Saturday, December 3, 2011

Railroading is bad

Of the c
ardinal sins of being a game master one of the worst is railroading. Railroading is when you take the free will away from the players. This can be as dramatic as the GM simply saying no when the players want to go a different way to there being impossible to beat obstacles at every other path.
Why would a DM use such as tactic in the first place?  Well, it definitely helps with trying to get players to follow a particular path.  However, there are players who aren't particularly fond of railroading.  So while your story may progress the way you want it to, some players are going to feel like they’re just there for the ride, rather than taking a more active role in your adventure.
When railroading players, you’re completely undermining a player’s sense of accomplishment.  Players that are forced into a particular situation through brute force tend to get surly and enjoy the game much less than if they have the illusion of free will. 
The way to avoid railroading is to develop adventures that do not require players to proceed down a single path to complete the adventure. Branching is a much better method of devising a strategy of what will happen in a game. come up with 3 or 4 options at each critical decision point and if the players chose something you didnt think of its time to shine as a GM and improvise.
The best games sometimes happen because you didn't predict where the players were going to go and you have to get creative with the situations.


  1. Interesting post, I share your meanings.

  2. Did not know this. Great info.

  3. Railroading sounds like an extremely terrible fate to get man, very interesting stuff as usual buddy.

  4. Interesting, totally share the opinion and I couldn't help but think of Skyrim when reading your post.

    So I made a review of Skyrim on my new blog, lol. followed, come check me out

  5. That would probably be kinda boring. Unless I was being railroaded by JRR Tolkien or someone like that.

  6. You could just make it impossible for them to get out of a situation anyway. Say "When you move through the gate, it closes behind you, leaving you with no way out. Ahead you can hear voices, many of them. The only way is forward". Then they have no choice but to go forward to certain death. Or they could just say they want to look for another way out, in which case yes you can improvise, and allow them to find one. Then again I guess creating a situation where there is only one option (ie the one you want) could be seen as railroading.

  7. ahh...the sandbox vs themepark argument. As an MMO player, this is the biggest issue among gamers. Sandbox mmos allow the player to deviate from the main plot of the game while themepark games take you on a strict liner path. Both playstyles can be fun.