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schoon

Pre-Planned vs. Sandbox

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I tend to make an attempt to plan a session, although that is sometimes pointless with my players. All over I have stories and plots going on, but its more sandbox than rigidly structured.

 

I try to use clichés as much as possible, because its classic, entertaining and fun. It's hard though, because players are not easily tricked or surprised, and I sometimes have doubts about the success.

 

My only problem with sandboxing, which really just happened after my cohabitant joined the group, is that for some players (i.e. her) it tends to slow down the game... also some of my players are very paranoid and considering, taking too much time to talk stuff over, and making decisions that minimises risk - and these control the game more than the few who are impulsive and whose motivations is: Grand Space Adventure :ph34r: I try to put on pressure, but that will lead to inaction or decisions that seem pointless to - particularly - my cohabitant. She had a rant after last session.

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My players are complete lunatics and always avoid obvious, big plots or the promise of loot, so at this point I have a very loose plan and have learned to create things on the fly. There's lots of great tools (a lot of them linked in the sticky thread) that let you throw together encounters and NPC's really quickly.

 

In fact, I've gotten so used to it that other than keeping track of some obligation-related quests (they stole a bounty hunter's ship, so they know they can check the bounty hunter lists to see if there's one they can track down and capture), I don't really prep at all anymore unless the players find something massive at the end of a session.

 

If they choose to do something that takes longer to prep right in the middle of the session, we usually take a 5-10 min break while I write out some stats, but generally they just talk things through and stay at the table while I do it.

 

Now that I've got about 10 games under my belt I find this system to be extremely fluid and easy to come up with on the fly.

 

Want to go gamble somewhere? Here's some gambler NPC's at the table, maybe one is cheating, the other is really good at it, the other two are black sun plants, the last is undercover security. 1-3 mins tops to jot down some stats (pulled from some sheets I have printed or the book, or just made up) and the player is ready to start ripping people off.

 

Want to be part of a local gladiator bout? Same exact thing, throw together some NPC's, and generally the PC's actions will dictate the plot.

 

Then again, these are the players that ignore 20,000 credits of loot once they took care of Teemo, in favor of exploring an abandoned smuggling asteroid base in the off chance they can use it as a base of operations, after a careless offhand remark I made, so take my recommendations with a pinch of salt ;)

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My players are complete lunatics and always avoid obvious, big plots or the promise of loot, so at this point I have a very loose plan and have learned to create things on the fly. There's lots of great tools (a lot of them linked in the sticky thread) that let you throw together encounters and NPC's really quickly.

 

In fact, I've gotten so used to it that other than keeping track of some obligation-related quests (they stole a bounty hunter's ship, so they know they can check the bounty hunter lists to see if there's one they can track down and capture), I don't really prep at all anymore unless the players find something massive at the end of a session.

 

If they choose to do something that takes longer to prep right in the middle of the session, we usually take a 5-10 min break while I write out some stats, but generally they just talk things through and stay at the table while I do it.

 

Now that I've got about 10 games under my belt I find this system to be extremely fluid and easy to come up with on the fly.

 

Want to go gamble somewhere? Here's some gambler NPC's at the table, maybe one is cheating, the other is really good at it, the other two are black sun plants, the last is undercover security. 1-3 mins tops to jot down some stats (pulled from some sheets I have printed or the book, or just made up) and the player is ready to start ripping people off.

 

Want to be part of a local gladiator bout? Same exact thing, throw together some NPC's, and generally the PC's actions will dictate the plot.

 

Then again, these are the players that ignore 20,000 credits of loot once they took care of Teemo, in favor of exploring an abandoned smuggling asteroid base in the off chance they can use it as a base of operations, after a careless offhand remark I made, so take my recommendations with a pinch of salt ;)

 

My players are very similar. Usually I have one or two of them trying to go do the obvious hooks, and two more trying to run straight away from the hooks, pretending they never saw them.

 

"Here's some gambler NPC's at the table, maybe one is cheating, the other is really good at it, the other two are black sun plants, the last is undercover security." I don't know why, but when I read this I imagined a cheating cowboy, a slick 1950s card shark, and two potted plants, one with a badge hidden under a leaf. Then read: "Want to be part of a local gladiator bout? Same exact thing, throw together some NPC's, and generally the PC's actions will dictate the plot." And imagined the PCs sparring a potted plant as Russell Crowe. I don't know. It made me laugh.

 

A hidden, defensible base of operations is worth way more than 20,000 credits from a mobster. Good on them to explore the setting, and not feel trapped by what's presented. I know many players that don't have the imaginative elasticity to really explore a setting. Then again my group only has one or two of those kinds of players, and the rest just explore a setting like crazy.

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My players are complete lunatics and always avoid obvious, big plots or the promise of loot, so at this point I have a very loose plan and have learned to create things on the fly...

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

 

I am writing to you this day for I find myself in need of your services, being the owner of a pounce of some two score house-cats, last seen in my back acre, which I should like to have returned to my estate before dawn.  Please find an advance of one pepperoni pizza and 2 liter bottle of Coke on your remuneration attached to this missive.  Thank you.

Edited by Lorne

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I'm going to start off with a few prepared sessions, just to give the players the opportunity to get used to the dice and the rules and for me to introduce them to the major NPCs and get them a ship. They can completely go off the rails if they want, but the motivation to stay on course (get a ship) should keep them on track. 

 

Then after the first mission, at the end of each session (if they're off mission), their fixer (think the lawyer Bob Odenkirk from Breaking Bad) will provide options for them to pursue - rumours, jobs he's heard are available, etc... (illegal spice run to a core world, a mercy aid mission to an orbital station corp sec space, transport an anonymous VIP, or collect three bounties for the brothers Dimdum). The group will chat it through and decide how they want to make credits, and that'll give me a week to outline their choice. As play continues, I'll introduce the consequences to their choices ("8th bounty collected... a sector ranger may want to employ them", "corp sec aren't impressed with the players trespassing on their orbital, a bounty for capture is issued", "the anonymous VIP is a high-ranking Imperial spy, and the players have helped her achieve her mission against a small rebel base". And so on. 

 

Once I'm more familiar with their obligations, I'll write short scenarios that I can pop in if their obligations trigger. The idea I have for obligations is that they should start small and then escalate each time they're triggered, putting pressure on the player(s) to want to reduce their obligation(s). At the first meeting Greedo reminds Solo of his debt. By the 5th similar meeting, blasters are drawn. And then its bounty hunter time. ;)

Edited by torquemadaza

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Typically, I have a general idea about what I'd like people to do, then I add things that make them want to do it (like killing their family and attacking their villages, etc.  :P)

But, if they do something else, then they do something else.  I'll roll with it as I go. 

My guys in my upcoming campaign are going to a Nar Shadaa combat tournament.  There are TONS of plot hooks there that could take the story in any number of places depending on what happens and what the players do.  And the best part is that two of the strongest and most likely to happen plot hooks completely revolve around NPCs made and/or designed by the players.  

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A hidden, defensible base of operations is worth way more than 20,000 credits from a mobster. Good on them to explore the setting, and not feel trapped by what's presented. I know many players that don't have the imaginative elasticity to really explore a setting. Then again my group only has one or two of those kinds of players, and the rest just explore a setting like crazy.

 

 

Yeah I realized afterwards that mentioning the base that early was maybe a mistake, but hey, there are lots of issues along the way (why was it abandoned in a hurry, why are there blaster blast marks all around the inside, there's barely any power or atmosphere, you need to man it and then set up deals to even make it useful in the first place...).

 

I also realized that trying to push my players in any sort of direction just ruins the fun - if I tell them there's a hyperspace transmitter attached to their ship, and they want to go on a spacewalk to remove it, who am I to tell them they don't have space suits? Flip a destiny dice and find one, then go outside! Oh look there's a meteor shower. Or someone attacked them, now they have to have a space combat with a player clinging to the outside!

 

I basically let them do whatever now, it's way more entertaining and your players *will* surprise you regardless of what you plan. I have one or two more epic quest lines I may tease out but I plan on making them too irresistible for them to pass up.

Edited by Blue Dog

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