How much is your GM turn "Railed"?

So following a long string of these kinds of questions, I arrive to beat a dead horse. However, I have a slightly different question than most of the GM turn vs. Player turn threads.

I’m coming at this situation as a GM.

So when I read through the book I get the sense that my goal is to really make their mission rotten difficult with my two obstacles (and myriad twists as appropriate). This is not out of some morbid Gygaxian impulse, but more to just make it interesting and exciting. I read the player’s turn as a chance for them to change the game reality in whatever way their dice allow.

Given this assumption (feel free to clarify if its not), my impulse is to ride my players as hard as possible during the GM turn with few options in what traits to roll (except for that one allowable alternative action proposal). Roleplay of reactions are fondly encouraged but deviating strongly from a reactive role would be discouraged. Then when I roll around to the player’s turn I’m just arbiter and things become like a sandbox until checks run dry and I’ll craft the direction of the next mission/GM turn based around what the PCs have done.

This rail -> sandbox -> rail structure is what I feel is suggested by the rules, but how have other GMs put this turn structure into practice? Is this an exaggeration of the rules intent, or am I close here? To what degree do you “rail” your GM turn?

It is a whole lot more organic than that.

Think of the GM’s Turn and the Player’s Turn as rhythms.

Let’s use some Gygaxian rhythms as examples, since you invoked His name.

The GM puts a hallway pit trip in the player’s way and they have to use their skills to navigate around it and then they have to fight the orcs.

From the book, page 70:

“The GM will point to certain tests to overcome
obstacles. The players may suggest other tests,
other ways to navigate the situation.”

After those two conflicts are resolved (and just because two rolls are what starts resolving them, that doesn’t mean all will be finished in two simple rolls), we can take it to the Player’s Turn. But, odds are, it won’t be two simple rolls. Odds are there will be some twists, making things more complicated.

Once the two conflicts the GM decided when she made the mission up are done, we cut to the Player’s Turn.

In Gygaxian terms, this could be the players sealing off the door to a secure room with iron spikes and resting up in order to heal wounds or get their spells back.

But let’s see this in Mouse Guard terms.

I ran a game and the two conflicts were a late spring snowstorm and a beaver who had built a dam that flooded Sprucetuck and it was ripping up pieces of the tree town in order to take back to its dam.

There is structure but structure doesn’t mean railroad. It doesn’t mean the players don’t have choices. You know what the two conflicts are going to be but what you don’t know is how exactly the players will solve them or who their attempts to solve them will further complicate matters.

The beginning is set (Gygaxian: there is a dungeon with treasure, get to it) but the end is undetermined and that is why there are no rails. In a railroaded adventure, the end-point is known and their choices are not meaningful.

Guardsmice have meaningful decisions to make.

Hope that helps.

Alright, from your post it sounds like a looser hand on which skill to which situation is more advisable. I think I was taking some of the book description perhaps a touch literally (kind of tricky to separate in a book intended to be playable by someone with less role playing experience). Thanks for the input :D!

I definitely agree with your stance on twists, I think that came out a little off in my original post. I think this was due mostly to trying to summarize things quickly.

I think in part “railroad” isn’t exactly quite the right word for what I want to apply here (it’s somewhat loaded). What I’m trying to get at is there being a portion of the path that is determined, the other flexible, not so much that the PCs have no control of the plot progression.

The best analogy for how I read the game turn structure is a water slide park. You come in with a goal as to what that first slide is going to be. You hop in and suddenly you lose control of your path but can still react (scream, yell, lie on your stomach instead of your back) but you can’t pick where the slide is going to go. Then you go shooting out and try to figure out if you want to go down another slide or just get a hotdog or lie down in the sun.

Is that how this plays for others?

I am pretty sure that I am playing pretty much by-the-book.

The only thing you need to have determined is what they tell you to determine in the book. Trust the book.

Trust the book.

Trust the book.

You attempt to gain control by rolling the dice and attempting to achieve your character’s intent. Your intent as a player isn’t just screaming, yelling or laying on your back. You roll the dice when you want to make a concrete effect on the going’s on in the game.

It definitely wasn’t my intention to imply that you weren’t following the book at all. I certainly will trust in the book’s intentions, but I’m interested in how others interpret the rules and adjust them to their specific gaming groups. I appreciate your attempt to try and clarify, but indicating to trust the book isn’t really getting at my question. I apologize if I was unclear.

You attempt to gain control by rolling the dice and attempting to achieve your character’s intent. Your intent as a player isn’t just screaming, yelling or laying on your back. You roll the dice when you want to make a concrete effect on the going’s on in the game.

Meant this more an analogy to the structure than the amount of freedom afforded to the players. I definitely don’t think my players have no ability to effect the environment. I’d be happy to talk about this but I think it will end up being tangential to my thread topic. My sense from reviewing the book though is that this is really substantially more of a passive phase of the game than the player turn. Typically in most games I run its essentially a near-constant player turn.

So, the idea of a GM turn is an interesting process to me, and I’m looking for how other GMs react to it and how they run it for their groups.

When I GMed it, the GM turn was not a passive time for the players. As the GM, I aggressively framed scenes in terms of what was in their way to completing their mission and when all went well, the players were very active in getting those problems solved, whether it was a beaver taking apart Sprucetuck or evil cultists chaining an old guardsmouse to a stone for an owl to eat.

The player turn was more of a time to rest up and get their heads back together for the next mission.

Hope that helps.

Way I’m running it, what has to be overcome is fixed. I let them pick how, then make a single roll. Maybe 2 if it really feels appropriate. Then move on. If they chat up an NPC, I let them… until I think they are trying to either influence him or interrogate him… at which point, slap them with the test… every NPC they’ve met during GM phase who has a name is in as part of an obstacle or part of overcoming an obstacle.

In terms of rails, they’r on a swing arm attached to the rails.

In the player phase, I don’t even bother setting scenes… they do (within reason; I retain veto).

I’m not sure what you mean by “railed.” I’ve read the posts so far in this thread, and I still am not quite understanding. In an effort to field your query, is it OK if I just explain to the best of my ability how my GM’s Turns work, and you can tell me if they’re “on rails” and how much?

When it’s the GM’s Turn, I just do what the book says. I pick my two obstacles, and figure out what it’ll take to overcome them. Last game had the animal obstacle as “drive the badger away from Sprucetuck,” and the wilderness obstacle was “get the supply train from Sprucetuck to Dorigift safely.” I decided that the badger was best as a Fight Animal conflict, and the wilderness obstacle was essentially two parts: 1) get the supply train to Dorigift safely, and 2) ensure that the supplies are usable upon arrival. You see, the heavy spring rain (which was a weather twist from the previous Player’s Turn) was causing flooding along the path (part 1), and threatened to drench the supplies to the point of unusability (part 2), since they were mostly dried foodstuffs and provisions. No point in getting a supply train to its destination if everything it’s carrying is ruined, right? So there I’ve got a complex obstacle, in two parts.

Once I know my two obstacles, I set tests to them. The Fight Animal conflict is self-explanatory; it’ll use the conflict rules. For the “traversing the flooded trail” bit of the wilderness obstacle, I figured the guardmice would need either a Boatcrafter test to float the carts over, or a Pathfinder test to pick their way around. The second part, keeping the supplies dry, I thought sounded like a Survivalist test – building shelters, and that sort of thing.

When my players encounter the obstacles, I give them a shot to pitch an alternate method, and then move on to the test. If I buy into the alternate method they’ve suggested, I figure their obstacle and let the player who thought the plan up test for it, per the book’s guidelines on “Who Makes the Test?” If I don’t think their plan will work, I explain why not, and then it’s time to test the original obstacle. A player wanted to avoid the badger conflict and try to persuade it to leave peaceably with Loremouse. I said “Nah, it’s a huge predator. If you come talking peace, it hears ‘lunch.’ Who’s making the disposition roll?” Later, though, the Survivalist test failed, and I dropped a weather twist – the rain turns into a downpour, and rising water threatens to sweep the mice and the carts away! I cast about for an appropriate test, and couldn’t come up with much, so I checked the book under “flash floods” and saw it recommends a Nature test. “Time to test Nature,” I told the crew. “Wait!” said one player. “Can I use Insectrist to spur the beetles drawing our carts into action and get them to higher ground?” I thought that sounded great – and perfect for a twist if he failed! I set his Ob (I think it was 3) and he rolled.

I usually keep the GM’s Turn time-sensitive. Stuff has to be dealt with now. Those hungry mice in Dorigift can’t wait much longer for the supplies! Gotta hurry, go go go! If we leave that badger alone, he’ll eat the next party of mice that passes through! We have to take care of him ASAP! Typically the only times I have to tell players “no” outright are when they’re either suggesting slow and methodical approaches to my obstacles, or when they’re trying to inject tests outside the Player’s Turn. The former is stuff like, “Instead of fighting the badger in a conflict to drive it off, let’s rally the townsmice and get a big group to kill the badger!” and I say “OK, if you want to take the time to assemble a force – in Sprucetuck, no less, known for its sciencemice and not its warriors – and make sure they’re armed and appropriately geared, sure. Of course, they are simple townsmice, not militiamice, so they don’t have any training, and…” Usually it’s just a matter of explaining why they’re the only ones who can take care of the problem right away, and why it has to be done now. Other times, it’s stuff like “Hey, my parents are apiarists! I can get them to send a bunch of honey to Dorigift to help with the supply effort!” My response was, “Sounds great. Unfortunately, it’ll take a couple days to put together enough to be meaningful to an entire mouse town, and can Dorigift really afford to wait those two days just for honey? Better to get moving today with the foodstuffs you have at hand, and come back for more – like, say, during the Player’s Turn.”

I guess to me, that’s the essence of the GM’s Turn, right there. “Here are the troubles that absolutely cannot wait. This is why only your patrol can deal with them right now.” Everything else that can wait, should wait, until the immediate priority stuff is taken care of, and then when it’s their turn the players can be proactive about that other stuff.

So, if that means my players are on pretty tight rails, I guess they’re on rails! It sounds as though we’re not doing it terribly differently, from your initial post.