In what looks like this week's theme, I'm continuing to work on my zombie apocalypse Dungeon World hack, World Gone Mad. Today, I've been working on sandboxes.
World Gone Mad is designed to be run like a sandbox RPG. The players have their own plans, and the carrying out of those plans forms the meat of the session. The Zombie Master (ZM's) responsibility is to portray the world the characters inhabit, and to direct the flow of the action so that everyone is having a great time and contributing to a fun, albeit grim, story of survival horror.
The way I try and achieve this goal in design comes in two parts. The first part I've talked about before: Character Moves. These moves, which are a part of every playbook, are a little bit like quests in a console RPG. They're things that are important to your character, their "motivation" for doing the things they do. By design, a lot of these character moves require the players to do some questionable things to each other, and so these moves are set to create conflict, drama, and tension.
The other part to this equation are the Sandboxes. A Sandbox is my hack's equivalent of fronts and threats from the other AW games: they are a collection of threats, settings, important NPCs, and events that can happen throughout the course of play. Fundamentally, these are tools the ZM can use to maintain the tempo and pace of the game being dictated by the players. If the players are a little hesitant or not sufficiently motivated to make things happen on their own, the various elements presented in the Sandbox can be used to sort of prod the characters into action. The story always comes from the characters; the Sandbox provides background elements to set the tone, pace, and/or theme of that story.
Further down the road, I want to try and work with a more modular structure to the relationship between sandboxes and character moves, to make an AW hack that's adjustable for longer campaigns, shorter one-shots, more structured stories, or looser collaborative stories. One idea I have for this is by playing with balance. For example, if I removed all the character moves from the playbooks, and instead made "story moves" available in the sandbox that generated XP upon their triggering, then the characters become motivated to activate those triggers by interacting directly with the sandbox rather than each other. If I wanted to emulate a more "mission-focused" zombie apocalypse, I might want to do something like that.
So here is the link to my basic, rough draft of Sandboxes; what they are, what comprises one, and two sample ones. This is all rough draft-material, untested (yet), and I'm eager to get it to the table at some point. Please, Dear Reader, look it over whenever you have time and give me your thoughts (though also bear in mind that what you see is more "proof of concept" prototype material and less "factory ready" final product).
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