Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cross-Post: Storyline vs Sandbox

I thought this was interesting...

My comment was as follows:
I think the distinction between "sandbox" and "plot-driven" campaigns is certainly valid. And like others I'm working on combining the best of both, when possible. One thing that I found useful in this regard is the "Spiral Method" of GMing. Instead of having specific plot points that must be followed in specific order, what I do is I have plot points in the back-story that will occur regardless of what the PCs do if they do not interact with them. The Prince of Lira will wage war against his brothers in the Western Desert if the PCs do nothing. If they do discover this fact and work towards altering the course of events they may succeed. Or they may not. The way the Spiral Method fits in is that I may not have a timeline for that war. It is a free-floating plot that could occure any place and any time, depending on what the PCs are doing. I put things in general areas. So in this case, this plot point might get triggered any time the PCs wander toward the Western Desert. The Spiral Method creates plot points but disconnects them from specific time and place. This allows the PCs as they wander the Sandbox to spiral into the awaiting plot points. The problem with the sandbox method, for me, is that it can lead to too many plots in play as PCs pick up on plot points, drop them, picking up on new ones, and over a period of time it may lead to too many loose threads. The answer to this, as GM, is for me to keep track of those loose threads and periodically, when appropriate, reintroduce the abandonned plot points in order to tie up the loose ends as I go. An example of this process can be found on my blog where I wrote out the story in prose form. Over time the loose ends got tied off, and at the end of the adventure it had a nice "Homecoming" feeling as the threads all got tied up. I did not plan it that way in advance. I used the Sandbox and Spiral Method to achieve this effect. So I think it works. The hard part is keeping track of loose threads, and tying them up in a natural way. Meaning I don't force the players to tie up the loose ends... I just reintroduce things they've forgotten about periodically throughout the story.

I also created a thread on LRPGSW for this to see what people there may think.


TheClone said...

Good points and interesting to describe it as the Spiral Method. In my sandbox campaign the players also kept picking up plots as they discovered them. Eventually one player said "Hey, we got so many things going on, I wanna solve them now, before picking up further ones." And so they did. I guess almost any group will ahve that problem. It's like in sandbox video games. You see a quest (as per the WoW exclamation ark over the head) so you pick it up and add it to your quest log and then you forget it for some time. No players wants too miss anything so they pick up all the plots they can get hold of.

vbwyrde said...

Thanks for the thoughts. Here is
The Spiral Method - The original source.