Friday, April 25, 2014

GAGP's Solution: The Episodic Sandbox Part 3

Continued from Part 2

The Episodic Sandbox Campaign (which I may refer to as TESC for my personal campaign when I run it) relies on the shorter independent adventures for ease of drop-in-drop-out of players and on the evolving sandbox to retain player agency and a feeling of a living changing world.  The last important piece of the puzzle is allowing for player flexibility.

Going back to player attendance, there is always the chance that the only guy playing a Cleric can't make it.  Who wants to go dungeon delving without turning or healing right?  To deal with this, I will allow players to have more than one character.  I'm not quite sure what the limit might be, but there would be a restriction that a player can only take ONE of their characters on an adventure at a time, except in maybe dire circumstances.  There are pros and cons here.  If Phil plays 4 different characters and changes them up, he will take longer to have a higher level character than someone who focuses on a singular character.  The option does allow for players to try out different classes, so they don't get bored of always being the Fighter, for instance.  This also allows for newer players to fit into a group.  If Kim joins the group and starts with a level 1 magic-user (and needs time to get used to that class's capabilities and how to play in general), the other players can use their lower level characters and go on less dangerous adventures.  This means the group can bounce between high-level giant lair jaunts, and the more classic, low-level goblin slaying as needed.  This may also create interesting scenarios.  A particular dungeon may call for a magic-user to open a door.  The party that day didn't  have it's magic-user.  The party could go back and get him/her.  That magic-user may be much lower level, and now the adventure takes on a more "protect the VIP and get them to the important location safely" shade, than just dungeon clearing.

The goal here is flexibility.  I want the players to make decisions about their party composition.  This may not always need to be an important decision, but it could be interesting to have the players need to make the decision on whether or not to bring a Cleric to hunt the vampire, as the Cleric is a neophyte and may not last long.  The opposite coin being the stronger characters must contend with the vampire without divine assistance.

In addition to some extra house-ruling (like adding the cleaving mechanic from ACKS to Fighter abilities and ACKS's mortal wounds and tampering with mortality charts) one idea I am also toying with is restricting starting classes to Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and Magic-User.  More of the advanced classes like assassin, demi-human races, etc. can be "unlocked" by completing certain adventures that are presented.  This gives a feeling of progression for the overall gaming group.  In one adventure, the party may end up with a choice of supporting the Assassin's Guild and gaining an uncertain ally, instead of some other action of consequence.  After this adventure, the group has the option of creating assassin characters for the party.  They will start at level 1, so advancing these characters means taking time off their original character.  I may or may not be clear about which adventures might unlock more races/classes in the adventure hook descriptions, but if for instance Dave really wanted to be a ranger, I may specifically create and advertise that particular adventure to the group so they know it's there to tackle.

This means the longer the campaign goes, the more it grows, and the more options that players have.  If eventually they wish to create stongholds or keep new bases, I can support that as well.  Some high level characters may retire and become NPCs with occasional player control, while allowing them to continue playing their lower level characters.  If the sweet spot of DnD is level 3-7 or similar, there will always be an option to play in that sweet spot, while retaining the familiarity of the setting sandbox they have been developing with me.  In the mood for low-level, spring the trap and you're dead? Play your new level 1 assassin, ranger, bard, and druid.  Want to deal with expanding your strongholds?  Play your level 12 fighter, cleric, thief, and magic-user.  Or anything in between.

I think that does it for describing the solution to GAGP, or my planned implementation of it.  I may make additional posts if there are other things I feel I can expand upon.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!


  1. I think you've pretty much hit it on the head with these posts. I was surprised that you're not referring to the famous "West Marches" game though: Lots of good stuff here, right up your alley. I am also trying to get a game like that one going, sadly I've been trying for over a year now with little success. But maybe I should just try harder... :-) Good luck with yours!

    1. The West Marches may have been a subliminal influence. I read those articles a long time ago and I really liked them. There are a few things about the West March methodology that I can't quite fit into my TESC style. Namely how regions are geographically set-up for difficulty. I need it to be more fluid and 'undefined' for the creation of short adventures ad-hoc. Just because a hex in on the edge of the paper, that doesn't mean it has much much higher difficulty in my scheme.

      I also don't have the energy or even opportunity to have more than one group of players. Much credit to that guy for making it work though.