Saturday 19 March 2022


(i kind of already know what it is, i'm not completely against it but i'm just sort of generally ambivalent and prefer to minimise it. I think on the whole I prefer an adventure with high possible interconnections and less-managed ones)


I've been talking with an internet friend about this adventure concept, a big house or mansion, full of strange artefacts. The artefacts are all potentially dangerous, potentially useful, dangerous to leave alone but also dangerous to interact with, like a fantasy S.C.P. essentially.

Talking about stuff like numbers of rooms and relative labrynthyness of the mansion, we disagreed, revealing likely intuitive differences in assumptions in adventure design.

My intuitive assumption was to - since it’s a house, to have a very open plan with immediate (in theory) access to most of the rooms, or at least, you need to explore to find them and then investigate, but there are relatively few locked doors or hard blocks sopping you from exploring most of the house, the difficulty being in investigating and understanding the collection and dealing with the rituals and mysteries of the house. Largely a very 'open' concept, in which you can go in any direction and where the difficulty increases as you interact with more things, largely as a consequence of you interacting with them.

We haven't got deep into this yet but my friend hasn't responded yet, but if I were to guess I would guess they were imagining a more... 'dungeonly'? experience? With more locked doors, more things and areas hidden away, a more controlled experience in which you were more certain to encounter or deal with this thing and then that thing e.t.c. with more 'difficulty walls'(?)

That’s my guess anyway.


It’s not like I *hate* it, in fact I think it’s necessary. I try to arrange my encounters so there is likely to be some kind of rhythm  between types of things, I try to loop and pierce dungeons somewhat, I try to build up (to a degree) to the really weird shit, (at least after MotBM). And truly, every dungeon is by its very nature as a literalised flowchart, an exercise of a kind in flow control. (Though this need not be the case as much for more naturalistic settings).

But at the same time something in me pushes strongly against it.

most dungeon design is a complex synthesis between 'game-ish' and diegetic elements, treating the adventure purely as a game, or seeing it as in inhabited world, you can make good adventures from either polarity of course and like I wouldn't mind (or don't think I would mind as I don't really play computer games) if I were playing a Nintendo game, being channelled around a long and encountering a series of interconnected boutique situations, but the moment I feel even the hint of those walls close in around me in an adventure I basically shit myself with resentment.

(Which brings up the complex question of is it bad because the walls are there or is it bad because I can sense the walls and actually I have been happy with a wide range of experiences which were actually very controlled but just so well controlled that I either didn’t sense it or didn't care).

Largely I am much happier with a sense of freedom, even if it leads to a less pleasant experience
at least, that’s the story I tell myself about who I am, a 3rd party analysis might get a different response. I am much much much happier re-interpreting a problem rather than "finding" the planned solution to one


It's a difficult thing to shape a query to but I would like to PROBE the blog readers for a deeper awareness of the polarity between these modes of thought. I couldn't really shape a strong defence or pro-statement for the more-flow-control side of the argument, too wrapped up in my own responses, 


I would like to hear from YOU PEOPLE

Specifically play or design experiences, games you yourself have been in and specific times where you yourself have thought thoughts equivalent to;

"There's too much flow control here."


"There's not enough flow control here."

what were the circumstances when you noticed this? 

Did you think it was a feature or a bug (did the adventure writer fail to attain their own goals or were their goals just different to yours?). 

What differentiates the two situations in your mind? (When would you think "Ah, more flow control would be good here in this situation", or the opposite.


  1. The lawyerly response is to say “it depends.”

    Im a fan of adventure sites being designed in a way that’s at least somewhat realistic, which is why I think dungeons/labyrinths work as adventures. They are designed with flow control in mind in both irl and in games.

    The location being a house means it should have very little flow control in its design, because houses generally aren’t designed in a way that’s a pain to navigate. Otherwise it’s just a house-flavored dungeon which is immersion breaking and not very interesting.

    1. But can you locate the difference between good and bad, as you experience it, to any particular gaming situation you have been in

  2. I tend to notice an over abundance of flow control more than a lack of it- a dungeon with no branching paths, a mystery with entirely linear story progress. Its rare that I've read something and felt that it suffers from a lack of flow control, enough that I can't think of anything that comes to mind?

  3. My comment is apparently too long for HTML lol so I'm just going to share what was going to be my comment as a blog post some time in the next week or so which I'll link in reply to this after whenever I post it.

    1. Oh I should probably also have said, so that that previous reply is not accidentally ominous, that while I suspect I'm maybe on the other side of the fence from you, I do appreciate the way you've framed this and the self-awareness you express in a few key regards on this topic.

      I'm actually generally not that into TTRPG / game design theory discussions anymore, I just find it's mostly been pretty played out, but you've presented it in a way that I feel I can meaningfully engage with.


  4. I would like to play or gm more OSR games, but few people are interested, so I'm stuck to playing Vampire with my regular group, with the ocassional OSR/Fate/Something one-shot.

    Our main Vampire GM says we are free to do anything, but that's not true, we have to follow the path he has planned. If we go somewhere else or do something else, he says: "You can't see anything, there is nothing here".

    Next friday we will start a new campaign, but he wants us to make questions about the campaign, but we can't think of any interesting or useful question because we don't know anything at all! Why would I ask who's the drug dealer if I don't know if the campaign will be about drugs or addiction? Stuff like that.

    We all end up, every time, making generic characters, because we have to make characters and their backstories before we start playing.

    I don't know why I keep playing there. Maybe bacause it's that or nothing. Oh, well, time to invite the newphews and niece for another Into the Odd short campaign, I guess.

    1. push the limits! make a character who's specifically about, say, being an adrenaline junkie; ask questions specifically tied to this shit, let your gm know you wanna play a character whose life revolves around BMX and skydiving. or whatever. even shitty linear gms can usually take a fucking hint that "oh my player seems to really want THIS, I should fit it into the campaign significantly."

    2. So would you say its definitely a GM thing rather than a game design thing in that instance?

  5. This might not be a helpful answer, but whether flow control has bothered me has always exclusively come down to execution by the GM.

    I've played the same adventures/modules multiple times with different GMs and whether flow control (FC) was a problem seemed predicated on how "good" they were at presenting the material. It's made me appreciate that FC is basically a function of how well a GM provides the illusion of choice. Even when playing more "open world" games and settings where you'd think choice actually mattered, the feeling of FC came down to GM ability.

  6. I can't really help you here. All I can say is "it depends on the situation". The megadungeon created by 'The Angry DM' a while back essentially has a single campaign path ... this access is revealed by some action which enables you to obtain that ... I'm really not a fan of. It has the illusion of choice at a small scale but no actual choice at a larger scale. For the same reason I find the entire jaquayed dungeon design methodology pretty pointless.
    On the other hand I a couple of years ago I ran a version of John Arendt's Black City and my local group, instead of exploring the edges and building up knowledge struck out immediately towards the most difficult and dangerous part of the city which they had no way of handling.
    I'm currently running a Tekumel adventure for a group where they have access to everything since the start but I am gradually doling out knowledge that causes them to keep re-evaluating things they think they already know.
    When you described the house I immediately thought of 'The Mansion of E' which has a big book of rituals to be done at specific times and places ... the webcomic starts with one .. and that may be a lever to managing the objects in your house.

  7. "It depends" but generally I am against too much flow control. While it doesn't necessary leads to railroading (although it often does), it still prevents/negates clever solutions that players might come with, or artificially withholds otherwise the logically available information/resource.

    If there are locked doors and flooded basements in the mansion, there 1) should be a reason for them to exists and this reason should seep into other parts of the place (i.e. if pantry doors are locked because the mansion owner was afraid that somebody will poison their food, this paranoia shouldn't stop with panty) and 2) if players decide to rig a system to divert the water away instead of going on a roundabound way to find a magical pump and meet Mr. X Important NPC, this should be allowed to happen. The game is as much players' game as DM's.

  8. The premise of the adventure seems to suggest that some "flow control" would make sense. Some items are so dangerous they're locked in the sub-basement. The items of Gardening Class C are in the greenhouse, which is impassable because of the escaped Audrey 2.

    Moreover, it feels like there's some genre appropriateness here that WOULD be really fun. Secret passages behind portraits opened by playing the correct chord on the harpsichord, secret passages behind bookcases if the correct book is returned to the empty slot, etc.