Sandbox-style: What's your opinion? - Page 2
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  1. #11
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    Sandbox to me has always meant lots of improvising, which I'm relatively good at. It also requires impecable record keeping, which I tend to lag at

    You will need to keep pretty accurate notes, because even the encounters or plot points you may have pre-planned will require fleshing out in the midst of the moment... players will remember that one tidbit that you threw out and forgot to write down.

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by tenkar View Post
    You will need to keep pretty accurate notes, because even the encounters or plot points you may have pre-planned will require fleshing out in the midst of the moment... players will remember that one tidbit that you threw out and forgot to write down.
    Well then that's the one reason why I shouldn't touch it: I'm lousy with notes.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilvercatMoonpaw2 View Post
    Well then that's the one reason why I shouldn't touch it: I'm lousy with notes.
    All DMs improvise to some extent... even published adventures can't think of everything. But published adventures, or even your own pre-written (and you know you are going to use) adventures will cover most PC choices. You can always go back to the pre-written text for the memory jog, or to correct a PC that misremembers.

    When you are letting the party literally lead the way you generally don't know what they are going to do. That is why accurate note taking is a must with sandbox play.

    Then again, you can always add a little sandbox to a non-sandbox game. Give them two or three pretty clear choices for adventure... they get a feeling of freedom, you get to run an adventure that you have prepped for. They can always do the others after... they might even be encouraged to do so by NPCs... but they do so in an order of PC choosing.

  4. #14
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    I had a very strong desire to run a game set in Vvardenfell the setting of Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. Since the original game was very sandboxy I figured it would be a no brainer to make my P&P version a sandbox as well. Wonderful thought but still a lot of work.

    I had the benefit of having a pre-designed setting with a well defined world, encounter areas that are already loosely fleshed out, a detailed and expansive map to keep players interested. I've been at this project for about 3 weeks and I'm still not near the desired level of completion I'd like to be at before I start this game.

    The point I'm attempting to make is that it seems there is a lot of work that has to go into your sandbox before it's ready for the players. That might just be my personal bias though. In designing a more conventional campaign I like to have most of my major plot points and even the "boss" encounters loosely statted or at least in the early stages of design before I start the game.

    I'm probably going to premier my setting in about two weeks for the group it is being built for. I'll write a bit of a report then as to how my sandbox game is working out.

  5. #15
    I would have to say I am a sandbox DM of possibly the most extreme form. I really tend to get bored of pre-written stuff. the last (and only time in the last 5 years I think) time I ran one I ended up skipping three quarters of the module so I could get back to making stuff up.

    The way I tend to prepare for a coming campaign is either read the entry of the village/location the players are starting in, or write that entry if I am running a homebrew. Sometimes I don't even bother with that step.

    and then I stop. . .

    When the game starts, I generally introduce the village/city/whatever and let the players interact with it for a bit. If the players are not pushing their own agenda I introduce a situation.

    This situation (basically a plot hook) is usually fairly minor in the grand scheme of things; A loaf of bread being stolen, an attack on the village, a noble acting arrogantly, you know. the usual stuff. In the last campaign I ran it was finding a diseased and dying person in an alleyway.

    Players can get involved or not, I am not phased at all because I just make it up as I am going along. If the players (or a player's) background presents something it gets weaved in as a situation. The key is to make these events seem fairly minor. Many could be classed as pure flavour for the setting. This way, it doesn't seem like I am just throwing plot hooks at the players hoping they will bite. Sooner or later, one or more of the players will be interested in something. Usually this happens quite quickly.

    After about three sessions and on average about 4-5 different threads; I spend half an hour or so weaving them, along with anything the players have gotten involved in themselves, together into something coherent.

    From this starting point I have had empire building campaigns (based around economic dominance of a war-devastated region and tense negotiations with an orc tribe), a 'free the people from the shackles of feudalism' campaign as well as a political intrigue game amongst the guilds and noble families of a city.

    So . . . almost no prep, my notes consist only of the NPC's met so far and a tiny amount of plot.

    Despite the simplicity of this, I can create incredibly complex plots. That political intrigue game ended up with about 6 factions (2 of which the PC's were represented in) spanning two empires manoeuvring about who should educate the heir to the throne because of the opportunity to shape the heir's education in ways that would favour one or more factions.

    Interestingly, the campaign I am starting this weekend is not going to be sandbox. I am running a module again to see if I can do it!

    Hmmm, that was a bit rambly. sorry.

  6. #16
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    Some of my personal favorite moments as the DM have been when I have to compensate for the players deciding to go completely in the opposite direction of the adventure I'd planned. In my early DM days, I did like to write my own adventures and map out dungeons with great detail, or I got some published material and modified it a bit to fit the campaign. One day I had designed an adventure where the PCs were to go and track down a troll they'd previously encountered in the forest who was devouring the local farmers' livestock. Initially they sat down at a tavern to plan and see about finding out more information, but quickly decided that a drinking contest was in order instead. The party rogue managed to win the contest, but ended up horribly drunk, so the rest of the party, who was considerably more sober, decided a fun prank would be to tie the rogue to the minute hand of the clock tower on top of the temple of Pelor. Much Bluffing and some bribery later the rogue is dangling 100' in the air from the minute hand and the guards are on the way to arrest the rascals. The monk uses a large kappa shell to slide down a drainspout and escapes into the temple gardens. The party swashbuckler, however, ends up on the roof of the temple, which is about 60' from the ground with only 45' of rope. He ties one end off on a gargoyle, looks below to make sure there's a large stained glass window, and promptly leaps off the roof with the rope in hand. He crashed through the window, knocked over a priest who was christening a baby, caught the baby before it could hit the ground, announced that the child would be named Tyrus (the PC's name), and then sprinted out the back door. All this resulted because I had to improvise when the players ignored the hooks I'd been dropping and got distracted. Ever since then, I tend to only come up with some very loose ideas for encounters, maps, etc. because my party has a tendency to either steamroll through or neatly avoid my careful planning. I guess you could say I'm a fan of sandbox style play now.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
    Ninjas. Ninjas always get the action moving. they are also good for CYA when you failed to prepare adequately.
    Funny you should mention that. In nearly every campaign of mine I actually figure out a way to keep a "goon squad" on tap, if at all possible tied somehow to one of the character's backstories. This is a good idea for any kind of campaign, imo. Whenever the session is in danger of really bogging down for whatever reason, bust out the Goon Squad.

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Pendragon View Post
    Funny you should mention that. In nearly every campaign of mine I actually figure out a way to keep a "goon squad" on tap, if at all possible tied somehow to one of the character's backstories. This is a good idea for any kind of campaign, imo. Whenever the session is in danger of really bogging down for whatever reason, bust out the Goon Squad.
    The Nile Empires Law of Action (Torg) - if the PCs can't decide what to do, they are sure to be attacked by some Shock Troopers or some other faction. It's a world law!

    From my experience so far with my group, I'd say sand-box style would be hard since we can't seem to decide or move on with anything. And I am certainly one of those "not-moving-on"-type of players.

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    I think my most successful pure 'sandbox' game was based on a map at 10 miles/cm (5 miles/hex or similar also works), constructed around and stuffed full of pre-written adventure sites. These were mostly short, low level adventures from old White Dwarf magazine, plus WotC free downloads and some stuff of my own. It meant that wherever the PCs went, there was stuff going on. Not all of it was geared to their level, in fact they ended up with an evil minor artifact, The Ebony Horn, that could - and did - summon hordes of undead. They got in a feud with a noble family and the last session of the campaign was the 2 surviving PCs attacking the nobles' castle, aided by a horde of hobgoblin cannon-fodder, with running battles along the battlements.

    My impression from that was that evil/criminal PCs are particularly suited to sandbox play. Paladins may need more motivation.

  10. #20
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    This type of thing is why I think pre-game surveys are a good tool to use in campaign development. Ask the players what types of adventures they like to play and if they prefer following a storyline originated by the DM or of thier own choosing. There is little point to preparing a huge metaplot and story if the players just want to explore the world on thier own terms.

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