symptom of the person...not of the system. You see, that sort of sentiment is so telling it's amazing. What it says is "When I write material that isn't used I become frustrated and resentful"...that is then projected outward on all other DMs so as to spare the self criticism for how one feels.

There was a point when I would have felt similarly...but I matured beyond that. I never feel resentment towards my players when I create something for right and they choose left now. Not even close. Instead, I revel in their ability to do as they please...and I rejoice that they are pushing ahead in ANY direction. I trust my players to play their characters...to make the decisions they want to make...to try to play to the best of their ability...to engage in what interests them...and to trust me. That means I do not have to blur any lines regarding roles. That means I am free to provide them the lens through which to view the game world...and they are free to choose as they please and to live the lives of their characters as they see fit.

So you have a system of "cooperation" where the illusion of trust (hmm illusion of trust...illusion of choice...how odd...) exists in the same way that M.A.D. creates the illusion of peace.

And, the best part of all of this? I've used the same system being bandied about so often...but I haven't found anyone here willing to DM like me. Like I do currently. So, I guess I'm the most qualified expert 'round these parts on several different styles...at least from an experience point of view. Not only did I DM that style, I did so with excellent feedback from the experience. In fact, if I could get some people together for some good Marvel Comics roleplay I'd do it again (in a slightly more limited way) whether it be as the player or the DM...but that isn't in the cards for the time being and that's a-okay because I'm running D&D...and doing so as brilliantly as I possibly can. And working my rear off to do it. The latter makes the former so very much worth it.

Of course...not many people would know about the former unless they're willing to try my latter...right? Anyone up for it? Chaosfang? Hmm?

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Which is exactly why the collaborative only works in select groups, unfortunately not all groups will reach this level of collaboration, great when it happens-but its not always possible or even preferrable.

I haven't found that it requires any more trust than I'd want from anyone I'm willing to play any game with. But I'll admit that I'm much choosier now that I know I don't have to play with despicable people in order to play at all.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Which is exactly why the collaborative only works in select groups, unfortunately not all groups will reach this level of collaboration, great when it happens-but its not always possible or even preferrable.

I haven't found that it requires any more trust than I'd want from anyone I'm willing to play any game with. But I'll admit that I'm much choosier now that I know I don't have to play with despicable people in order to play at all.



I wouldn't describe them as despicable, some of them are good friends-just a tad overzealous when it comes to the game, and since I really enjoy producing the narrative for different scenes, and my players enjoy it too-I don't actively seek out collaborative games.  I happen to enjoy the role of DM so I don't generally try to undermine it, but I'm also flexible enough to engage in a collaborative game.  I just find that most of the people who desire it tend to be more mature and experienced gamers.  It is not necessarily how I would choose to introduce a new player to Pathfinder or D&D, especially a shy one. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
It really only takes one player trying to screw the game or DM to slow the game progression down or upset other players at the table, so I personally believe that more than half of the players would like to play that way, but because of a minority of outliers it sometimes prevents it.



I would imagine players and DMs of those sorts can make any particular style a misery.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The disconnect you're experiencing is that you experience less distrust with your style but that does not indicate an increase in trust. To illustrate this, note how there was mention earlier of "That way lies frustation and resentment."...and that is the voice of someone who IMPLICITLY mis-trusts DMs because he believes (probably because he feels that way) that a DM whose material goes unused will build up resentment towards his players for them "picking wrong" in a way that is not in accordance with what the DM has pre-prepared. Really, that is a symptom of the person...not of the system. You see, that sort of sentiment is so telling it's amazing. What it says is "When I write material that isn't used I become frustrated and resentful"...that is then projected outward on all other DMs so as to spare the self criticism for how one feels.

What is this disconnect that you speak of?

There was a point when I would have felt similarly...but I matured beyond that. I never feel resentment towards my players when I create something for right and they choose left now. Not even close. Instead, I revel in their ability to do as they please...and I rejoice that they are pushing ahead in ANY direction. I trust my players to play their characters...to make the decisions they want to make...to try to play to the best of their ability...to engage in what interests them...and to trust me. That means I do not have to blur any lines regarding roles. That means I am free to provide them the lens through which to view the game world...and they are free to choose as they please and to live the lives of their characters as they see fit.

So you have a system of "cooperation" where the illusion of trust (hmm illusion of trust...illusion of choice...how odd...) exists in the same way that M.A.D. creates the illusion of peace.

And, the best part of all of this? I've used the same system being bandied about so often...but I haven't found anyone here willing to DM like me. Like I do currently. So, I guess I'm the most qualified expert 'round these parts on several different styles...at least from an experience point of view. Not only did I DM that style, I did so with excellent feedback from the experience. In fact, if I could get some people together for some good Marvel Comics roleplay I'd do it again (in a slightly more limited way) whether it be as the player or the DM...but that isn't in the cards for the time being and that's a-okay because I'm running D&D...and doing so as brilliantly as I possibly can. And working my rear off to do it. The latter makes the former so very much worth it.

Of course...not many people would know about the former unless they're willing to try my latter...right? Anyone up for it? Chaosfang? Hmm?

I'm not even sure what you're talking about. Please clarify.

From what I can tell, there's still no "disservice" done to players by allowing them to participate in ways other than being their characters.  Having them manage NPCs or even PCs of fellow players (as suggested in Ars Magica), allowing them to define the content of various areas, and especially allowing them to shape the campaign not only on a per-session basis, but even on a per-world basis (defining cities, organizations, major NPCs, even ongoing plot(s) within the world) are perfectly acceptable, should the DM and the group prefer such methods.  Heck, there are even DM-less groups wherein even rules arbiting is divided within the group, so I fail to see how this "disservice" even exists. 
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You are Red/Blue!
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.

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57047238 wrote:
If you're crossing the street and see a city bus barreling straight toward you with 'GIVE ME YOUR WALLET!' painted across its windshield, you probably won't be reaching for your wallet.
I Don't Always Play Strikers...But When I Do, I Prefer Vampire Stay Thirsty, My Friends
This is what I believe is the spirit of D&D 4E, and my deal breaker for D&D Next: equal opportunities, with distinct specializations, in areas where conflict happens the most often, without having to worry about heavy micromanagement or system mastery. What I hope to be my most useful contributions to the D&D Community: DM Idea: Collaborative Mapping, Classless 4E (homebrew system, that hopefully helps in D&D Next development), Gamma World 7E random character generator (by yours truly), and the Concept of Perfect Imbalance (for D&D Next and other TRPGs in development) Pre-3E D&D should be recognized for what they were: simulation wargames where people could tell stories with The Best Answer to "Why 4E?" Fun vs. Engaging
Plot is content, but content does not necessarily mean you have a plot. If you have a plot - a predetermined sequence of events however complex - you have a rail. If you have a rail, you might railroad, even inadvertently. It's just that simple. To avoid that (if that's what you and your players want to do), don't create plots.


It's thoughts like that, that make posting any response difficult. Instead of saying things like 'I came up with this cool idea for my players' to avoid getting lynched from one DM team or another you've got to say you've created some scenario starting point that is a plot/ adventure/ story/ campaign/ scenario/ concept/ content.

A lot of the posters will very determined misinterpret posts where the poster is using the term plot/story/whatever to say things like "cool ideas I had that I think the friends I DM for would like" rather than "SCRIPT THAT CANNOT BE DEVIATED FROM OTHERWISE I END THE GAME AND NEVER PLAY WITH THEM AGAIN."

Either that or I'm extremely lucky to find random groups of people of varying ages and gaming experience who all dig it.

I remember following your recorded example - that Island of the Frog one. The people didn't seem too keen for it, at least in the parts I listened to, and if I recall correctly someone was purposefully testing the system by not responding to certain quest prompts (like not sharing with the party important item X). That one might have just been an unfortunate campaign though?



MrCustomer,

Comparing the popularity of a novel to a short story is not a method for determining quality, a lot of popular stuff is total garbage, twilight for example.  Not to mention they are not quite they don't appeal to the same demographic.

I suppose that we both prepare, we differ in how...you prepare material, I prepare myself.  Not to say that those are exclusive, I'm sure its a bit of a mix, but it is a different method.  You could say that you focus on the content, I focus on a skill. 

Would you agree with that?




The comparison is correct, because we are talking about time and effort. However the preperation I am talking about is more on the line of developing the setting (and I've stated that enough times I think) and I would argue that doing so develops the afformentioned skill you refer to, creativity is creativity. A developed setting gives tools at hand that can be used to improvise with as the DM has a general idea of what is happening already and with prepared materials in hand can focus his creativity in fleshing it out and bringing it to life.


Also, if the players are going to step off the story I prepared, then they have content with which to do so. If the decide to ignore my plot hook because they want to overthrow the King who's government they disagreewith as being too totalitarian and support some other Noble for king, that is because there is a King who's government they disagree with and a Noble who they feel would be a better king.  That may not have been a plot the DM expects, but it is material that is there that the DM can work with.
However many stops there are or however many times you change trains on the way to the final predetermined destination has very little to do with the existence of the rail. If you have a plot, you have a rail. If you push them to get on that plot (and there are many, many ways to do this some of which are more obvious than others), you're railroading. And as Centauri mentions, it's not a bad thing if your players accept it and buy-in.



A plot does not mean a rail, it is just something happening in the world that the PCs are in. Where that plot goes and how it plays out is up to the Players, as determined by their actions There is no "final predetermined destination" as much as there is an evolving situation that is mostly in response to the PC's choices. "buy in" is done via the PC's actions in game and how their actions effect the world about them.
MrCustomer,

Comparing the popularity of a novel to a short story is not a method for determining quality, a lot of popular stuff is total garbage, twilight for example.  Not to mention they are not quite they don't appeal to the same demographic.

I suppose that we both prepare, we differ in how...you prepare material, I prepare myself.  Not to say that those are exclusive, I'm sure its a bit of a mix, but it is a different method.  You could say that you focus on the content, I focus on a skill. 

Would you agree with that?




The comparison is correct, because we are talking about time and effort. However the preperation I am talking about is more on the line of developing the setting (and I've stated that enough times I think) and I would argue that doing so develops the afformentioned skill you refer to, creativity is creativity. A developed setting gives tools at hand that can be used to improvise with as the DM has a general idea of what is happening already and with prepared materials in hand can focus his creativity in fleshing it out and bringing it to life.


Also, if the players are going to step off the story I prepared, then they have content with which to do so. If the decide to ignore my plot hook because they want to overthrow the King who's government they disagreewith as being too totalitarian and support some other Noble for king, that is because there is a King who's government they disagree with and a Noble who they feel would be a better king.  That may not have been a plot the DM expects, but it is material that is there that the DM can work with.



This is more or less what I expected.  In that sense we are very similar except that I probably bring a bit less prepared material and more of a conceptual setting, setting the tone and feel of the campaign more so than a world setting. 


My only issue with a developed setting is that sometimes the need to develop a coherent setting within the already crafted lore can bind the hands of some DM's.  I've seen it happen before, where a few DM's have been very reluctant to ad hoc anything for fear that it could disrupt or contradict their setting lore. 


For the most part I spend my prep time crafting NPC's that will be directly relevant to the players, and even then I don't really worry to much about their stats, just mostly their disposition, personality and relationship with other NPC's.  I keep most of it open ended so that things can change or adapt to whatever helps to drive the game in an interesting direction.  For example I might wait to attach ulterior motives until it would be convenient to tie them into a story driven element produced by the characters actions. 
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
It's thoughts like that, that make posting any response difficult. Instead of saying things like 'I came up with this cool idea for my players' to avoid getting lynched from one DM team or another you've got to say you've created some scenario starting point that is a plot/ adventure/ story/ campaign/ scenario/ concept/ content.

A lot of the posters will very determined misinterpret posts where the poster is using the term plot/story/whatever to say things like "cool ideas I had that I think the friends I DM for would like" rather than "SCRIPT THAT CANNOT BE DEVIATED FROM OTHERWISE I END THE GAME AND NEVER PLAY WITH THEM AGAIN."



Words have meanings. If someone is asking for specific advice, clarifying what they mean and what they hope to achieve is necessary, especially if the words they're using and how they're using them are in contradiction (e.g. plot and story aren't the same thing). I hope you understand that I'm not criticizing people who use plots - I used them myself for a long time. But knowing what you're doing when you do that and what pitfalls come out of that are necessary for avoiding problems. Case in point:

A plot does not mean a rail, it is just something happening in the world that the PCs are in. Where that plot goes and how it plays out is up to the Players, as determined by their actions There is no "final predetermined destination" as much as there is an evolving situation that is mostly in response to the PC's choices. "buy in" is done via the PC's actions in game and how their actions effect the world about them.



The part I bolded is not a plot. It's content. This is why it's important to know what things are. A plot is a predetermined sequence of events the PCs need to pursue to experience your content. A situation (also content) is just a set of circumstances. A plot for a game is A happens, then B, then C, etc. (though it can be made into more complicated forms): "The PCs travel to Capital City. They attend his coronation ceremony and meet NPCs X, Y, and Z. They stop an assassination attempt. They investigate and track the bad guys to their lair in some ruins outside of the city." Compare this to non-plot content: "Assassins who lair outside the city are trying to kill the king." That's the difference.

I remember following your recorded example - that Island of the Frog one. The people didn't seem too keen for it, at least in the parts I listened to, and if I recall correctly someone was purposefully testing the system by not responding to certain quest prompts (like not sharing with the party important item X). That one might have just been an unfortunate campaign though?



As I recall, feedback on that game was quite good and we produced a fun story using the game content. Yes, the player was purposefully "testing the system" though interestingly, it didn't matter one bit because they were more interested in the monetary wealth rather than the "important item X." The item itself was effectively made irrelevant by that player, which was perfectly okay, because there was no plot in which the item was absolutely necessary to accomplish the PCs' goal of getting off the island. They handled it a different way.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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The part I bolded is not a plot. It's content. This is why it's important to know what things are. A plot is a predetermined sequence of events the PCs need to pursue to experience your content. A situation (also content) is just a set of circumstances. A plot for an game is A happens, then B, then C, etc. (though it can be made into more complicated forms): "The PCs travel to Capital City. They attend his coronation ceremony and meet NPCs X, Y, and Z. They stop an assassination attempt. They investigate and track the bad guys to their lair in some ruins outside of the city." Compare this to non-plot content: "Assassins who lair outside the city are trying to kill the king." That's the difference.



Actually as non-plot content, you just have "villains who lair outside the city" If they are assassins who are trying to kill the king then that raises the questions of How, When and What?

-They are going to use the coronation ceremony as an opportunity to get close to the king (since normally gaining an audience with the King would be impossible)?

-They are going to get into the ceremony by kidnapping a foriegn dignatary and posing as them during the ceremony? (thus leaving a trail back to the assassin's hideout)

-The PCs have been invited to the ceremony as part of a reward for their previous heroism in an earlier subplot, they decide to go.

-They meet NPCs X, Y and Z.

-As the DM I plan on actually assassinating the king, suprise plot twist and then have NPCS X and Y ask them to get the assassins while they put Z on the throne as king instead.


BUT, what actually happens is...  

-The PCs however decide before this happens, that the king is to exposed, not enough guards, and start searching for an assasination plot,

-as the assassins approach the king a player asks me for a description and rolls appropriate checks, DM gives them the discription and the player makes the right call that it's an assassin and prompletly takes action to stop it, The DM is caught off guard but plays it out, the Player's manage to save the king (who was supposed to die)

-This throws several wrenches into the plot as the King was supposed to die, and NPC Z, a vilain was part of the plot to take the throne and use the assassins as scape goats (the PCs would learn this when they took out the assassins) I was going to run a plot where the PCs would later do a coup d'état  on NPC Z, but now it will likely turn into a civil war when the PCs learn of the connections between the assassins and NPC Z.

You see the difference between a plot and a railroad here? In a railroad game that King owuld die, the assassins are going to assassinate him no mater what the PCs do, no matter how unexpected their actions are to the DM, the King will die. A plot doesn't have to have a "predetermined final destination"

In this case, the DM created a stroy line where King is assassinated, Z becomes King, PCs do coup d'état and make NPC X King. Instead King is saved, Civil war breaks between King and Z, PCs choose a side, and who knows who becomes king. The PC's choices are real choices and have a huge impact on the world they are in.

This kind of unexpected, organic, event, wouldn't happen with player buy-in. Had the plot been predetermined this wouldn't have happend, if the players decided that the original plot was what they were going to run, then they would have just been railroading their own PCs they wouldn't have stopped the assassination because they knew about it and it was supposed to happen.
Actually as non-plot content, you just have "villains who lair outside the city" If they are assassins who are trying to kill the king then that raises the questions of How, When and What?

-They are going to use the coronation ceremony as an opportunity to get close to the king (since normally gaining an audience with the King would be impossible)?

-They are going to get into the ceremony by kidnapping a foriegn dignatary and posing as them during the ceremony? (thus leaving a trail back to the assassin's hideout)



This part above is content, not plot.

-The PCs have been invited to the ceremony as part of a reward for their previous heroism in an earlier subplot, they decide to go.

-They meet NPCs X, Y and Z.

-As the DM I plan on actually assassinating the king, suprise plot twist and then have NPCS X and Y ask them to get the assassins while they put Z on the throne as king instead.



This part might be plot, if it's a predetermined sequence of events the PCs must pursue in order to explore the content.

BUT, what actually happens is...  

-The PCs however decide before this happens, that the king is to exposed, not enough guards, and start searching for an assasination plot,

-as the assassins approach the king a player asks me for a description and rolls appropriate checks, DM gives them the discription and the player makes the right call that it's an assassin and prompletly takes action to stop it, The DM is caught off guard but plays it out, the Player's manage to save the king (who was supposed to die)

-This throws several wrenches into the plot as the King was supposed to die, and NPC Z, a vilain was part of the plot to take the throne and use the assassins as scape goats (the PCs would learn this when they took out the assassins) I was going to run a plot where the PCs would later do a coup d'état  on NPC Z, but now it will likely turn into a civil war when the PCs learn of the connections between the assassins and NPC Z.



This part above is story - the thing created during play.

You see the difference between a plot and a railroad here? In a railroad game that King owuld die, the assassins are going to assassinate him no mater what the PCs do, no matter how unexpected their actions are to the DM, the King will die. A plot doesn't have to have a "predetermined final destination"



A plot is never a railroad on its own. A plot is a rail and railroading is a tool used to keep the players on the plot. If part of the plot is that the king must die (especially as it relates to moving the predetermined plot to the next sequential event), then yes, you may be railroading by curtailing choices or negating outcomes to make sure it happens. You can have a plot and not railroad. I've never said otherwise.

You can also railroad by making choices other than going to the ceremony to which the PCs were invited boring. This is what I suspect you do, based on previous threads on similar topics.

In this case, the DM created a stroy line where King is assassinated, Z becomes King, PCs do coup d'état and make NPC X King. Instead King is saved, Civil war breaks between King and Z, PCs choose a side, and who knows who becomes king. The PC's choices are real choices and have a huge impact on the world they are in.



A storyline is the same as a plot. The story is the outcome of actual play, regardless of the game having a plot or not.

This kind of unexpected, organic, event, wouldn't happen with player buy-in. Had the plot been predetermined this wouldn't have happend, if the players decided that the original plot was what they were going to run, then they would have just been railroading their own PCs they wouldn't have stopped the assassination because they knew about it and it was supposed to happen.



I don't think you know what buy-in means either. Buy-in simply means that the players accept a premise. This can happen in-game or out-of-game. It can refer to plots, scenarios, situations, house rules, game styles, dice conventions, anything. It just means the players know what they're getting and accept it. Having buy-in has nothing to do with a lack of "unexpected, organic events."

In your example, some of it was content and some of it was plot. The difference is you allowed what plot you did have to be altered. What this shows is you don't actually need plots to run games. It's more work for no reason since you're already creating content which is going to be needed in both a game with a plot or without. A plot is extra work on top of that, and based on how you do things, it's work that may simply be altered or thrown out. The "Don't Prep the Plot" article in my signature breaks this down very clearly.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

MrCustomer, I advise you to stop the discussion on the word "plot". I once had the same discussion with iserith. He is doing the same thing now as he did then. Using the word incorrectly and assigning whatever definition he came up with to the word. And he will dismiss every argument you use to prove otherwise. He is quite stubborn in that regard. Just take some peace of mind by knowing that I concur with you and that iserith is wrong. And it really doesn't matter if he ever comes to realize that he is.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
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