Saturday, January 23, 2010

Defining Dogs as a sandbox, and how hooks and threads make the box tick

Once again my commentators are thinking along the same lines as me, and I'll tie in a bit with that. I will try to expand upon DitV as sandbox, and my thoughts on the social aspect of play and what makes a game tick. The latter is what I call narrowing the sandbox. Let's dive right in.

If we put it down to basics, riding from town to town settling issues might not look very much like an open game. It's correct that there are few allowances in the game to, say, settle down and grow crops instead. But, within the limits of the way the game is set up, it's very open. Let's take a look at that, and then the rules for settling down and grow crops.

As you come to a town in Dogs, usually the problem with the town will be apparent for all to see. This person have sinned, or stepped out of line socially and the society has to be healed somehow. If you accept that your role is to heal that town, you now have total freedom! ? You could burn the town to the ground, shoot all the sinners, forgive everyone or any kind of harsh or mild action. You are invested with the power to say it is alright, and you choose how to exercise it.

So what if I wanted to grow barley instead? Well, nothing is stopping you. If you take a look at what the game system, you'll see that is not a task system. In fact, conflicts in DitV is even not really about who "win" the conflict. The system is a betting game where all you're doing is to see how far you are ready to go to win. There's even suggestions for other settings in the rulebook. If you want to settle down and grow crops you can do it, and when conflicts arise from agriculture the game system will help you decide how for you are ready to go to get what you want. Let's take a look at the social aspect of play.

Since my dear readers have pointed out that this idea that you are a "wandering religious lawman" could be considered very limiting, let's ask ourselves how that is. I'd suggest that the meta layer of the game, the social rules is most important here. Just like in my game (posted about earlier) where the players ignored the fact that they had sat down to be adventurers and thus go on adventures, there are always social rules that are the basis for a functional game.

I'd say that accepting the fact that in DitV you are supposed to be a lawman is just as basic as accepting that in D&D you wont play a starship captain. It's a social meta rule. I think these rules are probably what makes a game tick. If the players accept a limited arena of action it will feel cool, and the spaces wide within that arena.

Now, why would anyone even accept a more narrow arena than a wide open world? Well, I think it ties into the idea of adventure hooks. Even the most open game will go nowhere unless there's a hook somewhere. It might be in the character backstory, or something the GM put together. Actually, I think the game where it will feel like a real world, and with endless possibilities is one where the GM have a whole bunch of hooks, or story threads. Let's say he have a dozen he hand dangle in front of the players and they can pick and choose which one to go for. I think then you will get a good game from that prep and the socially accepted arena. It will be open, but not wide open. The edges of the box will have come into focus, but everything you do will make sense and have an effect. Isn't that what we all want as players?
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