All this talk about railroading had me thinking about it lately. I would have added this to an existing railroad thread, but they're all pretty deep in their discussions now so I figured I'd make a new thread.
I was watching the Office last night. It was an episode where the characters are at a silent auction, where items are put on display and people quietly write down their bid for each item on a sheet of paper. One of the characters, Dwight, didn't know it was a silent auction though and instead thought it was a "Quaker Fair", where you guess the price of an item and the closest person gets it, Price is Right style. So it turns out Dwight unwittingly bids the highest on all of the items and is on the hook for 34 thousand bucks. Why? Because he had a key piece of information wrong when the scene started.
How is this relevant? Well, I started thinking about how this could happen to a character in a game. One option is the GM tells the player straight up "This is a quaker fair" and the player acts on this knowledge. At the end, the GM says "Well, you THOUGHT it was a quaker fair but it was really a silent auction the whole time."
I've used similar strategies in the past on the my players - giving them purposely false information (usually as a result of a bad roll) to act on, only to throw the twist in later with the reveal that they had it all wrong the whole time. Looking back, this was clearly railroading, but my players always got a big kick out of it and seemed to enjoy the twist and the revelation that everything they thought they knew was actually wrong and all of a sudden all the hints make sense.
A pretty common example of this is the secret door technique. The players walk into a room in the dungeon and the DM rolls their perception check to see if they notice the secret door. If they roll low, the DM says there are no secret doors in the room, when really there are, but the information is corrupted by the DM on purpose due to the way the dice land.
Another example of False Information Railroading is the cliche "dream twist" technique. I would have the players play through a scene and then reveal at the end of the scene that it was all just a dream. This one is noticeably less popular, unless something horrible happened in the dream, in which case the players sigh with relief but none-the-less curse me with a grin.
I know for a fact that a lot of players would call foul on these types of techniques. I recently asked my players if they wanted to share GM responsibilities during a game instead of having just me as the GM and most of them hated the idea. They prefer having one person represent the world, the enemies, the story, and act as the window into the world because it creates the feeling of experiencing something that is beyond their imagination and control. Some likened it to playing a video game - they like the excitement created by experiencing whatever is up the GM's sleeve.
Looking back, I'd probably avoid some of these techniques. What do you guys think?