Sandpathing

Concept

Epic Plot, Non-Epic Threads

Instead of running the long epic campaign, run a series of short campaigns (lets say 3) with different PCs that lead up to the EPIC EVENT. Once the 3rd mini-campaign is complete, the players pick their favorite PCs to deal with the EPIC EVENT.

Where the idea came from

I decided to restart my Dragon Age game as I got distracted with Modern Warefare 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum. I picked a different starting race/situation (first one was elf/wizard, new guy is a dwarven noble warrior). The starting story was very different and very good (I am not so sure if I was in Orzammar or Menzoberran given the political intrigue). But, no matter your starting story, something happens that gets you thrown out of whatever your home happens to be and the Grey Wardens snatch you up. My knowledge of my first partial playthrough really helped with the emmersion into the story – I already had an idea of the Darkspawn, the Blight, what a Grey Warden was, etc. Nothing “game breaking”, but common knowledge that many in such a world would have at their fingertips. In the end, I was wishing the story would continue instead of pushing me to the Main Plot.

Now DA has about a 50 hours gameplay for one-time through. I thought it would be cool to set a game up for multiple play-throughs. Instead of having 1 PC slog through 50 hours of play, break it into 4 smaller stories with a big finally at the end. In essence, every PC contributes to the endgame story in a different way, but you get to explore the same “world” in more manageable chunks. At the end, pick your favorites for the final battle, and go at it.

Some complain that MW2 has too short a campaign story (about 10-12 hours), but if done right, I prefer that amount of time for a storyline. There is less fluff and more substance that way.

F2F Games – Is it practical?

I think that depends heavily on the group. I could see that working well in my Michigan group because we meet weekly. We probably get 40 sessions in a year. Run 3 mini-games of 10 sessions each, then the final 10 as the finale. For the CGG, it would likely have to be 2 mini-campaigns of say 8 sessions with 4 as the finale. I pick one year as that is the average length of most campaigns.

Benefits

  • A manner to explore the game world – for example Shaintar is new to us – it is a way for the DM to show off the various areas.
  • The mini-campaigns each have specific themes that hopefully are easy to remember when it becomes important in the end
  • Allows for an Epic Plot but it does not have to be front and center the whole game.
  • Player knowledge helps instead of hurts. The DM WANTS players to make the connection between the games
  • Everything technically is concurrant. The DM can cross the paths on occassion, familiar locations, events that may have occured. It is very story driven
  • One other advantage that it might have, depending on the system, is the ability to stay in the level sweet spot for the whole campaign. Instead of going from 1-20 or whatever in 3rd, you could stay in the 3-8 to 5-10 range. I don’t know if that applies to something like SW, though I can see it being more complicated to continuously making Seasoned or Veteran characters all the time.
  • Another advantage is the use of material. Even in published adventures, there is material that does not get used in play due to choices by players or GM. One could easily reskin unused material for other groups.
  • In theory, it could be a great OhioGame format as well. My group runs one mini-campaign, CGG runs another. Maybe we run a third for Keia/Robb/other remotes. It comes together at the OG -that presumes we could do a big group with multiple GMs and hope Savage Worlds is fast enough to carry us through. The Epic is the OG.

Rough spots

  • Some players just want to run one PC all the way through – this does not cater to them, although they can always pick the favorite at the end
  • Lots of DM planning. You have to make sure the mini-campaigns mesh well but are still distince
  • Can become a “Rod of 7 parts” type campaign. Every arc is “go fetch this” – not a good design in my opinion.

Where did the term Sandpathing come from?

A blend of a Sandbox concept and an Adventure Path. The sandbox aspect is that the full area is open to exploration. Hopefully, by the second or third mini-campaign players can drive more of the action since they will know more about the world. The Pathing is the natural plot arc for the mini-campaigns. In DA, there are a lot of places you can go, but in reality the quests drive your path.

Sandpathing

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