Comments on 2015-03-25 Railroading

Also relevant: The Mediocrity of Improvisation.

– Alex Schroeder 2015-03-26 07:10 UTC

On Google+, I talked about this one shot using the Mass Effect Fate RPG and remembered how I decided to switch from Traveller to Fate back in 2010. I picked Diaspora as my Fate system of choice, mostly because it was shorter than Starblazer Adventures (no longer available) and I hadn’t heard of Bulldogs!, and Mindjammer didn’t exist back then. On the day I was supposed to run the Mass Effect one shot, I discovered another file in my Mass Effect folder: Hacking Diaspora to Mass Effect. It was based on Diaspora where as Mass Effect Fate RPG is based on Bulldogs!. Hacking Diaspora to Mass Effect is an add on and therefore shorter (less than 100 pages) where as Mass Effect Fate RPG is around 250 pages but stands alone. Hacking Diaspora to Mass Effect is more conversational. If I ever run a Mass Effect session again, I know what I’ll use!

Or perhaps I’ll just use Stars Without Number. 🙂

Here’s the author explaining how he’d use Stars Without Number to run Mass Effect. And here are some more extensive notes by

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-08 06:10 UTC

In another Google+ discussion, Jack Gulick talked about the difference between Fate games and traditional games. In another thread, we were talking about how to avoid an unsatisfying “players save all their fate points and nova burst the final boss” issue. More about that thread over here. In this new thread, he explained where player agency resides. He said it is no railroad when you change the stats or the number of enemies in a boss fight. This is supposed to be more engaging and challenging. His point was that the aspects chosen are essentially a sign for the game master – “poke me here”. Essentially, the game is no longer about puzzles and beating challenges, I guess, but about how these things affect your characters and the world around them.

At character creation (and every time you revise you character, which is potentially after every session), you select the 5 (or more) aspects that are always true about your character. These are your strengths and weaknesses, the places the drama is most likely to press about you.

But since they are dynamic things, able to be changed as your character grows and reinterpreted as the story develops, I don’t think everything is decided at chargen. Most of the meaning of aspects is discovered in play as the interaction of various facts with the character and the evolution of the character proper occurs.


[In] Fate, a lot more of the emphasis is on how your characters major attributes (their aspects primarily, but also stunts and skills) impact the world they’re in.

Because, you see, the world also has aspects, and those get changed by what happpens. In effect, the world is a character (for the sake of this topic), as are the NPCs. All of them are changing because of the intersection with the PCs.

PCs can change a lot or only a little, based on if you want a dramatic or an iconic character pattern (dramatic has big change-filled development arcs, iconic change the world more than they themselves are changed), as can the world based on if the GM wants a “bigger than you” world or a “you are making a huge difference” world.

– Jack Gulick

Definitely food for thought!

– Alex Schroeder 2015-04-08 06:23 UTC

Over on his blog, Ben L writes about the joy of discovery and how making things up on the spot is basically denying players that joy. Recommended reading.

So here is one of the pleasures of the OSR style of play: it makes available the pleasure of discovery about the world of the game and the things in it. This fact depends on a differentiation of roles between DMs and players. The DM in designing the world, building the sandbox, creating and stocking the dungeons, making up the NPCs, and so on, acquires one secret after another. On the OSR style of play, prep is essentially stocking a storehouse of secrets. The players, by contrast, go into the situations they choose to enter in a state of ignorance.

– Ben L.

Important note at the end, after discussing low prep play, random encounter tables, locations that are undetermined when play begins and a lot of other interesting aspects:

I’m not so keen on the raving enthusiasm for low-prep gaming that is expressed episodically in certain strands of OSR culture.

– Ben L.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-04-21 19:11 UTC

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