Okay, let’s see if we can’t finish this off by looking at one more part of –C’s article: namely, statement (15) Railroading is an active process. –C proposes that one must actively remove agency in order to railroad, whereas I propose that agency must be actively added in order to prevent a railroad.
In a response to Jason Packer, -C says:
Right. That is something that must be done actively. Either by a programmer or the person you are playing with. They must decide to remove or negate your ability to play and make choices.
In the case of a programmer, a decisions [sic] must be made to add agency, and the only agency that exists will be that which the programmer preplans, or which comes about by happy accident.
Like the design of any game.
And if you went to the Hack & Slash blog today, you would think that this is where the discussion ended, with an agreement between myself and –C as to whether or not railroading must be the result of an active decision. Because the “rude” post he deleted (while leaving the impression of agreement), read as follows:
Not like the design of any game.
The beauty of a role-playing game, and I believe its core strength, is that the adjudication of a GM (or other method) allows agency to exist which is not pre-planned, but which arises from the fiction of the milieu.
In a computer game, the programmer must decide that you can pick up a salt shaker, well before you play, and barring your hacking into the system, if the programmer didn’t think of it ahead of time, you cannot do it. In a role-playing game, the human adjudicator can make a decision in real time, allowing you to do things that were never considered before.
Likewise, a “happy accident” in terms of the computer game is an error in programming that allows you to do something that the programmer did not consider or intend….but the accident occurred long ago, when the program was written.
The freedom of action, based not on a program or a set of rules, but rather upon the metafiction of the game milieu, is the primary determinant of agency in a role-playing game.
I would go so far as to say that it is possession of this quality that makes a game a roleplaying game.
I think that it should be clear that the above is relevant. It should also be clear that it is not rude. However, equally clear, the removal of this post, while leaving the previous post by –C (which suggests agreement if that is the “last word”) is indicative of the secondary motive suggested by Part III of this blog series.
Some might even imagine that there is a bit of intentional bad faith involved.
Here is another post that was deleted:
Following –C’s post of Feb 25 at 4:42, ending in “If you aren’t going to take the time to read the words I’m writing then I don’t know how I am going to be able to communicate with you.”, -C deletes:
I understand that you are attempting to be very clear and specific in your claims. However, I think the term “railroad” as it is traditionally used does NOT mean “any specific ruleset that doesn’t give you the type of agency you wish to have.” It refers to lack of a specific kind of agency; namely, the agency to make choices which have real impact on the game milieu in a way that meets expectation for that milieu and the role undertaken.
I agree that using “railroad” to refer to “any specific ruleset that doesn’t give you the type of agency you wish to have” is not a useful way to use the word.
I strongly disagree with any definition of “railroad” that disallows the term because a game allows ANY type of agency, or that whether it is the ruleset of [sic] the GM who removes agency is relevant to determining whether or not a particular game is a railroad. Or even that removal of agency need be intentional.
I suggest that your definition is as useless as the one you decry. ALL games have agency, and ALL games have limitations to that agency. It is the TYPE of agency that players have, within the context of the game milieu, and the DEGREE to which it is limited, that determines whether a game is a railroad or not.
Again, I leave it to the reader to determine whether the post above was removed due to rudeness, lack of coherence, or some other possible motivation.
For those who are interested, here is a scan of my printout of the blog and comments at 506,011 total pageviews, which will allow you to read many of the missing responses, and see how removing those comments changes the nature of the discussion....and implies resolutions or agreements in the same way that -C attempted to imply that Jason Alexander was in agreement with him about agency. http://d-h.st/4Gm
Every game has rules and one or more scenarios. The rules can be examined independent of the scenario, but they make little sense without reference to a real or imagined scenario. In some games, there is only one scenario. For example, all games of chess and checkers start in the same way, and follow the same rough scenario. Other games, such as Settlers of Catan (especially using expansions), allow for variations on the starting scenario due to tile placement, adjustments to rules, and/or other factors. Each hand of poker, based on the shuffle of the deck and the cards dealt, effectively offers the players a slightly different scenario.
It is nonsensical to talk about a checker moving one square without the scenario (in this case, the game board) being made clear (because otherwise “square” has no meaning). In games where there is only one scenario, such as checkers, that scenario can also be codified into the rules.
In more complex games, such as a computer game, there may still be only one scenario, but it becomes more difficult for some to see that the limitations on the scenario relate to the limitations of the rules. It is not only theoretically possible to write the scenario and the rules together as one entity, but this is a practical necessity to program the game.
In a very complex game, such as a role-playing game, there may be an infinite number of scenarios, and it is therefore impossible to codify everything that might occur in within the game into a single set of rules. The human adjudication allows the game to evolve in situ so as to allow for actions that make sense within the context of the milieu and the roles undertaken, whether or not they are pre-codified, and whether or not a given adjudication will apply to all similar circumstances.
You do not need to actively railroad in order to engage in it. Instead, a GM needs to be actively involved in the adjudication of outcomes based on the logic of the game milieu (both the immediate and the overarching scenario) in order to prevent railroading. Railroading can easily be active, but it can also easily be passive.
Not railroading, on the other hand, is always an active choice, because it requires the GM to actively consider the possibilities offered by his or her players.
And therein lies the danger, to the GM, of accepting -C's statements at face value.
Please note, by “the immediate and the overarching scenario”, above, I do not mean “plot”; I mean everything that makes up the game milieu in both the immediate area (such as a dungeon, forest, or village) and everything that makes up the whole game milieu and gives the immediate area context.
When I suggested that role-playing games emulate a structure (for example, D&D emulates the choices of a group of adventurers within a fantastic milieu; see Gary Gygax’s quote from Role-Playing Mastery for confirmation of this idea), -C’s response included, “Megadungeons don’t emulate archaeological expectation”. Just to be clear, claiming that A does not emulate X in no way evidences that A does not emulate Z. This response is a classic example of a straw man.
(1) We have seen that –C’s statements in his attempts to redefine railroading cannot logically all be true.
(2) We have seen that –C’s definition of railroad and railroading do not follow common usage, and that he knows this to be the case.
(3) We have seen that –C’s sources either do not support, or flatly contradict the statements he means them to support.
(4) We have seen that there is strong evidence that –C’s motives in this redefinition have little to do with more effective communication, and a lot to do with controlling what can be communicated.
(5) We have seen –C’s ad hominem attacks against myself for what they are, and we have shown that his stated reasons for his removal of certain of my responses to his article are at best suspect.
(6) Taking all of the above into account, it is difficult to believe that -C is completely unaware of what he is doing.
Barring the need to reopen this topic, I am going to call this horse dead.
On the other hand, I would like to know what you, Gentle Readers, think about the arguments presented. I would also like to read –C’s rebuttal, if any. I am interested in open discussion of topics, and I am eager to increase my own knowledge from any source that makes sense! Because of this, I promise that I will not delete him!
And I certainly will not do so in some misguided attempt to make it seem like he agrees with me.