Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Railroading for Beginners

I’m not referring in this post's title about how to railroad, rather I’m referring to my thoughts and concerns about purposefully railroading a beginner player. See, my wife has hardly played - the one time she did, she felt overwhelmed with the possibilities. So I’m strongly considering locking her into a town. Literally. The bastide will close its gates, because as it turns out, it’s the Plague. The whole place is quarantined and until such time as a high ranking church official or two can make it there and begin administering their Cure Disease spells, noone will easily get out. This way, she’s stuck there for a bit, and will be forced (railroaded if you will) to interact with NPCs and to pick up some game hooks for when the town is eventually re-opened.

I’ve been playing with the idea of a plague ever since a different PC in the current S&W campaign got bit by a rat a while back. Also, I’ve been reading Albert Camus’ The Plague (thanks for the recommendation TS) and it’s been making an impression. It seems strangely appropriate too, with the whole Swine Flu scare of the last year or so. I feel sort of guilty locking her up like this, but it’s for her own good (I keep telling myself). I think it might be a decent mini playground for her in there. Besides, Domme (short video) actually has a nice little grotto she could check out (which of course we did the first time - not easily found and referenced on the web, the cave was a shelter during the 100 year war). Now she can go back and kill the few troglodytes we never actually encountered then but where both of us secretly knew they must have been lurking.

It’s funny, but I find myself procrastinating our first session - like a first date, I’m nervous that our first D&D real solo game won’t go well… I’ve put it off more than once, and can’t help feeling that it would be less pressure if someone else was there for it (even, or especially my 9 year old nephew veteran!)… In the end, I have to remind myself that the game isn’t for everyone, and that no matter how it turns out, it will be interesting and I’ve still got other current and potential players.


Daddy Grognard said...

It would be even more nerve-wracking if she was your only player and there were no more waiting in the wings.

Anonymous said...

i think this is actually a good idea for a novice player.

you know your wife. mix what she likes with what you think would help her feel less "overwhelmed" and you should do well.

there is more than enough to do in a small town anyway. if you play your cards right she might not even want to leave for a while and can "practice" a bit in a managable setting. then, when she feels more comfortable playing, open the gates and let her lose on your world.

2eDM said...

Heck, if she was really persistent about wanting to get out, there's always smugglers!

Telecanter said...

I don't think it's a bad idea at all. It isn't railroading so much as reducing the scope of the sandbox to try to make choices clearer. As long as you don't expect her to do certain things, like talk to a particular NPC, and she knows the quarantine will lift soon, I imagine it would still offer her lots of possibilities.

TyBannerman said...

I start my campaigns more or less like this: "You've heard about this dungeon with untold riches, and you want to plunder its depths so you've traveled to a nearby location." And then I let them go from there. Even in a sandbox, it's good for players to at least start with a DM recommended goal, as long as there's not a heavy handed, convoluted "plot" or something. The sandboxy stuff can come later, once they've got their bearings.

I also ran a one-on-one series of games with my wife. She'd never played an RPG before, and was a little ovewhelmed by the options (and the fear that she might be "playing wrong"), but she caught on quickly and we had a good time. Starting with a basic goal, like above, helped a lot.

ze bulette said...

Thanks for the comments all.

I agree with Telecanter that it's not really railroading at that stage. I'm just so used to giving PCs as wide a range of potential action as possible, it makes me uncomfortable.

In thinking about it just now, I realized that the quarantine plan is similar to the formula used in video games where you have to learn the controls before you're allowed out into the rest of the game (such as Link, confined to his tiny village). In rpgs, the controls are really the role playing itself - interacting with NPCs and deciding on courses of action among other things.

Chris Lowrance said...

I'm in a similar situation - my wife is interested in playing (maybe less than I'd like to believe, but interested), and has very little idea how the whole thing works. We actually tried playing Call of Cthulhu a year ago, and... it didn't go well. She didn't know what to expect, got a little weirded out when I started doing accents speaking as NPCs, and when she wasn't thinking of doing what a veteran would consider common sense (search the dresser, etc.) I tried to nudge her... which made her feel like she was "playing wrong."

All of these things were entirely my fault as a GM, for not putting more thought into what she expected out of the game, would enjoy, and would think of having never done it before. So I think you've got a great idea in limiting your wife's choices to start: Once she's seen how fun accomplishing the goals are, she'll be much more comfortable deciding on goals of her own.

I've got that same "oh god what if I RUIN it for her!" thing going on, but you've got the right idea - if after playing she's not that into it, it's not going to lead to divorce or anything. I'd hope. :)

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