I do have a strong pro-scenario, pro-honest-tactics, pro-let-the-dice-fall, anti-story, plot-is-just-for-structure-make-it-about-the-PCs-and-their-choices-not-your-whiny-ass-narrative-go-write-a-novel-if-you're-so-into-yourself agenda.
To which I can only say, amen! And that I would like to make this a motto.
It ties neatly into a comment I made over at Compromise & Conceit. (I'm not stalking the poor fellow, honest - he got grist for his blog mill from some posts I made about Tolkien, so this is my way of returning the favour). Mr. faustusnotes had written:
It’s really hard to interfere with PCs actions coherently [in a Cyberpunk game], because in any sci-fi future the power of the state is so overwhelming that the one consistent thing criminal PCs can expect is that they will die horribly and probably before they even know what happened; but there’s no reward in doing this, so you have to contort your story to enable them to escape and still be challenged.
To which I thought: I beg your pardon? And replied:
I have to ask: why on earth would you not have criminal PCs die horribly if they transgress the law in an obvious way? Punishing idiotic behaviour is precisely the sort of thing that will force the players to learn how to achieve their goals in cleverer and more subtle ways. And that will result in a much better game for all concerned – which is the “reward”. Letting players off the hook is the worst thing you can do; it encourages the bad behaviour.
It helps if you think of the players like pigeons in a Skinner box, I find.The reason problems like the one Mr. faustusnotes describes arise in people's games is, of course, that dirtiest of all dirty words - story. Namely the GM's story. Story implies a beginning, a middle and an end, and this results in 'contortions' (fudging dice rolls, making enemies suddenly incompetent, letting players get away from what should be certain death) when the story begins to go off the rails.
To which the proper reaction should be: fuck it. The player makes the choices and the GM goes with it, and if this means horrible death then so be it. Those are the terms on which player buy-in occurs (that their actions mean something and have consequences) and that's the way the GM should deal with the game.
The flipside of that particular coin, of course, is that players owe it to the GM not to throw their toys out of the pram when things go (justly) awry. If the GM's responsibility is to give player choice meaning, then the player's responsibility is not to piss and whine when that doesn't go their way.