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Deciding on Game Linearity

By Skimble

Roleplaying games don’t have to be like any other storytelling medium.

While branching or interactive stories have been developed to one extent or another in other media, nothing can rival the flexibility afforded by the dynamic nature of a tabletop roleplaying game session.

In a book, video game, film or a TV series the narrative is pre-defined or, at best, built with branch points that enable the consumer to select from a limited number of choices. Even “sandbox” or “open world” video games that offer self-generated content provide only limited flexibility in the primary story experienced by the player.

Contrast this with a tabletop roleplaying game, where the player(s) can theoretically do anything that fits within the constraints provided by the game’s rules and its setting.

In practice however most games have a degree of structure and linearity imposed upon them by the GM. To an extent this is necessary; without having any idea what is at least likely to occur, how can the GM plan ahead in preparing his sessions?

The question is, how much linearity is too much?

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