Design Ramble: Open Spaces and Abstract Thoughts

Lately I’ve been pondering strange questions as a GM and designer, so here’s my latest ramble…

open-spaceHave you noticed that most fantasy worlds are focused on the crowded places? The constructed places? What about the open spaces?

If you watch The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings Movies, you see the dwarves and the fellowship crossing huge spaces – plains, forests, and mountain ranges – plus the spaces inside – forges, mines, and huge cave systems. I was struck recently by the fact that we don’t see those types of spaces often in gaming scenarios.

But why do we avoid the open?

Is it that it’s difficult to model these spaces in a game session? Maps are easy to come by, but the bigger you get, the harder it is to keep things straight on the table.

I saw this recently with a huge papercraft model put together for our current campaign. We moved from the game table to wander around a second table that was nothing but model. Don’t get me wrong – the model was gorgeous and it was fun to put our minis on the larger play area. But it was a bit of a challenge to roll dice and keep track of our character sheets.

So I wonder if there are ways to model larger map spaces in a more abstract way.

And then again I wonder if we even need to. Except where we’re dealing with huge numbers of participants like armies battling, when would we need to handle huge spaces and the typical adventuring party? Battlefield games already include rules that cover that type of scenario, so I doubt we need it.

FibonacciSpiralBut… and this is a big but… perhaps we could use the golden spiral to track how close the party is getting to certain GM-driven plot goals?

The setup becomes the most important part of the puzzle. Laying out clues and mile markers to make sure the group is heading somewhat towards your eventual goal. And as the party gets closer and closer to the exciting conclusion, the distance between plot points should get shorter and shorter until the excitement builds to a crescendo!

Yes, I can see this idea working in an abstract fashion to devise a compelling adventure. More for design than anything though. Tracking party progress may be less of an issue than actually getting things moving from the very beginning…

What kinds of things are YOU thinking about these days?

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