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View Full Version : initial reaction (or, "help, I need help preparing")



big teej
2013-06-05, 04:25 PM
Greetings Playgrounders!

I am prepping for a new campaign, and I find myself stumped, I blame life for interfering with my creative juices... but I digress.

let us assume, for sake of discussion, you are given the plothook spoilered below, followed by the DM looking up at the players and asking the ubiquitous "what do you do?"

what do you, as a player, do in response?

the first session is total sandbox and I'm attempting to plan for as many outcomes as possible.

The Poisoned Princess
Tragedy has struck the kingdom! The princess, beloved by all, has been poisoned! The palace healers and mages have managed to halt the progress of the princessís rapidly deteriorating condition, but this cannot be done indefinitely and all efforts to cure or reverse the process have failed.
Isador, the royal advisor on Matters Magical, Orbant, the royal chaplain, and Theodore, Royal Champion, have put forth the call to any willing and able to help the kingdom to scour the land for both the cause and the cure of this ailment. They have promised any reward, up to 1/10th of the kingdom to the Hero or Heroes who can find both the cure and the cause. A lesser, but not insubstantial reward has been offered for one who can provide either.

what do you do?

Rhynn
2013-06-05, 04:38 PM
I'd be a bit confused.

It's half a hook - there's nothing to actually do, yet. I guess I'd try to get an audience with Isador, Orbant, or Theodore, depending on my character's inclinations and skills.

IMO you might as well start from such an audience, even if it is a sandbox. If you want to start completely open like that, you need to add something like so-and-so holding an audience on this day at this time for would-be-heroes who want to undertake this quest.

TinyHippo
2013-06-05, 04:56 PM
It is very open ended, but if your players are good and like sandbox they will make it work. Trying to get an audience with the named quest givers, bribing the palace doctors to get an inside on track on what's wrong, gather info to find out who the king's rivals are then persuade/trick/capture and beat them into telling you what they know, the scholarly caster type in the party knows about the ancient library that holds all the world's esoteric knowledge etc etc...

Jay R
2013-06-05, 05:39 PM
Of course I accept the offer. You can call it a sandbox, but a dying princess can't be just ignored. I long since stopped trying to escape the rails.

I assume that one of the following is true:

1. Isadore know where and how to start, or
2. the next step is tied into our backstories and we know where to go already, or
3. we'll find the next clue by going to the tavern.

big teej
2013-06-05, 06:26 PM
heh, I knew I shouldn't have typed that up as soon as I got home.

LET THE CLARIFICATIONS BEGIN!!!



I'd be a bit confused.

It's half a hook - there's nothing to actually do, yet. I guess I'd try to get an audience with Isador, Orbant, or Theodore, depending on my character's inclinations and skills.

IMO you might as well start from such an audience, even if it is a sandbox. If you want to start completely open like that, you need to add something like so-and-so holding an audience on this day at this time for would-be-heroes who want to undertake this quest.


the players were given the option of three 'campaign ideas' to choose from, the majority voted for the above poisoned princess idea.

sandbox is something of a misnomer maybe... what they do to cure the princess/find the culprit is TOTALLY open ended. the campaign itself is predetermined by popular vote. (mentioned above) and after the first session, the player's will have set the stage for the next adventure (as they will have chosen where they are going, what they are doing, and why) but for this initial adventure I am attempting to cover as many bases as possible. (i.e. your "likely try to get an audience with so-and-so" is the sort of thing I'm trying to plan for.)


Of course I accept the offer. You can call it a sandbox, but a dying princess can't be just ignored. I long since stopped trying to escape the rails.

I assume that one of the following is true:

1. Isadore know where and how to start, or
2. the next step is tied into our backstories and we know where to go already, or
3. we'll find the next clue by going to the tavern.

I sort of responded to this in the previous response about sandbox likely being a bit of a misnomer :smalltongue:

I also feel the need to point out that I don't lay any rails down, I simply ask that the players follow through on anything they tell me they're going to do. ("we want to explore that cave next week." means next week we are exploring the fething cave!)

I wish I had enough backstories from people to tie the next step into them... if I did I probably wouldn't be here though. :smalltongue:




much like I probably didn't need to type my OP right after work, I probably didn't need to type this while drinking. >.>

Dundee15
2013-06-05, 08:58 PM
Reminds me of a quest I had where the king was poisoned and the princess wanted to go find a cure. One of us (me) became the princess using a potion of some sort, to try and find the poisoner (and protect the princess) and the rest of the party and the princess, disguised as me, went to get the cure. TL;DR As long as you leave it wide open for the party to have fun with, it'll work great.

Did I mention that I was playing a male human rogue and that the rest of the party didn't know about the switch until the princess tried to disarm a trap for them?

valadil
2013-06-05, 10:31 PM
My primary goal would be to inspect the princess. I can't think of a lot of characters who wouldn't want to do that.

I like intrigue in games, so the next goal would probably to analyze local politics and see if there's anyone who would benefit from her being sick. This might also include tracing her past activities and contacts.

I can also think of a few characters who would be interested in seeing if anyone else was sick. The analytical wizard would want more data. The half cynical cleric would assume there were other sick people who simply weren't being publicized because they weren't all princesses, and those people need help too.

nedz
2013-06-06, 05:29 PM
These are the three most likely options, depending upon my character's motivations.

Wander off and do something completley unrelated.
Investigate the poison, can we find a cure ?
Investigate the circumstances ó who might have an interest in killing the damsel ?


I probably wouldn't do the following, though I guess some PCs might

Finish the job properly an make sure she is dead

Jay R
2013-06-07, 08:38 PM
We certainly investigate. That poison is worth a lot.

Who knows? If we find it, we might even save the princess, but I can promise you that the price will be more than 1/10th the kingdom. For one thing, once we have the poison, the princess will not be the only high-ranking person poisoned.

The Fury
2013-06-07, 10:17 PM
If I had a character that had a high heal/medicine skill I would want to try to diagnose the princess's condition. That way I might have some idea of what poison was used and where to start looking for a cure. If I'm not allowed to see the princess for some reason I'd ask Isador, Orbant, or Theodore if they have any diagnosis yet. Speaking of those guys, I'd want to investigate them too. Maybe they'd have a reason for poisoning the princess?

Moriwen
2013-06-07, 10:27 PM
Without reading any of the previous responses:

Pretend I had the cure. Use it for extortion purposes. Demand exorbitant materials to produce it. Use whatever magical or mundane means are available to fake curing it. Presumably I have ready access to the princess at this point; kidnap her and demand ransom, or replace her with a disguised impostor ("you're detecting magic? No, no, just a side effect of the cure, lots of magic went into that"), or, heck, see if she's interested in joining up with me to overthrow the king, make her ruler, and me chief advisor.

Deaxsa
2013-06-07, 11:19 PM
If i were you, instead of trying to set up for most things the party will do, just set up the toys they get to play with. in other words, establish the setting firmly (in your head or on paper).

they're in a city, right?
-what kind of guilds are there?
-how well trained are the guards?
-how rampant is crime?
-is there a port?
-are there walls?
-who are the head honchos in this town, and what is their demeanor towards one another?
-what kind of magic can be accessed in this town?
-how does one access magic/power/political strength in this town?
-what type of government is it?
-what are the jails like? (this one is VERY important :smallbiggrin:)
-how do(or could) people get around? (streets, waterways, sewers, rooftops, magic brooms, etc)
-what part of the populace is the most basic unit of political power? (the soldier, the nobleman, the citizen, the gp, etc)

now, once you know most of that stuff, you just set the players free. they will simply run into a combination of A) whatever you have set as the setting and B) whatever you decide is appropriate. if you cannot decide on what would be appropriate, just roll for it. (are there guards here? 1-4 says yes.. a 2! ok, you guys run into a patrol)

when the party runs into something you have NO plans for, whatsoever, tell them. be like "i didnt plan for this, you guys, give me a couple minutes to come up with something" (if something pops into your head at that moment, ask for time anyways, to go over it and where it will probably lead to. bonus points if you can make it lead to something for which you DO have planned). additionally, this:
A) if they complain, tell them you are DMing a sandbox game, and that it's impossible to plan for everything. they can deal.
B) write down what it is you weren't prepared for. next time, you will be able to see what else you're going to want to prepare for (especially if the party establishes this particular thing as their MO)
C) if you are having trouble coming up with monster stats, here is an easy way to make monster stats: steal the stats from another monster. i'm serious. once, i had one of my parties fight a large, sentient tiger. wanting to make the fight special and interesting, i avoided the "Tiger" "Dire tiger" and such entries, and dived straight for "troll". yep, that's right, a sentient tiger with a troll's stats. it worked beautifully. I probably could have gone a bit further out with something like Nightmare, yeth hound, basilisk, barghest, or cockatrice. oh, and always feel free to doctor their stats . like "cockatrice but gets a +4 to every stat/roll/ac/whatever and +40 hp". whatever you do, though, decide before you actually start the fight, and stay that way. changing things mid-fight is kinda cheap (unless you are barreling full speed towards an unintended TPK, on a monster that is supposed to be a breeze)

big teej
2013-06-08, 10:34 AM
[QUOTE=Deaxsa;15392533]If i were you, instead of trying to set up for most things the party will do, just set up the toys they get to play with. in other words, establish the setting firmly (in your head or on paper).

*snip*
QUOTE]


this is my preferred way of writing city adventures, but life has conspired against me to not give me the time to do a proper job of it... hence the thread. :smalltongue:

Kol Korran
2013-06-08, 11:04 AM
I'm answering without reading anything prior, trying to act from the gut feeling.

- First of all I'll go to those three high ups you mentioned and try and get a better story, thoughts, clues and such from them, anything that might give me a more substantial lead. I assume they've been researching this themselves?

- Secondly I'll try to use my own information gathering resources: Some contacts (legal/ illegal, mundane or exotic), possibly divinations, possibly research. If I have enough resources and some leads, I'll try and delegate this to some scholar/ info gathering expert, while I try and follow some leads.

It's quite difficult to plan without any further knowledge.

DoomyDoom
2013-06-08, 12:27 PM
Well, I can immediately see 3 plot type possibilities here:
1) "Political internal" - poisoning was done by someone from the kingdom to somehow gain influence or cause power shift.
2) "Political external" - same, but the enemy is an outsider with affiliation to some existing country.
3) "Heroic" - it was done by an evil individual/group/organization, who have their goals, but have no political association. Like an evil lich with his own goals and the princess having/being a MacGuffin of sorts (e.g. he needs her in a near-death state for some ritual).

I don't think preparing all 3 routes would be reasonable, so I'd choose one and make sure early clues rule out other possibilities. If they just render them highly improbable, players will be sure to go on a wild goose chase.

As for what I'd do - probably try to speak to one of three people you mentioned. They should either have some reliable enough clues, or, at least, give me a chance to examine and/or question the princess. There are also "palace healers and mages", who players might be willing to talk to.

big teej
2013-06-08, 02:52 PM
I've gone 'heroic' but I'm kinda banking on them at least looking into the three named people to see if they have motive.

I have, admittedly, run almost exclusively hack-n-slash games and I'm trying to expand to better myself and to better accommodate my current crop of characters.
I've also suffered a repeated rash of alliteration attaching itself to my speech both in text and irl.... I am unsure how I feel about this... it's mostly involuntary

Sutremaine
2013-06-08, 04:51 PM
Assuming I had any appropriate skills, I'd go through the appropriate channels and offer my expertise. If I didn't, I'd find an excuse to hang around wherever everyone else is meeting Isador, Theodore, or Orbant and wait to be picked up by the party so the game can start.

Actual actions taken would be dependent on character sheet, character personality, and DM description of the immediate area.

DoomyDoom
2013-06-09, 03:50 AM
Looking back at earlier replies, I'd say I agree with the first one - the presented piece of exposition is not exactly a plot hook. Since your players, as you stated, chose this scenario themselves, I think it's totally alright to make the first scene an arbitrary plot-setter. Namely, establish that they have learned about the situation from within the city and are now in front of a castle gate or even in front of Isador. I don't think that players who said they wanted to play this story will have problems with a slightly linear start. It all comes down to whether you want to play out the part where they find out about the problem and decide to [not] pursue it, or make it an established fact that they did.

Kol Korran
2013-06-09, 07:22 AM
In one of my previous campaigns, which was not fully a sandbox, at certain points the players had a lot of freedom to pursue very different courses. (Ones that might take them to different locals, face different antagonists or more.) I don't have enough time or improvisational skill, so we needed to find a solution.

So we usually came to present major decisions/ turning points near ends of sessions. The party might rolplay a bit trying to get more information, but... the players discussed their choices and what they want to do over emails, with me subscribed. They could also "gather information" (In all forms) from me, in reasonable amounts.

But this served another purpose- the players had to reach a decision of what is the next step enough time before the next session to allow me to plan accordingly well enough for the part they'll play, instead of poorly preparing for many parts most of which they won't play.

If your players are cool and cooperating they'll appreciate that. This method worked very well for my group, maybe it could work for yours? Talk to your players, know what they plan. You don't need to play the prophet here...