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If you want to be surprised, then I don't think it's possible for the GM to be 100% infallible at hiding all their cards and still providing an entertaining narrative, so that leaves us two options:1) The players actively try to not know, notice, dwell on, or communicate things which might ruin surprises. A suspicion of betrayal willfully stops at, "Guys, I'm starting to wonder if we can trust this person..."2) Rules for noticing and concluding things, which can be used to effectively prohibit such when necessary. Examples:• Nerfing the heck out of Sense Motive-type abilities with extreme math (roll well against the lowest difficulty or fail)• Having an explicit "no one can read anyone" rule• Having a "test a theory" or "gather evidence" system which is useful in many situations but relies on circumstances the GM won't provide for their key plot characters• Having an "ask the GM questions" system, to which the GM can always answer "you're not sure" when they wish to sustain uncertaintyThat last one might actually be a pretty decent approach for railroad play in general...
As an aside: chamber music, in English, is definitely the wrong idiom! In an orchestra, if the 8th 2nd violin isn't that good, or the 3rd violist, it's not going to impact the sound that much. But to play actual chamber music, like Beethoven violin sonatas or whatnot, you have to be really good. (And Mozart is known as a composer whose music gets harder to perform the better you understand it.) Chamber music is very exposed, because there's only a few other people up there with you. I... may have had some of my own pieces played by not-so-skillful string quartets. :-D
I've never seen anyone who started with storygames and other games that have structured GMing methodologies and structured tools for telling stories railroad, because they have consistent tools to use and consistent sources to learn from.
That's a really interesting datapoint, thank you!
if you try to prepare to run an RPG, you will most likely start by trying to make up a story like the ones you have seen.
(Incidentally, this is one aspect of "GMing for Hire" I often wonder about. I'd imagine that getting paid to GM would incentivize GMs to lean in the direction of a heavily controlled or scripted game. (I'm sure the same pressure exists for play which is consumed by audiences, like Livestreamed games online. I don't think everyone gives in to these pressures, mind you, but they seem like a natural phenomenon to me, and quite understandable.)
I would say that the reason why it's so common is because of how many people's entrance to the hobby is trad games, which pay lip-service to the concept of telling a story in the books, but then don't actually give you any tools to do that, or any coherent methodology on how you should handle it,
However, after thinking about it for a bit, I came to conclude that there are several important artistic contributions that are clearly possible for character players in a railroaded game's framework. These are, I imagine, what actually successful railroad games focus on:* The character players have control of the pace of play: you can choose whether to skim a given scene/topic, or to stop and delve deeper. Just declare your intent to move on, or your intent to stay, and the GM will adapt.* The character players have control of the focus of play at any given time: by asking direct questions and paying active attention to certain facets of the on-going play situation, you can direct the GM to change their delivery.* The character players have control of their own acting, insofar as the expressive actions and reactions of their own characters go. This is explicitly not control over the events in a true railroad game, but rather control over the Color of how those events come to pass.
I also think you meant "highest difficulty" in your first bullet point under 2). The problem there is that... what if the player gets lucky? It's also pretty clumsy to set DCs vengefully high like that. "I shoot him." "Yeah, well, he has an armor class of... a billion!" Makes it pretty obvious that person has plot armor. Same with a high Deception score or whatnot.
Probably not terribly germane to the main topic, but just to clarify:
I also think you meant "highest difficulty" in your first bullet point under 2). The problem there is that... what if the player gets lucky? It's also pretty clumsy to set DCs vengefully high like that. "I shoot him." "Yeah, well, he has an armor class of... a billion!" Makes it pretty obvious that person has plot armor. Same with a high Deception score or whatnot.No, I did mean lowest difficulty. Like, even against the lowest allowable difficulty level, a very high roll is required for success. So against moderate difficulty, it's near-impossible, and against high difficult, it's literally impossible. So the badguy doesn't need a 1 billion AC, they just need a 13.It's basically a way to say, "You mostly can't Sense Motive," in a game with a particular mechanical framework.I wouldn't even bother to mention this option for abilities with obvious real-world difficulties, like jumping over a 10-foot gap or whatnot. But sensing motives is subjective and nebulous enough that it strikes me as plausible to have it be incredibly hard by default."Difficulty is always +10" or "skill starts at -10" could be ways to do this in D&D.
Survive is not the same as “benefit from” however.
Right, but I’m setting it up to be OK if they can tell it’s a lie and OK if they can’t.
It turned out that me acting out fake, bad lying didn’t benefit the game. It led the players down my chosen path too much. Instead me just trying to act the NPC the best I can makes it the most unpredictable whether or not they will believe the NPC or not, i.e. more interesting for me, higher “play to find out”-factor.
Or to put it another way: Maybe GMs are excited when PCs roll Insight because they haven’t thought about the idea of just giving out the information. This seems closely related to the old problem of “I wrote a binder full of world lore that no one except me knows, so I get super excited when I get to exposit some of it.”
I’ve thought both the same two things about them. That’s not me, though.
Again, have removed Insight and Investigation. Interesting that the old Sherlock Holmes game didn’t have those skills. It just told you what you were finding / seeing / hearing and had you do your own thinking from there. Very fun & interesting. Some of the NPCs lied and some told the truth, some spoke more or less convincingly whereas others were pretty transparent. Love it
I would say that the reason why it’s so common is because of how many people’s entrance to the hobby is trad games, which pay lip-service to the concept of telling a story in the books, but then don’t actually give you any tools to do that, or any coherent methodology on how you should handle it
I agree, that was exactly the problem – and not only a lack of tools for realizing the pre-scripting that the GM book lauded so much, but that the tools that were there, and presented to players, actually made it harder to do that sort of RR.
I think it’s possible to approach this from another angle, too. For instance, my friend who started GMing for the first time was clearly modeling her “adventures” on her own roleplaying experiences. [awesome, illuminating story elided]
Yes! I’ve long maintained that you can’t learn to DM just by being a player, for exactly this reason. (DM:s can become better DM:s by also spending time as a player, but that’s another thing.)
The game example texts in many RPG:s have the problem of eliding what the GM actually thinks and does in her prep.
One day I’ll need to expand and translate Hur spelledaren kan tänka, an intro text I wrote that not only goes into what’s being said at the table, but also what’s going on inside the GM:s head as she reads her sandbox prep and what she decides to improvise vs what’s in the module text.
This is also why I’m so happy about LMoP (and wish it’d go further and didn’t have the “chapters”). The first time I ran it my players didn’t go into the dungeon, they went to the village instead. And in the book it tells you that that is A-OK and then it becomes sandboxy from there. Tomb of Annihilation does goes further, it presents the locations alphabetically instead of time-linearly. That is awesome.
It's basically a way to say, "You mostly can't Sense Motive," in a game with a particular mechanical framework.
"you get an idea, the dice shoot you down, rinse repeat"
"That was shady! Guys, I don't trust NPC 3. Maybe we should leave town in the middle of the night instead of letting him tag along with us.""It might have been shady... but it might have been exactly what he said it was, right? You can ditch him if you want, but remember, he's been pretty useful.""I'm going to watch him carefully when I ask him what he's been up to.""He just tells you what he said before. He seems sincere."
'He seems sincere' is a really interesting phrase.It seems to me that there's some danger for misinterpretation: is that the GM talking to the player about the game, or the GM describing the fiction to the character?
"He just tells you what he said before. He seems sincere."
"It might have been shady... but it might have been exactly what he said it was, right? You can ditch him if you want, but remember, he's been pretty useful."
I've taken statements like these as being "out-of-character" before, and seen others do so, as well. It can easily be interpreted as the GM telling the players: "There's nothing more to learn here, and he's not lying to you."
I got loud boos the ONE time I tried saying something like that. I am not allowed to give advice and esp not re the shadeworthiness of various NPC:s.
a GM steps into the player's shoes to describe their character's perception/opinion of the world, rather than describing things they can observe and letting the player describe their conclusions.
"He seems sincere" uses the same technique as "You don't notice any traps here." That's all.
2097, what's so bad about the GM describing something in terms of what it seems like?
What if I actually am a cop in real life, and interpret those details completely differently than the GM meant it?
5. That is awesome. But that's also why I want to move away from adding in fake detail, fake tells and instead just straight up lie when the NPC lies. If they can figure it out from proof, other facts that they've gathered, or my tells, that's awesome. If they can't, if they're deceived, that's also awesome.
you’re against people playing characters who are better at detecting lies than their players
That’s a consequence of the subtractive model, yes.
To attempt a task with unknown variables, roll 3 dice:
2d4 plus your relevant skills/stats. This is the part of the attempt you have complete knowledge of.
1 die whose size corresponds to the degree of uncertainty of the attempt. The more uncertainty, the bigger the die:
No die: Rote task, no uncertainty beyond the character's own performance
d4: Basically known, but can't 100% account for all factors/variables
d6: Character knows that they definitely don't know everything
d10: Character has only the barest guess as to what they're dealing with
d20: Blind shot in the dark
I've seen GMs answer that kind of question with, "No metagaming!", or, perhaps, even, "Well, what do YOU think?", and a mysterious smile.