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Author Topic: Dr. Sandbox or: how I learned to stop worrying and trust my group  (Read 802 times)

Omega

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Re: Dr. Sandbox or: how I learned to stop worrying and trust my group
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2021, 02:03:47 am »
Recently I started questioning my GM style and thanks to the sages here, have shifted my approach to running games. Instead of laying down railroad tracks my next adventure will be a collection of scenes with tons of player choice baked in.

Now:

1. How do you handle players who suffer "analysis paralysis" when faced with choices?

2. How do you handle when the party decides to set-up a tavern when the BBEG is preparing to burn the town?

3. Should I be giving each character multiple choices per scene OR present the choices to the party as a whole?

4. In your adventure premise do you tell the players secret events going on or do you keep it to yourself?

5. Of what value are "conflicted factions" (NPC groups at odds with each other) in your setting?

6. Say you have a Murderhobo® and a Diplomancer™ in the party. Do you allow them to dominate combat/social scenes in order to move forward or is that bad for the group?

Give me notes, folks and thanks in advance.

1: This is what group leaders and callers are for. To make point decisions when needed. Otherwise tell the player to stop overanalyzing whatever and just go with something or their character will just stand there unable to act. Which depending on the situation, could be very bad. Mostly just remind the players that are overthinking things that they do not have to and its dragging things down.

2: Context. Were they players and the PCs aware the town was going to be attacked? If yes and they dicked around like this anyhow then that says "I am fucking with you" and feel free to massacre them. And/or show them the door. If they did not know or were not fully aware of the ramifications of clues then its 50/50 if they were fucking off or not. Stunts like this are usually red flags to me that one or more of the players does not really want to play the adventure. I've had players like that before.

3: Neither? Both? Depends on your style? I just present the scene and let the players and the PCs react rather than "you can do this, or this" unless a situation actually calls for that. Like "You can grab the idol or your friend sliding towards the pit. But not both due to time and distance."

4: Keep it to myself. If the PCs do not know it the players should not know it otherwise it can skew their decisions.

5: VERY YMMV. Some like them. Some hate them and some try to ignore them. It really depends on the DM, the players, and the factions. Ive seen plenty of modules where it works. And plenty where it fails.

6: I despise the storygamer derogatory term murderhobo. It can die in hell.
If you have players more combat oriented mixed with players more socially oriented then it is preferrable to give both their chances in the limelight where possible.

BUT.

Half the time one or the other will try to interfere somehow. Another of those varied by player things. Some are fine to wait their moment. some are a bit less patient. And some are jackasses. As a player I actually had to deal with a fellow player who kept interfering with my trying to talk to the NPCs, after everyone, including them had voted me the group negotiator. They were not after combat. They just did not want to sit around while people talked. Even the DM got annoyed after a few times.

x: Get a feel for the players styles and how they mesh, or do not, with eachother and the adventure.

Theory of Games

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Re: Dr. Sandbox or: how I learned to stop worrying and trust my group
« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2021, 12:07:36 pm »
Thanks again to all those who responded. I'm thinking now I can run better, angst-free sessions.

Kyle Aaron

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Re: Dr. Sandbox or: how I learned to stop worrying and trust my group
« Reply #17 on: January 13, 2021, 07:29:07 pm »
1. How do you handle players who suffer "analysis paralysis" when faced with choices?

The dice. Roll for wandering monsters.

2. How do you handle when the party decides to set-up a tavern when the BBEG is preparing to burn the town?

I guess the BBEG will find them with shovels and picks in hand, rather than swords. That's okay.

3. Should I be giving each character multiple choices per scene OR present the choices to the party as a whole?

You don't give them any choices. You present the situation and they come up with their own choices.

4. In your adventure premise do you tell the players secret events going on or do you keep it to yourself?

It's not a secret if you tell them. All the players know is what their characters observe or ask about.

5. Of what value are "conflicted factions" (NPC groups at odds with each other) in your setting?

Factions are always conflicted, or they wouldn't be different factions. The factions are just there. Whether the players ignore the factions entirely, align with one faction, try to bring the two factions together, or get between them to profit off both, is up to them.

6. Say you have a Murderhobo® and a Diplomancer™ in the party. Do you allow them to dominate combat/social scenes in order to move forward or is that bad for the group?

Either the other players are happy with their domination, or they're not. If the other players are not happy they'll soon rein the offender in, and if they're happy you should not interfere. And if they spend too long arguing and you get bored with it, roll for wandering monsters.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 07:31:16 pm by Kyle Aaron »
Rules for effective DMing:
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2. The dice are always right.
3. I master the game, the game does not master me.
4. Momentum over perfection.
5. The game must go on!
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consolcwby

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Re: Dr. Sandbox or: how I learned to stop worrying and trust my group
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2021, 10:57:00 pm »
I ran into this problem long ago, and my solution was thus:
-----------------------------------------------------------
I created a town which had a retired hero as a mayor who is chaotic neutral. His daughter was missing and so was his magic sword. He suspected a ranger (neutral good) who she was seeing behind the father's back. He also wanted to find this girl. The father believes he has kidnapped her and wants him dragged in as well. The town is thinking of going to war with the underground goblins who live in a nearby cave. The mayor tells the PCs to find the girl, the evidence of the ranger's involvement, and the sword. And if they cannot he will have them hunted down and summarily executed!
The PCs hear she went to the cave.
On the way there, they meet the ranger. He will help and will PROVE his innocence. The PCs decide what to do with him, however - he knows the cave system.
The PCs get to the cave, only to find a frightened goblin with the magic sword who drops it and runs behind a locked door. The pcs will bend over and pick-up the sword and will notice the girl in the corner. She is dead. Partially eaten. Killed by teeth. If the ranger is there, he shows the PCs a hole in the floor in the next room, telling them the goblins could NOT have killed the girl, as they are afraid of what lies below. He also tells the PCs all will be executed by her father if found or if no evidence.
Within the hole is a werebear, but it will revert back into a goblin IF killed. It maybe captured but will be impossible to bring out of the hole. The PCs can attempt to join the goblins, but they will be overrun soon but the Mayor's forces who are on their way back from an unrelated battle. They can attempt to escape the area, attempt to go into unknown lands. They can also explore the caves.

Now, the PCs MUST DECIDE WHAT TO DO! No matter the choice, eventually they will have to try to escape the area. That is when the sandbox happens! By this time, they will have made some really hard choices. The sandbox will be easy in comparison! Unfortunately this did not full work, and I have no idea why ~ except, they were thankful for the sandbox when they got to it! That's what I did ~ MOTIVATE THROUGH PLAY!
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S'mon

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Re: Dr. Sandbox or: how I learned to stop worrying and trust my group
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2021, 05:56:07 pm »
You can have town-ending plots in a sandbox - as long as you're prepared to end the town. In fact this can work great to shake things up.
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S'mon

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Re: Dr. Sandbox or: how I learned to stop worrying and trust my group
« Reply #20 on: January 17, 2021, 06:01:21 pm »
Re options - if the PCs are at the Inn wondering what to do, I like to make at least two options explicit via rumours & NPCs, while the PCs are free to come up with any number of ideas off their own bat. You generally want at least two explicit options, to retrain the players away from linear campaign thinking. I make an exception for the intro adventure, which can be more tailored to the newbie PCs, like a videogame tutorial adventure where you eg escape from Helgen before the sandbox opens up.
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Spinachcat

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Re: Dr. Sandbox or: how I learned to stop worrying and trust my group
« Reply #21 on: January 17, 2021, 10:51:01 pm »
1. How do you handle players who suffer "analysis paralysis" when faced with choices?

"While you ponder your next action [turn to the next player] what do YOU do?"

If everyone is having fun discussing the options, that's cool for a wee bit BUT the moment I smell that some of the players are checking out, then the GAME WORLD pushes itself in on their reality.

Even if its just me rolling some dice and making notes.


2. How do you handle when the party decides to set-up a tavern when the BBEG is preparing to burn the town?

Kewl. One more reason for the party to get REALLY pissed at the BBEG!!



3. Should I be giving each character multiple choices per scene OR present the choices to the party as a whole?

90% I focus on party choices as a whole.

The only time I focus on single character choices is if there is SPECIFIC reasons - generally IN SETTING reasons - why that PC should have choices beyond their party.

However, it's quite possible the PLAYER will want to examine choices that are character specific, but then I deal with that individually.

I am not a big fan of PCs wandering in different directions. People had crap attention spans before smart phones. Now? LOL. The more I can keep attention directed at the game, the better and that means keeping everyone continually engaged.

4. In your adventure premise do you tell the players secret events going on or do you keep it to yourself?

Players need to be actively seeking out the secret plans OR they get to hear rumors OR hear about the events after they happened and NOW have to deal with the aftermath.

This is why smart PCs toss coins around in town. Never know what that street urchin, drunken bum or haughty courtesan might overhear!!


5. Of what value are "conflicted factions" (NPC groups at odds with each other) in your setting?

I freaking LOVE those.

Even two Lawful / Good lords are going to focus on their kingdom first. They will rally to the defense of an ally, but their kingdom better not suffer for it. 

Neutral lords? Better be damn good reason for them to help another lord. Usually involving concessions or something so nasty that it must be stopped before it arrives at their doorstep.
 

6. Say you have a Murderhobo® and a Diplomancer™ in the party. Do you allow them to dominate combat/social scenes in order to move forward or is that bad for the group?

Bad x Bad.

However, some groups like to delegate to players who are good at "optimizing" situations. I see that mostly with games where rules mastery means something AND when you are using a battlegrid.

Social scenes should not always be PC group talking to 1 NPC. If the NPC being negotiated with has advisors and/or cohorts, they might be interested in hearing from specific characters. AKA, if a PC cleric and a NPC cleric are both present, the relationship of their faiths will play into the chat.

For example, I run Mazes & Minotaurs - OSR Greek Mythic fantasy. The presence of an Amazon or a Priest of Ares is going to have different affects if the PCs are chatting with a Priestess of Hera or with a pack of Satyrs. You can bet that Hera's priestess will want to hear from that Amazon and that pack of Satyrs is going to say something remarkably wrong to that same Amazon. Meanwhile, the Priest of Ares is going to assert the primacy of the fastest path to war regardless of what Hera's priestess wants to chat about, and that Satyr pack are degenerates unworthy of Ares' attention, even if they have important information.