A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    Default Persistant Sandbox

    Aright. Trying to think how to make this a thing...yknow, like an MMO in roleplaying terms.

    World exists, people can join at any given time, play by post, and just participate at their own pace, not necessarily together in a party or anything.

    The main problem I see is timeline...how do you handle this consistently? Any game I've been in that was designed like this has died a slow death as everyone waits for the slower people to get done with day 1. I mean, a set timeline could happen, but some things are just slower to handle...it's a touch awkward.

    Thoughts?

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Well one thing you could do is to basically have a static set of quests that lasts for a certain length of time, then every once in awhile, (like when it starts getting awkward to catch people up) you have a world changing event that brings in a new set of quests as the ones that previously existed have all been completed, (or not, that could also factor in) So say you have a standard set of towns and quests that generally start with simple things like, "Those wolves have been attacking our flocks, brave adventurers go out and stop them!" and move on to facing huge threats, (that cause world changing events) like say, some big bad scary dragon wakes up and its your job to put him back to sleep. But before he dies he manages to partially destroy the towns you started with.

    Now the starter quests involve things like goblins stealing tools from the rebuilding site, and can even be scaled to match party levels. Instead of goblins stealing tools, its ogres, or whatever. This way new people get their quests, old players get to see the world change and have all new story lines to go through, and nobody is left behind.
    "Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum Europae vincendarum"
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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Eh...I don't want it to be TOO mmo-like. So, the repeatable quests need to have logical reasons why they are repeatable. They also need to feel like part of the world.

    This strikes me as harder and harder to pull off as players level up..there are an exceedingly large number of ways for high level players to make things permanently....not alive.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Looking at how a LARP is run might be a good place to start, although even they like it when you tell them you're coming before hand so they can work on individual plots. In a LARP the pcs are more responsive than active, things happen around a central 'hub' town/city/locale/whatever and the PCs act upon it.

    Also suspension of disbelief will go a long way to make a game work. Unless the PCs are actively tracking time to spite you chances are they won't even notice if they are a week or two off from each other. Sneak some extra days in to travel times and it'll be fairly easy to manage.

    In a play-by-post this will be harder to do because there is a solid record of time and events but I've had a friend who, in highschool when he had the free time, would just run a world for anyone who wanted to play. Occasionally we would team up and help each other or do story arcs he had planned but a lot of the game was a series of solo-games in the same world, which is what it sounds like you are hoping to pull off.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    What if it was a city that people went to when they dream. Time happens differently for the different personalities in the beautiful deep blue city.
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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    What I meant by repeatable is that new groups could come in and do the quests, even though a month ago your current high level group did those as well. Just because Traab went and got the tools back from the goblins doesnt mean that Lucas and his group cant come by and do that as well. Or that Ethan and his group of higher level players have to retrieve said tools from a group of ogres instead. Traab cant come back a week later and go rescue the tools again, he already did it.
    "Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum Europae vincendarum"
    Translation: "Sometimes I get this urge to conquer large parts of Europe."

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd-o-rama View Post
    Traab is yelling everything that I'm thinking already.
    "If you don't get those cameras out of my face, I'm gonna go 8.6 on the Richter scale with gastric emissions that'll clear this room."

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    I've done this a lot. Really, I've never seen keeping things consistent be an issue. You establish the setting. People roleplay. Stuff happens. As an example, we'll say a character named Bob dies.

    Threads that were going on before Bob's death finish up assuming he's still alive, because in the scene being roleplayed, he is. Bob even participates, if he's there. Generally, it's an unwritten rule that new threads assume time has moved on, and Bob makes no more new appearances after his death scene.

    It's not really hard to keep track of, since players tend to remember the bits of the timeline they're involved in, and if anyone's not sure they can just go through old posts and check.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by Traab View Post
    What I meant by repeatable is that new groups could come in and do the quests, even though a month ago your current high level group did those as well. Just because Traab went and got the tools back from the goblins doesnt mean that Lucas and his group cant come by and do that as well. Or that Ethan and his group of higher level players have to retrieve said tools from a group of ogres instead. Traab cant come back a week later and go rescue the tools again, he already did it.
    It's not really persistent then, is it? That's just reusing the modules for a solo adventure later. That I can make work already, it's fairly easy....

    But I'd like the kind of world where one group of PCs hire a minion to run a shop and hand him their loot...and other PCs can buy this loot.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    It's not really persistent then, is it? That's just reusing the modules for a solo adventure later. That I can make work already, it's fairly easy....

    But I'd like the kind of world where one group of PCs hire a minion to run a shop and hand him their loot...and other PCs can buy this loot.
    True, it isnt constantly changing, but thats where you do those world changing type events. I use that not as a specific idea of what must happen, just a way to use a big event that moves the timeline forward. I got the idea from World of Warcraft, if you couldnt tell. Basically, with the latest expansion, they updated the original world maps with all new quests and story lines, and brought the timeline up to semi current standards.

    The idea is, you have this static set of quests, and while people are running through all of them, you are working on changing everything to see how it will look say, 2 years down the road, or whatever time frame you pick out. Then something big happens, a portal opens, a disaster occurs, whatever, and snap, the old module is gone, and the new module is in place. That town your teams spent several levels protecting through various quests? Its now grown into a city with new problems to solve. The town your players didnt spend much time in? It fell apart, or got taken over by bandits, or turned into monster infested ruins, whatever.

    You can do similar things for each of your groups and alter the setup depending on how far they got and what choices they made up until the new module starts if you dont mind being somewhat complex. Group Traab stuck around the towns, helping them all out equally, but didnt head out into the mountains, so for them the towns are fairly successful, but now there is a big goblin horde out there and the towns will soon be under seige. Team Lucas helped out one town then headed for the mountains, so for them the goblin horde was stopped before it could form, but only one town is in good shape, while the other two are either taken over by bandits, or turned into a ruin based dungeon full of monsters that overran the places without them there to protect them. If group Marcus starts from scratch at this point you can give him and any other new groups some generic mix of these events to play. Thats one way to handle it.

    Another way is to average things out. You have say, 5 separate groups currently running through content and its time for the world change event. Take into account all the quests run by everyone and decide based on that what the new world looks like. Did the majority of the quests involve helping the various towns? Then the towns prospered and outside threats are incoming. Did the majority of the quests involve going out into the wilderness looking for trouble? Then the wilderness is fairly well contained of big threats but the towns all fell apart in different ways. Dont tell anyone how you will decide what their next module will look like, that way they dont try to manipulate it to work out a specific way, let their choices effect the world.
    "Interdum feror cupidine partium magnarum Europae vincendarum"
    Translation: "Sometimes I get this urge to conquer large parts of Europe."

    Quote Originally Posted by Nerd-o-rama View Post
    Traab is yelling everything that I'm thinking already.
    "If you don't get those cameras out of my face, I'm gonna go 8.6 on the Richter scale with gastric emissions that'll clear this room."

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Yeah, but all that stuff is still linear...players are just interacting with other NPCs in a formulaic way. It's not persistent in any meaningful way...and it's not even really a sandbox as such.

    So, flumph, how well does a completely flexible timeline scale? How many players does it work for before you start introducing paradox?

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Treat isolated quests as their own instance. They can resolve at whatever pace you like. When the quest completes, merge it back into canon. (Can you tell I've been working with git lately?). You might have to retcon a little to resolve conflicts. Like, if it turns out that two sets of players bumped into each other on the same day, roll back to that day and let them meet each other.

    I think this makes sense for dungeony quests, where parties are isolated. I don't see it working for a city or intrigue quest. There are too many chances to bump into one another. You'd have to check for PC collisions once an hour instead of daily.
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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    Treat isolated quests as their own instance. They can resolve at whatever pace you like. When the quest completes, merge it back into canon. (Can you tell I've been working with git lately?). You might have to retcon a little to resolve conflicts. Like, if it turns out that two sets of players bumped into each other on the same day, roll back to that day and let them meet each other.

    I think this makes sense for dungeony quests, where parties are isolated. I don't see it working for a city or intrigue quest. There are too many chances to bump into one another. You'd have to check for PC collisions once an hour instead of daily.
    Clever...perhaps this approach can be used for designated areas to reduce the amount of handling needed for the "main" social area or whatever.

    So, you have an overall timeline, but quests basically drop out of it and are given a specific point in time(probably starting time) when they happen.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    Aright. Trying to think how to make this a thing...yknow, like an MMO in roleplaying terms.

    World exists, people can join at any given time, play by post, and just participate at their own pace, not necessarily together in a party or anything.

    The main problem I see is timeline...how do you handle this consistently? Any game I've been in that was designed like this has died a slow death as everyone waits for the slower people to get done with day 1. I mean, a set timeline could happen, but some things are just slower to handle...it's a touch awkward.

    Thoughts?
    Hmmm that is really hard stuff...

    The best thing I can come up with is have different time models for different zones:
    -hotzones are handled daily (ie you play out each day)
    -lowzones are handled on a weekly basis
    -each player starts out in a low zone

    - each player also creates a default behavior guideline, failing to post depending on the zone you are in makes you behave as you setup in the guidelines (lots of work for the dm(s) though).

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Whenever I try to plan a game like this I try to separate out the involvement of players into two levels:

    1 - Permanent Characters ("Regulars", Heroes/Villains)
    This characters start at low levels but have the potential for very influence (I'm calling that the summation of a character's stats, qualities, advancement) and impact on the story. Sometimes people want to play a dedicated character and see where it goes.

    2 - Temporary Characters ("Red Shirts", Plot Vehicles)
    These are characters that exist with power slightly above a comparable player's permanent character. The more temporary characters a player plays to help advance story arcs along the more important the temp character they can make. This is for people who want to try new characters or practice certain methods of writing/speaking in character for a time. I'm a bit more in this category as I have character-making ADHD. Eventually these characters are killed or no longer needed (but can be returned later).



    The resources available to a player to make their characters (such as points available in a point buy) are determined by their player level. They gain level by playing the game as a case #1, case #2, or by helping manage the game for a time. You can have more than one character but the power of the second is half the first, the third is half the second, and so on.

    Players could also be able to initiate official story arcs by expending points they've gathered.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    So, you have an overall timeline, but quests basically drop out of it and are given a specific point in time(probably starting time) when they happen.
    Exactly. I suppose if two groups ended up at the same location it would be up to the GMs to communicate. I suppose the second group would be added into the first group at a point in time up to the first GM. Depending on where they were I'd just treat them as a big group. Or maybe split that quest instance further depending on how big it is. There's a difference between being at a castle and deep in the underdark.
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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by Tyndmyr View Post
    So, flumph, how well does a completely flexible timeline scale? How many players does it work for before you start introducing paradox?
    In essence even two players are enough to create a paradox in a completely flexible timeline, thats why flexible timelines donīt work imo

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmerask View Post
    In essence even two players are enough to create a paradox in a completely flexible timeline, thats why flexible timelines donīt work imo
    Well, they certainly can...I'm just wondering how far it scales before it starts happening accidentally even when people try their hardest to avoid it.

    My guess is not terribly far, personally.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    TLDR; But this guy may be helpful.
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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by jebob View Post
    TLDR; But this guy may be helpful.
    Yes, that. West Marches, and New Century City (another campaign by the same guy) are good references for this.
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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Aldhaven, running on this very site, seems to be this at first glance.

    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=205374

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    What? Epic!

    I'm joining in. Sounds interesting.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    The persistent MMO text-based PbP RPG Aelyria uses Fluid Time to handle timeline.

    It's been working for them for over 9 years, which is as long as I've been around that site, and a bit longer before.
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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    I could post more examples, but Aelyria's explanation is nice and concise. Basically, players are good at self-policing themselves when it comes to paradoxes, so it actually scales pretty well. It is, after all, possible to play out scenes happening in the "past" specifically so they don't conflict with the "future."

    It obviously helps if everyone has access to everyone else's threads, metagaming be damned. This isn't always the best choice (PVP-heavy games, for instance) but generally, as a player, it's a lot easier to consciously avoid metagaming than it is to avoid unknowingly creating a paradox when you can't see all the info relevant to you.
    Last edited by flumphy; 2011-08-17 at 06:33 AM.

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    Default Re: Persistant Sandbox

    Quote Originally Posted by flumphy View Post
    I could post more examples, but Aelyria's explanation is nice and concise. Basically, players are good at self-policing themselves when it comes to paradoxes, so it actually scales pretty well. It is, after all, possible to play out scenes happening in the "past" specifically so they don't conflict with the "future."

    It obviously helps if everyone has access to everyone else's threads, metagaming be damned. This isn't always the best choice (PVP-heavy games, for instance) but generally, as a player, it's a lot easier to consciously avoid metagaming than it is to avoid unknowingly creating a paradox when you can't see all the info relevant to you.
    Beyond that, having access to the other threads helps keep a player's interest in the game when their own thread is taking a while to update. Being able to see what other people are doing carries a very strong sense of "Okay, that's really cool, I want to do that!". As for metagaming, you just have to change one or two things in your 'persistent quests' - the city is constantly fighting off small skirmishes of goblin warriors, so that quest is always available for newbies, as an example - to keep it fresh. Maybe this wave is being led by an archer and a few alchemists standing behind a row of spear-weilders, while the next time it's a small number of barbarians, and the time after that there's wizards involved.

    I do think the "Quests work on a different time scale" model is the strongest one. In town, or whatever your general gathering/social interaction area is, time flows at roughly a solid pace. For this I recommend matching game time to real world time, so that when it's winter in the real world, it's winter in game. This lets players self-regulate the world, to an extent. Once they enter a quest thread, the "local time" is locked, then when they resolve that, they merge back into "current time", with the assumption that they've been doing <blah> for whatever the difference is.
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