Thread: Rules Only: Rails vs. Sandbox/Freeform
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Old July 20th, 2017, 09:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Keklas Rekobah View Post
Smart stuff...
I particularly like what you mean by "action." By that word you don't mean "mindless violence" (which is where cynical minds tend to go) but the ability to do things with consequence. Your list of examples go well beyond gunshots, but inspire countless possible actions the PCs can take.

Growing from this concept are the other concepts you list: Information, Reward, and, most importantly, CHOICES. Action without those three elements will quickly become dull.

This is where sketched details of environment -- mentioned in the first post -- do matter. The Traveller rules encourage specific, unique environments. And these help the Referee offer the Player Characters choices. Do they need to bring oxygen with them when they leave their ship? This will affect how long they can be gone for, whether they want to get into a gunfight or avoid it, and so on.

Environment in and of itself isn't particularly compelling to players if it has no impact on their actions, information, rewards, and choices, and if they can have no impact on the environment. ("There's a damn? We blow up the damn.")

It is possible for the Referee to read out a long details description of "environment" that they Players, via their PCs, cannot actually interact with. This can be a stress point between players and Referees, when a Referee has created lots of background detail that he wants the Players to hear about, but offers no expectation or method for the Players, via their PCs, to grab hold of the information, interact with it, or do anything with it.

Example: Years ago at GenCon a Traveller Referee read to us us (I kid you not) a forty minute introduction of the politics of the Imperium and the current state of the Rebellion, naming all the big players in the nobility and so forth. We then started play. We were supposed to move from our ship and board another ship. We went to the second ship's airlock and... for 30 minutes tried to guess the method for opening the airlock. Which to the Referee's delight and amusement we could not sort out because. Judging by his smiles and smirks we should have been able to sort the matter out quickly.

Now, there's a lot that clearly went wrong in that session. (I left at the 90 minute mark.) But off the top: All the political stuff had very little bearing on the need to open an airlock. Clearly the preamble went on too long given the nature of the starting events. And finally, he offered us a ton of information about setting... but decided that we, playing space-faring travellers, should be stymied by an airlock.

This incident taught me a lot about about how not to ever run an RPG for anyone.

Now, to bring it back around to Rails vs. Freeform... I offered above the term "sketched environment." The fact is, if one spends too much time working up details about a planet's environment one might well find that all that work goes to waste.

I think it is best if the Referee has a a few key details (specific bits of environment he finds compelling, novel, and unique; ideas about how the culture works; some key NPCs) and lets the world grow as play progresses.

It is also important to remember that time between sessions is a great asset. As you build out details on the fly you can't possibly be figuring out all the ideas and implications you were making up. But you take some time to mull matters as they grew between sessions and you'll see opportunities you didn't see in the session that you'll be able to pop next session.
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
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