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Referee's Lounge Discussion of how to (and not to) Referee Traveller and Cepheus Engine games. No edition warring allowed.

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Old July 10th, 2018, 05:19 PM
sabredog sabredog is offline
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In addition to the criteria involving knowing the rules, players, setting well and helping to involve everyone in the shared game, I actually think a critically important "skill" is the ability to give up control of the game somewhat.

A lot of argument comes from "railroad" or "sandbox" but personally have never met any ref who ran a purely sandbox game. It always has some railroading in it, even if only narrow gauge. It has to - the players don't know everything about the universe they are in even if they own and have memorized every sourcebook out there. Because the ref is running his ideal of that setting the players will wander off track into the areas with the dungeon under construction signs and not really know what to do. Or they'll get involved in some important NPC's affairs and then what; there won't be some adventure ready for that?

So if sandboxing is the way you run a game do you really? Because to do that you have to give up control to the players, and all you are then is a neutral die-roller and rules interpreter as opposed to active participant and guide. But if you hybridize the two modes of reffing a campaing then you can sometimes let the players run themselves, basically, while always having an overall arc to nudge them back on course with. But you have to be willing to let them go off the reservation sometimes and do it all themselves.

For example, players might decide they want to explore some corner of the subsector rather than continue with all the exciting things you have ready on the world they are sitting on at the moment. Do you let them go or force them to play? If you let them go they are now running the game and it's your job to keep it exciting and try to stay ahead of them. An off the cuff thing writ large.

Eventually I've found the players will get themselves so far out there (metaphorically and literally) that they are more than happy to get back to working on the railroad since it provides direction and purpose within a known quantity.

I often run off the cuff once a campaign gets rolling since a well developed one with a comprehensive background pretty much runs itself after awhile; self-generating adventures and side quests, etc.. And it's a nice break from the detail intensive written adventure to let the players run amok for a while.
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