Railroading, or "Just Say Yes"

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The title of this forum post is pretty self-explanatory.  When you create an epic adventure, with all sorts of loot and awesome encounters and wacky NPCs, you can't wait for your PCs to get going and explore this quest you've set out for them.

Then your players say no.

What to do?  Do I have to have something prepared for every decision they make, or is there an acceptable level of railroading?  I'm not very good at improvising, so that's not really an option.
This falls under 'player responsibility' to me.  If you dangle a plot hook, unless it's completely ridiculous, they should take it.  It's part of the cooperative storytelling thing.  You went through the effort to prep the game, they should reward that effort by, y'know, playing.
"Buy-in" is the buzz word being thrown about lately for situations like this. Make sure the players have at least some idea of what you're wanting to get them into and make sure they're on board for it before sitting down at the table. That way you have enough time to adequately craft something that you already know everyone is up for. A week or half in advance is generally best for forwarning, and details are as easy to relay as an email or text to everyone in the group.

Happy Gaming
"Buy-in" is the buzz word being thrown about lately for situations like this. Make sure the players have at least some idea of what you're wanting to get them into and make sure they're on board for it before sitting down at the table. That way you have enough time to adequately craft something that you already know everyone is up for. A week or half in advance is generally best for forwarning, and details are as easy to relay as an email or text to everyone in the group.

Happy Gaming



Right!

Also, let's assume you have their buy-in on your basic premise. You get even more of that and very focused play by using framed questions to connect the characters to the elements of your prep.  Try this:

Make a list of important elements in your adventure location. To borrow from one of my own, Vanguard of Dis, I'd say Titivullis Rex, Hex Arcana, and Gall (tiefling villains), Princess Lilac (good NPC), the Jewel of Fate (artifact), and a corrupted temple of Bahamut (location).

At the start of play but before you jump into your opening action scene (remember, you have their buy-in on your premise so there's no need for quest-givers!), ask the players some questions about how their characters relate to those elements in your adventure. No answer is wrong that doesn't contradict existing fiction (something you or the other players established as being true). Go around the table and ask some interesting questions, throwing in some follow-up questions to flesh out their responses. If they've given you a backstory, frame some of your questions to tie to that backstory.

Why did you vow to kill Titivullis Rex? What did Hex Arcana do to your people such that you're the only goliath left that you know of? How did Gall trick your father into giving him the Jewel of Fate? How come you've never told Princess Lilac that you love her? What boon will Bahamut grant those who reconsecrate his temple? What do the prophecies say about the Jewel of Fate and how it flared to life when you were born?

Do that (usually takes me 20-30 minutes), then start the adventure with an exciting action scene to draw them in even further.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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This falls under 'player responsibility' to me.  If you dangle a plot hook, unless it's completely ridiculous, they should take it.  It's part of the cooperative storytelling thing.  You went through the effort to prep the game, they should reward that effort by, y'know, playing.

I was just saying in another thread that this seems to be the default assumption of the designers: that the players will willingy play whatever the DM has spent the time putting together.

I don't agree. Or, more to the point, I feel that the DM should put something together that they know explicitly that the players want, and do this by either talking to them in advance, or improvising with them on the spot, or some of both. Assuming that the players will enjoy what the DM has slaved away on runs the risk of the DM feeling disregarded or the players feeling railroaded.

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

The title of this forum post is pretty self-explanatory.  When you create an epic adventure, with all sorts of loot and awesome encounters and wacky NPCs, you can't wait for your PCs to get going and explore this quest you've set out for them.

Then your players say no.

What to do?  Do I have to have something prepared for every decision they make, or is there an acceptable level of railroading?  I'm not very good at improvising, so that's not really an option.



This is a false situation.

The answer is to simply not over-prepare "epic adventures".

I let my players do as they please and they have more fun for it. I have tools I have found or made that allow me to make up epic adventures on the fly and they are more epic because they are whatever the players want to do with their characters. It is the ultimate solution to the "buy-in" problem.

It also lets my players have the freedom to STOP doing stuff if they find they don't want to continue it.

Freedom. It's the name of the game.

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What has worked for me, is create a list of 4-6 mini adventures. Then, create branching paths that serve as outcomes for each one and make them affect the other adventures. You can create a vast web of adventures that are all interconnected. The key is the illusion of choice, if PCs complete one adventure that leads to more, and also has effect on other adventures.

That way, you can 'steer' your PCs to where you want them to go, and they feel like their decision mattered.

Granted, this doesn't always work, what with free-will and all. All you have to do is be prepared for the randomness.

As an example, the nature of my game has my PCs working as mercenaries, which benefits our weekly gaming such that, there is no major overarching storyline (there is, but it comes and goes and only occasionally involves the PCs, more often as they approach higher levels). They do 'missions' which basically serve as a dungeon of the week play style. If one benefactor asks them to retrieve and item and pays them well to do it, and another asks them to destroy it, and will reward them with magic items. Then the PCs will do one, the other, or find a third option.

The missions overlap and affect one another, the PCs choices matter but it's all masked as one single adventure. If they destroy it, the first benefactor will be mad and send goons after them, or ask them to do another quest to make up for it.

Does that help at all?
Never write a detailed epic adventure from cover to cover without knowing your players are going to bite ;) When I have a cool idea for such an adventure, I write down a paragraph or two about my ideas and then simply detail one potential game session of material (including some random stuff in case the PCs are not interested). If they don't bite, no problem, I can always use the ideas for something else. If they do, I can detail the next session with a bit more stuff on the future. Even then, I tend to avoid detailing too much. After all, even if the players love a plot they might do the unexpected.
I hardly ever spend time detailing adventures.

Instead, I detail my world.  That way, no matter where my players go, there is something to do.

I let my players create most of the plots so that way they are already interested.

If, as a DM, I have an adventure, hook or idea that gets skipped I simply save it for another time.  After a while, I have a huge amount these built up in my DM's bag 'o tricks.

If I am DMing and I desire the players to participate in a particular adventure or take a hook I desire, I will ask them if they will.  Most of the time, they oblige me as this is a rare occurrence in my games.

As a player, I will work with a DM who is in the boat the OP describes and will often take the hook to help the game and DM out.  Some DMs are great on the fly, others not so much.  If I know my DM is a "prep heavy" DM, I will take the hook.  I especially cut DMs slack in this area if they have heavy work, school and/or family schedules or medical issues.  Lastly, if the DM simply asks, "Hey, could you please give this adventure a try because *insert reason why here*,"  I will most likely hop on the railroad and do my best to make it fun.

There is another case:  There are times when players will ask me (as DM) to run a specific adventure (Say a module like the Temple of Elemental Evil for example).  I try to accommodate and run it for them, or if I can't, I will let them know straight up and tell them why not.  What is vexing is when I am begged to run something and I do it and then they change their minds midstream.
The title of this forum post is pretty self-explanatory.  When you create an epic adventure, with all sorts of loot and awesome encounters and wacky NPCs, you can't wait for your PCs to get going and explore this quest you've set out for them.

Then your players say no.

What to do?  Do I have to have something prepared for every decision they make, or is there an acceptable level of railroading?  I'm not very good at improvising, so that's not really an option.




  • Before anything: Use each session as an opportunity to master improvisation. Improvisation is a learned skill, no doubt about it, and the more you use it, the better you get at it.

  • Learn what appeals to your players the most, and key your adventures off of them. This is where Session Zero comes in, and the simplest way to do this is: ask your players what sort of game they like, or what they want to see in the game.

  • If the players keep saying "no", ask why, and what could be done to make them play. Just remember that sometimes there can be an impasse — perhaps the players really just don't want to play with you at all — and if such an event occurs then all we can do is leave it at that, maybe you could find a new group instead.


That said, I'm more of the "Yes, and/but" group.   Allow them to express themselves
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"A burly dwarf with an over-sized beard and a purple eye patch approaches you offering a sum of 1 million gold for the procurement of a gallon jug of dragonsbreath ale available at the nearby tavern."

Party response: Na' we're good. But thanks.

DM: ...? 
Buy-in is important, but I am also of the mindset of not preparing a lot in advance.  At most, I think a lot about the possibilities but I rarely write anything down until I need to - usually in between sessions and only enough to get through the next session.

For example, in my current campaign, I had one BBEG in mind, but now that we are two sessions in, and I have created an intermediate BBEG, I am not so sure that the best outcome is that the original main BBEG be the BBEG.  The basic plot elements, in my head, still exist but the BBEG at the end can potentially change.

Furthermore, I create encounters that are generic enough that I can drop them in just about anywhere in a session.  I manipulate the encounter to fit into the choices the players make.  And their assumptions regarding the reasoning behind the encounters feeds into my development of plot possibilities down the line.

One thing I do though is wrote down a summary of each session so that I have the ability to go back and make sure that what I have planned makes sense and fits into the rest of the story.

 

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The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
"A burly dwarf with an over-sized beard and a purple eye patch approaches you offering a sum of 1 million gold for the procurement of a gallon jug of dragonsbreath ale available at the nearby tavern."

Party response: Na' we're good. But thanks.

DM: ...? 


Railroading: 
DM: ...
Players: Na' we're good. But thanks
DM: The burly dwarf reveals himself as a powerful spellcaster who casts a geas against everybody in the party, forcing them to acquire the jug of ale.

"Just Say Yes" 
DM: ...
Players: All right, we'll do it. Since you don't seem to be willing to do it yourself, are there any [characters think "dangerous," players think "exciting"] risks that you're not telling us?

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That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

"A burly dwarf with an over-sized beard and a purple eye patch approaches you offering a sum of 1 million gold for the procurement of a gallon jug of dragonsbreath ale available at the nearby tavern."

Party response: Na' we're good. But thanks.

DM: ...?


Railroading:
DM: ...
Players: Na' we're good. But thanks
DM: The burly dwarf reveals himself as a powerful spellcaster who casts a geas against everybody in the party, forcing them to acquire the jug of ale.

"Just Say Yes"
DM: ...
Players: All right, we'll do it. Since you don't seem to be willing to do it yourself, are there any [characters think "dangerous," players think "exciting"] risks that you're not telling us?

"Just Say, Yes, And..."

Party response: "Yes, and since dragonsbreath ale is only sold to customers who dare to head into the sub-basement of the tavern and wrest it from the demon brewers, this is a suitable job for us."

DM: "Yes, and since the tavern gets a cut of the bets made on whether customers return with the ale, there's likely to be a huge crowd, as well as some bet rigging."

Party response: "Yes, and...."

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

Do I have to have something prepared for every decision they make, or is there an acceptable level of railroading?  I'm not very good at improvising, so that's not really an option.

Improvising is usually part of DM'ing, so if you have a hard time with it, let your players know (they can often help improvise for you). If their actions give them an occasionally easy win that you hadn't thought of, that's not a bad thing. Usually you can still find a way to use most of what you prepared.

Now, if the players decide not to go at all on the adventure you prepared, that's a different matter. All players should  understand that the DM can't really be expected to prepare more than one adventure at a time. If the plot hook doesn't fit their character, have them come up with a reason their PC would want to get involved.



What to do?  Do I have to have something prepared for every decision they make, or is there an acceptable level of railroading?  I'm not very good at improvising, so that's not really an option.


If you prep a bunch of stuff and your players don't want to do it, you skipped a step. Step 1 is tell your players what you are thinking of prepping and make sure they sound into the basic concept.


If you don't prep a  bunch of stuff you ask the players to have characters that will drive the action. They will come up with stuff to do, and you will have to improvise the whole adventure. 


Both have strengths, and I think the first method is generally easier for new DMs. But really, you can't skip step 1 if you plan to plan stuff. 

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Well, you see. First, you give your best backhand to every single person sitting at the table. Second, you chain them to their seats and deprive them of their cell phones. After that, break out the dice and get going with the game. Every time someone doesn't do something in game or steers their character in death's direction, shock them with your handy cattle prod that you dubbed "Railroad Whoopin' Stick".

But seriously, the key is to learn to prep your adventures to be flexible. You don't need to master improv for this.

For example, you offered a plot hook. But why not offer multiple plot hooks to get them jump started? Don't dangle them all at once. Dangle them here and there and scatter them about a bit. They'll find one of them eventually, and certainly is bound to give them a reason to hop aboard the adventure train.

Also, come up with other side quests that tie back into the big stuff you have prepared. They might tug on a loose end to find out that it pulls back...right into the bowels of the campaign. 
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/
There is another point to consider.  If this situation keeps coming up and it isn't a once in a while affair, then you might need to find another group.

If the players are constantly rejecting your hooks it could be as simple as them being bored with or not liking your offerings.  Collaboration in this case will not produce satisfactory results as there is a good chance what the players want is boring to the DM.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as a one DM fits all groups kind of guy.  The group can be compatible in every way but if the DM is a Final Fantasy type person and the group wants Game of Thrones then the best option might be to stay friends but game elsewhere.

Also, there are players who actually want to be railroaded.   They're more common than one thinks.  In this case, DMs like myself may well struggle in pleasing these players.  And I know it wouldn't be fun for me, for I have been in this situation.  This is another case where the group can get along great, but both sides would be better served finding more compatible groups.

Of course, one should try all the advice presented in this thread above first as what I mention is surely a last resort.  The reason I bring this up is that I have seen this a few times and why should the DM bang his head against a wall while wasting the players' time as well?

"A burly dwarf with an over-sized beard and a purple eye patch approaches you offering a sum of 1 million gold for the procurement of a gallon jug of dragonsbreath ale available at the nearby tavern."

Party response: Na' we're good. But thanks.

DM: ...?


Railroading:
DM: ...
Players: Na' we're good. But thanks
DM: The burly dwarf reveals himself as a powerful spellcaster who casts a geas against everybody in the party, forcing them to acquire the jug of ale.

"Just Say Yes"
DM: ...
Players: All right, we'll do it. Since you don't seem to be willing to do it yourself, are there any [characters think "dangerous," players think "exciting"] risks that you're not telling us?

"Just Say, Yes, And..."

Party response: "Yes, and since dragonsbreath ale is only sold to customers who dare to head into the sub-basement of the tavern and wrest it from the demon brewers, this is a suitable job for us."

DM: "Yes, and since the tavern gets a cut of the bets made on whether customers return with the ale, there's likely to be a huge crowd, as well as some bet rigging."

Party response: "Yes, and...."

"Just Say, Yes, And..."

Party response: "Yes, and since dragonsbreath ale is only sold to customers who dare to head into the sub-basement of the tavern and wrest it from the demon brewers, this is a suitable job for us."


I SOOO want to like this. If I were a player in a collaborative, it sounds like something I'd say. Of course I'd want to know why the dwarf can't get the brew himself. Dwarvenphobes running the bar? Is the dwarf an outlaw? Demonic brewers in the basement?

Unfortunately, many of the rest of the players I currently play with would be more along the lines of...

"A burly dwarf with an over-sized beard and a purple eye patch approaches you offering a sum of 1 million gold for the procurement of a gallon jug of dragonsbreath ale available at the nearby tavern."

Party response: We attack the dwarf. 1 million gold pieces. Boom.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
"A burly dwarf with an over-sized beard and a purple eye patch approaches you offering a sum of 1 million gold for the procurement of a gallon jug of dragonsbreath ale available at the nearby tavern."

Party response: Na' we're good. But thanks.

DM: ...?


Railroading:
DM: ...
Players: Na' we're good. But thanks
DM: The burly dwarf reveals himself as a powerful spellcaster who casts a geas against everybody in the party, forcing them to acquire the jug of ale.

"Just Say Yes"
DM: ...
Players: All right, we'll do it. Since you don't seem to be willing to do it yourself, are there any [characters think "dangerous," players think "exciting"] risks that you're not telling us?

"Just Say, Yes, And..."

Party response: "Yes, and since dragonsbreath ale is only sold to customers who dare to head into the sub-basement of the tavern and wrest it from the demon brewers, this is a suitable job for us."

DM: "Yes, and since the tavern gets a cut of the bets made on whether customers return with the ale, there's likely to be a huge crowd, as well as some bet rigging."

Party response: "Yes, and...."

"Just Say, Yes, And..."

Party response: "Yes, and since dragonsbreath ale is only sold to customers who dare to head into the sub-basement of the tavern and wrest it from the demon brewers, this is a suitable job for us."


I SOOO want to like this. If I were a player in a collaborative, it sounds like something I'd say. Of course I'd want to know why the dwarf can't get the brew himself. Dwarvenphobes running the bar? Is the dwarf an outlaw? Demonic brewers in the basement?

Unfortunately, many of the rest of the players I currently play with would be more along the lines of...

"A burly dwarf with an over-sized beard and a purple eye patch approaches you offering a sum of 1 million gold for the procurement of a gallon jug of dragonsbreath ale available at the nearby tavern."

Party response: We attack the dwarf. 1 million gold pieces. Boom.



"Let's just attack it" is a response I'm extremely familiar with it. 
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/
There really should be an honest attempt by the players to at least take the first hook. They can't realisticly know they won't like the story content until they have experienced some of it. 
The initial story hook does have to be something that the characters are interested in. Its easy enough to look at the character backgrounds and consult with the players about character motives to generate an initial hook that will interest everyone.

As for an epic story? Well, you do have to be willing to change it. Make it an epic idea, and then the details can flow from that as the characters interact with the day to day parts of the idea.

"A burly dwarf with an over-sized beard and a purple eye patch approaches you offering a sum of 1 million gold for the procurement of a gallon jug of dragonsbreath ale available at the nearby tavern."

Party response: Na' we're good. But thanks.

DM: ...? 



That's actually a good example of a pretty ridiculous plot hook.   Anybody with half a brain in their head would be supicious of that much money for such a simple task.  Either that, or the task isn't simple, and this is the most poorly baited trap in history.
One thing I talk to players about when it comes to things is that it's better and more fun to find reasons to say "Yes" to things than to find reasons to say "No" to things. Take the metagame "I want to play something tonight" and figure out why "Ragnar accepts your quest." (I don't use quest-givers myself but the advice can be broadly applied. Substitute the metagame with "I want to not block my fellow player.")

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
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FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The title of this forum post is pretty self-explanatory.  When you create an epic adventure, with all sorts of loot and awesome encounters and wacky NPCs, you can't wait for your PCs to get going and explore this quest you've set out for them.

Then your players say no.

What to do?  Do I have to have something prepared for every decision they make, or is there an acceptable level of railroading?  I'm not very good at improvising, so that's not really an option.


It's a poor comparison to argue these two extseems as both are wrong.

buy in, is a buzz word for being a yes-man and railroading describes one of the worse DM traits possible, those who don't use the buy in, hipster method are not railroading by having a plot outlined. Railroading is when a dm forces the players to do what he wants.

the best way is your leave flexibility in any story to allow for unforeseen paths, give alternatives, and the read mans react to the players (a basic social skill)

if the players say no, then you only gave them one rigid choice, and it wasn't desirable. Let them do something else until you identify what needs to be adjusted to address their issues, then reaproach the story at a different angle. That isn't railroading, and it ammounts to getting buy in, without the. Hipster, new age mumbo jumbo, it's feedback, reading and reacting.


 
There really should be an honest attempt by the players to at least take the first hook.

Since Fun is unlikely to occur until the hook is found, players have incentive to find it. Indeed, I often don't make it easy for them... making them desire the hook even more.

As for an epic story? Well, you do have to be willing to change it.

Exactly. I loath DM's that have a story to tell. It's not your story to tell; it's the player's.

There really should be an honest attempt by the players to at least take the first hook.

Since Fun is unlikely to occur until the hook is found, players have incentive to find it. Indeed, I often don't make it easy for them... making them desire the hook even more.

As for an epic story? Well, you do have to be willing to change it.

Exactly. I loath DM's that have a story to tell. It's not your story to tell; it's the player's.

But you're saying that their story relies on them finding and taking the DM's hook, right?

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

I loath DM's that have a story to tell. It's not your story to tell; it's the player's.

But you're saying that their story relies on them finding and taking the DM's hook, right?

Not neccesarily, but that is usually the easiest way (since a DM can't really be expected to prepare multiple adventures). A player can always work with the DM to alter the hook if need be.

But yes: the DM will provide a framework/outline... but once they 'have a story to tell', there is often no need for player involvement.
There really should be an honest attempt by the players to at least take the first hook.

Since Fun is unlikely to occur until the hook is found, players have incentive to find it. Indeed, I often don't make it easy for them... making them desire the hook even more.

As for an epic story? Well, you do have to be willing to change it.

Exactly. I loath DM's that have a story to tell. It's not your story to tell; it's the player's.




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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.




  • Before anything: Use each session as an opportunity to master improvisation. Improvisation is a learned skill, no doubt about it, and the more you use it, the better you get at it.

  • Learn what appeals to your players the most, and key your adventures off of them. This is where Session Zero comes in, and the simplest way to do this is: ask your players what sort of game they like, or what they want to see in the game.

  • If the players keep saying "no", ask why, and what could be done to make them play. Just remember that sometimes there can be an impasse — perhaps the players really just don't want to play with you at all — and if such an event occurs then all we can do is leave it at that, maybe you could find a new group instead.


That said, I'm more of the "Yes, and/but" group.   Allow them to express themselves



Best post on the thread.

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.

Personally I find that the magic of TRPGing isn't so much in the retelling of a pre-existing story, so much as the creation of stories through play.  This is something that I think is easily lost in gaming groups, because of the insistence that role-playing games should be an alternative story delivery medium to conventional storytelling methods, such as oratory delivery, books and other non-interactive media.

Think about it: we usually tell DMs that while it's alright for them to create their stories, they should at least be prepared to throw away all that hard work out to the trash, for the simple reason that it's the player's actions that take priority over whatever you wrote; you can certainly try to guide them back to your written story, but in the end it's the stories the group as a whole create not because anything was pre-written, but because things happened.  A famous example of this would be the Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo (regardless if this was merely a joke or an actual session).

So if you have to always be prepared to completely discard your story, then what purpose does it have being there in the first place?  Why waste so much effort on something that might never come to light anyway?

Here's something that a friend of mine, a long time 2E DM, told me, and something I still keep to heart to this day: never prepare for more than one session ahead of the upcoming session (not the exact wording, but it's basically the same).   That way, you don't end up over-prepping and wasting all that time because something happened that was out of your control.

This is why prior to 13th Age, I never spent more than 4 hours of prep time for each game per week... although now that I've found 13th Age, my prep time has been reduced to zero, since I use a dice-based algorithm to randomly generate sessions using player character resources, using improvisation to connect the current session to previous sessions, as well as guide the current session along.  When I'm unsure as to how to proceed in 13th Age because the dice's results stump me, instead of stopping the session and giving myself time to think, I share the responsibility with the rest of the group, asking them how they would approach the problem based on existing factors.  That way, the story always pushes forward, full throttle, and the players would always feel like they're contributing to the story, in more ways than one, even if their characters aren't there to directly influence the story.
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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
i wouldn't advocate either option of tossing away prepared material, or of simply not preparing anything (because why prepare something that will be tossed?) but rather to leave enough room and flexibility in the story to be able to adapt it to lwhat the players do. ideally the goal is have use the plot to give the players building blocks. my method is to develop the setting, add a loose plot or villain, and just let it all play out according the what the players do. 


I agree though, if your story relies on making the players do a, b, c and d, the you are over preparing and likely going to have to toss away good material if the players choose a different path. it's far to rigid.
i wouldn't advocate either option of tossing away prepared material, or of simply not preparing anything (because why prepare something that will be tossed?) but rather to leave enough room and flexibility in the story to be able to adapt it to lwhat the players do. ideally the goal is have use the plot to give the players building blocks. my method is to develop the setting, add a loose plot or villain, and just let it all play out according the what the players do


I agree though, if your story relies on making the players do a, b, c and d, the you are over preparing and likely going to have to toss away good material if the players choose a different path. it's far to rigid.


The portion I placed in bold is almost exactly what I do, except instead of me doing the first two bits on my own, I decided to pick an upcoming TRPG whose mechanics are thematically tied to the very flexible setting, which allows the group as a whole to add a loose plot/villain, sometimes unintentionally too; for instance, one player inadvertently turned an NPC that was usually a villain into a plot hook, both by being an associate of two seemingly-unrelated NPCs, and by being a PC in the first place.

In every moment that I tell my players to craft their own backgrounds (with the unspoken intent of creating a campaign with all their backstories as plot hooks), it's so lucky for me that all their stories somehow fall into place even if not one player knows the actual stories of the setting or each others' PCs.  It's as if they themselves develop the setting, and all I have to do is connect the dots so that I only need one plot hook for all the PCs
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You are Red/Blue!
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
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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
(because why prepare something that will be tossed?)



I have no problem tossing stuff because using your imagination is not a zero-sum process. DMing is an art...practicing creating at your art is always good even if what you create isn't put up for consumption by others. It is practice and it improves you. That is why I never have an issue not using stuff I've made as a DM...even if I don't use it in a game I still used it to improve my ability to create simply by creating it.

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.

(because why prepare something that will be tossed?)



I have no problem tossing stuff because using your imagination is not a zero-sum process. DMing is an art...practicing creating at your art is always good even if what you create isn't put up for consumption by others. It is practice and it improves you. That is why I never have an issue not using stuff I've made as a DM...even if I don't use it in a game I still used it to improve my ability to create simply by creating it.



I am a fan of tolkein's work, and in The Lord of the rings their is a vast amount of unpublished materialls that could be written about very smalI elements that only made a brief appearance in the books. To me unused materials is fine, they add depth and meaning to the world, which helps me as a dm understand how it will respond to the characters even if they don't use a plot. Ie they may encounter a city with a particular distrust of dwarves anever ear know that it was connected to a plot hook they turned down, but even unused it has added character and life to a normally mundane setting where townsfolk show hide in fear of a dwarf PC. It makes the world organic. Of course this assumes the love of writing on the part of the dm.


also unused material can be saved for a later date, or a different game. So it really is never wasted. 
(because why prepare something that will be tossed?)



I have no problem tossing stuff because using your imagination is not a zero-sum process. DMing is an art...practicing creating at your art is always good even if what you create isn't put up for consumption by others. It is practice and it improves you. That is why I never have an issue not using stuff I've made as a DM...even if I don't use it in a game I still used it to improve my ability to create simply by creating it.



I would say its not so much about whether you keep or toss prepared items, but finding a balnace of of time invested.  For some just preparing the material is a reward itself.  For others its just one amoungst a variety of activities and if its not going to be used then their time may be better spent doing other things.  A dm has to find his own balance in that regard, both considering their time and how much use their group gets out of it.
What to do?  Do I have to have something prepared for every decision they make, or is there an acceptable level of railroading?  I'm not very good at improvising, so that's not really an option.



I try to prepare for as many player dicisions as possible within the planned adventure. In other words, I don't plan for the players deciding anything along the following lines:

"No, we don't want to help. We'll just leave them to deal with their own problems."
"No, let's just kill everyone and take their stuff."
"No, let's go explore the nearby woods instead, even though we have no clue that there might be anything interesting in that direction."

However, once the players have grabbed on to a hook and are actively involved in the adventure, I do believe it is very important to present them with meaningful decisions about how to interact with the elements of the adventure and prepare for as many possible choices as you can reasonably predict.

This falls under 'player responsibility' to me.  If you dangle a plot hook, unless it's completely ridiculous, they should take it.  It's part of the cooperative storytelling thing.  You went through the effort to prep the game, they should reward that effort by, y'know, playing.



I agree with this. If you took the time to organize a group of people to get together to play soccer and then they all show up and say "no, we're going to a movie instead", that's just plain rude. The GM is putting 90% of the work into making the game happen at all, so the players should respect that.

"Buy-in" is the buzz word being thrown about lately for situations like this. Make sure the players have at least some idea of what you're wanting to get them into and make sure they're on board for it before sitting down at the table. That way you have enough time to adequately craft something that you already know everyone is up for.



I agree with this. When I GM, I enjoy running campaigns with a fair amount of intrigue mixed in with our action-adventure stories. So for me getting buy-in isn't saying "How would you feel about a campaign where you spend three of four sessions pursueing a quest for this guy only to find out he's been manipulating you the whole time and the "villian" you've been pursueing is actually an innocent victim?" But I would check for player buy-in by asking "How would you feel about a campaign where you spend most of your time pursueing straight forward goals with lots of action and adventure, but where some things are not what they seem in the beginning, and the end result will probably not be what you're expecting?"

I play mostly with the same group of friends, however, and they like the kinds of campaigns that I run. So, anymore, buy-in is kind of assumed at my table, and I rarely have any difficulty getting the players to grab hold of a hook.

(because why prepare something that will be tossed?)



I have no problem tossing stuff because using your imagination is not a zero-sum process. DMing is an art...practicing creating at your art is always good even if what you create isn't put up for consumption by others. It is practice and it improves you. That is why I never have an issue not using stuff I've made as a DM...even if I don't use it in a game I still used it to improve my ability to create simply by creating it.



I am a fan of tolkein's work, and in The Lord of the rings their is a vast amount of unpublished materialls that could be written about very smalI elements that only made a brief appearance in the books. To me unused materials is fine, they add depth and meaning to the world, which helps me as a dm understand how it will respond to the characters even if they don't use a plot. Ie they may encounter a city with a particular distrust of dwarves anever ear know that it was connected to a plot hook they turned down, but even unused it has added character and life to a normally mundane setting where townsfolk show hide in fear of a dwarf PC. It makes the world organic. Of course this assumes the love of writing on the part of the dm.


also unused material can be saved for a later date, or a different game. So it really is never wasted. 



This is a great post and all very true. In many cases "unseen" does not mean "unfelt" when it comes to details of a campaign world.

(because why prepare something that will be tossed?)



I have no problem tossing stuff because using your imagination is not a zero-sum process. DMing is an art...practicing creating at your art is always good even if what you create isn't put up for consumption by others. It is practice and it improves you. That is why I never have an issue not using stuff I've made as a DM...even if I don't use it in a game I still used it to improve my ability to create simply by creating it.



I would say its not so much about whether you keep or toss prepared items, but finding a balnace of of time invested.  For some just preparing the material is a reward itself.  For others its just one amoungst a variety of activities and if its not going to be used then their time may be better spent doing other things.  A dm has to find his own balance in that regard, both considering their time and how much use their group gets out of it.



"I don't have enough time" is RARELY a reason...it is almost universally an excuse. The actual reason is "I do not want to invest more time"...which is valid but many people do not want to actually say that because they feel it reflects poorly on them.

This is also one of the reasons that learning improvisation and continually improving that skill is about the most important thing a DM can do. Working on improvisation will NEVER be work that doesn't pay off. It is, however, a skill to be learned and that requires a good deal of effort that doesn't immediately tangibly pay off because it does not produce maps or character sheets or other DM crap that we so often pat ourselves on the back on as if it's some brilliant creation.

The stark reality is that nothing you make as a DM outside a game is as brilliant as what you can execute at the table. Brilliance only exists in the moment in front of all the other players.

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.

I submitted my ideas earlier in this thread which pretty much mirrored the other responses.

There is something I want to add:  If you really, really want to run something, be it a module you bought or an adventure of your creation, straight up ask your players if they will be willing to play it.

Most players will say yes and oblige you.  Now, you might have to wait a few sessions for the current story/plot/campaign to wrap up or hit a good point to take a break in so don't expect your group to drop the current scenario right away.

The worst thing to do is to try to "sneak" the adventure in there; especially if it is of a different flavor, turn, feel and so on from the current campaign, and very much so if it doesn't fit in with the stories, mood and plots of the current game.

The other issue of not asking is that it is a passive-aggressive ploy to sneak the adventure in, tell the players they can do whatever they want and go where ever they want, and then get bummed because they didn't choose your new masterpiece.

Just ask them.

If your aren't a very spontaneous DM, be forthright about it and tell them that most of the adventures will be from prepared sources from the start of the campaign.  That way an adult decision can be made about how the group will play can be made. 

Also, being upfront has another positive:  Your players will often rise up and help you if you let them.
Before anything: Use each session as an opportunity to master improvisation. Improvisation is a learned skill, no doubt about it, and the more you use it, the better you get at it.



I totally agree. My first session, I felt like I had a hard time making things up on the fly. I'm normally not good at being put on the spot. You'd think that's a weird hang up for a DM, but I digress. After more sessions, I'm feeling like it's easier and more fun to improvise. Players throw me curve balls all the time, and instead of thinking too hard about it, I often blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. They only know I'm bs'ing when I turn to my notebook and scribble in it.

The key is getting to know your players well, and giving them plot hooks they can't resist. Then you gently steer them in the direction you've sketched out. As long as they feel their decisions matter, they'll like it. I've been writing "alternate" or "minor" encounters that can be shuffled into any order the players decide to go, and have a "main route" of "major" encounters they will be very likely to traverse. They might skip some, but that's okay. It's stuff to keep in my binder for later.

I find that in general, when you're starting an adventure or campaign, the players generally won't say "no" flat out. Even in our very first session when no one knew what they were getting into, they accepted the random quest from the published adventure I picked. Don't underestimate the players. They know when saying "no" will mean "the end", and unless they're setting out to be contrary on purpose, they will say "yes let's do that".
Fun is unlikely to occur until the hook is found
...
It's not your story to tell; it's the player's.

These things bolded seem at odds.

Correct: the notions do not complement each other, but both are an important part of D&D's social agreement.

A DM with a carefully planned story will be unhappy when the PC's inevitably trash it.
Similarly, players that deliberately ignore adventure hooks will be unhappy when the DM has nothing for them.
Fun is unlikely to occur until the hook is found
...
It's not your story to tell; it's the player's.

These things bolded seem at odds.

Correct: the notions do not complement each other, but both are an important part of D&D's social agreement.

Traditionally, yes. But the break in the paradox is that fun can be quite likely to occur without players finding the DM's hook.

Also perhaps that it's the DM and the players telling the story.

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