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Old 09-08-2022, 10:23 AM   #41
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Depicting the SF sandbox

Originally Posted by thrash View Post
I don't play video games, so let me ask those who do: in a wide-ranging, sandboxy video game, how does one find the quests or minigames that the system is set up to provide? Is it all out-of-context clues (menus and such), or are there effective in-context pointers?
As others have noted, there are a variety of means. There may be obvious roads/paths, and while on such you get a good view from which you can see cities, ruins, caves, bandit camps, etc in the distance. You may be able to find habitations - friendly or hostile - from seeing the smoke of cook-fires. When you're in an area with people, quest-givers will generally call out to you (or talk about something interesting with someone else while you're nearby) and/or have icons above their heads to indicate they have a quest for you. And, of course, there's usually a main questline, where following it will take you to locations that basically serve as "adventure hubs," with plenty of quest-givers and/or interesting things to find nearby.

Sandbox games also tend to have a lot of content that doesn't have any explicit quest attached to it - caves and ruins to explore, bandit camps to wipe out, puzzles to complete, etc. In addition to cases where you can see signs for such in the distance, many games have the compass and/or map display areas of interest once you've gotten within a certain range of them - Oblivion and Skyrim typically have question marks denoting such initially, with this turning into a greyed-out icon denoting what it is (ruin, cave, city, camp, etc) when you get closer, and eventually filling in when you get close enough to count the location as "found" (which gives you the location's name, some XP, and unlocks the ability to fast-travel to it later). Horizon: Zero Dawn and Horizon: Forbidden West do something similar, but generally don't reveal what the location actually is until you're close enough to count it as "found" (also, you can generally only fast-travel to campfires... but those are displayed greyed out as soon as you're close enough to detect them, never being question marks). You can typically see where you've gone by looking at your map, with unexplored areas generally greyed out or invisible beneath fog. Many games have special vantage points - ancient Forge Towers in Shadow of Mordor/Shadow of War, perches from which you can view everything nearby (and typically do a Leap of Faith) in the Assassin's Creed series, or mobile towers (Longnecks, patterned off of giraffes) in the Horizon series - that will reveal a lot of the nearby map, as well as automatically revealing the points of interest within that; these are typically detectable from a long way off. Such marked locations also conveniently gain a check mark and/or a "(Completed)" note on them once the game determines you've "finished" the area - solved the puzzle, wiped out the monsters/bandits, opened the important treasure chest(s), collected the rare material, etc. Enemies, and in some cases minor treasures (not the ones that you need to acquire to mark a location as completed), will typically respawn after some set or random amount of time. This is normally just a thing that happens, although Breath of the Wild actually incorporates it into the story - every few nights there's a chance that instead of a normal moon you'll experience a Blood Moon - when it reaches the apex of its journey (right at midnight), there's a cutscene (of modest length the first time it happens, with Zelda telling link what's going on, but fairly short on later occurrences) that shows monsters being brought back to life (also, while for most games each location has its own timer for when enemies will return, this hits everything all at once - you could be in the middle of clearing out a Bokoblin camp when the reset occurs, and find yourself having to refight all the monsters you just killed).
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Old 09-28-2022, 06:53 PM   #42
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Join Date: Jun 2010
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Default Re: Depicting the SF sandbox

Originally Posted by thrash View Post
The essence of a sandbox campaign is that the GM presents (a portion of) the setting to the players and asks, "What do you want to do?" How does this work, however? My question is two-fold:
  1. How do you, as the GM, depict a sandbox setting for your players?
  2. What do you, as a player, want to see from your GM in a sandbox campaign?
I have no answers for anything SF in particular. I hope anything I say can be adapted regardless of setting.

1) I don't think I've ever done a setting that didn't have a mostly sandbox feel. I frankly could not explain to someone how to do a linear campaign. For me, I just seed the field either overtly, covertly, or even without telling the players. I keep track of things I think are important to keep track of and work out the rest. The players are then doing what their characters would do; Maybe they track down something immoral going on. Maybe they think they can sell the Ring of Clones. Maybe they have a clear plan irregardless of what is happening and all these things are obstacles in their paths. Really, the trick is to know both the players and the characters to know how to build the campaign for them because they'll go to what they want. Session Zero is super important.

As for preparation, I know that I'm no god, I literally can't prepare enough ahead of time to deal with any possible thing the players will do and know that they will usually go in a different direction no matter how much I prepare. For things like maps, dungeons, gear, minor characters, etc. I tend to 'map out' after the fact. Once something has happened, it is now set in stone and now true. I do still prepare some; I have characters I know will affect things even if they somehow don't show up. I know whatever I think is super important to know before session one. I know the PC's back stories and how to incorporate them into the world. And the line isn't clear on what is deemed important, which is why being able to come up with solid answers in the moment is nigh necessary.

2) Absolutely no clue. Any campaign I've been a player in involves about three sessions on average to really figure out things like who my character is, what this world is, what rules (exact or vague) the world and the GM abide by, etc. And after three sessions, it's pretty clear what the campaign is shaping up to be.
Originally Posted by cosmicfish View Post
While I do not think that GURPS is perfect I do think that it is more balanced than what I am likely to create by GM fiat.
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Old 09-29-2022, 10:04 AM   #43
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Location: Denver, Colorado
Default Re: Depicting the SF sandbox

Originally Posted by thrash View Post


I don't play video games, so let me ask those who do: in a wide-ranging, sandboxy video game, how does one find the quests or minigames that the system is set up to provide? Is it all out-of-context clues (menus and such), or are there effective in-context pointers?
I currently play a fair amount of an early-access, hard-core(ish), survival and crafting sandbox game, Vintage Story, that bears some superficial similarity to Minecraft, but with much deeper game-play (even in early access).

In Vintage Story, one's avatar (which could have one of several different classes) spawns in with nothing, and then must immediately begin to scrounge for food and resources, while avoiding hostile animals and the (somewhat rare) wandering monster.

The default game (Survival) has a map that shows a reasonably large area in the character's vicinity, but the area beyond is concealed by fog-of-war. Moreover, areas already explored don't auto-update, on the map. If anything changes, you won't see it on the map until you get within range, again.

The map does have color-splotches to indicate different vegetation, the presence of water, possible surface resources (especially clay) and types of terrain. It also indicates locations of parts of ruins that extend above the surface, although careful examination of contours may show more.

And that's it. Make your choices, player. 😀

Now, as you begin to explore and excavate ruins (the stone makes good building material), you discover some items of lore (books, scrolls, paintings, etc.) that hint at other places to explore, or things to look for. Sometimes, caves can include deeper vaults, or lead to mines -- but subterranean exploration is really dangerous.

However, at no point is it required to follow up on any of those discoveries.

The game is in early development, as noted, but it already has a bunch of stuff to do, and it fully supports multi-player and modding. The Devs add more stuff, reasonably frequently, which is nice, but so far haven't disclosed what they may have in mind for "end-game" play.

IMO, the game could use some more extrinsic challenges (stuff that actively opposes you) but the Devs throw in more of that, as they complete the work. For instance, the game just got several different types of bears.

Bears are scary.
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Old 09-30-2022, 06:39 AM   #44
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Location: Alsea, OR
Default Re: Depicting the SF sandbox

Originally Posted by thrash View Post
  • Create a map anyway. The map could be abstract (Traveller) or realistic (Universe), detailed (Universe, again) or selective (Space Opera). There seems to be a consensus that 20-40 destinations are about right, whether those are confined to a single 8x10 hex array or spread across a cube 200 light-years on a side.
  • Provide a network diagram of destinations and their relationships. This is sometimes referred to as a "subway map," and often appears if the chosen mode of transportation (wormholes, jump lines, etc.) depends on defined linkages between nodes. Diaspora represents the low end of this spectrum, with just 2-5 worlds in each network; Thousand Suns recommends the same 20-40 as above. Other examples seem to fall between these extremes. There is also a hybrid case where a map is presented but the choices of destination are constrained to a network by the transportation physics (2300 AD).
  • Provide a gazetteer, listing potentially interesting destinations. This frequently occurs where the number of accessible destinations is high, or proximity doesn't matter much (if at all). This is essentially the approach of GURPS Infinite Worlds. If the presented options are few, this shades away from a sandbox campaign into a choose-your-own-adventure plot. Too many options may be just as bad, if the players are unable to process all the information into a decision without GM input.
  • Finally, there appears to be a handful of SF RPGs that haven't considered this question at all. I couldn't find a word in Other Suns about mapping its setting, for example. I infer that these either aren't intended for sandbox play (e.g., the GM is expected to present "the planet of the week") or implicitly fall into the gazetteer category (WEG's Star Wars).
Are there other options (or variations) that I've missed? What works? What doesn't?
The "all bodies" cross-index table, as seen in WEG Star Wars, especially Lords of the Expanse

X	-	-	3	1	8	4	7	2
|	Y	-	8	9	9	1	6	1
|	|	1	🅖	🅕	🅔	🅓	🅒	🅑
3	4	🅐	4	5.4	7.1	3.2	4.5	3.2
2	1	🅑	7.1	8.1	10	2	7.1	
7	6	🅒	4.5	6.7	3.2	5.8		
4	1	🅓	7.1	8.5	8.9			
8	9	🅔	5.1	7				
1	9	🅕	2.2					
3	8
The above is a small cluster as a 2d map.
In Star Wars, tho, the route itself can modify travel time... (Some star trek stories imply similar, and the non-canon SFU explicitly does similar)
so, here's a table of routing multipliers...
	🅖	🅕	🅔	🅓	🅒	🅑
🅐	0.5	0.5	1	1	1	1
🅑	2	1	2	2	3	
🅒	2	2	1	1		
🅓	1	1	0.5			
🅔	1	1				
🅕	0.5
And the resulting standard durations...
1	🅖	🅕	🅔	🅓	🅒	🅑
🅐	2	2.7	7.1	3.2	4.5	3.2
🅑	14.2	8.1	20	4	21.3	
🅒	9	13.4	3.2	5.8		
🅓	7.1	8.5	4.5			
🅔	5.1	7				
🅕	1.1
If I were doing it with, say, Traveller world gen, I'd make the multiplier the inversion of the sum of the importances... (or the GT BTN - conceptually similar)

Provide the gazeteer with just the third, calculated, table, but if they ask, they can get the actual coords.

This works well enough for clusters up to about 20 worlds....

Here's the SS I used for calculating....

I'll note that subway mapped wormhole settings (EG: Cole, Webber, & White's Starfire setting, Bujold's Vorkosiverse, Webber's Honorverse, Doohan & Stirling's Flight Engineer setting) are conceptually quite different than subway maps of open space a la 2300AD... as the latter leaves room for PC inventions to do something to go off the map, while wormholes don't, and tunnels with exits a la the Flight Engineer are somewhere in between...
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