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ScriptKitty
11-16-2009, 07:25 PM
One thing I've noticed in roleplaying, looking at the "dungeon" is a really common playing device. And why shouldn't it be? It can be both sprawling and vast, and limit the movements of the players without making them feel boxed in. They can feel as though they have a multitude of directions they can travel, but at the same time, their basic choices are limited enough that a DM can plan out what they'll face ahead of time. The depth and variety of a dungeon is limited only by how much time a DM is willing to devote to it. Because it's not just a big open field, the players never know what will be around the next corner.

Unfortunately, I feel like they're limited in a stylistic sense. Generally you find either the classic dungeon or labyrinth, or the more natural cave (perhaps spiced up by the presence of crystal, mining tools and carts, ice, lava, or so on). Lately I've found myself trying to think up alternatives to the "dungeon" setting, with the same core construction (limited paths, 'rooms' or some other substitute that does not allow characters to see into an area until they've entered it). The problem is, if I stray too far, I wind up with 'walls' that can be circumvented (trees to be climbed, obstacles to be torn through, etc). Does anyone have any ideas?

JoeyD473
11-16-2009, 11:09 PM
Use a mansion/castle/keep etc. It has some of the stylistic issues of dungeons, but they can have courtyards which trees and bushes, maybe a moat or a pond.

mearrin69
11-16-2009, 11:49 PM
In a sense, the old computer-based text adventures were like dungeons. "You are in the desert. To the north you see some mountains. What do you want to do?" You could go any direction, but the only real destination was the one given in the clue...or back the way you came. If the grasslands, from which the player came, are to the south and the mountains are to the north, those are pretty much the only directions that "do anything". Go east and you find more desert. Maybe you start running out of water.

From a data structure point-of-view, you could draw out the worlds as circles denoting locations and lines indicating connections between the locations. Now, of course, this is very limiting (mainly because the technology of the time wasn't going to support something like the new Black Isle CRPGs) but you can do something very similar in pen and paper RPGs.

Imagine a scene with a chase across rooftops. There's no map, just some circles that identify areas and the lines connecting them. So, the PCs start out at the window of their tavern room. The thief has just jumped to the rooftop of the next building over. He has a head start. As they follow, they have to make skill checks (Climb, Balance, Acrobatics, whatever) to try to move from area to area and, hopefully, gain on the thief before he can get away. If you have enough areas he doesn't have to take a predefined route. Maybe he can press an advantage that develops during play.

Hopefully this makes some kind of sense but maybe I can try to post a better example if you're not following.
M

Ascension
11-17-2009, 12:08 AM
I'm partial to shrines, temples, ruins, warehouses, ships, and other such structures as those are very common. Sewers are good. Swamps can be limiting for those in medium or heavy armor as they can only go so deep and have to stay on the hillocks and high spots. Narrow paths around cliffs are good. Parties without rangers or other woodsy types will have to stick to easily-defined paths in the woods or get totally lost and spun around or entangled. Cramped city streets, markets, and alleys are also good. An outdoor space with large boulders can be constricting. Basically, I'm just thinking off the top of my head about obstacles to keep people in a defined space.

If you want to get exotic then you start getting into Super Mario world by having to jump around on mushrooms and moving blocks. In The Princess Bride there was the fire swamp and that can keep them on their toes (along with the ROUS's). Also, there was that little space where the dudes let each other know that they were not left-handed. There are lots of things and I'm just flowing here so I'll stop and let you get on with some flow of your own :)

Gamerprinter
11-17-2009, 12:40 AM
I think an excellent rendition of the standard dungeon is done in an urban area, especially the flea-bottom labrythine back alleys of the poor district. The alleys themselves serve as the passages and larger court areas (market squares). While the entrances to the various buildings serve as dungeon chambers. Mix these with canal systems, stairs going up to gallery levels over the alleys and you have a very much 3D dungeon without a roof. Of course sewers beneath accessed from drains at ground level can serve more as the dungeon tunnels beneath as well.

GP

icosahedron
11-17-2009, 04:17 AM
Another solution is to add a plot.

In sci-fi gaming you have an entire universe for the players to stray into, but generally they don't - because of the plot. They have pushes and pulls influencing their actions.

Using the desert example above, if the footprints of their quarry lead in the direction of the northern mountains, and the plot dictates that it's desperately important for them to catch their quarry, why would they go west?

I'm running a futuristic game at the moment where a character is in a city. Theoretically, he could go anywhere - he could spend hours supping coffee in a diner or go shopping for shoes, but I know he won't - cos he's a fugitive.

The plot dictates that he needs to keep one step ahead of his pursuers and he needs to find information and evidence that will clear him. Along the way, he'll find clues that will lead him along a predetermined path, like a treasure hunt. I know exactly where this character will go and what he will find, without needing to map out the entire city/country/planet/universe.

A good plot can constrain characters better than any walls. :)

wormspeaker
11-17-2009, 12:05 PM
And then you get the players that completely miss the clues and go wandering off because they didn't pick up that the GM mentioned the words "bass boat" like twelve times in a single description of an area. I swear, sometimes you gotta' hit 'em upside the head with the clues.

ScriptKitty
11-17-2009, 10:18 PM
Problem is, some players (like myself) approach the game with a "completionist" approach the same way they play videogames. Too big and open an area, and they'll spend all their time searching for items.

In a game I'm currently playing, my character is slowly dragging our Wizard's alignment down because she keeps making him help her loot every corpse they come across and he has no willpower. ^^

DevinNight
11-18-2009, 01:58 PM
ROUS's.. I don't think they exist.

Good points above.. ok I don't have anything to add.

icosahedron
11-19-2009, 09:00 AM
And then you get the players that completely miss the clues and go wandering off because they didn't pick up that the GM mentioned the words "bass boat" like twelve times in a single description of an area. I swear, sometimes you gotta' hit 'em upside the head with the clues.

LOL. Yeah, I know what you mean, but GMing isn't a passive role - just keep hitting their heads till they get it. :)


Problem is, some players (like myself) approach the game with a "completionist" approach the same way they play videogames. Too big and open an area, and they'll spend all their time searching for items.

In a game I'm currently playing, my character is slowly dragging our Wizard's alignment down because she keeps making him help her loot every corpse they come across and he has no willpower. ^^

Perhaps your GM needs an alignment shift. When I played Fantasy, I found a few corpse maggots or trapped items tended to dissuade necro-kleptomaniacs. :)

With Sci-fi, the emphasis isn't so much on items - there's no magic and if you earn the money you can buy items from a trader. Perhaps you need to put the emphasis on a final goal (plot) rather than on collecting things along the way.
I still think that approaching it from a different angle would help. If you can master it, the need for walls goes away. :)

jaerdaph
11-20-2009, 12:26 AM
The catacombs and sewers under the city are a favorite of mine. So are haunted houses.

Ship graveyards are a nice alternative too. And there's nothing cooler than exploring a derelict ship adrift at sea (or in space).

RobA
11-20-2009, 01:00 PM
Structures in hostile environments also work well to constrain players.

- Underwater structure (base/temple)
- Outer-space structure (space-station/ship)
- extreme temperatures (desert structure/lava temple)

-Rob A>

jaerdaph
11-20-2009, 01:13 PM
Horror stories and horror roleplaying games often try to isolate the protagonists/PCs to build mood and atmosphere (and a sense of dread), so you could look to those as well for ideas. For example, bad weather is a good way to contain players in an area. A storm washes away the only bridge back to the mainland. The ferry to the island can't make the run in the storm. The highways and side roads are snowed under and haven't been plowed yet. The rain has made the dirt road out to the abandonned insane asylum impassable. Phone lines are down too. There's no cell signal up here.

rdanhenry
11-21-2009, 03:17 AM
Although this is an odd place to suggest it, if you want to limit the possibilities, don't map in advance (or rather, since this is impossible, use the sketchiest map possible). Whichever way the players decide to go, *there* is where the next planned encounter is (or the more appropriate of the planned possible encounters if you've included at least a little flexibility in your adventure plan). Some GMs do very well with this approach.

Me, I figure the players can go where they want and if they choose to ignore the setting elements I had expected them to bite on, I'll just make up something else appropriate to the choices they make. If you are ready to wing it a little, curtailing player choice becomes less of an issue. It also depends on the players you have. If they are proactive, self-directing types, they will initiate action and you can just work out how the world responds to them. If the players are more passive, then you need to create planned adventures with specific ideas about how they will play out, but those players can largely be counted on to follow the adventure hooks with minimum herding. Now, if you have players who are just deliberately contrary, you need to herd them by tricking them into thinking that the direction you want them to take is actually what you least expect.

Ascension
11-21-2009, 02:11 PM
I like that idea Dan. Sort of a point to point story no matter what happens. They go here or there and they still have to fight some bandits...nice.

crohakon
11-21-2009, 09:42 PM
Me, I figure the players can go where they want and if they choose to ignore the setting elements I had expected them to bite on, I'll just make up something else appropriate to the choices they make. If you are ready to wing it a little, curtailing player choice becomes less of an issue.

How I normally build my worlds / start my games is by creating the map of the over all area I will allow them to explore. For example, my current map is the North-Western part of a large continent. Also, it is the only part of the continent I have mapped. Within the map I have 7 "factions". Three human kingdoms, a forest area with wild "wood" elves, a mountain area with a dwarven kingdom, and a forest area with ogres. I use the mountains, oceans, wild elves, dwarves, and ogres to limit the party to the three human kingdoms. But aside from that, nothing is really planned. I have set in my mind the events that are taking part in the world. I allow the characters to interact and I have the world react to them.

I start with a map of their starting location (city, village, wtc..) but all of the other cities and such are not mapped out until I know they are heading in that direction. Hell, I have even made basic maps of cities on the spot during games because the party took an un-expected change in direction.

It helps that I DM for a group of mature gamers.