Friday, 21. January 2011
Christian makes a very good point over at Destination unknown, regarding sandbox play. A truly unattached style of sandbox play can be very distant feeling and is difficult to make work well unless your players are very motivated to get out and do their thing. (This varies a lot with me, sometimes it does and doesn’t work well.) As gaming is hopefully about entertainment, in order to keep people interesting your game play styles need to vary. I typically use a semi sandbox style when playing and it usually has pretty good results.
Have general knowledge of areas and NPC’s – The idea here isn’t to setup a hard plot line, it’s knowing what the feeling of each area is and how major NPCs and even minor ones are going to react. This gives you a lot of working points for adventure hooks without having to be “on the tracks” per say,
Know your players – Each player typically has a style of play they most enjoy. If they’re all new to you, you’ll have to watch carefully and try and establish this. If not, you need to play to your players interests, at least a little bit. Running a romance story would be terrible if nobody was interested into it.. but if they were.. then it would be important to at least include a little bit of such and tie it into whats happening.
Know your characters – Likewise hard at the beginning, but by watching how they respond and knowing their backgrounds (since you hopefully helped in the building of them) you can have a pretty good idea of where the characters interests lie as well. This is helpful in throwing out adventure “hooks” as well.
Keep it Relevant – Assuming you know the above 2, keeping the game play relevant and interesting is pretty easy. In addition to simply throwing out hooks, you can also begin to throw the occasional hook “into” the player to give them and adventure that is “strongly suggested” to be followed. Which leads me into the next point..
A little bit of railroading is ok – I hate being “on the tracks” as much as anyone, but as soon as the gameplay becomes truely important to both the character and the player it’s ok to railroad a little bit. Often, it will be self imposed at that point if the mission or adventure in question involves a family member, loved one or other friend. The key is not to do that all the time or make it a long chain of events in some grandiose arc.
With these strategies, it’s a pretty good opportunity to expand your normal gameplay style, or focus your style in if it’s a bit too distant.