Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

While I don’t push it, I have always intended The Dee Sanction to have a more sandbox feel. I want it to be something the Table play together, with the Players having as much to do with the thrust of the game as the GM’s whims. Sometimes, such fancies have a real purpose—we can’t always be as prepared as we like and a one-shot with all the plot and characters laid on might be what we need. However, I think there’s mileage in The Dee Sanction being more about adventures of opportunity. I’m working on a few ideas that might best support this in the form of hooks, seeds, flavour or whatever.

In some small part, the map of the Ossulstone Hundred aligns with the same concept. Wards and streets, stores and alehouses, traders and warehouses… Such details fall to the need of the Table and the story’s progression. Perhaps I took something from Free League’s Forbidden Lands and the notion of a map to be annotated. If the GM or I spend our time delineating every home and storefront across the map, what’s left for Player engagement?

Like Ex Libris or Lost in Translation‘s villains, I think The Dee Sanction benefits from focusing progress and plot on difficult decisions and desperate solutions. That’s not to say that the Agents always lose or that every ending becomes mired in shades of grey. But everything is not set in stone, and situations can arise that embrace the loose threads of the past, allowing the Table to create the fabric of their Elizabethan world together.

Remember the guiding principles on page 6, What It Isn’t About… fabricate rather than procrastinate. The Table should never freeze with the paralysis of concern that events might not perfectly match the canon of history. The story should be about what you want it to be about. Agents should engage in the sort of missions and adventures that entertain everyone. It demands that the Table works together, and the GM might need a little more time and a bit of leeway when it comes to a retcon or two. Or at least the opportunity to correct a bit of history if the session’s excitement means creating an unintentional dead-end in events.

This is where Journals matter and the concept of playing characters beyond a simple core. Suppose Players handle the history and take notes on events, people and places. In that case, the GM can focus more on fleshing out events, weaving old threads into the fabric of the whole, and creating a satisfying world.

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One Reply to “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”

  1. David Herber says:

    On Discord I broached this very topic, whether people who intended to run campaigns had decided to force their story lines using the events in history as guide rails or whether they were quite happy to let things develop as they might, and create an alternate history that might end up on a completely different path and down a completely different rabbit hole.

    I fear that limiting the scope of a story to sit within these guide rails could stunt campaigns and lessen the enjoyment if the players have this nagging belief that they could be dragged back into ‘what really happened’ at any moment. A story line that does this frequently lurches and gives players the belief they are not truly the masters of their own destiny.

    This is an age old debate, especially with running games that rely to a degree on actual history.

    I am developing a campaign based on a single event as the starting point (the death of Ferdinando Stanley) and am happy to let the story line go wherever it goes, even if it means the changing’ of history. Perhaps I am fortunate in having a deep knowledge of the period and am able to adapt as the story goes, but I would hate to see a game such as this flounder because those who run it have some preconceived idea that they cannot ‘tamper with history’.

    I understand that both options can be accommodated, we can follow history while applying small changes to it, but I like the challenge of changing history, don’t you?


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