Day 21: What was the last OSR game you tried to play, but quit because you realized there’s literally no mechanical support for a storyline at all?

Tragically, it was Stars Without Number. I just noticed that my super-excited “we’re getting ready to play!” thread is still on the first page of story dash games dot com, which is wild.

Jeez, right? So I love all the sandbox stuff Crawford put into SWN. I generated sectors, oh lord so many sectors. I obsessively clicked on the sector generator tool at http://swn.emichron.com/ until I’ve got way more content than I can use. Lots of lonely fun prep time. I figure I’ve got this! The very first RPG I ever personally owned was Traveller, I’ve got so many years of running this kind of game.

And then I can’t make it work. I cannot get the thing up and running to my satisfaction. My players are antsy, I’m frustrated, folks are looking for something to grab onto. And I can’t get it together in a way that is appealing to me and them. Entirely, 100% my fault.

At some point, I lost not only my ability to run a sandbox but my desire to do so. Mind you, I’ve run sandbox-y stuff. But tastes change, some skills sharpen while others rust. Same with my players: they’ve come to prefer a clear fictional arc, and trusting that the things they do define the arc going forward. My local crowd, consciously or otherwise, calibrates everything we ever play against Burning Wheel.

I tried! I really did.

That said, James Stuart recommended Godbound last week, another Sine Nomine jam, and it looks like so much fun. I think Crawford’s just getting better and better, and I’m really liking what looks like his solution to the player-centered sandbox. I mean, power-level-wise, you’re playing Exalted demigods, so that really demands the world revolve around them. Then you’ve also got this thing where you stake out a goal, because demigods don’t just sit around smoking dope and watching Twitch videos. You can’t advance your character without investing your divine energy into your efforts, and one assumes those efforts are directed at your goals. It’s a good looking reward cycle and it’s got all the sandbox tools.

Will it generate stooooory? It will after the fact, of course. Having had some really good luck with “sandplot” (thanks Mark Delsing!) games like The One Ring and Mutant: Year Zero, this might be my sweet spot. Fingers crossed.

10 thoughts on “#INDIEGAMEaDAY2016

  1. “Maybe it was the “pull out your tooth oh wait the game didn’t tell me that was even possible” hitch in the adventure, or maybe I simply had high expectations that were not met.”

    What was the hitch? That the game does not tell that you can pull out teeth?

  2. Tommi Brander Yes. I’ve read other APs that had the same issue.

    I also feel like you’re setting me up for an argument about rules, and how they don’t need to give you explicit permission for everything and all that. Let me cut you off if that’s the case.

    LotFP is D&D. And this any one coming to it does so with various expectations. IMO, one if those is that damage is about points, not specific injuries. If this module were designed to be run with The Pool or similar, I’d bet the odds of someone ripping out their teeth would be a lot higher.

  3. Mark Delsing I would have next asked a question about improvising rules, yes, though I don’t have any particular need to set you up for anything. I’m interested in learning, not mocking people.

    Is the following a fair characterization of the problem?

    a. LotFP has rules for injury in combat.
    b. LotFP does not have rules for pulling out teeth, or other rules more relevant in the situation than combat rules.
    c. LotFP may or may not warn the referee that they will have to improvise; I don’t remember.

    The situation might be a problem for a referee who:
    1. is unaware of the general OSR solutions to the situation. (These would be damage, penalty to rolls for a while, some time of forced inaction, permanent -1 to charisma; maybe give a save, maybe not.)
    2. does not read the module before running it or does not realize that someone might decide to pull out someone’s tooth.
    3. does not figure out a mechanical solution on the moment.
    4. does not listen to players, or they do not suggest anything (because they don’t know they can, or because group dynamics, or maybe nothing occurs to them).

    Number two is the only one I find strange; since the other conditions imply an inexperienced referee (inexperienced wrt OSR), I would think prudent for them to read the adventure module very carefully before running it.

  4. Tommi Brander The players were presented with the tooth-door. The players investigated the tooth-door. The players at no point considered the idea of pulling out one of their own teeth in order to trigger the door. There is no alternate method to open the tooth-door or discover its trigger. The meat of the module is behind the tooth-door.

    I was playing with experienced gamers, many of whom grew up on D&D back when it was new, myself included. I read the rules. I read the module.

    I’ve read AP where other people had the exact same problem.

    The problem is not the people involved.

  5. Ahh, okay, that possibility did not even occur to me. That makes more sense. Thanks.

    The door is a puzzle, so the players might not be able to solve it. That is an expected part of the kind of OSR play I prefer. To the best of my knowledge, this is not rare among OSR people.

    It is, of course, a problem if you are not running a sandbox or the players don’t know, for whatever reasons, that their characters can go elsewhere.