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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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  #11  
Old July 21st, 2017, 01:42 AM
Lycanorukke Lycanorukke is offline
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I would say that there is a range from the hard railroad and the infinite sandbox.

Hard Rails:
Linear, rigid and inflexible but simple to create and run for the GM. However PC's tend to dislike these and before long expect them to hit the accelerator and derail the plot train. I hate these - the PC's are not players, they are mannequins made to dance for the GM.

Concealed Rails:
In this case the GM makes an effort to 'hide' the rails. The plot is still very linear but instead of driving the PC's down a linear corridor they are driven through a series of rooms - the scope is still narrow but they can wander a bit in each room/plot point. Not quite as easy to run as 'Hard rails', but less likely for PC's to derail it. However by the same token the PC's may wander around so much they never find the door to the next 'room'. This is where the 'Three Clue Rule' comes in to keep them in roughly the right direction. This is roughly where RPG computer games sit - a linear plot but with 'side quests' and fluff to hide the purely A->B->C plot.

Checkpoints/Nodes:
My personal favourite, and used in MT. A much looser form of 'Concealed Rails'. The advance the plot the PC's need to go through 'Nodes' but how they get to the nodes is entirely up to them. And it is entirely possible for them to skip entire 'nodes' by cleverness or luck. More work required by the GM as each node has to link to other nodes in a coherent way. Again the 'Three Clue Rule' comes into effect, and if the players get distracted they could jump out of the boundaries your nodes cover. Essay on 'Node Based' play here.

Open World:
No limits for the PC's and a prematurely grey GM. Depending on how long their 'legs' are the PC's could go anywhere which means the things the GM has to cover increases expodentially. Unless the PC's have some sort of meta-goal they could easily get bored and simply drift from place to place. Also it is very hard to make detailed or memorable events as the GM can't detail anything too much as it has to be able to slot into anywhere. The game world becomes 'A mile wide but an inch deep'.


Of course bit can be mixed and matched - a sub plot may be 'concealed rails' placed inside a 'Node based game', and where the line is drawn between each 'stage' is very grey. But the extremes I would call no-go areas - Hard Rails annoy the PC's while Open world annoys the GM.
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  #12  
Old July 21st, 2017, 08:24 AM
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rhialto rhialto is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lycanorukke View Post
I would say that there is a range from the hard railroad and the infinite sandbox.

Hard Rails
Concealed Rails:
Checkpoints/Nodes:
Open World:

Of course bit can be mixed and matched - a sub plot may be 'concealed rails' placed inside a 'Node based game', and where the line is drawn between each 'stage' is very grey. But the extremes I would call no-go areas - Hard Rails annoy the PC's while Open world annoys the GM.
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."
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  #13  
Old July 21st, 2017, 09:52 AM
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Quote:
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.
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Last edited by creativehum; July 21st, 2017 at 10:03 AM..
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  #14  
Old July 21st, 2017, 10:51 AM
Lycanorukke Lycanorukke is offline
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Reading on Creativehum's and rhialto's methods, prehaps break 'open world' into 'Big' and 'Little' catagories.

Hard Rails
Concealed Rails
Checkpoints/Nodes
Little Open World
Big Open World

Little Open World: And open world sandbox but limited to a contained region - an island, a city, a planet. Within the boundaries they can do as they wish, but they can't easily exceed those boundaries - either due to lacking the physical means to jump outside the box, or have PC obligations to that tie them to region. As the PC's adventure, the box has the potential to expand. With the core already created, new regions can be attached to the original box as required.

What would be the advantages/disadvantages of Little Open world?
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Old July 21st, 2017, 12:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lycanorukke View Post
Reading on Creativehum's and rhialto's methods, prehaps break 'open world' into 'Big' and 'Little' catagories.

Hard Rails
Concealed Rails
Checkpoints/Nodes
Little Open World
Big Open World

Little Open World: And open world sandbox but limited to a contained region - an island, a city, a planet. Within the boundaries they can do as they wish, but they can't easily exceed those boundaries - either due to lacking the physical means to jump outside the box, or have PC obligations to that tie them to region. As the PC's adventure, the box has the potential to expand. With the core already created, new regions can be attached to the original box as required.

What would be the advantages/disadvantages of Little Open world?
Again, I like the division, and plan to incorporate ideas from Beyond the Wall's Further Afield: that of the shared sandbox, wherein my players will choose from a large list of locations/factions/tags and assign them to the subsector maps (names only, no UWPs). I will secretly roll to see if what they think is true (e.g., a Psionic cult rules Etarr) is really true. This way they have some background knowledge, which may or may not be true.

So I see a distinct advantage in the LOW, and the only disadvantage I can see off the top of my head is maintaining consistency once the OW opens up to BOW.
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"I am more inclined to punish Hurtiancz for his crassness," said Ildefonse. "But now he simulates a swinish stupidity to escape my anger."
"Absolute falsity!" roared Hurtiancz. "I simulate nothing!"
Ildefonse shrugged. "For all his deficiencies as polemicist and magician, Hurtiancz at least is candid."
Jack Vance, Rhialto the Marvellous
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Old July 21st, 2017, 01:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lycanorukke View Post
Reading on Creativehum's and rhialto's methods, prehaps break 'open world' into 'Big' and 'Little' catagories.

Hard Rails
Concealed Rails
Checkpoints/Nodes
Little Open World
Big Open World

Little Open World: And open world sandbox but limited to a contained region - an island, a city, a planet. Within the boundaries they can do as they wish, but they can't easily exceed those boundaries - either due to lacking the physical means to jump outside the box, or have PC obligations to that tie them to region. As the PC's adventure, the box has the potential to expand. With the core already created, new regions can be attached to the original box as required.

What would be the advantages/disadvantages of Little Open world?
Hmm, I'm not sure that quite captures it. Sure, those of us who follow the wisdom of Christopher (Kubasikers???? sort of joking, sort of not, Christopher has been so effective at describing a way of play that I'm always referring to him) have set up smallish settings. But if the players look at the edge of the map and say "what's there?" I can still expand it, and given the constraints of Jump-1, Jump-2 or MAYBE Jump-3, I actually at most have to check what's in 10-20 hexes, or likely 5-10 worlds. That's not too bad. And with a variety of tools to spur inspiration on the spot, it's very manageable. Not much worse than if the players ignore the rumors I hand out and jump to a nearby world I hadn't given much thought to. With a good improv toolbox, a GM can run open world easily.

I'm not actually sure we need a distinction between small and large open world. What is key to all RPG play is limitations. NO RPG is totally open, every RPG has limits and boundaries. What we need to do is understand them, and then create a setting of play that places limits and boundaries in a manageable way. The size of that setting will depend on the interests and capabilities of the GM in what sorts of things they want the game to be about.

Frank
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  #17  
Old July 21st, 2017, 01:17 PM
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Default Matarishan subsector - Ley Sector

I'm running our campaign in a Node based Small Open World. Even an entire subsector would be a lot! We're in just a cluster of 13 planets J1 apart.

Having a basic idea for each world works for me, it gives me an idea of what kind of action the players can get into on each world (or in the space between them).

A few backwaters, an A class starport, some waterworlds, some heavy, some toxic atmo, and a few shirtsleeves. We've got a lot of ground to cover.

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Old July 21st, 2017, 01:23 PM
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And with a variety of tools to spur inspiration on the spot
what tools do you use?
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Old July 21st, 2017, 02:11 PM
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what tools do you use?
The UWP, encounter tables, world tags from Stars Without Number for starters, I've got more listed in My Classic Traveller Inspiration Binder.

Oh, and also my Traveller Reading List
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Old July 21st, 2017, 02:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lycanorukke View Post
Checkpoints/Nodes:
My personal favourite, and used in MT. A much looser form of 'Concealed Rails'. The advance the plot the PC's need to go through 'Nodes' but how they get to the nodes is entirely up to them. And it is entirely possible for them to skip entire 'nodes' by cleverness or luck. More work required by the GM as each node has to link to other nodes in a coherent way. Again the 'Three Clue Rule' comes into effect, and if the players get distracted they could jump out of the boundaries your nodes cover. Essay on 'Node Based' play here.
...
Of course bit can be mixed and matched - a sub plot may be 'concealed rails' placed inside a 'Node based game', and where the line is drawn between each 'stage' is very grey. But the extremes I would call no-go areas - Hard Rails annoy the PC's while Open world annoys the GM.
I've used a combination of nodes and the WW Storytelling Adventure System.

Unless you've let the characters just choose what they're going to do and you're free-forming it, each scenario has a purpose or outcome to achieve. This doesn't have to mean the players have to run on rails, their characters herded along by ducks with machineguns, but they have a reason for doing things.

I find having a bit of structure handy and it can keep things easier while refereeing, as I don't have to freeform as much if I've got half of the adventure mapped out and PCs, maps, locations and ships prepared.

Quote:
Originally Posted by flykiller View Post
what tools do you use?
See above.
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