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4E: Masana Style Sheet

October 22, 2010

After having picked up the 4E Essentials Heroes of the Fallen Lands, I’ve been thinking of putting together a semi-sandbox-y campaign.

Seeing how most of what trips up D&D games in general (4E or not) is people not being on the same page about how the game works, I figured I’d pop together a style sheet along the lines of Apocalypse World, How to Play a Sorcerer, or Shreyas’ Radiant .

What the Players Do

Build a character that cares about Masana. The people, the land, the nation. You don’t have to be a blind patriot, but you care and adventures will come of this.

Tie your character into the setting- you’re part of one of the organizations listed – maybe they mentored you, maybe you earned your way in. Tie your character to other player characters – childhood friends, partners, relatives, etc.

Work as a team and pursue your goals. Feel free to make new goals on the spot- ask the DM if they should be Quests. You are responsible for making action happen! Don’t be a turtle and expect the DM to prod you.

Pursue the conflicts that make sense for you – pass up the ones that don’t. Don’t assume there’s a “right way” to fix any problem – you can negotiate with a dragon and fight a prince to the death in a duel – all if it fits with the situation.

Ask questions – about the setting, the history, anything. Sometimes the DM will ask you questions in return- make up the answers and go with it.

Things everyone should know

There will never be NPCs who befriend you, or send you on missions just to betray you. It’s weak and played out.

As a sandbox game, sometimes you’ll run into things that are too powerful for you – feel free to run.

Status matters- NPCs will expect you to respect their social status, and will likewise respect yours.

There will never be random traps sitting about. Don’t waste time checking for them. Also- no random cursed items either.

What the DM does

Life is happening!

Anywhere there is people, improvise freely! Come up with rumors, events, NPCs, goals, etc. Everywhere is in motion- a mudslide cuts off a road, a noble is getting married, a merchant house is about to go under… all of these things are background… and adventure possibilities.

Ask players half-loaded questions to build on- “This village is having a festival – what is it?” “Your favorite food is a specialty here- what is it and what’s it known for?” “What was your uncle’s reputation when he studied here?” etc.

Motivation before Action

Always establish a motivation for NPCs to the players before taking it to action. Never have some bullshit where the heroes are jumped by “mysterious mercenaries or assassins” who then have clues to “who’s behind this”. Always show a reason for why action is happening- even if it’s a hungry tiger, show it stalking, drooling, etc. (yes, tigers would just attack first, but use some movie logic and go with it).

NPCs are mostly reasonable

Most NPCs can be reasoned with! Obviously, the party can’t convince the queen to give up her throne or a guard to simply let them into the treasury, but for anything approaching a reasonable request, make the NPCs reasonable. Even NPCs in combat will run away if they’re losing!

Random Encounters with Reasons!

A random encounter means encountering the person/group/monster in question- it doesn’t necessarily mean combat! Improvise a reason the (encounter) is there, and what’s going on. Tie it into rumors or events you’ve established, or new things you’re making up on the spot. Use the random encounter as a springboard for possibilities.

Requests = Quests. Quests = Escalation

Follow the players. Whatever goals they decide on, ask them if they want to make it a Quest. Break down larger goals into more immediate steps – and make those Quests.

If something IS a Quest, add pressure to it if it’s being ignored. Have more stuff happen, increase the danger, make things worse. Make the Quest alive and active. (Non quest problems can also evolve, they’re just not immediate and in the face of the players as much).

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