I was having a discussion the other day with a couple of my friends about GMing, and we got onto the subject of Railroading our players. Having just finished a Mutants and Mastminds campaign (which, by the way, was so chaotic due to our newer players not grasping the concept of SuperHeroes, even I couldn’t keep up) and were wondering whether doing such a thing would be more beneficial for us or tedious for our players.
For those who aren’t sure what Railroading is, the process is basically when a GM forces their players down a specific path so that the plot could move along. This can be done cleverly using ingame terms or effects, or simply saying to the players ‘no’.
Personally, I can see how Railroading would be good if your players are likely to get out of hand, especially in games like Dark Heresy where being idiotic and random can get you killed (most likely by the Inquisitor you work with). However, railroading can be restrictive for players, making the game boring because you technically don’t get a say in the matter. This makes the roleplaying side of the game quite difficult too, because you’ve got the GM sitting accross the table, telling you what to say.
Personally, I write out my campaign then read through it once more in order to add a series of loop holes, so if the players choose one path, I can simply follow it until it gets back on track. This allows the game to be a bit more free without the players realising that they are following the plot the whole time. Anything that I haven’t prepared for, I improvise. If what the players want to do is too controversial, that’s the only point where I turn around and say ‘no’.
So, what do you think? Does Railroading help or hinder RPGs?