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.