Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The module as a Sandbox

The interview with Rob Kuntz over at Hill Cantons engendered a thought. Actually, its not a thought it was a resurrection of an idea that was supposed to be part of our module design. The module is supposed to be a sandbox for the players and Castle Keeper to explore and play in.

Before we sat down to pen the A series, I spent a month or more reading old modules and culling my memory and experiences over the years of gaming. The intent was to discover if their was an element or elements that was the nature of the most memorable and successful modules I had run or been a player in. After quizzing the whole game group and others, the answer seemed fairly obvious. The sandbox module. Of course, there are exceptions.

T1 comes to mind as an all time favorite (I exclude the Temple of Elemental Evil). In this module, there is a 'goal' but it actually exists as backdrop to the village of Hommlet. When I first ran a group through that module, the Moat House only played a small part in the over-all adventure. All the sub-plots and potential adventures kept us going for a long time. The Temple adventure also simply became a backdrop. B2 is another example of what I consider a great sandbox adventure.

So what are the elements of the sandbox. First, there are open ends all over the place. Plot lines that can be developed or altered and created should abound in the sandbox. This gives both the players and game master room to find their game's niche such that the module conforms, to a great extent, to the players and game master's desires and needs.

There must be story elements worthy of exploration. Characters, places and events should all have potential stories attached to them such that players can follow them up over the course of their adventures should they choose to.

Tempo and crescendo are necessary elements of play and one of the more important aspects of a module but one of the most elusive to develop. The difficulty stems from the actual play. The tempo must be managed by the game master and the crescendo must be presented at just the right time. The module can offer places and point in time or event based possibilities but ultimately, this must be supplied by the game master. The more successful modules to manage this is the G-Q adventures.

Finally, successful modules have "the haul." Again, this is a difficult aspect to manage as the haul must equate to the challenges faced but should also be ample to allow the player's characters to face the upcoming challenges.

Anyway, that's my morning thought as I begin to lay out a series of modules for Inzae.   

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