In Defense of Railroading

Jun 01 2011

My players Saturday morning" by Benimoto on Flickr

"My players Saturday morning" by Benimoto on Flickr

I’ve been talking with the great folks on the #4eDnD channel at 4eatwill.net about storytelling in RPGs.

(Yes, another role-playing post. It’s been on my mind.)

One chatter was telling us about the plot he was pulling his players through, and we were advocating for more player choice. Everyone agreed. Great.

But it got me thinking:  what if the players don’t want a lot of choice?

There are multiple strains of role-player, obviously, and maybe I’m the only one who tends to see them on a value continuum: there are the brain-dead “roll players” who just want to bash things and pump their characters’ stats (whose stereotypical mindset is “I’m the action hero in a Hollywood blockbuster”), and the refined “role players” who create deep characters and act them out in-game.

But sometimes, people want to come home from a long day at work and fight orcs.

I totally appreciate a game in which the players are pulled along on a specific plot, in which the players’ job is simply to ride along, then fight the baddies they encounter. That sounds fun.

Maybe players want a brainless action story. Maybe they want to enjoy the spectacle of a DM’s plot, and hang on for the ride. Cool!

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