Friday, February 4, 2011

10th post-Favorites and Sandboxes

Yeah, got up to ten posts.  I won't celebrate again until fifty or one hundred.  I hope.

For the this special tenth post, I will tell you some of my favorite games I've been in over the years.

One of the top games was a log campaign that a friend ran in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.  We started out a small ragtag bunch of adventurers, leading to a grand climax in Myth Drannor fighting to keep Bhaal spawn from bringing back the god of assassin's and murder.  There were many points in time when I didn't want to play, I felt my eleven ranger was useless and sometimes I thought the DM was fudging dice just so I would hit another party member in the back with an arrow...that is for another post.  Overall, it was fun.  It helped set up an idea of what an overarching campaign can be.

Yet, there was one thing about it that bugged me and I realize now that I have been doing something with my players that I hated.  The last few games I've run, I have been keeping them on a clock, forcing them down paths and setting them on rails so obviously visible, you could feel the engine pushing them along.

It is because of that feeling I am trying to go more for a sandbox type of game.  I plan on running a Star Wars Saga game soon--if my players can get together and agree on a time at least--and I plan to put this into motion.

Sandbox games are bantered about on all kinds of game blogs.  Sometimes, people don't define them.  I will attempt, since they can mean different things to different people.

In my world, a sandbox game is one that you set up some base, station or town and throw the players into it.  Then, you play out some hooks and maybe...maybe point them in one direction and tell them that is where the bad guys/loot/macguffin is and let them find their own way there.  I have also read and pondered the idea of module sandbox games where you take modules and scatter them around the base of the players, re-tailor the plot hooks and NPCs to work within the larger story and let the PCs loose.

Both of these ideas have merit.  I would be more comfortable doing the module sandbox in a fantasy setting, since I think I could "wing it" a little better.  However, I did recently get my hands on some old West End Star Wars modules and could do the same with them.  Just means putting in a little more time to convert things into Saga.

I like the idea of a sandbox.  Mostly because there is no railroad.  The PCs are the ones who choose what to do.  If they don't they are going to be stuck in the tavern/cantina and the players are gonna look at me and I will look at them with a blank face going, "So, what do your characters do now?"

There is the obvious problem with sandbox games.  I just mentioned it.  Players who aren't proactive with their characters will sit back and expect me to lead them by the hand to get to the starting point.  I know a few players in my time who have this habit.  They sit there and stare at me, expecting me to spoon feed them.  Also, there is the issue of not having everything mapped out.  A sandbox game measn that there should be some thumbnail sketches of a few places of interest.  Yet, you don't have anything concrete with anything until the PCs get there or are on the way and there is a break for the game master to ponder it for a few minutes or to the next session depending on when the break occurs.  Finally, there is the random element.  Something that the players can do.  They want to go someplace the game master didn't expect.  That is another issue with some sandbox games.

However, I think I am good enough to cope with all of these issues.  We shall see when the game gets under way.

Of course, if the planning of this drags on any longer, I might have to just shut it down and start work on my 1st ed. AD&D game.  More on that later.

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