A busy week outside of the gaming life, though things have been going well.
Saturday's session wound up with some railroading. We all know that sometimes it can't be avoided. Sometimes, as a GM, you just need to push the story forward. This was the third session of the Ascendance campaign, and was in most ways, a conclusion to the first chapter. The characters managed to free themselves from the grasp of the Exchange, if temporarily, and have gained a worthwhile ally. They also managed to create a rather personal antagonist, after blowing the leg off of a crime boss.
They have commandeered a ship and are setting off into the Outer Rim to end a slaving ring that seems to have connections with a nefarious galactic corporation. And it was their decision.
I think that railroading because you want to tell a specific story should be avoided as much as possible. I want my player's to have as much control over the narrative as possible, even if it means that I have to make changes on the fly during the session to accommodate them.
As this was the final part of the arc, there was a fair amount of resolution. They were introduced to one of the primary antagonists, witnessed a bizarre ritual, and then fled with the girl they were trying to rescue. And then there was the showdown between the local government and the local faction of the Exchange, where the characters sold the criminals up the river and fled with their lives. They had in the process uncovered some information about some shady goings-on: the aforementioned slavery.
And so I gave them the choice: pursue the slavers in the Outer Rim and try and save some troubled souls, or head into the Core Worlds to investigate the dirty dealings and low morals of the Czerka corporation. In terms of story and what I would have to prepare, it boils down to an action-adventure story or intrigue and diplomacy. My players, bless their hearts, opted for the action-adventure this time around.
So how do you keep the players involved when you have to railroad the story along? Well in this case, much of the railroading was in response to their previous actions. And I gave them skill-checks to pull of some fancy maneuvers, etc...
They told me that they enjoyed it, and I honestly believe them. I hope they'd tell me if something sucked.
I put this to the two people that read this. Is there a situation where you feel railroading is absolutely necessary?