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Semi sandbox RPG advice.


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#1 GM SIlva

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 04:33 AM

Hello all.

 

I'm currently working on my first Roll20 game and I'm using the Pathfinder Serpent's Skull adventure path.

After reading the book I've found that there's no real set progression to any of the main dungeons. As I've never GM'd a sandbox

RPG I'm not sure whether i need to prepare mini dungeons for all the ship wrecks and dozens of enchants all around the

Island or try to push them (PC's) in the right direction. 

 

I'd appreciate any advice on running this game.

 

GMS


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#2 Lockhart

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 06:55 AM

Well, the goal is that the party will encounter most of these encounters, either by exploring for other survivors/a way off the island, or simply walking into them by accident. I would prioritize the encounter prep, if you are limited by prep time, based on geographic distance (preparing what closest and therefore most likely to be run into by PCs), over the plot relevance, that being said, if you have the option, I reccommend prepping as much as you can. When I GM a pathfinder module in Roll20, I like to take some time off to basically prep all of the maps/tokens/handouts for the entire book, and it sames me time and i only have to do a quick 'refreasher' prep before running a session to remind me where the party is and what they are about to face.
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#3 Hal

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 07:17 AM

It is generally not a great idea to try and poke the players in a specific direction unless it is obviously the only option. In a sandbox setting part of the fun of playing it, is being able to decide where to go next. In my experience, the more you actually want them to go one way, the less they will actually do it :)

 

Also, with Roll20, if they head in a direction you did not expect and don't have a map for, the search feature can pull up a passable map for most overland and even some decent general dungeon locations - that being said it is often better to have something prepped just in case.

 

Failing everything else. Give them a travel encounter to slow them down and prep the dungeon they are heading for for the next session :P

 

Hal :hal:


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#4 GM SIlva

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 08:13 AM

Thanks guys. Really appreciate your advice.

 

I really wouldn't want to direct the action as I completely agree, that would steal away the fun. I'm just concerned they'd stumble on one of the big dungeons early and get owned. I want the to enjoy the game not die too soon lol

 

I'm currently making sure i have everything from the book in Roll20 including a few additional maps for fights.

 

I did consider inventing a few XP encounter for the island that aren't in the book such as hunting games, characters getting stuck in quicksand, Cave with dangerous animals within and cannibal patrols.

 

Hopefully my team will enjoy it. I'm not looking forward to the team splitting but i can help but think they will due to the huge playground they'll have lol.


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#5 Hal

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 09:26 AM

Ick - splitting the party... the curse of GMs and players everywhere :)

 

Hopefully they will be aware that splitting up significantly reduces their capacity as a group and significantly increases their chance of a large monster eating their face :)

 

If the split up too much just give them a little scare. Have them stumble on something that they totally can't handle. Perhaps they sight something flying overhead looking for something to eat, or they see something monstrous at the bottom of a ravine sniffing around and then looking up at them. Make them cluster in fear. It is a good tool for a GM if used carefully :) You don't want to give them the idea that they are being railroaded or that the game is totally above their level but sometimes they need to be reminded that party = stronger :)

 

Hal :hal:


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#6 Lockhart

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 09:30 AM

If I recall correctly, there is a bit written into the adventure regarding cannibal patrols and the animals from lairs wandering and hunting, but it's been a year or so since I last read the adventure.

Personally, if you're afraid of the party getting owned, be up front, OOC, that this is a sandbox. There is not going to be much hand-holding, the players may very well get up to their ears in danger, and its their responsibility to determine when they should retreat. To help with this, maybe a wandering encounter against something far out of their CR range (troll perhaps), where the party spot it ahead of time and avoid it via stealth. Actually, making a small short list of exploratory/RP/Non-combat random encounters to pepper around can really help bring the sandbox to life, instead of just combat to combat. Some of the dangers, like quicksand, even if the party spots it and avoids it completely, can still help to create the atmosphere and story of the island. They can also serve as good little risk-reward scenarios. Yes, you can safely avoid the quicksand/monsters lair. But then you won't be able to see what that corpse in the middle of the danger has on them for loot.
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#7 Hal

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 09:34 AM

Hey Lockhart - I think we just gave the same advice :)

 

I haven't read this Adventure Path for a long while either. I agree with being up front with the party. It is often best to have that talk before character generation so they have some idea of the kind of things they are going to be facing and can avoid making a lame duck as well.

 

Also with adventures like this one it is often prudent to remind the party that sometimes it is OK to retreat, regroup and try again later if they feel things are not going their way.

 

Hal :hal:


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#8 Lockhart

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 09:39 AM

I think we gave similar advice to address different points :P

Specifically regarding Splitting up. Unless your PCs are newbies, most groups will learn to avoid this. If your group is prone to doing so though, a helpful hint, either directly or prompting a Survival check, that hostile predators are less likely to initiate attacks against groups instead of couples or single travellors (following it up of descriptions of jaguars or whatever stalking the party but staying safely away and not attacking when they keep together)

That being said, if for whatever reason, your party believes splitting up to be wise (some people have different play styles or can make it work strategically), switch back and forth between the two groups frequently, so one doesn't feel left out. Let each party member have an opportunity to take action, look around, or confirm their inactivity. It's not fun for the party members left behind if one or two others go scouting ahead and suddenly it's a half hour or more of solo RP between them and the GM. The opportunity of checking back with the rearguard party, giving them the opportunity to do something even if they won't, or just letting them have a few minutes of Inner party RP as you ask what they do to pass the time, helps them feel like you haven't forgotten about them and that the scout hasn't entirely stolen the spotlight.
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#9 GM SIlva

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 10:55 AM

Thats a lot of really good advice gentlemen. All of which will be placed into my ideas Book of Holding (iPad).

Hopefully, by explaining how boring it can be for players when the group splits, the team will stay away.

As for the difficulties of playing a sandbox, I like the challenge plus the group are friends so they won't hold it

against me if I invent something lame until i come up with a better idea haha.


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#10 GM SIlva

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 10:56 AM

So are you guys members of the Wrath if the Righteous podcast?


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#11 Hal

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 11:02 AM

To be quite honest I actually find running sandbox adventures to be the most rewarding from a GM perspective. I find I run best when I have a general idea of a plot and a direction I want the party to go but I make a lot of my stuff up on the spot - this lets me pull from the players and involve them a little more than a solid written scenario. It also lets me hook into what they are afraid will happen but making that they say come true sometimes :)

 

Neither Lockhart or I are part of the Wrath of the Righteous campaign. Lockhart has been running Shattered Star for us and I am currently running the D&D5e Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure to test the new system :)

 

@ Tulty is the GM of the Wrath of the Righteous and doing a sterling job of it :)

 

Hal :hal:


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#12 GM SIlva

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 11:06 AM

To be quite honest I actually find running sandbox adventures to be the most rewarding from a GM perspective. I find I run best when I have a general idea of a plot and a direction I want the party to go but I make a lot of my stuff up on the spot - this lets me pull from the players and involve them a little more than a solid written scenario. It also lets me hook into what they are afraid will happen but making that they say come true sometimes :)

 

Neither Lockhart or I are part of the Wrath of the Righteous campaign. Lockhart has been running Shattered Star for us and I am currently running the D&D5e Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure to test the new system :)

 

@ Tulty is the GM of the Wrath of the Righteous and doing a sterling job of it :)

 

Hal :hal:

 

I couldn't agree more.


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#13 Lockhart

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 11:12 AM

Hal might be being a bit modest. He is also the founder and first GM of the site.

I am also the GM of the Yorkton Gamer Guild, which has a lot of Pathfinder there and current is very slowly working through the Jade Regent adventure path. The very slowly may have something to do with me now living a two hour drive away from Yorkton.

I have a lot of trouble with sandbox myself. I like the potential, as Hal says, of more Player-involved stories. That being said, the prep-style clashes a bit with my prep-style. I am one of those GMs that, well, I'm capable of Improvisation, but I tend to avoid it because, typically, the more improv and homebrew I get, the more swingy the fun-level is, typically swinging downwards. But that's just me. If I'm running a sandbox, chances are it's something that I've prepared heavily, and is actually closer to a railroad with a number of tracks and turn offs which gives the illusions of sandbox as opposed to true sandbox.
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#14 GM SIlva

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 11:51 AM

Well I'm still a noob. I'm currently taking my first group through the beginner box but, as most of you may know, the story in there is lacking substance so

as a personal training lesson I created a beginning which happened in the town and prepared a more involved journey to the provided dungeon. With that i

looked at some of the ideas the beginners book gave me and combined them all into an involved story which has so far been greatly recieved by my group

of 3.5 D&D players. I'm safe for the time being as before the game started I prepared loads of encounters and story drivers, under-estimating how long things might take.

I assumed my group would charge through the dungeon in a single session. We're now coming to the third session and we're still in there ha, ha.

Its given me the opportunity to go through my original plans and make a few edits.

 

I'm very intrigued by the Jade Regent adventure path but i can't find a copy of the book that isn't a ridiculous amount of money.

‚ÄčAmazon has it down at stupid prices.


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#15 Tulty

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 01:23 PM

D'aw, you guys. ^_^

 

I agree with everything Hal and Lockhart have advised you, Silva. I've always considered players to be the antithesis of prediction, and like Hal I find myself inventing and improvising on the fly. Wrath of the Righteous is not really a sandbox, certainly not at this stage, but regardless several of the encounters and the interactions have differed from the published text.

 

I find that for me, the most useful thing I can do is be up front and honest with my players. You'll have heard me happily telling them that I bumped up a combat encounter as I thought it wasn't challenging enough for them, and I'll read them snippets of the text that I think would interest them. We all recognise that while it's a wonderful, unpredictable and brilliant fun game, it IS a game. There are no punishments or penalties for GMs who treat it as such.

 

The number one priority in tabletop RPGs is the make sure your players are having fun. Not necessarily HAPPY ;) but enjoying themselves. What this requires varies from party to party, and you'll know better than most what makes your players tick, but whatever you do, DO NOT get bogged down in rules. They are there to serve YOU, not the other way around. As @ Lockhart will no doubt agree, I often play fast and loose with the Pathfinder rules, as I am simply not knowledgeable enough at this stage to be rule-perfect without wasting lots and lots of time looking things up. So as long as fun is had, I wouldn't worry. Oh, and don't be afraid to fudge rolls every once in a while! Sometimes the party need that crit from a boss to wake them up, or for the swarm of ghasts to all fail their saving throws at the crucial moment. :)


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#16 Tulty

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 01:27 PM

Oh, and definitely go way back into RPGMP3s backlog and look up 'World's Largest Dungeon'. It started this whole thing off, and is a brilliant listen. It stole a large part of my youth and I do not begrudge it those hours. :) Hal GMed it really well, considering the sheer amount of content it required him to keep track of. 


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#17 GM SIlva

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 01:37 PM

Ah, a comment from a celebrity ;) Thank you for your advice. I completely agree with you regarding the rules. I've already put in a few house rules as some of them

I just didn't agree with. I've already told my group I have no intension of killing any of them. If they die it'll be down to their own mistakes or unlucky rolls. What I haven't told them is there's always ways to get around this if someone becomes particularly fond of their PC.

 

AS for funding rolls, I've save my party a few times with our their knowledge haha. I will definitely try to get to the podcast you suggested. Sounds awesome :)


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#18 Hal

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 02:11 PM

Another bit of research that might be worth a listen is Kingmaker by the Strand Gamers - it is very much a sandbox where the player essentially drive the whole thing.

 

They also started Serpent's Skull on the site as well - I think we have about 10 of those in the Downloads area :)

 

Hal :hal:


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#19 BigJackBrass

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 02:17 PM

And of course there's the hundred and something sessions of 'Warlords of the Accordlands' which wasn't supposed to be a sandbox but the players treated it like one :D
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#20 PrestoJeff

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 02:43 PM

I like coming up with totally off-the-cuff adventures. I find that the most innocent of comments from either myself or the players can easily spin off into an enjoyable session or three. I also like coming up with a totally unexpected (and hopefully memorable) NPC and just riffing on whatever the PCs talk about.
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