Story vs. Railroad - Some Ponderings

I've gotten into a lot of Internet wars over this. There seems to be this attitude that's become more prevalent over the past few years, which says that any GM who wishes to have a plot or story arc for his campaign is a shit GM and is just railroading his players. The GM's job, according to this set of gamers, is to essentially sit there and passively react to whatever the players decide to do, adjudicating rules, rolling dice for monsters, and nothing else, for taking any more of a hand in the game than that equates to a railroad.

I had previously thought this to be an attitude amongst new gamers, reared on player empowerment mechanics like drama / action / hero / luck / fate points, but now I am noticing it in the old school community who champion so-called "sandbox" play. I find this attitude from old-schoolers, who tend to champion concepts like the megadungeon, baffling. Let's look at the megadungeon concept. A dungeon is completely scripted out in advance, unless you're using a random dungeon generator as you go (and let's face it; random dungeon generators as a general rule don't work well on the fly). Every room in the dungeon is mapped out. Wandering monster tables are set. Key rooms with monsters and treasure are placed with care and detailed. Players are deposited in the dungeon and their meaningful choices amount to not much more than up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. They can choose to sally forth or leave, parlay, flee or fight.

That's...really about it. And every one of those choices exists in a story-based game as well. A plot hook is not a railroad, because you can always choose not to follow it, in which case the GM has to come up with a new hook (and a good GM will do so, even if on the fly).

I had an Age of Conan session last month which began with the PCs waking up on a battlefield after being assaulted by a band of Picts who had come down hard, beat them in a pitched battle, and stole the caravan they were escorting. The players were met by soldiers working for the local lord (Trocero of Poitain) and whom escorted them back to Trocero. Trocero charged them to recover the caravan, and offered his resources to help them do so.

The players were not required to accept this quest. They could've said "F*** you, Count. We owe your king no allegiance and were doing this as a favor to Milo of Argos. It's not our problem," and walked away, in which case I'd have come up with a new adventure on the spot--after all, the Aquilonian Wilderness offers a lot of opportunities for play. What I was doing was offering an easy hook for further adventure, which my players chose to follow. And it led to a pretty grand excursion into a ruined lost city, where they encountered a Yig-worshipping cult of Serpent Men and Nemedian spies, ancient Lemurians, and a gigantic serpent demon (which they chose to flee rather than fight, incidentally). They did recover the treasure and were greeted as heroes upon their return to Poitain, which led to Trocero sending highest praise to King Conan II of Aquilonia and in turn led to more work for the PCs down the road.

I have in the back of my mind some major events that are going on in the Hyborian world during Conan II's reign, all in the background, but in all of which the player characters can and likely will become embroiled. This is a story, and a story of my design. Certain events in the world will unfold on a timeline because the player characters are not the only people living in the world. However, should they take a path that allows them to alter or interfere in these events, the PCs can have a major effect on how things play out. They could also choose to ally themselves with a different side than originally intended, and that's fine as well. The fact that I have an overall conspiracy going on under the surface of the world, and an organization which is working on its plan and its timeline, in no way alters or removes the power of choice from my players. I have a story in mind, but there is no railroad. At least, no more so than in any other type of dungeon or "sandbox" play. I like my worlds to live and breathe, not be stagnant with the PCs being the only ones who can ever affect change. I like my players to have the sense that there's a whole world around them, and things going on about which they may never know. It lends an air of excitement and mystery to the game...and it's my ability as a storyteller that allows me to inject that sense of life into my world.

That being said, the adventures are pretty lame without serious player involvement. That I have an outline or sequence of events in mind is meaningless without the players making vital choices which drive said events in a certain direction (almost always of the players' choosing). I've had a few adventures which were serious boners on my part and ended up being horribly and unintentionally railroady, but those are by far the exception to the rule (and I generally apologize to my players after it happens). In general, however, just having a story behind your campaign absolutely does not mean you're railroading your players or restricting their choices.

People, I think, really need to leave this "plot/story = railroad" idea behind. It's tired and in some cases, I suspect, born of people who've had shitty experiences with bad DMs (as a rule; I'm sure there are exceptions). In other cases I suspect it becomes a scapegoat sort of reaction to why people hate post-Red-Box D&D. something changed with that era that touches off a bit of distaste or rage in the current grognard community, and dozens of reasons have been put forth for why BECMI is the era in which gaming changed into "something else." I've heard Larry Elmore's art style blamed. I've heard that this version was too "Kiddified." Most people seem to agree that Dragonlance (though not a BECMI product) was a major culprit. It was too high fantasy, too epic, too (dare we say it?) Tolkien, and not enough Vance and Howard. It is from this complaint, I think, that the accusations against injecting story into the game arose. I could be wrong and am not out to speak for everyone in the old school movement--it's just that's what my observations seem to bear out.

I also think it's absolutist and representative of a style of play that I just wouldn't like. If wanting a game that has story, character development, and meaning injected into it (yes, by the DM as well as the players) means that I'm not a "true" old-schooler, then so be it. I'm not down with games where my meaningful choices involve just what weapon to use to kill the orcs, or aimlessly wandering around a world that only develops in areas where I step. It could be that I'm misunderstanding the "plot=railroad" meme, and if so I'd love to have it better explained to me. I see a lot of complaining about it, and it just doesn't resonate with me (or with any group with whom I've ever gamed). Maybe I'm saying the same thing, in a different way. I don't know. I just see a game where the DM has no story involvement as a boring, pointless game indeed. And as a long-time GM who has had far more compliments than criticisms aimed at my games, I find the idea that my enjoyment of story in my games makes me a poor GM offensive.


  1. Yes, i'm one of those people that champions sandbox play. Before most sessions, I have at least 4 different adventures in mind. Sometimes the players grab one of the hooks, and (rarely) they don't like any of them and I have to come up with an adventure on the fly.

    Different strokes for different folks. I prefer emergent story, but there are lots of people who prefer a different kind of game.

    I wouldn't call you games railroady, particularly if the players can go off and do something else, and the game doesn't come to a screetching halt because it doesn't fit with the story the GM wants to tell.

  2. Absolutely, different strokes for different folks. I agree wholeheartedly with that. What bothers me is the apparent absolutism that goes hand in hand with "story = railroad" mindsets. Story does not have to equate to railroad, and games without story can be just as railroaded as games with story.

  3. In essence, a sandbox GM provides stories to his players from which they can choose or not. If they hear of the mayor's daughter being kidnaped, and jump into the story, that's great! If they decide to do something else, the story will eventually resolve itself off camera and they may learn the result. Or, they may choose to enter the story midway.

    I am probably not saying this right, but a sandbox campaign has stories and events that exist independent of the players. However, they can greatly influence and change those stories in which they choose to get involved.

    So stories and sandbox go hand-in-hand. Railroading is when the players have no choice but to rescue the mayor's daughter, and they have no say in affecting the sequence of encounters designed for them.

  4. 100% agreed.

    in some cases, I suspect, born of people who've had shitty experiences with bad DMs

    a lot of truth here i think.

  5. Its weird to me that folks would consider "story" in a Role Playing Game to be a bad thing. It's not Warhammer 40K, or Necromunda, or . D&D, whatever edition, is about telling stories.
    Ideally, both the DM and the players have input to how the story acts out, and together you craft something that geeks annoy the hell out of each other with at conventions (i.e. Let me tell you about when Aaugg the barbarian had his dog Erma awakened for saving a group of druids). The DM has a plot or two or twenty worked out, and gives the PCs some choices (or at least appears to), the PCs make a choice, and then the consequences of that choice are worked into the story.
    I don't think it's even a matter of self-written versus packaged modules either. Some packaged mods are really good at having multiple paths for an overall story. The ones I've always considered "rail roading" are overly linear, and the events of the story do not change regardless of how clever the PCs are. i.e. Fight A has to happen which then leads to hiring then leads to Fight B which gives Clue C, which leads to Warehouse D, where Clue E leads to a Fight F....

    And where you're playing makes a difference as well. In a home campaign, with no time constraints, and the ability to let things hang until next week, a DM can allow things to progress in a far less linear fashion. In a convention setting, where you probably have 4 or 5 hours, you probably need to be a bit more rail road-ish. But this is because you know going into a con setting that the story/event has to wrapped up in so short a time. But that's more a function of conventions/public play than any gaming system, be it D&D Xth Edition, GURPS, Unisystem, or what have you.

  6. Interesting topic! I think the problem with many of these discussions is that they make it seem like the choice is between

    a)A railroaded story where the players have no effect on what to do or outcome and

    b) a landscape with scattered dungeons (how some define sandbox).

    I do like story elements in my games, both as a player and as a DM. However, if I as a player feel like I cant affect the story then I lose interest in it.

    What used to work very well with my old group was to throw at them a standard railroading adventure and watch them take it apart. That requires somewhat confident players however and the right attitide from the DM. I have also used the same technique on other groups and wathced in fail completely.

    And people who call BECMI kiddiefied don't have a clue. I'm getting pretty tired of old schoolers always being down on the games from the 80s. Thats one of my favorite eras of gaming material.

  7. My thought is that if you've decided the outcome of the story in advance, it's a railroad, and if the story has several possible outcomes... the actual one will be something you didn't think of.

  8. Story + rules-heavy system requiring lots of prep = railroad. The system and the GM should both be able to support winging it... story or not? The main difference in these styles is how much the players vs. GM (ideally both) contribute to the momentum of the campaign.

  9. Excellent post, Jason. I agree with you to a great extent. I do not think that the presence of any kind of plot is railroading, even though in many games, unskilled GMs - or those lacking confidence in their ability to improvise - immediately turn a story into a railroading. I think that might be the reason why, when you were detailing a recent session of your Age of Conan game on RPGnet, you mentioned throwing in a plot hook for the characters and some reader immediately accused you of railroading. That was no more railroading than equipping your blog with a comment box is an attempt to browbeat people.

    I used to run games with very carefully scripted plots. It was certainly railroady, but often when the players went off my script what happened was the game just broke down because I didn't have the heart to force the characters back onto the tracks. I did adopt a very freeform, sandbox style, mainly because it led to much fresher games. Id' open the game, provide a few different plot hooks, and then I'd try to keep providing choices as the game went on. Now for me, connections and themes between the different plot threads soon became self-evident to me, and I'd start to weave them back together again. In the end, we would have pretty fun, open sessions that ended up with a neat story the characters felt invested in. They felt like they had crafted something when in fact, I was more like assembling a story out of their freeform. Kind of a best of both worlds thing.

    Now, I can imagine some GMs using sandbox gaming to be really slack, and that strikes me as just endless encounter-mongering, which isn't what I expect out of an RPG. I expect some kind of story. Whether it's what the GM had in mind or what developed organically and entirely off the player's self determination, the best end result is one that leaves everyone with a treasure greater than any artifact or relic:

    A good story to share with others, and one that gets better with each retelling.

    Keep up the great posts, Jason. The world needs more great RPG blogs!

  10. So, I came across this post on Dragonsfoot, and it's a great example of exactly what my problem is with DM-forced storylines:

    Notice that the players and the DM are at odds over what sort of story their game should encompass- The players seem happy with an erratic picaresque- maybe they'll plunder a dungeon, maybe they'll get involved in a local gangwar, maybe they'll follow up on some mysterious goings on involving a cult, or maybe they'll just strike off and find some other plotline to follow. They're getting to know the world, and they're developing their own priorities, in other words.

    Unfortunately, the DM is not having this. He wants them to follow the evil cult story because he has a plan for a "sequence of adventures, connected by the clues" where the players will be "overcoming each increasingly powerful set of foes. . . and beat the bad guys to the prize" (yawn). And the players' disinterest in this plot is frustrating to him, extremely frustrating, to the point that he's going online and insulting their intelligence and asking for advice on how to get them to make the "right" choices so that they follow HIS story.

    He ends with a desperate and very telling plea, "What can you do with players like this? Anybody know? It's exasperating me, I'm writing material I never get to use and having to improvise on the fly all the time because they're always ignoring clearly signposted clues and pursuing their own hare-brained schemes."

    This is as salient an example that one could ask for of a DM who has forgotten that his role is mediator between players and world, and NOT author of a story the players get to participate in provided they play nice. The players have a story that they're playing out, and they may even be having a good time, if the DM is somehow hiding his contempt for them. The DM should be going with the flow here and determining the consequences for their actions while THEY figure out what their story will be, NOT fuming at their "idiocy" in missing/ignoring his "obvious" clues for the story HE wants to tell.

    What's sad is that he has the makings of a perfectly enjoyable sandbox style game if he would just relax and let the players take the lead. Okay, so your group is ignoring the evil cult that's going to try and summon Demon Prince Gaaxx (or whatever), what then? While they're off brigainding about, the cult will presumably keep moving forward on their plan. What's going to happen when Gaaxx arrives on the scene? Will the players feel compelled to intervene at that point? And if they don't, well, you might just have a story about some good-for-nothing louts that spend their time looking for get-rich-quick schemes while a Dread Evil rises in the background and does whatever Dread Evils do when there's no hero to stop them. Why not? As long as you don't have some game ending scenario if the players make the "wrong" choice, the story can continue in interesting ways that may even surprise the DM.

    Sadly, for a supposedly "old school" forum, way too many Dragonsfooters seem to feel that the DM should be "railroading" the players (even using the word itself!)

  11. Holy crap, this blog really took off last night! I've only skimmed the comments thus far, but it seems people have some good things to say.

    This mas made its way to Dragonsfoot? I'll have to check that out.

  12. The fact that the players could say...

    "F*** you, Count. We owe your king no allegiance and were doing this as a favor to Milo of Argos. It's not our problem"

    ...shows definitively that you're not railroading.

    I think the "railroading" term is way too loaded and is now thrown around at anyone who doesn't DM/GM the way somebody else thinks they should be.

    But I don't consider what you've described to be railroading at all. My worlds do the same thing. There are agents/actors in the game world that are going to try to influence the setting. They may or may not run up against the PCs. If they do, a story occurs. If they don't, well, maybe the PCs run up against it. Maybe not.

    But the change is there.

    I think the problem I have (and many others have) with some of the published modules and such nowadays is that they require a specific course of action in order to go to the next step. Like in the 4e game I'm playing, we not only have to win a fight but we have to go exactly where the DM says we go or the module stops. The game ends. There's no alternate path or anything. It's completely railroaded. We have no option to say "to hell with this" and just go explore some ruins.

    And it's boring to all get out. AND a published WotC adventure.

    Having a pre-defined plot that arcs on its own, requires the participation of the players and which the players CANNOT affect is railroading. Having an idea for a story arc or plot or events happening in the background on a timeline that develop a story which the players may choose to affect or not is not railroading.

    And I'd argue that a well-designed dungeon crawl would have multiple paths and wouldn't proceed from Room A -> B -> C -> D. And a mega-dungeon should arguably be just as complex as any sandboxed region.

  13. Ah, never mind...there's a similar post at Dragonsfoot that was being referenced. Cool.

    However, Fitz, what about the DM? Doesn't his fun matter? Your comments seem to be marginalizing him as part of the group. It seems to me here that the problem is NOT the DM's fault, because *gasp* he has a storyline he'd like to run, but a clear disconnect between the game he wants to run and the game the players want to play.

    There are two solutions to such a problem.

    1. The DM puts aside his plans and rolls with the campaign that's developed naturally. He might surprise himself and enjoy it...or he might not.

    2. The DM steps down, the group finds another DM, and this DM finds a second group who are more in tune with the kind of game he wants to run.

  14. I don't think you and the people you're complaining about are even using the same definitions. That right there is a big problem.

  15. "The DM puts aside his plans and rolls with the campaign that's developed naturally. He might surprise himself and enjoy it...or he might not."

    The sad fact may simply be that a DM that isn't capable of enjoying being thrown a major curveball by his players simply might not be for the calling made. Harsh, that doesn't make it untrue.

    There's a discipline out there for a storyteller that wants to tell his tale his way and it only capable of being frustrated by having this undertaking compromised, but it's called author, not Dungeon Master.

  16. I disagree on one point...a DM incapable of enjoying *a* major curveball is one thing. A DM not enjoying a group of players who seem intent on blowing up his game every chance they get, by striving to constantly be contrary is something else entirely. The DM is just as entitled to a good time as the players, and every game should include collaboration between the two.

  17. I think the key is understanding that an RP is meant to be enjoyable for both the players and the GM, but the players really need to understand that being a GM is a hell of a lot more work than being a player is. Any game where the GM is relegated to purely responding to the player's actions without any kind of larger narrative framework basically makes the GM some kind of short-order cook for the imagination. Indeed, you don't want to railroad. But *some* direction is a good thing. After all, you go to a diner with a 16-page menu, you expect crappy food. You go to a fine restaurant with a single-page menu, you might grouse over the lack of choice, but the food is almost certainly way better. What I'm getting at is for every group, there is a happy medium between freeform and structured gaming, and it's not only up to the GM to try to strike that balance, but it is also up to the players to recognize it and to compromise for the good of the entire session. Otherwise, GM burnout is sure to follow, just as player burnout results from any railroading.

  18. Do you really that groups of players "intent on blowing [the] striving to constantly be contrary" are really very likely, though? Whole groups of people with nothing better to do than be deliberately cruel to hapless DMs? That sounds more like a boogeyman-type imaginary construct to me.

  19. Sure, I've got tons of anecdotal evidence of stories of just that type, and from the very descriptions of the specific DM in question (the one from the Dragonsfoot thread) that appears to be the case in his group.

    Some groups view the DM / player relationship as competitive rather than collaborative. Hell, I've been in a few groups like that myself. In one of my current groups (in which I play, not GM) there is a player who is constantly intent on going the opposite way of everyone else. I've been in groups where that was a good half or more of the players. Is it the rule? No, but you bet it does happen.

  20. Yes, the DM gets to have fun too, but that fun is part of a compromise: DM provides the framework for the story and the players get to make choices within it.

    I think that the problem with Dragonsfoot example was that the DM seems to have provided a framework that looked like "anything goes" with lots of different options and incidents to get involved in, but he REALLY wanted the players to follow up on one particular plotline and got angry with them when they didn't. I guess what he should have done is started with a clearly stated expectation, "This is going to be a game about your characters investigating an evil cult". The players would then play the game under that expectation, AND make choices within the mutually understood framework. Then, if the players decided to say "screw this" and had their characters abandon the plot and move to another city, sure, they'd be dicks and the DM would be right to be angry.

    But as he described it above, it's not clear to me that those expectations were set in the first place. Rather, it looks like he was portraying a sandbox environment and then getting frustrated when the players didn't make the choices he thought that they "should".

  21. @Will: I had a group like that. The whole thing was a disaster, they were completely out of character, and they rode out of town watching a demon destroy it. Needless to say, I stopped playing with that group after the first session. Believe me, it's all too real, and that was when I was in my 30s!

    As far as railroading vs story, a simple flowchart gives you a good idea. If there's more than one exit from a scene, it's not a railroad. If it simply looks like a line of railroad cars, then it is a railroad. Also, if they go the wrong bar to talk to the bartender (by mistake), let the other bartender give 'em the info they need. I don't believe in sitting back letting the players dictate to me -- the last time I did that the game stalled badly. I had to pretty much construct a prelude to the next adventure to get 'em started, in effect, "railroading" them. They were *shock of shocks!* grateful!

  22. You might find my post here:

    of interest. It's trying to deal with just what you are talking about: allowing things to happen in the world out of the players' control, but also allowing them to choose how to respond to them.

  23. "I had a group like that."

    Well, damn. I'm sorry you had to encounter that. It must be truly bad luck to encounter a whole table full of real assholes. I'm glad that you stood up for yourself and didn't let it happen a second time.

  24. Will I think you are being disingenuous by saying these things don't happen. You look like you have been playing long enough to know better. IT has nothing to do with a "table of assholes" but rather a table of people with different opinions of what should be done.

    A DM that does not have a story in mind or at least a flow comes off in most situations as looking unprepared.

    What I don't get is WHY this such an issue? What is wrong with a bit of storytelling in the DMs role? They have been doing it fine over at the Vampire table for years.

    I would say the DM with the story/plot in mind is actually more flexible. They have spent the time think about how the elements of the world/adventure fit together and how the Players by proxy of the characters will react to them.

    If my players zig instead of zag that is no big deal. They are going to get to the plot eventually. At Con games I'll often even through zig option out there too in repeat runnings.

    Is the OSR so entrenched in their thinking that different styles are not only verboten but they are openly ridiculed? I don't quite get it.

  25. I agree entirely with this post. "Story" has become a bogeyman for a certain group of people who want a reason for the so-called "decline" of gaming.

    For the same reason, I can't understand why people buy a module and then complain that it railroads them. Why did you buy the module? Did you like the plot? Why play a module at all if you don't want to follow the module's plot?

    I notice on those attacking the Dragonsfoot example, that all compromise is expected to be made by the GM. It seems to me that if the GM has designed a world with choices, and he is constantly implying to players that he would prefer them to take the choice he's done most preparation for, that if they refuse to take that choice they aren't interested in the GM's fun at all. Maybe the players need to compromise too?

    I have also played and GMd with groups of players who refuse to cooperate with the GM, go the opposite direction in every case, and don't care about what the GM wants to do as if he's not a relevant member of the group. It's common, and it's rude.

  26. Great post~

    If the players and GM cannot at least agree on what sort of game is to be played, and to react to the shifting circumstances in an appropriate fashion for the characters being portrayed on both sides of the screen, then there is a problem. A table full of saboteurs is not required for this to happen, it just requires a lack of focus on each person's contribution to the group, and a touch of self-indulgence.

    As has been mentioned, being a GM requires both the sort of creativity to prepare and populate the setting, and sort of creativity to adapt those preparations to the actual events on game day. Once a game begins, and the sort of game it is to be (genre, amount of action/intrigue/mystery/horror/etc) has been established, it is not unreasonable as a GM to expect players to keep within a certain framework of behaviour. The players have the right to the same expectations, and should expect that the game they played last week will resemble and relate to the session they are to play tonight in an internally consistent fashion.

    Tim Brannon's comment nails it on the head: flexibility from the GM stems from their preparations.

  27. In my opinion, "Railroading" has essentially lost all meaning. Players use it to describe GMs who just ran a sort of game that they didn't like, or didn't give them 'enough' options.

    I've mostly heard it bandied about by lazy players who didn't realize that the GM had given them a few options, or would have, if they just didn't jump on the first.

    That being said, I've also heard of some truly awful GMs who won't let the PCs deviate from their carefully-scripted plot. I've played in a few of those, and they were awful.

    I guess my own playstyle is somewhere between railroading and freeform.

    I usually come to the table with enough information to keep the game moving forward, but not so many that I feel stymied by my notes. I tend to throw out a lot of ideas, see what the players do, and then react to their actions as the needs of the story require.

    I find lately, I get a lot more fun out of making shit up at the table than I do before the game happens.

  28. I'm clearly in the sandbox group. I've learned that it can hurt to not be prepared enough, though, while playing in the sandbox and I've become quite good at it.

    Classic railroading IMO is not being able to move outside the path of the game.
    Players: "We want to check out the odd looking building over there."
    GM: "You don't have time to do so, you must stay on this quest."

    However, I've also suffered through the GM who has a story they are trying to tell, doesn't tell you they are doing a story about "x" topic, and if you don't get on board with that horse and pony show, you get nothing out of the game. That to me, is worse.

    My example of classic railroading is just a GM without good experiences. The second is someone who isn't good at communicating.

    I normally GM games, I'm horrible at playing and don't really enjoy it. The win for me, is designing game sessions that players enjoy - and say so to me or the group. If the group isn't having fun, I'm not doing my job. Yes, there are outside factors that I can't control (kids running screaming through the house because they want attention, neighbors that are too loud, etc.), but I still do my best to run a good game.

    I had a group that tried to make me "cry" every session. They pushed the limit of their characters and the setting. Sometimes, they pushed common sense and I smacked them for it. They were one of the best groups I've ever run for. It helped that we were all good friends.

    I've also run games that contained individuals who were determined to either break the laws of the game setting or break the game. I've had them in groups that I ran regularily scheduled games for and in convention games. To me, the bad players in convention games are easier to pick out.

    I don't care for "high trust" games where the players control much of what happens in a game. I've had too many players that don't invest the amount of time into the game to perform that function very well. At the same time, I've learned to say, "yes" to my players a lot more often.

  29. Having a good idea as to what the key NPCs in a campaign are trying to do is not railroading. It's just doing your job as GM. The players do those things for their characters; the GM does it for the NPCs. Simple. If as you say your players can ignore or alter the outcome of the NPC's plotting in ways you have not imagined then you're not railroading - or story telling for that matter.

    In fact it sounds to me like you're playing my kind of Old School game, the way we did 30 years ago in our actual old school. The world goes on even when the PCs are not looking.

    Having said that, mega-dungeons were never really my thing.

  30. Nagora: I'd still say I'm absolutely storytelling. Just because it's collaborative storytelling doesn't make it any less storytelling.

  31. You know, I've always preferred the term "Storyguiding" myself, when it comes to that sort of GM's role.

    "Storyteller" makes it sound more like I'm laying out everything for the players to just coast through. "Storyguide" I feel is more indicative of a style of play wherein I've got a grasp of an overall plot/story, and I give the players freedom to wander around in it. If they stray too far, I gently nudge them back, or roll with their new direction if that is necessary.

    To be honest, most of the campaigns which I 'script' out, I never actually write the adventures more than a session or so ahead. I find it's easier for me to riff off of the direction the PCs went, and that they often come up with great ideas for plot points which I'd never thought of.

  32. I prefer to avoid creation of new terminology if it's not necessary or warranted--especially if it's just to pick semantic nits. This may come from my English degree combined with the library/info science degree I'm currently pursuing. I'm anti-muddying of the language, and am anti-over-complication of classification schema.

    There are thousands of different ways and means to be a storyteller, and collaborative storytelling is one of those. So I'll continue to champion the idea that a GM should be a storyteller and that the use of the term doesn't necessarily indicate railroading your players.


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