Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No Solutions Necessary

Thing about this campaign, there are days when it is just too busy over there.  Damn, I love a good fight.

In the link, if you have the patience to read through the fight, you can see that I've given the party a very tough enemy on the outset of the campaign.  Here we're dealing with three first levels and a second level, with a low level NPC providing very little help, fighting a giant crab that appears to weigh about a ton.

Too much?  I don't think so.

I make no pretense about the party being able to win.  I warned the party ahead of time that the crab would be BIG, I provided a setting and I offered up a logical reward and a whole lot of fishnet.  I had no idea in doing so what they'd even use the fishnet for.  I had no prior idea how they would succeed in killing the dangerous foe, nor how they'd do it.

You see, as a DM running a sandbox, I don't have to plan any of that.  It's none of my business.

Reading lately this post from Dreams in the Lich House, the general sense seems to be (not saying it definitely is) that there is something not quite kosher about the use of plot hooks in a sandbox campaign.  I disagree, in part for the reasons I gave in the comment section of the linked post, but also because the real sin isn't the plot hook, it is the plot solution.  This is the DM's having an idea of how the hook should be addressed - as opposed to, say, how the players feel like addressing it.

For example.  Suppose that the party learns that there's a slavering, nasty half-orc rapist in a small neighborhood gobbling up young girls.  The DM's solution is that the players find the rapist, rid the neighborhood of him and become heroes.

On the other hand, maybe the party grabs a young girl, stakes her out in the square at night and waits for the half-orc to turn up (killing the occasional townsperson who makes a pain of themselves by appearing).  When the half-orc does, they give it the girl, and promise many more girls if the half-orc will come along with them as a friend.

Some DMs will be horrified.  Some will punish the party by having the half-orc be unbalanced so that it tries to kill the party in their sleep.  But some DMs will think its great, and will only ruin the situation if the party falters on their promise to keep the half-orc fed on young girls.  See, the thing is, the young girls are themselves imaginary, and nothing is actually lost or gained in the game by deciding to play it that way.  But some DMs don't like that.  They think every player should see opportunity the way THAT DM sees opportunity.  But opportunity is a movable feast.

So I try to give the opportunities without thinking up the solutions ahead of time.  I hadn't thought of any way the net might be useful ... I just figured a fishmonger would have a net and would bring it along in case it was useful.  But then, I didn't TRY to think of a use, either.  It's better if I don't.  I want to keep an open mind, and the mind's front lawn works best when it isn't tramped over repeatedly.

Anyway, the combat is proving to be a good time.  No word on the victor yet.  There may not even be one.

10 comments:

Oddbit said...

Might have been better to kill the two people on the island, then loot the place while avoiding the crab, taking the stuff away in the wagon...

Silvius Volundr said...

All the sugarbeets and summer squash you could eat!

Also could kill the lighthouse light and let shops wreck so the party could pillage them!

JDJarvis said...

You don't' have to out run the giant crab, you just have to be able to out-run the freshly maimed NPC, and take stuff away in the wagon.

Alexis said...

And afterwards you'd only have to avoid the fishmonger's guild, who would be quickly told about how Gerhard went to the island with you, followed by the torture of Emmanuel to get information about Andrej, and the Hamburg city pissed at the lighthouse going out, and the Hanseatic League for having their ships endangered, and possibly some foreign power whose ship ran aground...

Certainly, all that would be worth the vegetables you wouldn't be able to sell in Cuxhaven, nor transport along the roads in that part of the world, plus whatever copper was in a lightkeeper's pocket.

Silvius Volundr said...

I was equally concerned about the unit from Hamburg that is on its way too.

Beedo said...

It's true my tone in that post was a bit equivocal or even provocactive; that was more the case of being the devil's advocate. I'm an inveterate plot hooker; that being said, it's a tool that can lead to a DM-driven game if used improperly, and thus warrants some discussion and principles of use. One aspect of blogging I've been enjoying is the chance to try and verbalize and systematize techniques that I've used successfully in the past (unconsciously).

I didn't realize the game notes were in the other blog's comments and not email - the pitfalls of a feed reader. It's an interesting read so far.

Jack said...

Good evening, Alexis. I stumbled into your site a few months back, and while I haven't been a boardgamer for years, I just want to say I love your work! Your posts apply to so much more than just games. Always inspiring, always entertaining. Hope you keep this going for a long time to come...

shlominus said...

it's a tool that can lead to a DM-driven game if used improperly,

only if the players chose to let that happen(, in which case they probably desire a more dm-driven game).

Tedankhamen said...

"Opportunity is a moveable feast" is a great line. Is it from something, Alexis, or just your phrasing?

Alexis said...

It steals from the title of Hemingway's unfinished novel, Tedankhamen, but aside from that it's mine.