Lord Foul wrote:
Ikoma wrote:Oh, and it can be SOO frustrating to the players. I am fighting this in my current game. I'm a player. GM set up a great tense, end of the world situation. There are big, bad world-ending forces invading. We are part of the larger defenses hoping to save civilization. There are essentially three game ending conditions. If bad guys achieve Goal A or B, we lose. If we achieve Goal C, we win. Which is fun.
So we get word bad guys are moving to get a macguffin that will get them significantly closer to Goal A. We fail to stop them. Which is cool story. The party is all fired up and invested in repaying the bad guys for our 'temporary' setback and either recovering or destroying the macguffin. But the GM keeps hinting we should be pursuing our Goal C. I lay out how my character sees it for him, if the bad guys complete Goal A, they win! We HAVE to stop them. He agrees with me and then says, "but don't worry. Nothing will happen until you guys get there. You can pursue this other goal safely." And the tension just goes out of the party. I'm personally feeling a little railroaded. He presents us with all these 'options' of things to do but then stands there shaking his head 'no' while we tentatively point at the different choices until his eyes finally light up and he nods 'yes' when we point to the one he wants (metaphorically).
What makes it so frustrating is that he has clearly put a LOT of work into the story. The NPCs are cool. We've had some epic battles. He's telling us a cool story. He's just not letting us play in it.
That is a very common problem with complex (and interesting) story-lines. The GM wants everything to work out narratively perfect, and cannot resist interfering with the players' free will in order to ensure that happens. In general, this is the time for one of those little chats, as your GM almost certainly doesn't realise the effect of what they are doing.
I completely agree.
One of the earliest lessons I learned in my GMing career (it was one of the first Call of Cthulhu games I ever ran, and was essentially me trying to retell one of my favorite lovecraft stories) is that TTRPGs aren't a GM telling a story to the players, it's a GM creating a story with a substantial contribution from the players; sometimes the players even contribute more than the GM depending on the type of game.
It may be a hard-line stance to take but I think if a GM shows up to a game like D&D with a plot that's complete or deterministic, or even if they just have a solid plan for where they want the story to go or how it will end, they're bad at building campaigns and are only setting themselves up for exactly this kind of situation. Unless it's a 1-shot, or your players are a group of beer and pretzels types who are happy to let you lead them by the nose through your story (nothing against those types of groups by the way) it's just not the way this medium of storytelling works.
TTRPGs are (imo) not about telling the plot of a story, they're about building a fleshed out world filled with 3-dimensional characters played by real people; the *plot* of the story is (in my considerable experience) mostly an emergent property of the players interacting with the world and you as the GM facilitating its response. Except perhaps at the highest level where the setting, main motivations of the characters and the big bad etc. are determined. For comparison, a leader and a group of people playing characters who ARE simply collaboratively telling the plot of a story would be the director and cast of a play respectively.
I'm reminded of when Dan talked about players having a "golden box" around their character sheet, and that it was bad practice to reach into that golden box and mess with their character in a serious way without their consent. I agree with that conclusion. However, I found that as a GM I have much more fun and run far more interesting games when I REMOVE my
golden box from around my world and my story.
Now I certainly have a mostly unspoken understanding with my players that the game will probably be more interesting if they at least head in the general direction implicit in the premise of the game i.e. maybe the cthulhu investigators should do some investigating instead of going to a used record store and lighting their farts every session etc. but I long ago stopped trying to get them to conform to any kind of pre-structured plot, mostly by not writing one, and I have never looked back.