(Before you start to read, two things.
1. This is about one particular difference between Impro and Sandbox. Rails is another thing and will be or other threads. Fairness in challenges, likewise.
2. When you answer, if you can't make arrows, which I won't be able to myself when I'm writing on the phone later, use t, as in "HtD" for "H→D".
That's all. Thanks.)
Four mirror scenarios
In common for all four scenarios: the players find a mirror, they believe it's dangerous, they treat it with the utmost respect, they try to use it as a weapon against bullywugs by tricking them into doing to what the players believe is a dangerous thing; looking in the mirror.
"Harmless": the mirror is a scrying mirror that can spy into the lich's bathroom.
"Dangerous": the mirror teleports whoever looks at it into a trap -- a trap that can be defeated, but can be lethal -- and then crack.
- The mirror was harmless, but after seeing the players try to use it as a weapon, the DM decides it's dangerous for the bulliwugs.
- The mirror was dangerous all along and the DM describes it consistently.
- The mirror was harmless all along and the DM describes it consistently.
- The mirror was dangerous, but after seeing the players try to use it as a weapon, the DM decides it's harmless for the bulliwugs.
(In our game, D→D happened. I've checked the module.)
The "Impro" group.
Loves Johnstone and was down since day one in the seventies, think Walmsley is a Johnny-come-lately stating the obvious.
Their goal in playing is to create something that sounds cool to themselves, or, sometimes, to a podcast or video audience. A good, serious, dramatic, sad, or zany story is what they're after. This doesn't mean they don't want bleed
, because they like that and they often achieve it. But, they want the things that happen to be relevant and, well, cool.The "Sandbox" group.
Plays as if the dungon was real and want to interact with the things down there and experience the consequences of what they do.
The two groups meet the mirror
In the "Impro" group
H→D and D→H is dope AF. The facilitator has listened to their creative choices, and built the narrative on that. "Damn straight, the players came up with the idea to put the mirror on their cart to use as a weapon, that's something I can work with!" and H→D is an obvious reward of this with a cool consequence.
One thing that might go counter to the intuition of more "adventure"-style roleplayers is that D→H is also a way to validate the players narration. It's an ironic punchline and it's playing with status in the typical impro fashion. The heroes' "oh so clever" idea fizzled, and the mirror they had been so afraid uf turns out to just be a funny mirro into the lich's bathroom. The bulliwugs laugh at it for a while and then attack the heroes. Perfect twist in a classic skit.
The facilitator has been true to the impro ideal of holding her ideas lightly (quite possibly there never even was an H→D, just a [?]→D with maybe a very vague idea of a scrying mirror or a magical trap) and instead be open to the players narrative input and ready to change her narration accordingly. If the facilitator had instead clung tightly to her D→D or H→H, that would've been blocking the players, ignoring their input, and be contrarian. It's no deathly sin, perhaps, but it sort of invalidates the presence of the players as co-storytelling portrayers of the heroes lives and times.In the "Sandbox" group
, it's conversely D→D and H→H that's the right play. The players made their choices, they treated the mirror as dangerous, they took a risk to slowly slowly pick it up even though the place was littered with skellies (that probably got attracted to the party's loud thumping on the floor tiles to find pit traps) and by looking away when they carefully touch the glass surface even though they risk having their hands sucked into a dimension of gnashing teeth, and even though they're risking missing important info that might've been in that mirror or etched on the surface of that mirror by keeping the cloth on. Maybe they're missing a map? But they choose this risk. D→D and H→H are the plays that validate their choices by giving those choices consequences and weight.
That D→H is unfair against these players is perhaps not surprising. They've come up with something smart, but the DM takes it away because "it's OP" or because "it makes the scenario too easy" or any one of a thousand reasons that bad DMs ("bad" from the expectations of the "Sandbox" group) tell themselves to do things like that.
That H→D, too, is an invalidation of the players choices might not be obvious, but here's the reasoning. Even if H→D makes the fight against the bulliwugs 20% cooler and even if it rewards the party for a cool idea, it makes their behaviour when they first encountered the mirror a bit meaningless. They chose to treat the mirror as dangerous and they invested dearly in that. By doing that, they took the risk
that it might've been unnecessary (or even counter-productive, if there was some info there in the mirror). The mirror scene had a tension because they risked failure. By removing that failure, the players behavior was invalidated.
The "Impro" group creates a story
about an interesting dungeoneering expedition. The "Sandbox" group pretends that they are in the dungeon
. By all means, try both styles, but don't mix them up. They need to be handled in different ways. And make sure people at the table are on board with what you're doing.