Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Blogging from A to Z: F is for Freedom
No player likes to be railroaded. This is true. Unless you go into a game with everybody on exactly the same page about the game that they are going to play, you're not going to have many players who are begging to go on a completely pre-planned, pre-plotted linear adventure which works like a Dungeon Delve without any diversion from the single path leading from the entrance to the boss battle. Nobody really wants to play those adventures if they are given a choice between the open, free adventure, and the railroad. Sometimes you are forced to do one of them, because the DM has been slacking off on the job and doesn't having anything particularly fascinating prepared for the players (an experienced DM wouldn't let that stop him though... bust out those Random Tables man!).
But, I postulate (ooo big words) that even in the face of no preperation and the use of a published linear adventure, that a smart DM can still give his players the illusion of Freedom if he or she simply has the spine to try. Sometimes, as a DM, you have a plot/story in your head that you really, really want your players to follow.
Taking Freedom away from your players is all about the illusion. The better the illusion, the less they will feel that they have been violated in some way, or tricked by the DM. You have to to play things cool. Giving them two paths, like the illustration to the left, if a good way to get your players to call fowl on you, but put those paths a bit further apart, make them wind a lot more, and you're likely to have things work out just find.
Take for example adventure hooks; adventure hooks are a great way of creating the illusion of freedom of choice. When you, as a DM, have a story that absolutely has to be told, and an adventure that you absolutely have to send your players on, prepare bucket loads of adventure hooks of all different kinds. However, the trick to making really good adventure hooks is to keep them from all looking the same. Don't simply throw the same hook, but with a different NPC/reward attached in front of the players over and over again. Make the adventure hooks look significantly different from eachother, but the end result always sends them on the same grand adventure. If you can master that, you're well on your way to being a fantastic DM. I still haven't gotten that down, but I've been working on it. A lot of my games still tend to feel a bit rail-roadish, but my players usually forgive me because they're really nice. They see the fact that their freedom of choice is an illusion, but they're cool people who don't mind being led around.