|Portrait by van Rainy Hecht-Neilsen|
As a game master, what happens when you take freedom from your players to give them pleasure and security?
As a game master, what happens when you give your players only the illusion of freedom, toward the same goal? Choose path A or path B, each leads to the same pre-prepared encounter.
I think in both cases, you stop having the fun that comes from interacting with the players: taking their choices, building on them with choices of your own, having a mutual conversation.
That kind of relationship tends toward the situation of authoritarianism described in Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor parable. The Inquisitor alone takes on the burdens of freedom, offering the trade of true liberty for security. Under this illusion ...
...they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil.I can't conceive of the railroading GM as inspiring anything other than misery or defiance in any mature player. Yet the answer of creating illusory freedom is by no means an answer, for it robs the GM of freedom so that the players may think they have it. It tempts the GM, saying "Look! You need only prepare one encounter! The players need never know!" But you know - and can you really maintain your enthusiasm in the face of that predetermined choice?
I know I couldn't. It's a false economy of effort that magnifies each saving tenfold in loss of enjoyment, the same as if players were to be told, "There's no need to think or try to solve problems in different ways here, just run at the monsters every time." The illusion ultimately enslaves both parties, and solves nothing.