Friday, July 17, 2015

Winging It in a Sandbox

It's been a busy month. Work, write, work, convention, work, etc. When it came time to run the next quest in my Glorious Bastards campaign, I was exhausted. There was nothing special I threw together for that night's prep, but something special happened. Here's how it went.

I sat at the table, so fried I couldn't even remember what happened the previous quest. The players filled me in. Then in typical fashion I asked, "What do you want to do?" And they were off to races. The beauty of a sandbox campaign is that while there's a significantly large amount of work in the short term, over the long haul there's much less to do than for a dungeon master who preps an individual quest every week. Before the campaign's start I created a web of intrigue, fleshed out some power structures, threw in a few motives, assigned them locations, et voila. I can coast for a few sessions while the players have a ball finding the assorted easter eggs scattered about. Even better, any interesting ideas that hit me are put directly into play (and little do the players know sometimes these ideas are taken straight from their mouths verbatim while I listen to them discuss what they think is really going on).

Last session, the players left off in a secret graveyard. After having found clues leading to a hidden massacre by either the Mage's Guild or a certain noble house, they came up with theories of who might have committed the massacre based on the clues they found. Following much discussion they came up with a plan, and then proceeded to get completely caught up with some scenery (gnomish landscapers working on a racist noble house's estate). I took it and wove it into the thrust of the location's encounters, and by the end of the night the party convinced the racist nobles to throw a bbq for their workers in an attempt to generate good PR. It was a hilariously good time. Then the noble house allegedly pinned a murder on their gnomish cook. Now the players are caught between the mage's guild, nobles, and gnomish gardeners. Everyone had a good time, and I even forgot how tired I was while portraying the drunken gnomes at the outdoor fiesta.

Bottom line: sandboxes are forgiving. Maybe you're good at winging it, maybe you're not. But it's always easier to generate ideas on the fly when you have groundwork to build on.


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