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MoonHunter Sayeth 20180730


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Putting Toys in the Sandbox, The MoonHunter Way

I hate Sandbox Gaming. You know, that "hot new things" where you don't have a real plot, but wander around the map triggering encounters that might lead to other things. It is random. It often makes little story/ logical sense. GMs love it because they don't have to plan much. Players that don't like to be railroaded into main plots that their characters do not fit like them. (Never a problem in my world.) I see some of their points. Still, I hate sandbox gaming.

Well, let me amend that.

I love central plots. I love them in movies, books, comics, and so on. I of course, love them in my games. My games revolve around them. (Note: You can have several major plot threads woven together instead, but it is basically the same thing.) I love keeping plots running. I love developing chronicles that unfold a central plot line because the characters fit it. I don't hate sandbox gaming, I hate the lack of core plotlines.

One could do a central plot with a sandbox. It is more of a theme really. If characters encounter them in the wrong order, it gets hard to follow. So traditional sandboxing is not my thing. (*1)

However, chronicles do not live by the central plot alone.

Subplots add flavor and depth to the chronicle. Now some of these are subplots from each protagonist and non-protagonist character. They can become predictable as you get to know the characters involved. Sometimes you need other things: changes of pace.

Some are vaguely related to the core plotline or story arc. They can forward the main plotline in their own way. They can also show the troupe a different way of looking at things.

Some are not.

These are filler events to keep the game interesting. Ideally, they would showcase the character's development or history in some way, but sometimes you just need a combat or a cool event to make it exciting for everyone.

Now if you have been following along, you know all about "The MoonHunter Way". Every chronicle is designed with the plotline and characters in the forefront. (Start here if you haven't read that way before.) With the MoonHunter Way, each character will have three or so plotlines when the character is designed. Continuing with The MoonHunter Way, a GM pulls scenes from these plotlines to make up a given session.

Now, one trick I have always done is to treat locations, organizations, and the weather as characters. They have their own personality and the way they are described. (*2) The Persona determines the kind of plots associated with them.

Note: Locations could be Countries, Regions, Cities, Villages, Neighborhoods, or actual buildings/ farms/ businesses. Choose the scale that works for The Chronicle and the amount of time free to detail things.

You see, all of these can have plotlines of their own, with appropriate scenes. Sometimes they will just advance the history of the group/ location/ weather pattern (The players may witness certain scenes or might happen off camera and the results are felt by the players). Sometimes they are just random events that happen when that group/ location/ weather is present. There can be any number of these pending scenes/ events/ adventures for a given location (group or weather).

When the characters are in a given location, the GM can pull plotlines, events, or adventures attached to that location. (note: or in contact with a group or in a given season.) Some of those plotlines might be planned, something to happen when the players get there. Some of them are random, things that can be pulled as they are needed. I showed pulling scenes from plotlines here..

Note: Remember, when one works out a minor protagonist or non-protagonist character, one needs to choose their Wants, Needs, Fears, generating plotlines and playing the character becomes easier.

Now some of these locations might have organizations or specific minor PCs or NPCs associated with them. (Ideally, The organizations have faces, that make it easier for major protagonist characters to recognize and interact with them. The other characters will have their own plotlines which can be woven into what is going on with the major player run protagonists. These can provide pieces that can enhance a chronicle or provide filler and changes of pace. ("Why are we helping this guy today with all this?" "Because the boat doesn't leave for three days and he helped us. Besides, do you have anything else to do?")

MoonHunter is a firm believer in doing most, if not all, the heavy work for The Chronicle when I am most enthusiastic about the chronicle, that is to say... right at the beginning. I may not fully work out every little detail, but all the big strokes are in place, with some cool bits of detail and chrome added when it was fun. This is the time to make both the core plotlines, but all those extra plotlines that fill in the sandbox.

I also recycle stuff I used previously. Sometimes it is reskinned, other times it is used whole cloth (which is especially true if it was never used in the previous chronicles). So as I game, I build up a library of things to use later. (Hence while I time travel into the past upon occasion, I pull things that would be useful in other chronicles.). Please remember that MoonHunter also builds settings and chronicles as practice, so they also add to the library.)

So I guess MoonHunter is all about putting extra toys in The Sandbox of the setting. These are all extra plots, events, or adventures to use during the chronicle that players can bump into. These extra toys can help keep the chronicle dynamic, giving the GM (which is me) options to present the characters in play. (And they are done ahead of time, so I don't have to waste much prep time making them).

So get in here with a pail and shovel... and some dice... we will play a solid chronicle in my kind of Sandbox.

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One extra thing: I have a plotline for History. As time passes in the chronicle, other things happen that have little to do with the characters. For each major location/ organization, I have a plot line full of events/ scenes that will happen. This keeps my world in motion, as guild wars break out, marriages occur, the weather turns foul, and other things. The events auto advance either due to time or when something else happened.

Players might encounter these in cut scenes or as tales/ rumors/ new in the world conversation. When they get back to a location they have been before, it will be different because of the history plot line actions.

*1) Well you could do it, if you make the order and clues very obvious. If you make sure the players are linked to the plotlines (or have threads relating to it), they could love it. However, some would think it is straight railroady.

*2) I was doing this for decades; treating groups, places, and weather as characters with their own spins, personalities, and such, long before FATE. Of course, I was not giving them character stats/ formats like FATE.
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