Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sandbox Thinking 1

As I work on preparing my sandbox I find that the tools I use impose their own logic and workflow. If I just jot notes in a notebook, I end up with a lot of ideas, but basically just a brainstorm. If I try to work in a text editor, I keep trying to write whole stories, but end up writing a lot of text that is (at least to my style of role-play Refereeing) quite useless.

An interesting tool I've found while working on a "codification" (if you could call it that) of the character generation process in our D&D game is the humble spreadsheet. With a spreadsheet you're automatically in the world of semi-random generated tables and ideas that can be slotted together modularly. However, the spreadsheet still imposes the need to be brief with your descriptions since there's just no room for whole stories. Also, the spreadsheet naturally gives itself over to a focus on the key elements say of an encounter, a monster, a piece of treasure or whatever it is you are using in your adventure. Finally, it imposes non-linearity, since each piece of a spreadsheet is interchangeable and available as an independent data point, while text is linear and imposes an authorial logic.

Anyway, after wasting two evenings writing text, I've decided to just stick to a spread sheet for now - not least because my laptop has recently started to become more and more important as a refereeing (DM) aid in my games over the last year.


  1. Interesting, I've gone through the same dilemma of finding just the right medium. After using OneNote for a while (it's non-linear like a spreadheet) I decided to go back to paper and pencil, and try to organize it by using one page for each "thing" in the campaign, be it settlement, dungeon area, wilderness region, etc. For some reason I can be much more creative using a pencil than any software.

  2. Yes, that's quite true. With paper and pencil, I also find creativity easier to come by than with a spreadsheet ... however, running with a spreadsheet makes it very easy to keep adding content & modifying the world as the players happen to it.

    I've also been thinking quite a bit about how a tablet might me utilized, perhaps in conjunction with some workflow & productivity apps.

    On papers though: yup, that's what I ran my last adventures with as well.