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"Roleplaying is all about telling the GM's plot." A common misconception?

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7 minutes ago, 2P51 said:

You've gotta provide some direction, plot hooks, and a setting or most PCs will be baffled. There is supposed to be a contract among players and GMs in that they're at the table to be adventurers, and you're there to provide the opportunity.

As the GM I'm either making a broad environment, like a port city, space station, whatever and populating it with a plethora of faces to talk to and threads to pull, or it's Murder on the Orient Express and the goal is clear. In either case I'm providing a story. If I don't it's random encounters and meandering around I guess, which frankly would get boring for me. I get to have fun too as the GM.

This post isn't about you because in your post it seems like you talk about hooks and not about a pre-destined path.

The idea of too many choices stalling the game is really more a matter of players who have not created characters with goals and a GM who does not lay any hooks or intrigues out at the start of play. In a sandbox game you only need a initial movement provided by the GM, and after that a feedback loop of cause and effect keeps the game going as the players do things,  they affect things, which then affect the players. 

But concerning the part I put in bold: No that isn't true, it's the slippery slope argument of the GM who is of a mind that he has to direct. I used to feel exactly that way, and I didn't like the idea of the players fully deciding what was going to happen, but they will seize on some point of interest as you wrote in your post and you're off. They are almost always more invested in a story that they initiated versus one that they were coerced or asked to follow. Sandbox play isn't prone to stalling unless you are unaccustomed to it and more comfortable with the mode the TTRPG Industry promotes (namely pre-made purchased Adventures), and feel there is supposed to always be a path that you as the GM create. It's like someone who changes to vegetarianism, they have a hard time feeling like dinner was worthwhile without that animal protein entrée. They have to see dinner differently. Once the players create the path, then you provide more of the details. 

Sandbox is inherently better to me than railroad because it makes the world more worth exploring. I think a hybrid is also good: Theme Park contained by a Sand Box (in which the sandbox world is alive but has some pre-made mini content nodes). 

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2 minutes ago, themensch said:

I don't think that a pure sandbox will work at most tables, it takes a lot of creativity, buy-in, and setting knowledge that a lot of players just don't bring to the average RPG table.  If not everyone at the table can contribute on equal footing, then some folks could get left out.  So I do what others have described and I like to call a "clockwork sandbox" wherein I have things running in the background that give the illusion of a living universe and also provide plot points for our heroes.  They have full agency to chase whatever wild hair they desire but their action or inaction has tangible results in their world and at some point that action will turn around to bite them.

Few people play roleplaying games just for the element of make-believe.  Conflict is at the heart of it, as it is with a story.  

See but this sounds like a sandbox to me still as long as they could go choose to have a game about whatever they want. If the players decide to have a game about opening up a Cantina would you allow it? 

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3 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

But concerning the part I put in bold: No that isn't true, 

No, actually it is true, see it's my opinion, that's why I wrote it. The PCs just sitting there making **** up off the top of their heads, and I just provide adversaries and roll dice would actually bore the F out of me. That's why I said it.

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1 minute ago, Archlyte said:

See but this sounds like a sandbox to me still as long as they could go choose to have a game about whatever they want. If the players decide to have a game about opening up a Cantina would you allow it? 

**** yeah.  We've had games wherein a planetwide search for the best porridge on Ord Mantell was the goal.  Everyone had fun, so while we messed around the Empire managed to get some better footing and that ended up costing us later.  So it's not a true sandbox but it gives the illusion of such.  But let's face it, few people come home from a hard day and want to make up their own fun unaided, so the seasoned GM provides a few hooks that aren't necessarily railroady, but enough to jumpstart the session.  I like to end a session on a cliffhanger and start a session in media res to get that process flowing. 

If there were to be a really radical change in the game from what we'd discussed in Session Zero, I'd definitely call a break and we'd chat about it.  

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2 minutes ago, 2P51 said:

No, actually it is true, see it's my opinion, that's why I wrote it. The PCs just sitting there making **** up off the top of their heads, and I just provide adversaries and roll dice would actually bore the F out of me. That's why I said it.

Hm, done well it could be a lot of fun.  That's where reskinnable setpieces and npcs shine.  No story happens in a vacuum.

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10 minutes ago, 2P51 said:

No, actually it is true, see it's my opinion, that's why I wrote it. The PCs just sitting there making **** up off the top of their heads, and I just provide adversaries and roll dice would actually bore the F out of me. That's why I said it.

Salty. Not that part, the idea that sandbox is aimless meandering and meaningless bite-sized stuff. Also I'm pretty sure my first line said the post wasn't specifically about you. 

Edited by Archlyte

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3 minutes ago, themensch said:

**** yeah.  We've had games wherein a planetwide search for the best porridge on Ord Mantell was the goal.  Everyone had fun, so while we messed around the Empire managed to get some better footing and that ended up costing us later.  So it's not a true sandbox but it gives the illusion of such.  But let's face it, few people come home from a hard day and want to make up their own fun unaided, so the seasoned GM provides a few hooks that aren't necessarily railroady, but enough to jumpstart the session.  I like to end a session on a cliffhanger and start a session in media res to get that process flowing. 

If there were to be a really radical change in the game from what we'd discussed in Session Zero, I'd definitely call a break and we'd chat about it.  

Yeah if it sounded like I was saying the GM should be absent or not involved I didn't mean to imply that. But to me having someone cook up a story and invite me to come resolve a character in pre-planned combats and add some dialogue as the sum total of my interface with the game world is horrible. The idea about planning something in session 0 is a good one, but I feel that could be a bit of a trap as the players cannot be informed of exactly what they are buying with the description.

GM: You guys want to do a fighter game? You know you guys are fighter jocks for this fleet? (imagines epic space battles and transition to fleet ships)

Player 1: Ok sounds good (envisions Fighter Pilot character going to bars and having intrigue)

Player 2: Yeah ok (Imagines his character being the mechanic and souping up the fighters)

Player 3: Ok (I don't want to be the guy who says No)

Edited by Archlyte

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7 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

Yeah if it sounded like I was saying the GM should be absent or not involved I didn't mean to imply that. But to me having someone cook up a story and invite me to come resolve a character in pre-planned combats and add some dialogue as the sum total of my interface with the game world is horrible. The idea about planning something in session 0 is a good one, but I feel that could be a bit of a trap as the players cannot be informed of exactly what they are buying with the description.

GM: You guys want to do a fighter game? You know you guys are fighter jocks for this fleet? (imagines epic space battles and transition to fleet ships)

Player 1: Ok sounds good (envisions Fighter Pilot character going to bars and having intrigue)

Player 2: Yeah ok (Imagines his character being the mechanic and souping up the fighters)

Player 3: Ok (I don't want to be the guy who says No)

The GM is equally entitled to the same fun, so I wouldn't ever exclude them.  But to that point, the players have to take some initiative and say something if they don't think something will be fun if the topic is up for discussion in Session Zero.  That's what it's there for - but of course it's not the only time a group can talk about it.  Fire off an email.  Start a group chat.   

I do agree few people come to play RPGs on the railroad, but some folks do enjoy that and I say more power to them.  This is the kinda stuff that's essential to discuss in Session Zero.  I don't feel like most groups will sit down and map out an entire campaign this way, they would just note themes, expectations, etc - all that meta stuff that seems to crop up in the middle of a game if it's not discussed beforehand.

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1 minute ago, themensch said:

The GM is equally entitled to the same fun, so I wouldn't ever exclude them.  But to that point, the players have to take some initiative and say something if they don't think something will be fun if the topic is up for discussion in Session Zero.  That's what it's there for - but of course it's not the only time a group can talk about it.  Fire off an email.  Start a group chat.   

I do agree few people come to play RPGs on the railroad, but some folks do enjoy that and I say more power to them.  This is the kinda stuff that's essential to discuss in Session Zero.  I don't feel like most groups will sit down and map out an entire campaign this way, they would just note themes, expectations, etc - all that meta stuff that seems to crop up in the middle of a game if it's not discussed beforehand.

I think I have come around to your way of seeing it though, as you can never get full consensus and Session 0 is just plain a must. I think you talked about that before and I incorporated it heavily from that point on instead of casually like I had in the past. Yeah I have fun as a GM by watching the players do interesting things, and those can be things that any one of us at the table creates. 

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3 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

I think I have come around to your way of seeing it though, as you can never get full consensus and Session 0 is just plain a must. I think you talked about that before and I incorporated it heavily from that point on instead of casually like I had in the past. Yeah I have fun as a GM by watching the players do interesting things, and those can be things that any one of us at the table creates. 

As long as you're all having fun, you're doing it the right way regardless of the techniques, I think that's the key thing a lot of folks need affirmation on.  Nobody but you and your players can tel you otherwise.  

I arrived at my style through decades of play, years of casual research, and lots of talking with others, and yet it still evolves.  I think it's very healthy for a GM to spend some introspective time and evaluate possible avenues of improvement.  

You mention being unable to find consensus in Session Zero, and that concerns me.  I'm not sure what your sticking points might be but I feel like there should be consensus.  There's really no right way to do this either, but I think a lot of people operate off the same boilerplate for this.  

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1 hour ago, Archlyte said:

Salty. Not that part, the idea that sandbox is aimless meandering and meaningless bite-sized stuff. Also I'm pretty sure my first line said the post wasn't specifically about you. 

No, that part too. I don't wanna just be a pit boss rolling the dice at the 'make it up as they go' table. I like crafting stories. I like making worlds, timelines and logical historical progressions. I like making plots.

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17 minutes ago, 2P51 said:

No, that part too. I don't wanna just be a pit boss rolling the dice at the 'make it up as they go' table. I like crafting stories. I like making worlds, timelines and logical historical progressions. I like making plots.

Cool. Hope you found folks who just want to do what you create. Hard to come by.

Edited by Archlyte

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My quote was used without royalties! I am a lord you know! XD I am just kidding

the context of my quote rotated around "what stops my PCs just repeating a check", my suggestion was that each check was a "scene", which either consisted of the PC succeeding and achieving the goal or failing and requiring either another scene, or for circumstances to change (another, different skill check, new information). The intent was that the PCs time is only finite and that rather then pestering the force for answers, repeated checks would result in the same result.

it either could be given in the context of a structured plot or not, just there's nothing more anticlimactic then a player constantly rolling until they succeed, instead preferring to cast the spotlight on multiple players. Shifting the focus to keep the whole table searching for new avenues and possibles. If the force can't find their target, maybe a shadow broker or a trusted NPC could have some connections, maybe another pc might be able to provide a new angle, or maybe it's time to think about doing something more immediately interesting or important.

that stems from my belief that only interesting or influential checks should be rolled. If there is no consequence for failure, narrative or otherwise, then there's no point rolling. Some exceptions to the rule of course, but it keeps the table engaged and everyone thinking, even if it's not the player who usually does that thing. (E.g. Another pc joins the social check to bring up a critical, new fact.)

 

as for plot vs sandbox, personally there's no difference but the authors, gm or players. Any good dnd group requires player input and goals that the gm can accommodate into the game setting. My game started off as a more sandbox style game where we picked up jobs, but eventually we joined the alliance. While we could chose to do what we want, it's generally helpful for the gm and players to communicate what it is everyone wants to do together. Even in a sandbox format being able to communicate player desires to the GM is absolutely essential; so that the GM can at least prepare materials for that particlar job. Want to do a heist on the jewel of mcguffin? Sure! Just let me put a general format together starting with a simple description of the location and we will go from there. Want to be alliance people? Awesome! Our party can do what we want whenever we want, but once we have committed to our choice (usually towards the end of a session) our GM likes to close as to what the week to prepare some general pointers. Who are the players involved in this area? Do any established characters fit within this narrative?



Personally though, roleplay without a general plot, established by either the players or the GM has the real potential to be a boring mess waiting to happen. As I said our group started off as a sandbox, but our inability to define our own profession as a group (a lot of members struggled to engage intially) meant that the straight sandbox did not work for our particular party given our inability to properly roleplay together as a freelance crew.

 

Instead the GM has a semi rail system; we can do whatever we want, but there is an ultimate nemesis at the head of each story arc that has a strong influence on the setting that must be dealt with eventually. For the first two major story arcs Grand Moff Kevlin and a Cabel of inquistors were our nemesis's, often either behind or getting directly involved in the schemes in play. We weren't obligated to deal with them, but the longer the story arcs went the closer the various factions were to completing the evil plan that would make our lives ****; the former directed 8 imperial projects that were instrumental to cementing imperial dominance, the latter hunted the force users in the party all the time; which meant they were a threat constantly at the back of our minds that while we didn't have to deal with them, would be hunting us whether we saught them or not, the regularity of the combat encounters depended on how much attention we drew to ourselves in assignments. 

 

This overarching plot style worked; as sometimes opportunities to defeat the villain arose as a direct result of the intel we got, at that point it was up to us how to approach it. Basically, taking the best parts of a sandbox and giving it a sense of pilot wolven direction once we were invested in a particular line of work. Once concluded? Sandbox and new choices. New imperial megathreat looms in the distance, repeat.

Edited by LordBritish

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11 minutes ago, 2P51 said:

No it's not.

No you're right. I mean look at all the pre-made adventures they sell. Clearly there is an audience for this kind of play. I suggest you never let them experience the ability to change their path in-game through emergent play though, because if it's done right and in good faith, once players get a taste of that they aren't concerned with your canned story any more. 

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The level of player involvement can vary so dramatically from group to group that it is hard to say how much the game is centered on the GM's plot.  I've run games where I throw out a couple McGuffins, a few opponents, and the players run around doing the entire story.  I've also run games where the players sit there until a plot hits them over the head, and then they call up the train office, buy tickets, board the train and stay on the rails the entire time.  It just depends on the group, and their interpersonal dynamics.

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18 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

No you're right. I mean look at all the pre-made adventures they sell. Clearly there is an audience for this kind of play. I suggest you never let them experience the ability to change their path in-game through emergent play though, because if it's done right and in good faith, once players get a taste of that they aren't concerned with your canned story any more. 

Yawnnnnnnn.

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Yeah I think it's one of those things where some groups just stick with the stuff they started with when they began to play games in this hobby, and other groups or players move on to new ways of doing things. If the players are willing to have an adventure dictated to them then yeah I guess that's their thing. The problem comes when you get a player or two who figure out that they could actually be making decisions and exploring a world that should be able to provide more than the prepared adventure. At that point the pre-made stuff begins to show it's true nature as a defoliant for the fun of the entire world, being that the GM can only provide something if you stick to his path and the story that he thinks is best, regardless of what the players would like to do. 

Some GM's just can't do the improv thing, and they only work well with a set plan. If they made their own adventure, then one has to wonder about why they find it so hard to do in the moment, as they were the originator of the ideas. Perhaps they don't think fast enough to employ them in real time, or maybe they don't want to lose the feeling of control. 

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8 minutes ago, 2P51 said:

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

so, do we just keep going?  I am not sure how this goes. Ok let's try this do another one with some little one word response and I'll reply. ok go

 

Edited by Archlyte

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51 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

Cool. Hope you found folks who just want to do what you create. Hard to come by.

How did this turn into an either/or proposition? Why cant you do both? A couple of months ago I ran Tatooine Manhunt for my players. It had a series of events, a timeline of what was happening in the rest of the universe, and all the traditional story tropes: beginning, middle, end, protagonists, antagonists and so on. And the players wandered off the map plenty of times, skipped a chapter of the adventure and generally did whatever they wanted to find Adar Tallon. Meanwhile I was reorganizing events behind the scenes to move important encounters and provide necessary information sources on their chosen path. And it worked out just fine.

Same thing when I ran Crisis on Cloud City - hell, they completely skipped all kinds of "Do this to the players" moments. The game ran just fine, and was actually quite memorable. I imagine that something similar will happen when I run Ghost of Dathomere here next weekend, that no battle plan will survive contact with the enemy, and I'll have to rejigger some stuff.

So yeah, insert WhyNotBoth.GIF girl here.

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1 minute ago, Desslok said:

How did this turn into an either/or proposition? Why cant you do both? A couple of months ago I ran Tatooine Manhunt for my players. It had a series of events, a timeline of what was happening in the rest of the universe, and all the traditional story tropes: beginning, middle, end, protagonists, antagonists and so on. And the players wandered off the map plenty of times, skipped a chapter of the adventure and generally did whatever they wanted to find Adar Tallon. Meanwhile I was reorganizing events behind the scenes to move important encounters and provide necessary information sources on their chosen path. And it worked out just fine.

Same thing when I ran Crisis on Cloud City - ****, they completely skipped all kinds of "Do this to the players" moments. The game ran just fine, and was actually quite memorable. I imagine that something similar will happen when I run Ghost of Dathomere here next weekend, that no battle plan will survive contact with the enemy, and I'll have to rejigger some stuff.

So yeah, insert WhyNotBoth.GIF girl here.

I'm actually more interested in why it had to turn into being an "I'm a back hand insulting jerk to those who don't agree with me" thread.

However, I 'improvised' and updated the ignore list....problem solved..

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13 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

Yeah I think it's one of those things where some groups just stick with the stuff they started with when they began to play games in this hobby, and other groups or players move on to new ways of doing things. If the players are willing to have an adventure dictated to them then yeah I guess that's their thing. The problem comes when you get a player or two who figure out that they could actually be making decisions and exploring a world that should be able to provide more than the prepared adventure. At that point the pre-made stuff begins to show it's true nature as a defoliant for the fun of the entire world, being that the GM can only provide something if you stick to his path and the story that he thinks is best, regardless of what the players would like to do. 

Some GM's just can't do the improv thing, and they only work well with a set plan. If they made their own adventure, then one has to wonder about why they find it so hard to do in the moment, as they were the originator of the ideas. Perhaps they don't think fast enough to employ them in real time, or maybe they don't want to lose the feeling of control. 

That's a lot of assumptions.

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