Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chronologies Vs. Plots

In a discussion on Dreams In The Lich House, we are playing with conceptions of sandbox and railroad style play. As usual, some people are operating from a flawed (in my opinion) understanding of sandbox play and talking about how a "pure" sandbox is this or that thing which is not necessarily so.

Anyway, I started to discuss the difference between a timeline and a preconceived plot:

A timeline does not place any restrictions on what decisions the players can make. The players may choose to confront the mastermind of the timeline or they may choose another route to success. There is no pre-scripted scene involving a necessary confrontation between the mastermind of the timeline and the players. A preconceived game includes the assumption that the players will maneuver their characters in such a way that the mastermind will be confronted, and that scene must occur to resolve the situation either positively or negatively.

I also made the following statement:

Some examples of techniques that I think are mistakes in roleplaying, but which are useful in other entertainment media (and this is not exhaustive): "Boss monsters", cutscenes, climaxes, act structures, and so on. This, by the way, does not mean that in retrospect some of these things might [edit: I meant "won't"] occur, or be imposed on the narrative of the stochastic events, but rather that using these concepts as organizing principles is a mistake.


  1. I truly believe some folks want to be part of a story. Railroading is forcing folks down a desired path, that does not involve enticing folks down a desired path.

    A great GM creates situations with meaningful choices for the players, but knows his players so well he can entice them - giving them what they want in a way - along a path freely chosen by them to a conclusion everyone wants.

    Do not confuse this with autowin battles, nor that the players lack freedom to just leave or so as they wish.

    It is sort of like this. I would like to hang out with you but you are still stuck on Leah dumping you and are in alone mode. I know you are a ravenous football fanatic. I score tickets to a champions league game game and say want to go to the match. You may say no, but your love of the game may lead you where I want you to be.

  2. New post by Beedo on the topic

  3. Sure, temptation is a useful tool. It should be understood for what it is, though, both on the part of the players (and perhaps the characters) and the Referee. Temptation, though, is not railroading, nor is it "story". It may be an element included in a narrative composed to describe events, but it is not the narrative, and it can exist outside of the narrative.