Thread: Rules Only: Rails vs. Sandbox/Freeform
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Old July 21st, 2017, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by rhialto View Post
Nice breakdown: I tend to run Checkpoints/Nodes with the few published adventures I use, and Open World most of the time. Since I wing things a lot I take notes as I run (a session log), so I can keep myself straight between sessions. This has saved me forgetting NPC names, statements of fact about the setting, clues, etc. But it's crucial when winging it, and heaven help me if I forget to take notes (which I sometimes do in the heat of the moment). And I've found that the "mile-wide, inch deep" disappears after a while, as the PCs settle into the "mile-deep" section of the setting they're interested in.

My primary tools for Open World/winging it are:
  • Sketched Out Subsector or Two (four in the Sky Raiders trilogy)
  • Random Tables (Patrons, Encounters, Rumors, Events, Tags)
  • Copious use of "throw 2D6 to guide my imagination/decision-making in-game"
  • My session log notebook

I use the 2D6 throw for everything from "Will Eneri suspect an ambush when he returns?" to "How bad was the misjump", using the Reaction Table as a benchmark for bad/good. Rarely do I have detailed notes that state "Eneri will react this way in this situation, or that way in that situation."
Like rhialto, I think Lycanorukke's breakdown is really solid. Like rhialto, I run Open World. His points sum up how I've found things work in play.

It's important to keep in mind that I (and rhialto) limit the number of subsectors of play. That is, we might have larger governments "offscreen"/off the subsector map, but we're not worrying about all that. We're assuming that 40-80 worlds of adventure is enough to keep a group of players entertained for a while.

Some people might think this requires some sort of railroading or forcing the players to not cross boundaries. All I can say is, the most interesting things that the Players know about the setting are right there in that subsector, then they'll be focused on that subsector.

This, by the way, where the issues of "how to play/how to Referee" reveal themselves to be a set of interlinked choices. It is also why I focus on the earlier Classic Traveller materials. Books 1, 2, and 3 are focused on and geared toward efficient and useful play structure that I enjoy and works well.

Thus, the 1977 edition of Book 3 points out (correctly) "one or two sub-sectors should be quite enough for years of adventure (each sub-sector has, on the average, 40 worlds)."

Further, Books 1, 2, and 3 offer a starship technology and list of ships that limit the legs of the PCs. At the start they'll have ships capable of jumping one or two parsecs at a time, and can buy tickets on ships that can make a jump of three parsecs. Of course, the earlier editions of the game (especially the 1977 rules, but even the 1981 rules) assume a much less civilized/starship travel is like 20th century air travel feel than that found in the later editions of Basic Traveller rules. Thus, even if a liner is capable of Jump-3, there is no guarantee a liner actually travels between two particular worlds. Simply getting from one world to another can be an adventure in and of itself depending on how the Referee establishes the setting and which rules he is using.

If one adds in random encounters, patrons, rumors that are worth pursuing on the worlds around them, interesting NPCs, and routes to their own goals all contained within a subsector or two then there will be no need or desire to rush off. The adventures they seek will be right at hand.

40 worlds in a single subsector is still a lot of setting. But it certainly limits the kind of cold-stop fear facing a Referee if he thinks he is responsible for a whole sector of content (640 worlds!) or setting of play that is even larger. Being loose, improvisatory, with Open World play seems much more reasonable with the structure of play found in a subsector or two.

As always, these are my preferences, my expectations of play, all built from my preferred rules set. Others will, without doubt, have other expectations and other needs based on the rules they use.
TRAVELLER: Out of the Box. Lots of blog posts about original Traveller and playing with Traveller Books 1-3.
"The beauty of Classic Traveller Book 1, 2, and 3 is that the ref is free to make such decisions for themselves." -- Mike Wightman
"The beauty of Classic Traveller Book 1, 2, and is that the ref must make most of the decisions himself." -- flykiller

Last edited by creativehum; July 21st, 2017 at 09:03 AM..
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