Against the Giants: A snippet of actual play

This battle took about an hour. I posted this on facebook and it turned out so long I think it needed a blog entry as well:

I think a highlight last night was half the party down at the base of the fire giants throne room. The king, gravely hurt, decides to go lick his wounds and sends his guards to kill the interlopers.The wizard Annalena winks away, teleporting two hundred feet away down the smokey corridor leading to the throne room. Dell the rogue zips out to apply a healing potion to Jerek the sorcerer, who, revived, then pulls a cloak of elvenkind over herself to appear as a rock – next to the rock the king threw that felled Jerek! Then when no one is looking, casts invisibility on herself – as a rock just disappearing would look odd! Dell manages to administer a potion to Korall the palladin, but when he flees to the collumns to hide, the giants follow!

This is as Dell finds that while his hiding is great, enemies need only go behind the column he hid behind to find him – giant long swords hack at him! Wounding him fairly gravely!

However, their attention is distracted – and Korall gets to his feet behind them and walks to the last known place of the king, the throne. He stealths away (nat 20!)

To where invisible Jerek is looking for the secret exit the king took, after investigating the kings disappearance (nat 20!). Korall is disturbed by the voice from nowhere! And they find no secret door!

Meanwhile Dell has fled, evading the giants and running headlong down the smokey hallway. At the other end, invisible Annalena calls to him, trying to speak loudly enough to be heard and softly enough to not be heard by the giants, for Dell to come to her. And perhaps a GM was too nice about that working out, but indeed it does – Dell runs at full speed into the smoke of the corridor, clasp forearms with Annalena and teleport once again! To behind the throne! Korall sees Dell appear and gets another invisible voice talking to him as well! While the giants, who saw Dell running off in the other direction, move away from the throne room!

Annalena learns form Jerek the king has escaped by some kind of secret door and casts pass wall. Suddenly the secret exit is revealed to them and they press through, going from near total party death to instead hunting down the giant raider king!

Schrodinger’s Railroad

There is a recurring sentiment in gaming culture I find fascinating, since it seems an utter paradox. Here’s a recent and clear assertion of it:

Railroading is forcing players down a narrative route . If the players think it’s their decision, they’re not being forced. Agency is in the mind of the player; they can feel they have it when they don’t and they’ll be happy. But if they don’t feel they have any, even when they do, they’ll become disenfranchised.

A DM’s job is to make it so the players always feel like they have agency, to make them feel their characters are in danger. D&D is a game of illusions, and the DM is the man behind the curtain.

Original Comment

It is so odd. For example, how could players ever get disenfranchised? Consider the chronology of disenfranchisement

  1. The DM makes the players follow his decision
  2. The players feel it is their decision
  3. The players somehow begin to realise it is not their decision
  4. The players are disenfranchised

Okay, so if it is not railroading when the players feel it is their decision, how could players ever get to step 3 when by the logic of the quote in step 3 there is no railroading to detect?? Like Schrodinger’s cat being both alive and dead, somehow it is both railroading and not railroading at the same time?

Ultimately it’s probably pretty simple – the whole notion likely comes from the idea that the agency described is the best agency you can get. The idea being the best agency you can get is one where the GM is making the decisions – the only thing to consider is if the players have their nose rubbed in it that the GM makes the decisions or they are relatively witless that he makes the decisions.

The idea of an agency where the players actually make the decisions – it’d probably sound ludicrous to anyone who has advocated the quote for a long time.

Nearly completed ‘The Blasting Diamond’

It’s been interesting to convert GM advice into an actual adventure – instead of arguing against, for example, ‘you have to do the adventure’ thinking by GMs, actually writing an adventure area that supports PCs that don’t get ‘hooked’ but actually do what their character wants to do.

And calling it an ‘Adventure area’ rather than just ‘an adventure’ is even a result of turning GM advice into material. You don’t ‘have adventures’, you engage with an area of an imaginary world. What is an adventure is something that is seen in retrospect, like a story generated at the table. You don’t decide to have an adventure, you just engage in things that in retrospect was an adventure. And areas of imaginary world can be seeded to more likely trigger an actual adventure to occur.