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Manipulating/Hiding information from Players (Debts to Pay)

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6 minutes ago, Benjan Meruna said:

A GM shouldn't be "trying to achieve a certain plot result."  That's railroading, full stop.  You plan ahead for the possibilities, of course, and you try to be prepared for what comes next, but a GM should never try to "steer" the story that comes out of play.  This is not a book, not even a "choose your own adventure."  It's a set of journals, and the players are the ones writing in them.  

Well, you and I might agree on that, but by and large that's not how a lot of people do it and I'm reluctant to tell people how to run games at their table.  I do feel, however, that only allowing the players to craft the story is not going to be as fruitful as the GM and players working together to craft a story.   

One trap a new GM can fall into is over-prep - by trying to account for every possibility, the GM has spent time working on the choo-choo rather than preparing for any outcome by instead preparing locales and NPCs that can be reskinned at an instant to adapt to the the player's zig when the GM expected a zag.  Let's say, for example, your PCs decide after a well-described bowl of soup that they'd rather spend the entire evening searching the city for the best soup.  How on earth does a GM predict that?  Short answer: usually a GM can't.  But if a GM has a notebook full of generic settings and npcs, a couple helpful lists of npc names and species, then it's full steam ahead.   It has taken many decades and countless hours of GMing and playing to arrive at this conclusion, but in the past 4 years running this system it has yet to fail me when things go completely whacky 5 minutes after I read the opening crawl.  

 

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I think this has gotten fairly off topic. The original question had to do with a pre-constructed module that (I assume) the players have already said they want to play. This isn't 'how not to railroad' it's 'how do I keep from accidentally giving away key plot points for the route my players have already decided to take'.

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For me it's been about player conditioning earlier on. I've given NPCs boosted stats in relatively "useless" things just in case they came up and made certain things trickier than need be so they got used to the idea that just because something requires a few higher dice doesn't mean it's always that essential information is being kept from them. It's been a useful back up for things and created surprising results that allow the opportunity for either making them feel more accomplished or just giving the table a good laugh. I do counter reward this by also making some key rolls a bit simpler to ensure that they get information that they require but nothing too key to the overall story.

Favourite example of this working for the story and a little extra entertainment actually came from Debts to Pay when following difficulty getting into the mines they'd triggered some security and increased the door locks strength. Cue the team getting obsessed with a locked door on the side of a corridor and eventually blowing up the door to gain entry. All they found inside was a bathroom and a few "adult photographs" of a Trandoshan centrefold. It wasn't a complete loss as they decided to keep the photos and hang them on the absent Wookies bunk with the predictable Wookie rage reaction next session ;) 

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On 2/6/2017 at 9:28 AM, Concise Locket said:

If my players spoil a mystery plot, then they spoil a mystery plot. I'm not going to cheat them in order to cover myself. If it causes half of a scenario to get tossed, then that's what happens. However, I never throw anything away and I've adapted lost encounters for future adventures. 

I'm just in the middle of this right now. I'm running Tatooine Manhunt, and we're about half way through. Now the game as written have the players running around Mos Eisley a while, bumping into false trails and some double crosses - but they found a clue in the Mos Eisley City Hall (something actually in the game) and opted to jump on it straight away - bypassing the middle three chapters of the game. Now I could try and figure out some way to keep them in town - or I could just figure out what I can salvage from the G.a.W., move some of the cooler encounters into the Tatooine wastes, and juggle the long term story arc stuff I want to have happen elsewhere.

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1 hour ago, Desslok said:

I'm just in the middle of this right now. I'm running Tatooine Manhunt, and we're about half way through. Now the game as written have the players running around Mos Eisley a while, bumping into false trails and some double crosses - but they found a clue in the Mos Eisley City Hall (something actually in the game) and opted to jump on it straight away - bypassing the middle three chapters of the game. Now I could try and figure out some way to keep them in town - or I could just figure out what I can salvage from the G.a.W., move some of the cooler encounters into the Tatooine wastes, and juggle the long term story arc stuff I want to have happen elsewhere.

I love what you did, Desslock, and I bolded what I think is the important part.  I love it when the player characters discover a secret plot against them or the like due to a lucky roll, clever planning, or a mix of both.  What I don't love is when the players, not their characters, discover the plot out of game and ruin the surprise.  Regardless if they metagame or not after that point, they're not going to have as much fun as they were when it was a surprise, and now they might have their characters behave irrationally in the game to correspond to OOC knowledge.  But yes, tossing out what you were expecting when the unexpected happens is part and parcel of the GM package!

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59 minutes ago, Benjan Meruna said:

What I don't love is when the players, not their characters, discover the plot out of game and ruin the surprise.

Tatooine Manhunt has the players trying to find a refugee from the Clone Wars before the Empire does. So when my players arrived in system at the very start of the game, the mystical seer Jedi said "I try and find him with the Force!", to which the Force responded "There is no way I'm letting you jump to the last page of the module without at least putting boots on the ground."

 

Did that remove player agency? Oh, probably - but I think the buy in of 'everyone is here for a good time, and skipping over the game thanks to one dice roll is not a good time' was stronger.

But then I've got great players who can easily divorce player knowledge from character knowledge. In fact next game - assuming that Jodo Kast manages to get away from the Boss Fight - I'm going to have him set up future game events by tagging their ship with a tracer, and I'll tell them as such in a cutaway scene. But I will admit that it takes a special kind of 'everyone on the same page' group, I don't think I could get away with that with a group that knows I'm doing that for a good reason and trusts me to deliver the goods.

(Watch - next Saturday they'll prove me wrong by paranoidly scrubbing the ship just this once.)

 

 

59 minutes ago, Benjan Meruna said:

But yes, tossing out what you were expecting when the unexpected happens is part and parcel of the GM package!

 

Wasn't it Sun Tzu who said that "No prepared game ever survives contact with the players"?

 

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43 minutes ago, Desslok said:

 

Tatooine Manhunt has the players trying to find a refugee from the Clone Wars before the Empire does. So when my players arrived in system at the very start of the game, the mystical seer Jedi said "I try and find him with the Force!", to which the Force responded "There is no way I'm letting you jump to the last page of the module without at least putting boots on the ground."

 

Did that remove player agency?

Not sure that removed player agency - the Force does have a range limitation insofar as what PCs can sense.  Carry on Mr. Penguin!

 

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18 hours ago, Desslok said:

I'm just in the middle of this right now. I'm running Tatooine Manhunt, and we're about half way through. Now the game as written have the players running around Mos Eisley a while, bumping into false trails and some double crosses - but they found a clue in the Mos Eisley City Hall (something actually in the game) and opted to jump on it straight away - bypassing the middle three chapters of the game. Now I could try and figure out some way to keep them in town - or I could just figure out what I can salvage from the G.a.W., move some of the cooler encounters into the Tatooine wastes, and juggle the long term story arc stuff I want to have happen elsewhere.

I'm pleased that you were able to make "Tatooine Manhunt" work for you. I ran that module for my players in our very first, trial-run campaign of EotE and, because it's an old and not-particularly-well-written WEG adventure, I ended up railroading my players through it. It wasn't fun for me and it wasn't fun for them.   A lesson was learned and I began prepping scenarios rather than plots.

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17 hours ago, themensch said:

Not sure that removed player agency - the Force does have a range limitation insofar as what PCs can sense.  Carry on Mr. Penguin!

 

In the same vein, sense has a sidebar that explicitly lays out that Sense should only provide a clue to the players, not the whole answer.  This philosophy holds true for all the Force powers, I think: none of them will just hand you the answer on a silver platter, but they might give a hint.  So, I would say no player agency was removed.

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1 hour ago, Concise Locket said:

I'm pleased that you were able to make "Tatooine Manhunt" work for you. I ran that module for my players in our very first, trial-run campaign of EotE and, because it's an old and not-particularly-well-written WEG adventure, I ended up railroading my players through it. It wasn't fun for me and it wasn't fun for them.   A lesson was learned and I began prepping scenarios rather than plots.

That site is gold, it really refined what Play Unsafe awoke in me.

12 minutes ago, Benjan Meruna said:

In the same vein, sense has a sidebar that explicitly lays out that Sense should only provide a clue to the players, not the whole answer.  This philosophy holds true for all the Force powers, I think: none of them will just hand you the answer on a silver platter, but they might give a hint.  So, I would say no player agency was removed.

If Yoda can't find the Sith temple buried under the Jedi Temple on Coruscant or tell that Anakin, who was sitting in front of him, was falling to the Dark Side, what chance do some low-level mooks have of finding a single person on an entire planet?!?

 

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41 minutes ago, themensch said:

If Yoda can't find the Sith temple buried under the Jedi Temple on Coruscant...

I haven't watched the Clone Wars series, so I'm missing some of the new cannon, but I thought the council knew how to get to the Sith Temple? I thought they were leaving it to let the Jedi proximity 'purify' it or something? Like, it was a secret that only the council knew but they were doing the Jedi equivalent of letting it soak in the sink overnight?

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4 minutes ago, Dunefarble said:

I haven't watched the Clone Wars series, so I'm missing some of the new cannon, but I thought the council knew how to get to the Sith Temple? I thought they were leaving it to let the Jedi proximity 'purify' it or something? Like, it was a secret that only the council knew but they were doing the Jedi equivalent of letting it soak in the sink overnight?

Perhaps I am wrong, but I think I recall this from one of the newer novels, not TCW.  They're all jumbled in my head now so I can't recall a specific source, but I know the Emperor was a character in the novel and not just a supporting player.  

 

edit: it was Tarkin, per http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Sith_shrine

 

Edited by themensch
updated knowledge for the sharing

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7 minutes ago, themensch said:

Perhaps I am wrong, but I think I recall this from one of the newer novels, not TCW.  They're all jumbled in my head now so I can't recall a specific source, but I know the Emperor was a character in the novel and not just a supporting player.  

Not gonna lie, I stopped reading at the Yu-know whats. According to the Wook it came up first in the Tarkin book, but I don't know if it had details. 

Edit: stop editing while I'm posting! I can't keep up! T_T

Edited by Dunefarble

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44 minutes ago, Dunefarble said:

Not gonna lie, I stopped reading at the Yu-know whats. According to the Wook it came up first in the Tarkin book, but I don't know if it had details. 

Edit: stop editing while I'm posting! I can't keep up! T_T

So the new canon doesn't have any of that, and I've found them all worthwhile entertainment.   

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