Sunday, January 24, 2010

Castles made of sand, stories made from threads of many colours

A few days ago I read a very enlightening piece over on the blog Playing D&D With Pornstars. He writes about the way the "work ethic" of the rogue drives play, and gets the character into troubles and adventure.

As you might remember, I posted about how I had a bad experience of my players ignoring the hooks to adventure I dangled before them. This about a work ethic made me think.

I really think you can have a good and solid game which feels interactive, even if the GM have a story to tell. I also think that having a open sandbox sounds like it's liberating, but it comes with its own set of problems not advertised on the box.

One suggestion from in one of the comments to my post lamenting my experiences with adventure hooks has the key. Imagine a campaign where the outlines of the world are prepared, and there are forces at work in the setting. This will lay some groundwork for greater machinations going on behind the scenes. Now imagine how those machinations will manifest themselves on a concrete level, visible to the players. This is an adventure hook.

This makes me think of how Dogs in the Vineyard works. The players have a town in front of them, and if the go there they will be entangled in the webs of intrigue and the twisted relationships there. Also, whatever they do will have consequences.

If the GM wants to have epic stories play out in his world, this is how they evolve. Great changes are afoot, and if the characters interact with the results of those changes the players will help shape the future. The GM will decide how much he lets the players shape until they have stepped up their game to the global level.

Let's imagine for an instant that the players ignore that town, ripe with sin and glorious options for kicking ass. If there are more things going on in the world there will be more things happening soon which will hit the fan close to where the characters are standing. This is another adventure hook.

Our hard working GM might be a bit frustrated by now if the players don't take that hook. No worries. Keep moving your "story" along, and if you don't decide to kick out your players for not doing their job (go ahead and do it!) things will happen they can't ignore. Bring 10 000 orchs to their hometown.

What I'm imagining here is not a Sandbox as such, at least not the way it sounds like when its praises are sung on old school blogs. I don't think it's a railroaded Story campaign either. I suggest a new term is founded to express the idea of a campaign frame where there are a Story fuelling conflicts in the setting, an open world whereupon the players can leave their mark and finally a whole bundle of threads which tie into the bigger issues that they players can ignore as long as they take some of these threads and start weaving. I'd like to call it a Threaded Campaign, as a middle ground between the open Sandbox and the Story Campaign.

I realize I might misrepresent some of your holy cows here. Some is for emphasis, but I think my main thrust is interesting. Feel free to comment upon that, and other thoughts you have.
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