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Old 01-08-2022, 03:03 PM   #11
whswhs
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Depicting the SF sandbox

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Originally Posted by thrash View Post
The question was not how to steer them to a specific "dungeon" (however broadly defined), but how to let them know in the first place where any of the "dungeons" are. In a fantasy sandbox setting, it's easy enough to mark six or eight places on the map with an icon to indicate "something interesting that is not a city or castle." How, then, does one accomplish the same thing on a star chart or warp network diagram, without it becoming awkward or forced?
I'm not sure I understand this part. Why does it matter how you mark the map? Neither the characters nor the players get to see the map. What matters is what visible sign there is that there's something interesting in a location—visible to the characters.

Much of the time, there will be a visible sign in a fantasy landscape, such as ruins that invite exploration, and that can be seen with the naked eye. But there can also be surprises; for example, when Bilbo and the dwarves went into a cave in the Misty Mountains, they weren't expected to be attacked by goblins and dragged in front of the Great Goblin.

I agree that that's less obvious for an interstellar voyage. But the question is, what kind of voyage is it? If it's merchants, the interesting thing will be a starport where there are people to buy from and sell to. If it's explorers, it will be a planet to be landed on and explored, or scanned, or a solar system with interplanetary traffic. Whatever it is, you need to think in terms of how the travelers go about finding out what's in a system.

But I still think you can have interesting things in a wilderness other than a dungeon or a set of ruins. Run the adventurers into gold harvesting ants, or a forest haunted by giant spiders, or a band of orcs coming back from looting. Both D&D and RQ do have tables for figuring what inhabits a given hex on the wilderness map, quite apart from whether there's a ruined castle there.
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Old 01-08-2022, 06:24 PM   #12
thrash
 
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Default Re: Depicting the SF sandbox

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Originally Posted by whswhs View Post
I'm not sure I understand this part. Why does it matter how you mark the map? Neither the characters nor the players get to see the map.
In a sandbox campaign, it is usually far easier to provide the players with a map before asking them, "What do you want to do?" than it is to review all the options verbally. (This is not necessarily "the" map, however. There may be inaccuracies or omissions.)

In a science fiction campaign, it is usually difficult to justify denying some kind of cartographic system to the characters as well -- and may be impossible, depending on the transportation tech.

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I agree that that's less obvious for an interstellar voyage. But the question is, what kind of voyage is it? If it's merchants, the interesting thing will be a starport where there are people to buy from and sell to. If it's explorers, it will be a planet to be landed on and explored, or scanned, or a solar system with interplanetary traffic. Whatever it is, you need to think in terms of how the travelers go about finding out what's in a system.
Here, I think you've confused the means and the ends.

Given the open-ended nature of a sandbox campaign, it is fairly likely the characters are Adventurers, not merchants, scouts, etc. Moving cargo is how they pay the bills; survey is how they get to the rumored Location of Fabulous Excitement.

From a player standpoint, pure exploration runs the risk of (as Anthony said) poking at a lot of things only to find they are boring. It is almost always preferable to provide enough information for the players (and characters) to determine what might be worth investigating. Maps are a very efficient way to accomplish this in a planet-based campaign. I'm looking for ways to improve these outcomes for planet-hopping campaigns.
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Old 01-08-2022, 06:27 PM   #13
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Default Re: Depicting the SF sandbox

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Well, in Traveller an amber or red zone is a decent indicator of something. Weird things that are being quiet really need clues of some sort leading there, but that's true even on the scale of a fantasy country.
That's a fair point. It actually explains why the in-context justifications for the classifications are inconsistent and frequently flaky: it's more about flagging possible adventures for the players than actually warning the characters of potential hazards.
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