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Friday, 25th September, 2009, 11:46 AM #1
Magsman (Lvl 14)
Adventure Paths, Sandboxes- What is the Middle Ground?
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This reminded me of something:
You start with a narrow beginning. Your hometown, a particular event that attracts the characters and requires dealing with it by them. Then the campaign opens up. The players have several options they can pursue and deal with. But at the end, the campaign is approaching a kind of climax or conclusion - the major bad guy or issue is revealed and requires (and allows) dealing with.
Is it possible to create a set of adventures that would allow a campaign in such a way? We don't always want adventure paths that require following a line of adventures with pretty much determined entrances and exists each time, and we don't always want a pure sandbox, that has no focus or "end-game" in mind.
How would a line of adventures support such a campaign model?Mustrum "Gummibńrchen helfen auch" Ridcully
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Friday, 25th September, 2009, 01:09 PM #2
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
I'm not sure a "line" of adventures could do it.
I think that it would require a group of adventures that were fairly adjustable in level that all focused on either a place, a set of themes, or a category of escalating bad guys. Each adventure would have to be standalone, but have a few threads that gave it a common link to the overall setting/theme/arc.
Let the DM and the players pick and choose what to run when, and how to fit it in. You'd probably need 1-2 choices for each set of low-level adventures (ie up through about 5-6th level you'd need about 2 options per level) and after that 3-5 options up through say 10-12th level, or whenever you decided to "narrow" things. And then again a couple options at the top end. All pointing to the grand finale.
Or, how about creating a series of NPCs, scenes in which they appear, and a plot arc that they occupy, but no full adventure? Allow dm's to write their own adventures, but use these Keystones to the campaign as and when they see fit?
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Friday, 25th September, 2009, 01:15 PM #3
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
The adventures themselves would have to be designed for a whole level range instead of a fixed level or a narrow band. If the players decide to go to the Dungeon of Nasties right after the introductory adventure they'll have to fight kobolds. If the go after other adventures first and explore the Dungeon of Nasties later, the denizens might be goblins or orcs instead of kobolds.
The real villains - boss monsters if you like - might be defined according to the schedule of the campaign and not according to a single adventure. So Grug the Evil Side-kick of the BBG might occur as major villain in the 5th adventure of the campaign, regardless of whether this adventure is the Dungeon of Nasties or The Thespians of Waterdeep.
With intelligently designed hints the person of the next evil guy might be left unclear so he might be fitted into the proper adventure. The Masked Slavemaster of adventure #7 might be a mind flayer if the players decide to go to the Dungeon of Nasties as #7 or a human if they choose The Thespians of Waterdeep at this point in the campaign.
One might even design stand-alone adventures and provide a separate system of "hints", plot and evil guys to tie the adventures together into a campaign. The game master could thus choose the adventures he wants to run in this campaign.
This system would give the players some sort of control over the way the campaign plays out, while allowing for some overarching plot and fitting enemies.
Jan van Leyden
Former DDI subscriber
Friday, 25th September, 2009, 01:40 PM #4
Narrow-wide-narrow? I've never heard it described that way before (I've also seen the oxymoronic 'scripted sandbox') but that's how I try to run my campaigns.
I think if you were going to publish that kind of thing you'd first need a general setting - either a fully developed region or a bare bones gazetteer type thing listing the key elements needed and their role in the campaign.
On top of that you would need the opening adventure, the conclusion, and all the general storylines that go on in between, including some idea on how these storylines might evolve upon contact with the PCs.
When I create a campaign framework like this I usually build storylines around the PCs, so obviously all this would be much easier with pregenerated PCs.
That said, including some kind of player's guide to help with campaign-specific character generation would give the players more freedom. I know I much prefer making my own character when I play.
Friday, 25th September, 2009, 02:50 PM #5
Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)
It would be hard to make such a product in a way that would survive contact with players. Different player types react to adventures in a variety of ways. A lot of game groups have multiple player types in the mix. This makes pre-written material even harder to use "as written".
Very Casual- These players play primarily to just hang out and socialize. They often forget dice, character sheets, etc. They go with the flow and don't really care if they are railroaded as long as they have a good time with thier friends. Involved plots that require these players to remember anything from one session to the next are completely wasted.
Casual- A casual player is a bit more into the game than the very casual player but not enough to pick up adventure hooks that are less obvious than a club to the head. They will remember major stuff that happened but subtle details will be forgotten and thus shouldn't be relied upon.
Engaged- Engaged players tend to pay attention to events in the game world making more subtle clues and hooks more feasible. They will sometimes take notes and generally be able to follow major and minor campaign events from session to session. At this level, the player will also be more likely to think about game events between sessions and actually do stuff like update thier character upon gaining a level while away from the table!!
Sewious- The sewious players are the die hards. They will put a lot of effort into the details of thier characters (This could be mechanical or personality trait related depending on the power gaming preferences of the individual). Detailed notes will be kept and DM's need to pay close attention to consistency! The smith was named Brad when the players visited town, the DM better not call him Jack when the players see him again!! Minor details will be remembered with exacting clarity making the slightest hints sure to be investigated at some point.
A lot of groups have multiple player types which makes pre-written adventure selection difficult. What if you buy a kick ass mega module loaded with cool detail and intrigue then your sewious player has to drop out for RL issues and you are stuck with a group of casuals? Suddenly that cool adventure isn't looking so good.
This is why I like story light, location based simple adventures the most as published products. Complexity and depth can be added per the needs of the group. It takes a bit more work to untangle a complex adventure and by the time you do, the cost per page of the parts you use might be too steep.
Friday, 25th September, 2009, 04:06 PM #6
Defender (Lvl 8)
This analogy has the advantage of allowing us to apply skills from adventure design. Plenty of DMs already design event-based adventures with flowcharts that resemble non-linear dungeons. I imagine that creating a "non-linear adventure path" could be approached in much the same way, hierarchically.
Friday, 25th September, 2009, 05:36 PM #7
Lama (Lvl 13)
That sort of campaign is best supported by short adventures/sidetrecks/delves IMO. At least, that's how I have been running my campaigns for many years, and that's the kind of things I get the most out of. Not that I do not use full adventures, but I merely use overall plot or a few choice encounters or plots or NPC's.
Friday, 25th September, 2009, 07:20 PM #8
Gallant (Lvl 3)
I think the product that fulfills this niche best is one that has been around for 30 years or so - the published campaign setting.
A well written campaign setting can give you the overarching plots, themes, and villains that your PCs will be facing. It should also detail a number of places you can start the campaign.
You can fill in the 'wide' portion of the campaign with small published adventures or delves, and with a foreknowledge of the larger plots the DM can make small changes to the modules to make everything mesh together.
Friday, 25th September, 2009, 09:02 PM #9
Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)
The 1e Dungeoneer's Survival Guide called this style "Matrix campaigns", in contrast with "Open" (sandbox) campaigns and linear/scripted/adventure-path campaigns like Dragonlance. I'm currently running Vault of Larin Karr, which is a sandbox but with strong matrix elements through its web of interconnections.
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Saturday, 26th September, 2009, 04:09 AM #10
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
How about... wide, narrow, wide.
You create almost a campaign world similar to what they're doing with Elsir Vale... somewhat generic, but cool elements inside that make it fun and recognizeable without being overbearing.
You create an event that is the "center" of the campaign. Some prophecy, perhaps. Some goal that several parties and groups are seeking to achieve. Something that is definite and clear. That's your narrow part. You build your central tenants around that event, perhaps setting the stage so to speak. Then you invite several ENworld folks to write both the beginnings and the ends of those adventures.
As a DM you then have a choice... you can apporach the center from one of several adventures. Ancillary and side treks would be encouraged and open. And after the event... the adventures could continue with "What if" ideas. What if the war-hungry kingdom that players of Adventure "path" A had won? What if the divine agents of path "B" had won? Or what if they lost? What if path "C" happened?
Maybe the end game wouldn't be quite as fun all the time, but I could see that idea being very very cool. Especially if you gave writers free license to utilize and change NPC motives in the parallel adventures. One could play through the same path and experience it from different sides and roles. Or you could do it simultaneously, have 2 sets of parties and alternate as pacing permits. Maybe neither of them will success, maybe they both will.
It'd definitely be cool if WotC were to run something like that but devote less effort toward making it as polished as DDI... but more polished than something homebrew. Allow more indie folks the chances to get involved. Think of it like Reverse Living Campaigns... or heck, tie it in there. Only allow DMs who have either been published by wotc or very active living DMs who participate in campaigns the ability to jump in - and encourage anybody to publish "fanfic" adventures that will be hosted on the new wizards community as well.
It could be a fun alternative to the typical Dungeon content.
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