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Topic: [Sorcerer]Sandbox (Read 3142 times)
May 15, 2009, 11:19:01 PM »
As I was reading Sorcerer & Sword, I began thinking of authored role playing in terms of sandbox play, similar to GTA or certain D&D campaigns; but as I read Sorcerer's Soul I changed my mind completely. My impression is no longer that authored role playing, as presented in the Sorcerer game, is sandbox play at all, but a series of circumstances that provide opportunities for human drama, and the 'authored' part is simply the character's reactions and decisions and the consequences of these regarding these events/ in that scenario- which puts them in the driver seat, so to speak, but lets the GM build the roads and alleys, and set the speed limits. I thought at first that this bordered on railroading- however, on closer look, it seems appropriate for Narrativist play- there's no trains in this yard. I am new to it, however, and I'd like to see whether I have the right idea before I set to work on more thorough prep for a game. I hope I've been somewhat clear in what I'm saying- is my description accurate?
That being said, is sandbox play appropriate for a Sorcerer game, or is sandbox play more appropriate for other games? By sandbox, again, I mean games like Grand Theft Auto, or Tropico, or many D&D campaigns. I was thinking about it, and I think the major difference is that in sandbox play there is little or no back story- similar play dynamics, but the situation is built up over gameplay instead of pre-existently, more about building up a scenario by player choices and interaction than about becoming part of an existing scenario built to expose human drama (by human drama, I think I mean experiencing dilemmas- choosing between two needs, prioritizing, DECIDING on hard issues).
Furthermore- in sandbox play, which i'm apparently a bit more familiar with than the other, there are less bangs (they are there- they're just less prominent, and more PC created); Using the Day of Dupes as an example, and say, that the characters are involved because of Mme Carrieres' first husband's death, for complicated reasons, (1) how long are the characters expected to play this scenario (is it one or two sessions? or, as I suspect, dozens?), and (2) how many bangs come into play as you go, and of what sort- basically, as i see it, each little group of relationships seems to be an 'adventure,' to borrow a term, of its own, or a series of 'adventures' even, and, that being the case, how much of the gameplay/roleplaying is player driven, and how much is bang/GM driven? In sandbox type play, almost all would be player driven, but then, thats why i'm asking!
I should say before the end of this post: the Sorcerer's Soul supplement is incredible, I'm reading it for the 3rd time.
Reply #1 on:
May 16, 2009, 06:47:45 AM »
You have exactly the right idea about the way to play Sorcerer. "No trains in this yard" is perfect, and all that biz about the human drama is beautifully put.
As a side point and not as a correction, I'll clarify that scenario prep isn't quite the same for the two supplements. Sorcerer & Sword is a little bit more group-based, in that the GM proposes an NPC/location based issue and the players say how their characters are involved via the Kickers. It's driven toward eventual setting creation over many adventures. Whereas in The Sorcerer's Soul, the characters are considered to encounter situations a little bit more naively on the part of the players. The many-scenario dynamic is based more on changes in Humanity. However, the two techniques overlap considerably.
Now for the tough part. At the risk of pissing off people yet again, I don't think that the term is being used consistently at all. Someone says "sandbox play," and everyone nods and nods, but it's like balance, or realism, or immersion. Everyone is talking about something real individually, but the somethings aren't the same. No one individually fails to make sense, but the dialogue is a cacophony.
The solution is easy for you and me, fortunately. Tell me exactly what you mean by "sandbox play," and please, don't refer to any sort of textual D&D because that only introduces more confusion. If you do that, then I can tell you whether Sorcerer does it well or not.
Reply #2 on:
May 17, 2009, 12:49:54 AM »
I agree that sandbox is ambiguous, I just couldn't think of another word for it. For me sandbox play involves a detailed setting that can be explored/interacted with in any way, in any order, without a particular pressure to take one route or another, but yet with a variety of 'adventures' available to the players, primarily location based. As for what a player does, this is a combination of: pursuing individual goals, acting on caprice, and doing 'adventures' (or quests, or missions, or tasks, or whatever- there isnt a good word for it taht i can think of) that are pursued mostly because the GM has baited the player somehow, and not because of a lack of options. The weakness of this type of play is that it requires highly-driven PCs to do much of anything that's interesting, so I tend to have a 'main line' of 'adventures,' or a 'campaign,' that is always fairly obvious and available for as soon as they lack anything else they'd like to do, but ideally, a sandbox game would have well-made characters that would be able to create their own 'main line' in an interesting way.
Or, more (extremely) simply, a map, a list of NPCs, some setting details, a 'you are here' arrow, and the question: "what do you do next?"
Reply #3 on:
May 17, 2009, 08:21:08 AM »
There's quite a bit of overlap with Sorcerer play in your description. The two (if they are indeed two, and not one, or seven) ways both share a complete lack of GM directive regarding what players should or must make their characters do.
To describe the overlap that way, then I have to specify when you say the GM baits the players, it's more-or-less saying the GM is providing information is simply isn't boring and genuinely engages the other people at the table on the human level, but crucially, does
mandate that they react, or if they react, that they do so in a particular way. I'm hoping that's what you meant.
One descriptive lack of correspondence that may or may not truly correspond in practice is this: the setting is described as detailed, which if I'm reading you right, has a lot to do with making lots of NPCs and knowing whether the ruined fort is to the north or to the south; whereas in Sorcerer, the same things are described with less meticulousness, but with all the
elements in place. In other words, sandbox play as you're describing it may entail many hours on the GM's part making sure that wherever the player-characters go, he or she will know whether goblins lurk in that spot or not, and how many hit points they have. Whereas in Sorcerer, that information may be more fluid, and yet not at the service of "GM's story," but in usually established via the conflicts which have been resolved so far. In other words, if you kicked Billy-Bob's ass a while ago, when you go into the swamp now, it surprises no one that Billy-Bob is there waiting for you, and this time he brought his pet albino alligator.
This was a deliberate design decision on my part. I de-emphasized
and its cousin
meticulous location prep
in favor of solid
of those same things. I submit that my goals were the same as some of those you might be favoring: again, no stricture on precise player-character priorities or aims, but still providing major actions and reactions on the GM's part based on prep and events of play, rather than caprice or covert story-direction.
I suggest that both a laid-out dungeon in which choices are primarily right vs. left (and later subsequent tactical aims) and a laid-out "play out my story" scenario with a bunch of clues and bread-crumbs, have a great deal in common. Much Call of Cthulhu play, for instance, is no less a dungeon than a dungeon. I do not speak of these sorts of play in a derogatory way. What I derogate is playing this way when
that you're making a story together, and also, pretending these sorts of play are different because you speak in funny accents in the latter and call it "playing my character."
What you're calling sandbox play seems to be a way to play differently from the dungeon, and what I designed toward for Sorcerer seems to be a way (hell, rock-solid, is) a way to play differently from the story-railroad. So in that sense, they are very similar. Again, the difference seems to be in whether it's all about meticulous pre-prep and about what.
Let me know if I'm even hitting 75% in trying to phrase your points correctly.
P.S. And yes, I am having to bite my tongue to keep from talking about The Keep on the Borderlands. If you are too, then we are on the same wavelength.
Reply #4 on:
May 19, 2009, 01:41:45 PM »
providing major actions and reactions on the GM's part based on prep and events of play
relates somewhat to
Using the Day of Dupes as an example, and say, that the characters are involved because of Mme Carrieres' first husband's death, for complicated reasons, (1) how long are the characters expected to play this scenario (is it one or two sessions? or, as I suspect, dozens?), and (2) how many bangs come into play as you go, and of what sort- basically, as i see it, each little group of relationships seems to be an 'adventure,' to borrow a term, of its own, or a series of 'adventures' even, and, that being the case, how much of the gameplay/roleplaying is player driven, and how much is bang/GM driven?
So, my question then is, when your running a session, how much leading do you do (ie/ leading with bangs), and how much leading do players do? Does the GM provide situations, one after the other, and the players decide what to do in them (reaction player choice), then, according to the outcome, and the GM's judgment of what suits the story/characters/theme, the GM provides another; or do the players decide what situations they get into, and the GM runs them as best he can? (proactive player choice). 'proactive' is more 'sandbox'-ey, but the prep is enormous, and perhaps more prone to weird tangents in an otherwise good story. I think this relates to the role of the GM in the game itself.
I think I have other questions too, but I'm in a crazy rush this week, and i'll have to post them later.
The feedback so far has been invaluable :)
Reply #5 on:
May 19, 2009, 02:28:55 PM »
Speaking for my own play of Sorcerer it tends to go back and forth. What happens is that I as the GM hit the players with situation pretty hard at the beginning. However, remember that players author their own Kickers so that first situation I hit them with is of their own devising (sometimes with a little extra spice provided by me). I keep hitting the players with situations (moving from bang to bang) until they decide they have something proactive they want to do.
The the process is almost literally reversed where the players keep hitting me with stuff they're running off to do and I respond to it. Eventually, they run out of ideas or steam and I need to re-spike things by hitting them with another wave of situations. Back-and-forth, Back-and-forth.
The only thing that I would point out is that this back-and-forth isn't so open ended as to be describable as "mini-adventures." It's usually all one story arc that begins with the Kicker with expands outward into a more general situation that is organized around the other elements of the characters and the Humanity definition that eventually resolves. That moment of resolution is NOT pre-planned but it does all eventually come to a conclusion.
My scenarios last from about four to six sessions and are about the size of the Day of Dupes example.
Reply #6 on:
May 19, 2009, 02:44:33 PM »
well said... thanks Jesse!
And holy cow- fast reply!
Reply #7 on:
May 20, 2009, 12:09:03 PM »
I may be muddying the waters with my own interpretation/use of the term "sandbox," but as I see it, such play isn't even happening for real until there's an active 'dance' of providing react-to-this input between players and GM, and among the individual players too, in which "who leads" is frankly not even designated any more. We're all pretty much merely playing our characters at that point, and there's enough history, and enough dynamic consequence in progress, that any action taken makes things more interesting and prompts something somewhere to happen.
The way you're phrasing it, though, sounds a bit more like playing catch with a flaccid ball. Yes, we can throw it back and forth, but it stops at each person, and all the energy with which it is thrown to the next person comes from the thrower. Imagine instead playing with a bouncey ball and never really having it stop. Sure, the GM and any given player have differing tasks/authority about what they say happens, but you can't really talk about who's leading any more.
I hope it's clear that there is no "the story" in terms of
Reply #8 on:
June 12, 2009, 02:19:46 PM »
That's a great realization to have! :) I first had an "a-ha!" moment like the one you're describing after reading, you guessed it,
Sorcerer and Sword
. Things have played out pretty differently for me since, and I've actually found my way into Story Now territory, but, as you can see in this thread (
), I (I'm Bob the Fighter) had to get my head around player-driven action before I could find my way onto genuinely Narrativist turf.
This is also a great way of "getting it" and then realizing "wow, Nar is not at all complicated". As pointed out for me right here:
, there's a difference between Sim with Kickers and high player Credibility and player-decision-driven plot, and actual Narrativism. No Premise, and (arguably) no mechanics that lend themselves to it, no Nar. But I really feel that getting used to much more dynamic players is a necessary step on your way to Story Now play.
For that matter, if I were to find myself in really player-centered Sim, I could probably live there and be happy. After years and years of railroading and Black Curtain crap (goddamned GM screens...), having my play-decisions matter was a transformative experience. That sort of thing creates Sandbox all by itself, I think, but once you get into a more structured plot (even if that means Kickers and such;
-provided structure), you leave behind the goal of Sandbox, which I think is Sim incarnate: "I want to run around and explore this cool world, with as much stuff to do as possible and no 'walls'."
Mask of the Emperor
rules, admittedly a work in progress -
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