Saturday, January 06, 2007

Choo-Choo Woo-Woo!

Sticking with the RPG themes for a while I decided that today I should talk about something that came up between last night and today. I was working on a move for my Rifts PbE (Play by Email) game. This game has really had me thinking about the differences between an IRL (In Real Life) and a TT (Table Top) game. In gaming there is a rather infamous action of GMs (Game Masters) called “railroading” and it is an absolute boogeyman in some circles. In those dark, damp circles the slightest indication that the players don’t have every single humanly and even inhumanly possible option open to them sends them into a blind rage.

Railroading is when the players are forced to do something, like take the left road only because that’s where the adventure lies. It’s akin to sitting on a train and letting it lead you where it will without your input as opposed to driving there yourself taking whatever road, stopping wherever you feel like it. In a game where everyone is there all at once and can express themselves in words, gestures, body language, and facial expression things run very quickly and its easy to give players millions of choices everywhere. When playing by email though, cutting the options down is a somewhat necessary evil, unless you have the time to turn moves around quicker than my group has been doing.

In this current game I’m really bucking the line between pushing the game forward, letting the players do the things that they want their characters to do, and weaving and swaying between the players to let them get their shine on. It bothers me that I might be stepping over the real line. There are lots of fake lines, at least if you want any kind of game other than a free-form do whatever kind. As soon as you tie yourself down to a plot there is no help from cutting off some options or directions to go.

Otherwise the players would be off doing their own thing and the plot would move on without them. A lack of “reality” hurts the game, and time constrictions are excellent at creating tension and giving the game real punch. The players would realistically miss all the important bits and be stuck in a bad position if they got back to it. They wouldn’t have done necessary things. Villains would have pulled off their evil plots. All sorts of things would be beyond the control the players were supposed to have, and I have to imagine that can only be worse than any gentle or even strong nudging the GM might do.

Mood: critical (eyed or minded, not in danger of dying).
Music: Day Job by Gin Blossoms and Department Of Youth by Alice Cooper.

Gin Blossoms: Congratulations I'm Sorry
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Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare

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