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Author Topic: player-directed exploration of GM-created world  (Read 25508 times)
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #75 on: February 24, 2008, 11:39:09 PM »

You seem to be of the position that this doesn't matter, that the DM's fun isn't a valid consideration, and that the DM's imagination and energy are enslaved by the "fun" of the player.   I mean, I don't know, maybe I'm just really having a hard time understanding you, but reading your demands my first thought "Dear fucking god am I glad this guy isn't one of my players!"

I don't see the proposition working that way.  As has been pointed out, there is a distinction here between plot and knowledge goals, and the reason for this device is to bring some mutuality to a situation which is, by default, the enslavement of the players interests to the GM's.  In the conventional way of doing things, the players have no choice but to do what the GM wants them to do or else there is no game; but this may in fact have nothing in it that interests the players.  That gets UnFun in a hurry.  So the point here is to obtain some buy-in from the players, to negotiate with them some element in which they are interested, and in so doing ensure their interest and make the whole exercise more collaborative.

Because the knowledge goal as such does not mandate plot content as such, it's still possible for the GM to exercise the kind of authorship that they enjoy, so long as they in turn recognise and adhere to the constraint of the players interest.  You could say, you still have to negotiate the maze, but you have been able to choose the type of cheese at the end of it.  That seems viable to me.  The GM doesn;t exactly have to write a "tattoo subquest"; they merely have to include the subject of of tattoos in some kind of quest.  Such a "limitation" may actually prove to be a creative spur.
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Will OConnor
Registree

Posts: 1


« Reply #76 on: February 25, 2008, 01:43:20 AM »

I think that insted of haveing a setting or rules that inspire exploration and PC lead story lines, a diference in GMing and player style is what is requied.

I created a game that ended up being played exsactly as I imagine you whant to play. It was based on a world I had created for a story and the rules where created very quickly. Maby because I was a first time GM or because the players where first timers as well, I did'nt even know about game prep, and the players showed almost no inclination towards following any plot hooks I created. so quite naturaly the game whent in a direction where the players where proactive and followed there own intrests, set their own goles and created their own plots often based on backstory they had created for their character. this resulted in very little game prep for me as I quickly lerned that any detiled plot I created was a compleat wast of time and energy and would soon go out of the window when play comenced. insted I would make a genrell plot for what was happening in the world (war, civle unrest etc) and try and have things hapen to the players that fited their actions in relation to the world plot. So if the players decided to kill the mercenery captin insted of accepting the mission he ofered (someting that seemed to happen all to often) they would find them selves being hunted by the mercenery band or by the law and the players would then have to find a way to escape from the band, negociate withthem or kill them all, a situation that could take many game sessions to resolve and could lead in any number of directions.

the game play relied on both the players and GM being very involved and proactive in game direction. we found this style of game play to be very enjoyable to bothe parties (PCs and GM) as the players got to do things they where interested in and the GM got to play the game almost like a PC as they would never know eexsactly wat was aroun the corner or who they might meet. Another advantage to this style of play was it was very quick and fluid as snerios had to be created on the fly. the game could also be played anywhere and in any space of time as no detaild game prep was requierd.

anouter advantage of playing like this for me was that the world i created very quickly got fleshed out and more detailed as the PCswould ask questions of me and the setting that I had not even considerd.     
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opsneakie
Member

Posts: 87


« Reply #77 on: February 25, 2008, 09:05:08 AM »

Ok, admission and warning first: I skimmed over some of the (many) replies to this subject. It looks like you're looking for a good way to let the players wander around a world and discover all the little quirks that make it a unique setting. I still think you're getting hung up on the idea that something unexpected needs to be prepped, so I thought I would throw my .02 in. I've run a number of games with little to no prep, but they were still successful because I put a lot of work into the world before hand. I had a plot, which the players followed, eventually, but they had their chances to explore around the find bits of the ancient history of the world, and that was really cool.

Basically, the plot was about the players overthrowing an evil baron making a bid for power, but the exploration is what's important here. Before running this game, I spent a couple months putting together more information on the world. I have a strangely good memory for world information, so I didn't have a lot of written notes, but a more writing-oriented DM could write out a lot of detailed notes. When the players deviated from the plot, I knew enough about the world to make up something credible on the fly. They're going to his little mark I made on the map, denoting some ruin? Um... thinking fast, I decide it's a tower left behind when the ancient civilizations fell, and that the lower level contains all sorts of nasties not meant to be unleashed on this world. The players go in and start exploring, so I make up a couple of rooms for them to explore, and while they're exploring, I'm thinking about some kind of monster encounters. First I decide on swarms of tiny things, insect-like, to force them to close the heavy stone door they walked through. They slam the door shut to keep themselves safe, and now they're stuck in this tower, forced to wander around to find a way out. Now they're in this big room, which they hadn't gotten a chance to look at while running from the creepy insects, and so I'm thinking up a puzzle encounter. I'm a Zelda fan, so I bring in a Zelda-style puzzle. I tell my players there's a sliding mirror on each wall, at different heights, and when they examine more carefully, they find a small hole in the wall, which the setting sunlight will come through. Additionally, I tell them there's a gem on a pedestal on the opposite side of the lower mirror, the only thing on the floor.

Now they spend a while sliding things around, messing with stuff, etc, so I have more time to think about what's left of the adventure. The NPC travelling with them collapsed when the baddies attacked, so the cleric decides to see what he can do for him. This NPC has been helping them, but they also know he works for the Baron, who is the main villain of the story. He looks kind of demonic when they take his mask off, so they're naturally worried about what he might be. He's unresposive to them, and they don't know why. On and on they go, but this is turning into more of a story than anything.

Ok, the point that I was trying to get to is this: detail your world a lot before you start the campaign. Then, instead of prepping between sessions, do continuous prep while other things are going on. Make up something vague while the players are approaching the new Locale, then add more and more details to make it consistent with the world. I think that would let you avoid halting gameplay.
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MKAdams
Member

Posts: 36


« Reply #78 on: February 25, 2008, 05:16:19 PM »

I don't see the proposition working that way...You could say, you still have to negotiate the maze, but you have been able to choose the type of cheese at the end of it.  That seems viable to me.  The GM doesn;t exactly have to write a "tattoo subquest"; they merely have to include the subject of of tattoos in some kind of quest.  Such a "limitation" may actually prove to be a creative spur.
Yeah, it seems like a variation on the Bait & Switch, except the players get to choose the bait.  The players wnat to investigate orc tattoos, the GM wants to run a dungeon, and instead of saying "No exploring orc tattoos, I'm running this dungeon I already wrote." the DM just says "Ok, you go back to town and ask around about orc tattoos and find out that the Sage Adrionack knows a lot about orc culture.  Unfortunately, he's being held captive in a dungeon (which I already designed)."
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #79 on: February 26, 2008, 01:42:48 AM »

I don't think thats valid either, bait-and-switch implies the players are not getting what they signed up for, but they are.  You appear to be going out of your way to adopt a hostile position.  First you object to players choosing direction, then you seem object to the GM accommodating them.  I really do not understand what you are getting at.
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Alfryd
Member

Posts: 45


« Reply #80 on: February 26, 2008, 05:10:24 AM »

But the GM isn't accomodating them in any meaningful sense, because the players have no actual influence on plot heading.  before, I was under the impression that the world was being relegated to window dressing for the players' interests, but now (it seems) the players' interests are relegated to window dressing for a railroad plot.  They're still jumping through hoops, but the players get to decide what colour hoops.

Anyway.  I'll try to come up with something more constructive later.
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #81 on: February 26, 2008, 05:29:45 AM »

That seems again to presume a binary position - that either players exert plot control, or they are confronted by a railroad, and that this is unavoidable.  Surely the proposition is precisely to discuss mechanisms for avoiding both of those pitfalls?

I didn't mention this before because I have done so often in other threads, but I have often used a device in which I ask the players for "images" appropriate to the world, like a frame from a movie.  A second or two of action and dressed sets.  The best example, because it was short and punchy, was one in which a player said "Dudes in gas-masks running through smoke", in a cyberpunk game.  So I went away and wrote a plot which would produce this as one of many events.  Having that point to aim for focussed my own efforts, and provided some assurance that what I was making would indeed be of interest.  I could be confident that I was hitting some of the things which attracted the players to the setting and genre in the first place, and that they would therefore enjoy and appreciate it as I presented it.

I think polling player interest in some manner is a good and useful thing to do, and an express mechanism for doing so, allowing players to indicate what they would like to learn about in a world, may offer an opportunity for Sim to break out of the railroad and start becoming a more collaborative exercise with the players, while still keeping the texture and reasonableness that comes from detailed preparation.  Hence I think it is a potentially useful and promising question to ask how this might be done effectively.
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- Leonardo da Vinci
David Berg
Member

Posts: 612


« Reply #82 on: February 26, 2008, 11:55:29 AM »

Ken (MKAdams) and Gareth (contracycle),
Your points look compatible to me.  It is a lot like a bait & switch, as long as the "switch" is to something the players have previously specified as generally agreeable (e.g. "we like dungeon crawls" in Ken's "sage in dungeon" example).

As for forming that general agreement, my current thought is pre-game questionnaires.

Will,
I'm pretty sure I've played in the way you describe.  I like it, but it's not what I'm going for here.  That type of totally-responsive improv world-creation tends not to produce anything I find "worthy" of exploring.  Playing through with some other purpose in mind, yes.  But this thread is about an exploration-first game.  ("Worthy" includes a large dose of "solid- and real-seeming" for me -- observing it being created automatically blows this.)

opsneakie,
I envy your multi-tasking skills.  As GM, I'm usually too concentrated on describing the PCs' environment to prep simultaneously.  If you can do it, though, rock on!  Sounds very time-efficient.  As for front-loading prep, I think it's definitely a legit option for those not terrified of doing work that never sees play.

Paul,
The "worthy" caveat applies here too -- the real world doesn't conform to convenient guesses, and a gameworld that repeatedly does so feels "rigged".  I think this means that your example of finding the general is unlikely to happen quite so efficiently -- questions would need to be asked first, etc.  That may not detract much from your main point, I just wanted to mention it in case you saw efficiency as a key virtue.

As for "give them something to find, and figure out how it all ties together later," I agree on the upsides, but I'm not sure how to eliminate the potential downsides.  It's often a delicate balance to make something both interesting and world-appropriate, and I find it much easier to strike that balance with prep than with improv.

I also think the gameworld must include dead-ends to be plausible.  The key for play is just making sure that very little game time is wasted exploring these.

I see potential here... further comment welcome...
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