I was talking to one of my gaming buddies about a mechanic I was considering and our conversation drifted into the buy-in that players need with some situations in gaming.
The mechanic in question was a Faustian bargain style affair for my MI:666 game. The GM hands a player a sealed envelope and tells them that in it, there is a secret that will unlock the campaign for them. Say, the name of the politician that Belial has possessed or some such. Lucifer will allow them to open the envelope when they have pleased him - and to do that, they have to do the tasks written on the envelope. Each task is more and more insidious and depraved with the final one being an absolute nasty (so, for example, if they have identified that their greatest love is their daughter, they might have to condemn their daughters soul to serve Lucifer but in return, they save mankind from certain annihilation). It needed work as an idea but I liked the way it played with the themes of the game and it upped the ante in terms of sacrifice and potential drama.
My player just said that no-one would ever take the envelope because in the end I would have to unveil the secret anyway because if I didn't how would they, the heroes, save the day. Because they would save the day because thats what heroes do. I couldn't argue with him because he is right. Theres no question that the spies who found the plans of the Death Star would get them to Admiral Akbar because if they didn't, the weak spot isn't there to shoot.
We talked around this and we actually discovered a load of other scenarios where players must actively avoid 'metagaming' to provide tension. How many times have threats been thrown at the players and they aren't really threats but the players treat them as such? It's almost like a consensual game of chicken between the players and the GM?!
Is this something that people have come across? This idea of players simply disregarding a threat because it is say, the first one of the game and the likelihood of the GM busting out a TPK on a group of finely honed and designed characters is so minimal as to be worthless? Is this a sympton of a sort of 'passive railroading'? You know, the sort where it doesn't matter what direction the players go in, they will always arrive at the same city and the map will change accordingly?