ChoiceIt is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
For me role-play is all about walking in someone's shoes for awhile. To do that I need to decide what is important to them. By this I refer to my character. I do this is to create a frame of reference for the choices I will make later. I could leave the frame of reference alone and let the choices define the character. Either way my choices reveal more about my character's personality then all the descriptive text anyone could write.
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
-Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
There is an element of ourselves in each character we play. We draw from our own life experiences more than we can from the fictitious ones we create for our PC's. Role-playing games allow us to experience things out of our comfort zone, because we can make different choices then we normally would and play out events within the framework of that "safe" environment. Everyone has played the what-if game about something they have done in the past. What-if I would have studied harder an got an "A"? What if I would have blown off my book report and gone to that party? What-if I wouldn't have taken the new job? What if I would have? What if I was a born a penniless half-orc on the streets of Waterdeep? Role-playing games are an extension of this.
There are no safe choices. Only other choices.
-Libba Bray, A Great and Terrible Beauty
In life, once you pick a fork in the road and travel down the path, there is no reset button or redo. Role-playing games are similar. It is very rare that at the focal point of a decision you are able to see all outcomes, nor would it be good if you could.
Frank Herbert in his Dune series described it so,
Muad'Dib could indeed see the Future, but you must understand the limits of this power. Think of sight. You have eyes, yet cannot see without light. If you are on the floor of a valley, you cannot see beyond your valley. Just so, Muad'Dib could not always choose to look across the mysterious terrain. He tells us that a single obscure decision of prophecy, perhaps the choice of one word over another, could change the entire aspect of the future. He tells us "The vision of time is broad, but when you pass through it, time becomes a narrow door." And always, he fought the temptation to choose a clear, safe course, warning "That path leads ever down into stagnation.
Consider this, what appears to be a disastrous course of action to the characters objectives can be the greatest path to fun for the players. D&D is in large part about the journey and not about the destination. The dragon you see from one fork of the road may not be on your path at all, and the mountain spring envisioned on another may contain a water elemental. No matter how clever the solution to this week's problem, next week there will be another. If there isn't, did a too clever a solution cause your campaign to stall and stagnate as a DM forces a tacked on adventure upon you?
You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.
Indecision is the bane of fun. Without successes and failures, the game loses its excitement. I am not promoting flailing about willy nilly, but consider the problem for a brief time, decide and act. Look not back at the shore and contemplate what might have been. Look to the horizon; the brewing storm clouds and plot your next move. Leave indecision to the NPC's.
The cavalry, the party among them, arrives on the road above the valley of Vew mid morning. The scene below is troublesome. The town is ablaze. The outer wall shattered at several points. Orcs move thru the town looting and setting fires. The southern bank of the river is held by a group of orcs; over seen by an Ogre.
A group of dragonborn foot-soldiers raid the sacked Temple of Bahamut, loading spoils into wagons. Only the town's keep stands as a last bastion of hope among the wreckage, but even now Orc siege engines swarm the western wall of the keep. To the east an ordered camp houses reserves and command tents. Four banners of the party's enemies fly over the tent.