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Need some refreshers on sandbox / scene framing GM techniques (FFG / Genesys)

innerdude

Legend
So after a sharp right into PbtA GM-ing with Ironsworn this year, I'm going to be running an FFG Star Wars game starting in January.

And I'm actually a bit nervous about it, because I haven't flexed those GM muscles in a while.

In the "Apocalypse World" thread from earlier this year, I brought up the idea that to me, "trad" play carries a large aspect of illusionism most of the time. The GM is assumed to have so much control, that it's almost unavoidable.

For me the question becomes, how can I be principled in applying player agency and avoiding hidden backstory while still recognizing that the FFG system assumes a mostly "trad" campaign style?

What techniques and approaches I should use to make sure the campaign is engaging and has meaningful structure, without turning it into a constant stream of "play to find out what's in the GM's notes"?
 

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Haiku Elvis

Explorer
Playing to find out what's in the GMs notes isn't bad in itself as long as what's in the notes is something the players are interested in and have the freedom to react and adapt to the players choices.
You don't need to get into the frame of mind that the old ways are evil just if the players choices don't follow the way you expect adapt to them, don't shut them down to fit your ideas.
At the risk of going Gandalf on your ass
"trad" tools are just that tools whether they are good and bad depends on how and why they are used
If you have talked to the players and know what they are looking to get from the game whatever tool you think is best it that moment probably is, even if it occasionally a bit illusiony or old school.
To more directly answer your question I find making a more structured plan first helps me to improvise away from it. I just dont feel the need to stick to it. In fact the plan is that I almost certainly won't follow the plan. Its just having to think about how NPCs would act or what would be the consequences of A happening on B in this world already means you're better able to make good decisions on the fly.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
So ... my suggestion would be something along the lines of not prepping what will happen. These days when I prep for a session as GM, I mostly prep what the situation is, with some amount of why and how. I might prep for some likely/obvious reactions/responses/outcomes, but I'm absolutely not wedded to that prep. I find it pretty straightforward to draw a line from why/how through the situation and the PCs' actions to outcome/response.

Given my understanding of FFG's dice system, you might want to ponder ... whatever they call the positive and negative consequences the dice can add. Like, in a given situation you prep, you might want to have some notes for relevant examples.
 

So after a sharp right into PbtA GM-ing with Ironsworn this year, I'm going to be running an FFG Star Wars game starting in January.

And I'm actually a bit nervous about it, because I haven't flexed those GM muscles in a while.

In the "Apocalypse World" thread from earlier this year, I brought up the idea that to me, "trad" play carries a large aspect of illusionism most of the time. The GM is assumed to have so much control, that it's almost unavoidable.

For me the question becomes, how can I be principled in applying player agency and avoiding hidden backstory while still recognizing that the FFG system assumes a mostly "trad" campaign style?

What techniques and approaches I should use to make sure the campaign is engaging and has meaningful structure, without turning it into a constant stream of "play to find out what's in the GM's notes"?

I would say to make a collection of stat blocks for like standard enemies… “Storm Trooper” and “Bounty Hunter” and “Dark Side Acolyte” or whatever would he relevant for the general themes/ideas you and your players have for play. Ideally, these stat blocks could be easily repurposed. So if the PCs find themselves on a system that’s independent but had its own military, then you can use the “Storm Trooper” stats for “Hando System Militia” or whatever.

Give the PCs some cohesive reason for being together. Build the group together and establish connections between PCs and also NPC allies. See what is suggested during this phase and make note; use the ideas your players suggest.

Create or establish the different factions and groups that exist and may be impacted by PC actions. Have these groups take actjon in response to the PCs. So if the PCs destroy an Imperial outpost, they find patrols have increased in the sector, making travel difficult. Maybe in the absence of an Imperial presence, a group of smugglers s

Give the PCs some default action that they can always take if they can’t decide what to do at the start of a session. Like the way a classic sandbox adventure would have “hex exploration” as a kind of default action that can always be taken if there is no other obvious next step.

Don’t get too hung up on official canon of the setting or anything like that. Ideally, set it during an era that’s not really well defined by the movies, books, comics, and cartoons. Don’t commit to lore until it’s relevant to play. Give yourself the freedom to change things up based on how play goes.

Avoid determining what’s next. I recently started a campaign. I created some NPCs and factions, and then created a mind map style graphic that was a nice visual snapshot of how things were at the start. I avoided any and all urges to come up with “and once the PCs do this, then X will happen”; see what the PCs actually do, and then respond accordingly.

Those are my suggestions off the top of my head. I hope they’re useful.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
What I do for Exalted and Vampire is basically build out a collection of NPCs and factions in orbit around the characters. Then I work on scenario design around dramatic needs between sessions. During the session I mostly just treat it like a sandbox game extrapolating from my prep.

Basically you extend the play loop and prep out on a session level rather than a scene to scene level.
 

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