Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Traveller Sandbox Experiment: What I Learned...

Good Afternoon, All:

The last few months have been focused on what I've called the Traveller Sandbox Experiment. With this project, I turned my attention to developing a Traveller campaign setting using the same techniques that I have been using here for various fantasy and cross-genre settings. All told, I feel like it was quite successful, but I did learn a few things along the way.

Generating A Sector: This took surprising longer than I originally expected, and the biggest part of that challenge was in naming all of the worlds. I think good world names add a lot of flavor to a setting; while I could have randomly generated my world names, I feel that my efforts were better served by being deliberate in most of my choices.

Choosing A Quadrant: If I'd just generated a Quadrant instead of a Sector, these two parts would have proceeded faster. However, the part I liked about generating a Sector and then choosing the Quadrant was that I had context for elements outside the Quadrant that could impact play inside the Quadrant. I think it led to a more developed sense of the setting being part of a bigger picture, even if that bigger picture never gets explored over the course of the campaign. I wonder if I could have handled that with a few random tables, though.

Cultural Hubs: Creating cultural hubs made me aware of the big population centers that could influence the setting, and the impact they have on the setting itself. I think this particular step, and the tables I created to support it, served me very well. This is also where I learned that the readers of this blog REALLY love random tables. Those posts have my highest number of views, in some cases double the views of non-random table posts.

Resource Worlds: Creating resource worlds added a lot of extra flavor that will make merchant campaigns all the more interesting, simply because it defines details about desirable goods. Here's where we get to tell the gamers what the setting thinks is important. If I were to redo this experiment, though, I might combine both the Cultural Hubs and Resource Worlds into a single process that more greatly defines the "civilized" worlds of the setting.

Exploration Sites: I had a lot of fun choosing backwater worlds that contained ruins, abandoned colonies, and similar adventure locations. This is where most of the fun will be, in terms of the action-oriented elements of the setting. I like having choices right off the bat, ready to present to the players who are looking for this kind of action-adventure. This step also made me look at the "uncivilized" areas of the campaign setting.

Interstellar Threats: This was, in my opinion, one of the weaker areas of applying this approach to Traveller campaign setting development. I liked setting these up, and it gave me a lot of interesting material to work with. Still, I think the isolated nature of worlds, given that interstellar travel requires Jump drive, limits the nature of these threats to a certain degree.

Hall of Infamy: I actually loved this part, because it gave me something to focus on in terms of overarching plot lines. I have to say that having a manageable number of Bad Guys makes planning a lot easier, and having more than one means that the campaign is not one-dimensional.

Filling in the Holes: This was the catch-all category, and helped me identify that there are a number of worlds that fell between the cracks. It also pointed out that it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data you can generate, so going through the process of identify Cultural Hubs, Resource Worlds, etc., really helps make that manageable.

Game Mechanics: I like this step because this is where I create the tools that will help me manage the setting, as it were. However, honestly, at this point in the process, I was a little worn out. If I weren't doing it on a time table for putting up blog posts, I imagine that section would be a little easier, because I could take a break if I needed to.

Overall: I feel that the resulting setting is a bit more fully developed than I might have created otherwise. The details are all aimed at encouraging investment in the setting and facilitating a good roleplaying experience, so I feel it is all imminently usable. This process kept me focused on creating useful content, and as a Referee and a gamer, that's the important thing for me. For that reason, I'm going to call Traveller Sandbox Experiment a success.

So, what do you think? Do you think this process can create a setting worth playing in? What did you think about it as we walked through the process?

With Regards,


Nathan Irving said...

Just glancing at this post, without reading it, I could easily use it for a fantasy campaign setting. Just changing the way you talk about things can change the creative process (ie, cities as population centers).
So, I like it.

Flynn said...

The original process came from a fantasy sandbox development process, so I know it works for that. Perhaps I should write it out in the manner as a basic overview, for those that might be interested in such a list.


Flynn said...
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