Having begun to play a game ostensibly in the Wilderlands, the first session I ran was set in a dungeon. For the reasons I outlined yesterday, the Dungeoncrawl game structure is a great place to start. Of course, the easy criticism to make about starting a hexploration game in a dungeon is that you’re not hexploring.
My response is, “True. Not yet.”
When you begin to game in an open sandbox roleplaying game, especially with an Open Table format, you are not telling the players what the goals are. Of course, like any good game structure, the key benefit of the hexcrawl is that it provides a basic default goal and default action.
As The Alexandrian notes, in “Game Structures Part 6” on the Hexcrawl, the default goal of a hexcrawl is exploration and the default action is “pick a direction and go”. The key is that the players choose where and/or what they want to explore and which directions they wish to go. Thus, as a GM the key is to prep content for what’s on the map in sufficient detail that the hexcrawl has interesting stuff to explore.
At this early stage in the new game, with Session 2 tomorrow, I don’t need to worry about the world map just yet. There is stuff out there already because the Wilderlands maps provide some locations and interesting features upfront. At my option, I can add more stuff to that map. But given that, right now, the stated intent of the players is to send their characters back down the dungeon, the reality is that I just need a little more dungeon for Session 2.
That’s not to say that the world map is forgotten. For starters, I have begun to seed a few rumours into the player character’s lives. These point to some potentially interesting sites for later exploration. But the key thing I need to remember is that the GM is not deciding the direction. Other than giving them an initial shove down a hole in the ground in Session 1, my intention is to get out of their way and let them discover for themselves what they want to do.
The players have already decided that they are the founding members of the Delver’s Guild in Pell’s Landing. They are asking for places to delve. They have a contract to map out the existing dungeon, so they want to explore that and collect. It seems to me that right now they are looking for further dungeons. Rumours and clues to interesting dungeons appear to be what the current players want. Who am I to stand in their way?
I’m not keen on rushing them. I don’t see much to be gained from thrusting them out onto the world stage with some urgent mission. Unless they seem either stuck, lacking in clues and leads to follow, or appear bored then I intend to see what they want to do. I’m comfy with improvising to a fair degree and have no agenda except to provide an interesting session.
Perhaps this is a philosophical difference to the more common, regular style of play in which the GM provides the adventure – complete with goal – upfront and then drives the player characters through it.
I prefer to give the players as much agency as they desire: they can certainly choose how to deal with each individual situation they enter; they can also choose which situations they get involved with; even better, they get to choose the reason why they are adventuring in the first place.
So, yeah. We are just scratching the surface… and that’s ok.