What is it with Evil Party and giant monsters? Last time it was hedgehogs laying siege. Now we’ve got King Kong romping through tropical paradise. If somebody hands these guys a scroll of tarrasque summoning in the near future I would not be surprised.

Of course, if you’re the kind of GM that would introduce said scroll into your game, you probably have an idea about when and where it will be used. No doubt there is a set-piece encounter coming up. Cthulhu or Godzilla or some other 30-story schmuck is scheduled to wreck downtown Plotsville, and only the party’s handy item (that you just happened to give them) will save the day. While King Kong vs. Tarrasque sounds like a cool idea on paper, you can probably guess why this setup might fall flat in practice. It has a little something to do with the words “chugga chugga” and “choo choo.”

If you invent situations as a GM where specific “key items,” player abilities, or strategies are required for success, you risk railroading the party. In these scenarios, the lesson is simple: It’s OK to have solution in mind, so long as it’s not the solution. Go on and give the party that tarrasque scroll. Just don’t be surprised when they stuff it into their bag of holding, forget they have it, and try to use a really big swimming pool to with win their kaiju fight instead.

This is common wisdom though, and probably not that controversial as best practice for GMs. My advice for players, on the other hand, is slightly less conventional. If your GM has put you in Succubus’s position, and if there’s only one obvious way out, lean into it. Make like our lady in red and go full Fay Wray. Pull the trigger on that heavy-handed McGuffin. Go ahead and burn that ring of one wish. Yes, it sucks that you’ve been left without any real choices. And no, it’s not great GMing. But when the guy behind the screen sets up these moments, it’s not because he hates your agency and wants you to dance like a good little puppet. In reality, there’s this big spectacular scene inside that GM’s head. It’s his way of saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if?” And he’s asking you to play along just for a little while. The intentions are usually good, even if the technique is (very obviously) flawed.

A few caveats apply. If this mess is chronic, then your GM probably needs a talking to. Same deal if you’ve been backed into a major “my guy would never do that” corner. If worse comes to worst you can always pause a session, express your frustration, and ask for some kind of alternative. But by the same token, there’s no law saying players must always cut Gordian knots and invent novel solutions. You’re allowed to follow those railroad tracks from time to time, even if it doesn’t feel especially creative. At the very least it can be less frustrating than trying to climb the tabletop equivalent of Bethesda mountains.

What do the rest of you guys think? When your GM forces you into an only-one-way-out situation, what’s the best response? Do you call them on their BS? Attempt to forge your own path anyway? Or is it better (as I’m suggesting) to bite that plot hook so hard that it becomes your own? Sound off with tales of your own railroading resolutions down in the comments!


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