I realized this morning that there was another aspect to Skyrim’s design that I wanted to point out to tabletop players, but I forgot to put it in the last article.
In brief, it’s what I’ll call “nested plotting.” Nested plotting occurs when so-and-so asks your character to recover the staff of such-and-such, but on your way to do so you run across a mystical gem that you must return to the temple of blahblahblah. At that point, you have to decide to continue after the staff or go to the temple with the gem. (Or you can choose to entirely discard one mission for the other.)
This kind of nested plotting accomplishes one of three things, all of which are good.
1. The characters get a “side quest/B plot” that runs concurrently with the original quest/plot, which makes things feel more dynamic.
2. The players get some foreshadowing into what will happen after they’re done with their current mission.
3. The players get a choice of what to do next, helping to alleviate any feelings of being “railroaded.”
I’ve written about this concept many times before, but it really bears repeating. If you’re running an adventure where the PCs are investigating some haunted ruins and you know that next you want to use the classic Against the Giants adventures, don’t wait until the PCs are done in the ruins to plant the seed of the giants adventure. Do it while they’re there. They can learn about giants raiding the countryside when they go back to town to resupply in the middle of the haunted ruins adventure. Or maybe the giants’ path to town leads them right by the ruins. Or whatever. The point is, nested plotting just makes everything less linear and more dynamic.