After I played a 9Q session using D&D 4th Edition and now my first session of Edge of the Empire I want to talk about what I would like to call “module based” play vs. “freeform” play.

When I say module based I mean the game plays more like playing a published adventure module. You have a set goal and a definitve end. I think the 9Qs are a good tool for module based play since they essentialy create an adventure for you and try to emulate the plot of a good movie or an adventure module that you would buy in a store. In a way, the Mythic GME also supports module based play by dividing the adventure in distinct parts by using scenes and by employing actual rule mechanics that are used once you change the scene. However, Mythic does not give you a clear finishing point as the 9Qs do which can make it hard to actually finish an adventure (as I have experienced first hand).

Freeform play, on the other hand, is what I would also call sandbox gaming. You have a certain setting or area and you move freely within that environment, without a clear structure or finishing point and basically stumble into adventure. Freeform play is what I intend to do in my Edge of the Empire campaign. That said, it is of course possible to combine the two by playing in a sandbox up until you get a “quest”. A certain task or mission that you have to complete which has a clear goal. You can then use something like the 9Qs to basically “zoom in” and treat your quest as a “module” within your sandbox.

In no way I want to turn this into a discussion about what is better. I think every method has it’s benefits and downsides. It is just something I caught myself thinking about so I thought I make a post out of it. So for me, these are the advantages of module based play:

  • You have a clear goal from the start.
  • You have a definite end.
  • An adventure can be finished in a reasonable amount of time.
  • You can use it for one-shots to try out different game systems.
  • You have a structured plot.

But for me, there are also some disadvantages:

  • It feels very “gamey” with set mechanics.
  • For me it breaks immersion in a way, as I no longer have the feeling I can really do anything but instead am “locked” in the structure of the module until the quest is finished. In other words, I find it hard to think outside the box.

So, looking at freeform gaming, you can practically turn the above list around.

For me, the main advantage is the “illusion of free will” which gives me the feeling I can freely roam about in my world without worrying about structure and mechanics. Also, as there are no rules associated with scene change or certain mechanics that you have to employ that require you to not only think about your story but about rules it does not feel as “gamey”. I experienced this firsthand while playing a Mythic Star Wars session as you can read here:

Changing a scene in Mythic actually felt like a chore:

You have to think about the Chaos Factor going up or down.

You have to update your lists with NPCs and threads.

You have to come up with a new set-up and roll a die to see if it stays or if an interrupt scene occurs.

If the scene does not stay, you have to think about how it could be altered and change the set up.

So I came to the conclusion, that I like a more freeform approach.

However, this freedom can also lead to wandering about without a goal or purpose, making it hard to finish an adventure.

So what will I do in the future? I will employ the method of freestyle delving which John Fiore introduced here

and use it not only for freestyle delving but for freestyle adventuring in Edge of the Empire. I will use the random idea generator at intervalls, whenever some amout of time has passed or it makes sense storywise, to introduce random events into the story. These intervalls are pretty easy to identify (at least I think so). Just jumped into a new system? Roll. Entering a new bar, cantina or casino? Roll. Spending the night in the wilderness somewhere? Roll. Walking from one place to another in a dangerous neighborhood? Roll. I think you get the idea.

And sometimes, these events alone can form the adventure. For example take the smuggling job Cal took. I had one encounter before the jump, battling pirates that set-up a trap. I will check for another encounter after exiting from hyperspace and for another encounter after docking at the station. These encounters in context with the delivery are, in my opinion, enough to compose the adventure. No need to employ the 9Qs here for a smuggling run. However, who knows, maybe in the course of my adventures my ship gets impounded and locked away some place. The task of stealing it back is something that I could see myself using the 9Qs for to “zoom in” on the action and create the adventure I need to complete to get the ship back.

So what about your experiences? What do you prefer? How do you do it? I am always happy to get new ideas and hear new approaches, so discuss away.