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Archlyte

The Dark Side of Sandbox

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On 4/13/2019 at 7:21 PM, Rithuan said:

Interesting. How often do your players use of a light side point for include or change something in the story, considering point #2 and #4? 

 I am all for collaborating on details so it's fine to have players do that even without spending DPs but the "Forecasting"  rule came about after I noticed this phenomenon happening in a campaign. The player was getting upset as their plans were "messed up" by the actual events of the game. It wasn't me purposely throwing a wrench in the works, but just not having things go off as the player had wanted. So essentially they were basing plans not on the situation as it had been described, but as they had wanted it to be. It was the player trying to railroad the GM.

The second form of this is the thing I described where the player attempts to officiously take narrative control by an insistence that their Lore, Expertise, or General Knowledge should dictate the description of things. This can be a minor and/or even helpful thing when well asked by the player, or it can be annoying as **** when done a player with limited social ability and a hefty ego.  Especially if they are simply being overly risk-averse and trying to make absolutely sure no adventure can occur. I think the medicine for this is often just for the Player to ask rather than assuming or attempting to coerce. Even when using a DP it needs to be GM-approved though because there are limits. 

Basically no Player-made fait accompli.

The bit about the GM being the boss (#2) was something that I put in place because I noticed that I was developing some bad habits as a player, and I felt that a few other players also seemed to be having a hard time accepting No. My personal introspection led me to feel that I was not accepting the lack of control when playing in someone else's game and was justifying being obstinate because the GM would make this mistake or that one. I decided that if I play in a game, I should accept the Gm is the one running the game and to surrender to it or not play. When the contract isn't clear, I feel it invites players to start to feel like there is no reason they should not challenge even little things. That business gets disruptive and frustrating fast.

I feel that the GM should try to work with the players and bend to their vision of things when it's an option, but every GM has their threshold of when they feel they have to assert Narrative Control. 

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"Total sandbox" is the correct definition, since I'd say most players and GMs would agree that as long as you have a mapped, persistent and accessible game world with some choice of quests or threads, you have a sandbox. It's not unlike an MMO or Bethesda experience in which you *can* go anywhere and do nearly whatever you want, except that there are much more interesting places where you could be that offer plenty of agency.

The player disagreements sound like expectations of a Minecraft-like environment. Not wrong; interesting, really.

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1 hour ago, wilsch said:

"Total sandbox" is the correct definition, since I'd say most players and GMs would agree that as long as you have a mapped, persistent and accessible game world with some choice of quests or threads, you have a sandbox. It's not unlike an MMO or Bethesda experience in which you *can* go anywhere and do nearly whatever you want, except that there are much more interesting places where you could be that offer plenty of agency.

The player disagreements sound like expectations of a Minecraft-like environment. Not wrong; interesting, really.

I think you are right that what I was a proponent of before was a Total Sandbox. This was a situation where I had become somewhat of a zealot because of a combination of rejecting my own early GMing railroad tendencies, and experiencing GMs who were unable to deal with deviation from the path and therefore would not be able to deal with emergent play. 

Also it is funny that video game design is often the way that we frame TTRPG play. The utility of the comparisons make them useful but the fact that the pen and paper came first and inspired the computer versions kind of amuses me.

But I think that both of the main types of design (Deterministic, and Emergent) can be mixed as the situation and context allow. This is also something that is highly dependent on the players' skill and attitude. 

 

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I haven't seen this mentioned yet (so sorry if it has been) but I like to take the Skyrim/Fallout approach. Which is to give one main quest, but have enough of the world developed that they can deviate without it seeming like they've found the invisible wall marking where the game actually is.

I like to build my characters an area of the galaxy with one central mission and plenty of other stuff they can do if they don't want to simply follow the main quest. Now, I still go by rules of time passing, so if a main quest would reasonably time out, then I let them know that, but otherwise I just try to prepare myself through world building.

What is the main drinking hole in this city?

Where might they go for weapons or armor?

What factions are present? Who runs those factions? What are their motivations?

If the empire is there, why? What does the Empire seek to gain from the area? How high a caliber are the troops stationed there? How do the locals feel about them?

What is the main source of industry? Where do most people work, and what attitude would they have towards it?

Overall, if I can build a world (which I like to do as a pastime because it's a good creative exercise) then I can come up with things they could reasonably be asked to do if they seek work. Now, I will admit that I have background in theater and so improv comes naturally to me. With the right notes, I believe that anyone can still run a sandbox type campaign. (of course, having semi-predictable characters helps too, so if the players have no written motives or plot arcs, it can get a bit tougher)

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16 hours ago, evo454 said:

I haven't seen this mentioned yet (so sorry if it has been) but I like to take the Skyrim/Fallout approach. Which is to give one main quest, but have enough of the world developed that they can deviate without it seeming like they've found the invisible wall marking where the game actually is.

I like to build my characters an area of the galaxy with one central mission and plenty of other stuff they can do if they don't want to simply follow the main quest. Now, I still go by rules of time passing, so if a main quest would reasonably time out, then I let them know that, but otherwise I just try to prepare myself through world building.

What is the main drinking hole in this city?

Where might they go for weapons or armor?

What factions are present? Who runs those factions? What are their motivations?

If the empire is there, why? What does the Empire seek to gain from the area? How high a caliber are the troops stationed there? How do the locals feel about them?

What is the main source of industry? Where do most people work, and what attitude would they have towards it?

Overall, if I can build a world (which I like to do as a pastime because it's a good creative exercise) then I can come up with things they could reasonably be asked to do if they seek work. Now, I will admit that I have background in theater and so improv comes naturally to me. With the right notes, I believe that anyone can still run a sandbox type campaign. (of course, having semi-predictable characters helps too, so if the players have no written motives or plot arcs, it can get a bit tougher)

I love your method. I think its fantastic. I like the improv stuff and it was my primary mode of play for a while with an insistence on using "Yes, and" and all of that. I think that something I feel is different from improv that I like to have in my games is better dialogue. Let me explain so it doesn't just sound like I'm being negative cause that's not my intention. 

I feel like Dialogue is best when it's done the way it is in books and movies: a construct that is somewhat related to real speech but that is done purposely and in the best instances has a subtext. I let my players take their time in doing dialogue so that they will not be pressured by the flow like they do when they are trying to do improv. 

But I think your framework represents a great way to do overall prep without scripting events. In addition to predictable characters do you ask the players about their intentions in order to be a bit ahead of what is going to happen? 

 

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2 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

I love your method. I think its fantastic. I like the improv stuff and it was my primary mode of play for a while with an insistence on using "Yes, and" and all of that. I think that something I feel is different from improv that I like to have in my games is better dialogue. Let me explain so it doesn't just sound like I'm being negative cause that's not my intention. 

I feel like Dialogue is best when it's done the way it is in books and movies: a construct that is somewhat related to real speech but that is done purposely and in the best instances has a subtext. I let my players take their time in doing dialogue so that they will not be pressured by the flow like they do when they are trying to do improv. 

But I think your framework represents a great way to do overall prep without scripting events. In addition to predictable characters do you ask the players about their intentions in order to be a bit ahead of what is going to happen? 

 

I generally try to prepare important dialogue/clip scenes ahead of time. They don’t always get used, but it helps me find the voices of my NPCs in a way that pure improv doesn’t.

Since I knew what my players had planned last session, I was able to write out a clip scene of sorts using final draft to show my players what was occuring elsewhere in the system while they engaged in some ship to ship combat. Only took about 15 mins to write, but it definitely added a pretty cool cinematic air to the session.

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3 minutes ago, AnomalousAuthor said:

I generally try to prepare important dialogue/clip scenes ahead of time. They don’t always get used, but it helps me find the voices of my NPCs in a way that pure improv doesn’t.

Since I knew what my players had planned last session, I was able to write out a clip scene of sorts using final draft to show my players what was occuring elsewhere in the system while they engaged in some ship to ship combat. Only took about 15 mins to write, but it definitely added a pretty cool cinematic air to the session.

I think that's great. To me the prep you described is so worth it. 

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18 hours ago, Archlyte said:

 In addition to predictable characters do you ask the players about their intentions in order to be a bit ahead of what is going to happen?

I'll echo AnomalousAuthor a bit. I try and have some key lines or events prepared ahead of time so that if they stumble upon a potential quest-line, the hook will be solid.

What I also like to do is talk to my players throughout the campaign and try to always have an idea of what their motivations are at the moment. Sometimes it's like a post game interview I have them do after a  session, but knowing character motivations lets me know where they might look. If I have a group of artifact hunters who want to learn more about these "jedi" they keep hearing about, then I don't need to prepare a hook involving assassinating a local gang leader.

As for dialogue, I try to engage my players as long as they actively engage the character, then I'll end it and allow them to act. No everyone in my group is an actor, so social situations can be a balancing act. One of my favorite moments, though, was a cool roleplaying section where they were having to bluff their way through Imperial Security, and part of this was getting registered for an Imperial Peacekeeper License, which involved an interview. I didn't make them roll for very much, but they each got a minute or two alone with an officer (and a few troopers for safety) where they had to answer some questions about where they're from, do they have family there, do they have a criminal record, so on and so forth. It was a cool bit for everyone because the characters had gotten more fleshed out as we played, so this was a good point to display what my player came up with.

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For the voice of NPC, I use something I stole from Jewel of Yavin. It's an asymmetric first impression

In that adventure, some NPC will react differently to the PCs regarding their Career (i think the example given in the adventure is a Thief Spec or Smuggler Career with a shady NPC).

I took this idea and added another layer: Obligation/Motivation. I usually think one obligation that might push the buttons for the NPC and then compare it with the PCs Obligation. For example, an NPC might own credits to the same crime lord, or have the same secret motivation for Droids Rights.

This helps to bring this character to life in the minds of the players. It's also a good reminder for me to use obligations outside the percentile roll

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On 4/26/2019 at 8:44 PM, Rithuan said:

For the voice of NPC, I use something I stole from Jewel of Yavin. It's an asymmetric first impression

In that adventure, some NPC will react differently to the PCs regarding their Career (i think the example given in the adventure is a Thief Spec or Smuggler Career with a shady NPC).

I took this idea and added another layer: Obligation/Motivation. I usually think one obligation that might push the buttons for the NPC and then compare it with the PCs Obligation. For example, an NPC might own credits to the same crime lord, or have the same secret motivation for Droids Rights.

This helps to bring this character to life in the minds of the players. It's also a good reminder for me to use obligations outside the percentile roll

This is really good. Do you wait for it to come up in conversation or become known through some other means? So for instance with an Obligation like Favor or Responsibility how would you handle it?

 

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