Author Topic: Does Numenera shine best as a sandbox game?  (Read 297 times)

LexStarwalker

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Does Numenera shine best as a sandbox game?
« on: June 12, 2014, 05:49:06 pm »
I discuss this with Bryon Kershaw on E33, but I'm curious what you all think.

Do you think Numenera shines best as a completely sandbox game?  I.e. not having a "plot" to your adventures. Rather just providing a rich setting with lots of weird for the players to explore.

Why or why not?

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jpwheeler

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Re: Does Numenera shine best as a sandbox game?
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2014, 01:27:07 pm »
When I first read through Numenera, one of the first things I thought of was that this system would be great to sandbox with. Coming up with challenges or even combat scenarios on the fly would be fairly easy, which makes rolling with the unexpected turns the player take simpler to handle. While listening to GMI Episode 33, it got me to thinking about sandbox vs. plot. I look at these two as a sliding scale. While there might be people out there that love 100% sandbox or 100% plot, I think most people fall somewhere in the middle. They want the freedom to explore and to interact with the world but they also want something that motivates them and moves the story along.

One of my favorite elements of the sandbox is exploration. Seeing that shadow on the horizon, wondering what secrets it holds and exploring it is one of the very reasons I took to RPGs. While exploring that shadow on the horizon is exciting. Over time if all you do is move from one shadow to the next, then you might start to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? What is the point?” That is where I think plot comes in and is necessary at some level. To a player the plot provides a possible answer to “Why is my character doing this? Or what drives my character?”

By the same token if you flip the slider all the way to the other end of the spectrum you can have other issues. I have played in several games that had epic story lines from the very get go. These plots were very much like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You knew who the bad guy was and that there would be dire consequences to the world should you fail. In those campaigns I felt very constricted. Even when the GM threw out potential side plots, we as a group rarely bit on them as we felt we had to race to the next objective as fast as possible or the world would be doomed. I often referred to this as “Plot Fatigue” and over time I just wanted it to be over so we could do other things in the world.

Whenever I build my own campaigns now, I look for ways to have a central plot line but have it be flexible that the players can stop along the way and smell the roses. In some ways I try to build it so they do not ever realize there is a central plot line until I reveal the connections later in the campaign. I would also try to seed several side plots in the middle of an adventure so that when they get a break or finish an adventure they would have something they could pursue if they wanted. That way they were not sitting around waiting for someone to burst into the room with the next crisis they needed to solve. When I read through the Vortex, for example, I felt that something like the Nave is a perfect example of this. The plot line drives the players along the Path of Light, but there are eleven other cat walks that run off into darkness. This provides a great side plot to come back to and explore for no other reason than it is there. As a GM all I have to do is provide these seeds and make sure there is not always a fire burning that needs to be put out.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2014, 01:58:31 pm by jpwheeler »

RiskyTrizkit

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Re: Does Numenera shine best as a sandbox game?
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2014, 03:51:22 am »
Gotta agree with this, especially regarding plot fatigue. If there is a very obvious goal things can get old quick unless there are numerous twists or interesting story devices. The key benefits of Numenera as a game seems to weigh around infinite creative possibility, so why fight that by restricting it with too much plot? Overreliance on plots can also be pretty dicey if the players find a way to squirrel their way too far from your guidance.

Not to condemn plots altogether though. It is nice to have at least some driving motivation to move things forward in some manner. However if you flesh out your worldbuilding enough a lot of interesting things can happen without them holding your hand excessively.

LexStarwalker

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Re: Does Numenera shine best as a sandbox game?
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2014, 09:37:15 am »
Very good points! It does seem that the sweet spot is somewhere in between pure sandbox and all plot.

alcar

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Re: Does Numenera shine best as a sandbox game?
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2014, 12:42:43 am »
One of the fun challenges to me is to make the game about exploration and discovery, of things under the ground as much as above it, and NOT have those feel like dungeon crawl-style adventures.  I never actually ran a real dungeon crawl in my D&D days and have no desire to start, but I can see how players might feel 'explore underground for Stuff' is like that, so it'll make for interesting times. Which is always good.

As for plot vs sandbox, I tend to have a basic plot -- mostly an outline in my head of what happens in the world and to the region the PCs are in if the PCs do NOT get involved. So there's a baseline plot of what will happen, and then the PCs get to come along and wreak merry havoc on it. I try to plot ahead a couple of sessions, based on what PCs are looking to find and discover, but beyond that let the game flow as it does. The introductory plot pretty much exists to get the PCs into the game and helping a town out but they're under no obligation) to remain in the area or even continue offering their services if they decide the pay rate isn't worth the potential dangers. Shall see where it all goes.