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Drowning in a Sandbox


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#1 Lockhart

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 11:22 PM

We just finished session nine of Temple of Time, and oh my goodness. Hal is being far, far too clever and awesome with this adventure. I almost can't wait until this is finished and he tries putting it together as a module so I can look over the notes and see the depth of his deviousness.

It's absolutely wonderful playing with a GM as skilled in adventurecraft as Hal. The Sandbox of Tybalt's Triumph/Folly has been great, giving players a reason to attend the plot and objectives of the adventure (Saving the future), while still giving immense freedom in how they pursue those objectives. So much freedom, that it seems like he gives us just enough rope to hang ourselves with :P

However I'm afraid I'm getting too overwhelmed by the choice of option and capabilities to mess up. Overall, I'm probably a lazier roleplayer than some, it can be cool to accept the ride of railroad tracks and cause some bumps along the way. The ocean of options I have with this game sometimes seem overwhelming to the railroad tracks I'm used too, I just need to remind myself to breath every so often.

In any event, long round about way to talking about railroad versus sandbox style of play. What do you usually play by, are you as paralyzed by options as I am? :D How do you approve of the decisions us players have made in our investigation for the Necromancer Arkalak?
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#2 Keener

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 06:27 AM

I am always just along for the ride so I don't question the players decisions.
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#3 Mordion

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 03:05 PM

I guess I generally stay pretty firmly on the rails as a player and a GM. The culture of my current weekly group basically expects a fairly linear adventure and when I'm called upon to take my turn on the GM couch, I'm usually too lazy to build a sandbox and just run a pretty linear AP (ie not Kingmaker).

My semi-annual family game is much more of a Hal-style open world (complete with getting ripped off by shopkeepers) and I tend to prefer the deeper sense of immersion that it brings, though even then I tend to go with the flow and let my siblings direct the course.

As far as the decisions of Kixy et al I'm still a bit behind (haven't quite finished session 7) but they seem sound so far. Except for the fact that I'm a greedy bastard, so I would have taken a month long trip to Korvosa before I accepted so much as one copper less than 150gp for a suit of masterwork chainmail. ;)
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#4 MelkiorWhiteblade

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 03:52 PM

Hmm, personally I like both at different times, but I think game system has alot to do with it too. For a game like pathfinder/D&D I prefer rails since experience/advancement and a heroic adventure arc are more accessible in that format.

Sandbox games seem better for those adventures where the PCs aren't necessarily the heroes, they are caught up in events and some things are just going to occur no matter what they do.

I like lots of options, even if that means more opportunities to make the 'wrong' choice. :)
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#5 Alexandrian

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 03:57 PM

While rails are fine for the most part, I have found on many occasions over the years that the sandbox has given my players the opportunity to create ideas that I wouldn't have come close to thinking of.

So to be difficult, I'd say a structured use of both techniques is essential. However getting the balance is purely dependant on the players and/or characters involved.
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#6 Jodast

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Posted 18 September 2012 - 06:58 PM

I always like the idea of a sandbox but find myself, like you, swamped with options and possibilities and overthinking everything until my head hurts and the other players and the GM are fed up with me. So in reality I like it quite railroady with the occasional opportunity to affect the outcomes of key encounters and events.

As a GM I am quite a railroady type because I have no confidence in my skills as a game runner to quickly and effectively come up with interesting things for players to do in a wide open world.
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#7 eformo

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 06:37 AM

We (my wife and I) are running a homebrew Pathfinder game and the group also seems to be struggling with what options to pursue. They have found plot hooks left right and center, followed up on several of them, but repeatedly made comments to the tune of "I'm not sure which of these hooks we're supposed to be following up on."

Perhaps the problem comes from the fact that most of these players first game ever was an Adventure Path with fairly visible rails. But bit by bit, they're recovering from their pre-published stupor and getting into the idea of following whichever of their leads they choose to. On the other side of this, some of the frustration comes from hitting dead ends where they just don't have information necessary to move further in a given direction. It helps ease frustrations if the "Dead End" sign is reasonably visible, but it also needs to be clear that the End is only Dead for the present moment.
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#8 LightPagoda

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Posted 19 September 2012 - 06:55 AM

Some of my favorite APs are run semi-sandbox. There is generally at least one story thread fairly explicitly pointed out to the players but the players have full agency in how to handle it. On thinking about it both gms have the tendency to offer the players choices on how to deal with various problems each with their own ups and downs and part of the game is dealing with the fallout of those choices and actions. There is also a difference to me between a gm making clear that Point B in a quest is in a certain direction then letting the players get there/wander around as they wish and a the only thing players can possibly do of consequence being to head to Point B. I would consider the first more a matter of player direction than railroading, which the second very much is. It might say something that my favorite game to run so far has been the Kingmaker AP which is designed to be a lot more sandbox like than other APs. The players are given clear direction of their overarching goal and then given room to pursue that how they wish and interact with the local area as they wish.
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