Kitchen Sink vs Constrained setting


Gamer Life General Discussion


A place to discuss the original topic of the now doomed thread. Please, can this one stick to the topic listed above?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

To be more constructive, perhaps we can list the merits and flaws of each model. And as a challenge, I would say how about the ones supporting one system list some of the merits of the other. At least try. I have no problem listing the merits of a kitchen sink setting: I sometimes use one myself, it's really good for sandbox campaigns, when I want to have one, for example.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

"Kitchen sink" is a relative term, bro.


Every term is relative. "Kitchen sink" means more or less that the assumption is that everything is in and the constrained means that what is in is a smaller and more selected subset. I think most people have a pretty good idea what a kitchen sink setting is. Ie; golarion, forgotten realms ...


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Arssanguinus wrote:
To be more constructive, perhaps we can list the merits and flaws of each model. And as a challenge, I would say how about the ones supporting one system list some of the merits of the other. At least try. I have no problem listing the merits of a kitchen sink setting: I sometimes use one myself, it's really good for sandbox campaigns, when I want to have one, for example.

This is very open minded of you.

However, I still fail to see why we need to keep doing this.

It's just an invitation to people demanding everybody else play their way and getting upset when they don't get the reaction they want. Or maybe getting upset IS what they want.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Quote:
"Kitchen sink" is a relative term, bro.

Boy, we'll argue about anything, won't we?

Well, might as well give it a try, at least.

Currently, I'm using kitchen sink setting.

Pros:
More options for GM and players, lots of opportunity for weird concepts.
I'm likely going to catch grief over this, but I'll say it: I think kitchen sinks work really well for inexperienced roleplayers. A lot of players struggle to come up with exotic personalities just with the core races, so weird races give them a sort of crutch to fall back on. It gets them used to roleplaying while not having to just lean on one of "the five stereotypes". They can be unique without having to invest as much energy and imagination. That's hardly the sole purpose of weird races, but it's a good use for 'em.

Cons:
I think a kitchen sink setting can be a bit too zany at times. That's really my main issue with 'em, and why sometimes I like to make more rigid settings. And with that excellent segue...

Pros Of Constraint:
My last game was set on an isolated continent. All race roles were pretty solidly worked out. It led to an overall improved feeling of cohesiveness, since we were able to focus on just a few races instead of a k'bajillion. :)


I will say my more constrained settings tend to be with the players I've played with the longest. And they actually ASK for them as something different from the standard.

Sovereign Court

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Constrained? Why so incendiary?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Constrained? Limited? Defined? Defined settings are at this point frankly my norm. If you have a better name for it by all means go ahead. For that matter if you have a better name for the "everything's in' setting than 'kitchen sink' that people will understand, go ahead.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Again, I say, we'll argue about anything, won't we?


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Again, I say, we'll argue about anything, won't we?

Yah, right? When its obvious what the categories being mentioned are making arguments over exact wording is ... Meh.


Instead of going into generic pros and cons, it might be more useful to discuss why you might choose one approach for a specific game and another for a different specific game.

I am bouncing around an idea for a d20 Modern game set in the near future (basically just at the brain storming stage at this time). I am thinking about having aspects of RoboCop, Terminator (less kill all humans and more tool of corporate rival to cyborg cop program), Judge Dredd, Xenomorphs (Along the lines of AvP), Predators (think Predator 2), and C.H.U.D.s (dangerous mutations caused by evil corporation's irresponsibility).

While that seems widely open to some, it is actually pretty limited in my view. The PCs will all be normal humans and either a special police unit or federal agents (though maybe one or two could be civilians of some type) investigating strange and deadly situations in a "mega-city" and the surrounding area. Their equipment will be limited to normal police enforcement gear. Nobody will get to be a predator with advanced weaponry, a cyborg cop, an ED-209, etc.

As a GM, I will also be limited to an extent. Obviously I'll have cyborgs, a limited number extra-terrestrials, robots, mutants, street thugs, etc. But I'm not going to have goblins, wookiees, light sabers, or any other fantastical items.

I am planning this for a more limited run, maybe up to but not including level 7 (E6?).

The reason for limiting things is because I want to control the specific feel of the game. I want it to feel like one of those old 80's and early 90's movies. The setting is going to be mostly on the harder science fiction side, so that definitely puts limits on what can be included.


Ooh. Yummy, a third thread.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Again, I say, we'll argue about anything, won't we?

Kobold? KOBOLD? Why, you're nothing but a glorified dragonlet! How can you go around calling yourself a Kobold! ;)


Constrained all the way baby. In the sense, expansive but at the same time restricted. It is like constrained isn't even the appropriate word here, lol.


Pan wrote:
Constrained? Why so incendiary?

When incendiaries are constrained, I am a sad player.


Bruunwald wrote:
Arssanguinus wrote:
To be more constructive, perhaps we can list the merits and flaws of each model. And as a challenge, I would say how about the ones supporting one system list some of the merits of the other. At least try. I have no problem listing the merits of a kitchen sink setting: I sometimes use one myself, it's really good for sandbox campaigns, when I want to have one, for example.

This is very open minded of you.

However, I still fail to see why we need to keep doing this.

It's just an invitation to people demanding everybody else play their way and getting upset when they don't get the reaction they want. Or maybe getting upset IS what they want.

People deliberately get themselves upset and worked up so that they can complain and lecture others?

Well that doesn't seem right at all.

Liberty's Edge

Pig #1 wrote:
"Kitchen sink" is a relative term, bro.

So is "Constrained Setting"

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Again, I say, we'll argue about anything, won't we?

NO WE WON'T YOU ARE A LIAR RAWR!


I wonder what the extremes of this scale look like. Let's have a go.

Players determine everything:

* A collaborative storytelling game wherein the rules don't matter and there's no GM. Players can do anything, and what happens is not determined by dice but what's mutually agreed on. Yes, I have played in such games and it's been pretty good sometimes. You really do need the right players, though.

The other extreme, GM determines everything:

* The GM makes the setting, the characters, everything. The GM may even roll all the dice! I've played in a game like this before and had fun. It was Paranoia, and I 'won' by accident. Hurrah~ Oh, but you really do need the right GM for it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I have a preference both as a PC and a GM for a more constrained setting. My two favorite settings are very much limited in scope, Dragonlance and Dark Sun.

I'll be the first to admit though if I am invited to a Dragonlance game I do ask the time period so I know if I can then ask to play a draconian. If a GM says no I can find another race and be just as happy and interested in the game.

For me a limited scope for a world provides a greater sense of wonder and adventuring. It feels like there is something to be discovered, but if every tavern I walk into is the mos eisley, for me the wonder of the world goes away fast.

That's me though, I know some folks have that similar sense of wonder from the exact opposite. All good if everyone is having fun.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

A lecture that might be relevant to the position of having a more restrictive game.

The Paradox of Choice


ciretose wrote:
Pig #1 wrote:
"Kitchen sink" is a relative term, bro.
So is "Constrained Setting"

Yes, that too.

Are we really talking about "a setting with noticeable restrictions in place" vs. "a setting with no perceived restrictions"?

My homebrew setting, only with most other settings IMO, is in the gray area between the two extremes. The main continent is home to more than several dozen different types of monsters, and has a wide variety of player races, but it also has certain class restrictions and the nations in it are drawn from specific cultures.

Still, I don't want to call it constrained when an oread monk, a wayang oracle, a half-orc rogue, and an elf ranger can ride into battle on the back of a gargantuan foo smilodan against an invasion of hungry ghosts. It is slightly kitchen sinky.

I have on occasion bent some of my restrictions for my player's benefit. I hadn't written anything about elves in my world before the elf player came along. So I made her character one of the last of the elves, and we worked out that she was raised by an orc hunting band. It ended up being an awesome roleplaying experience, because her identity as an orc conflicted with the expectations of others who wanted her to be like the elves of legend. The whole process may have made my setting more kitchen sinky on an arbitrary scale, but nothing actually even changed. Except some lore, which took two seconds.

Liberty's Edge

pres man wrote:

A lecture that might be relevant to the position of having a more restrictive game.

The Paradox of Choice

I prefer the illusion of choice, myself.


I like both at the same time. Constrait at first to get the layout and feel and mood of the campaign and then after a certain point sandbox time.
I'd have to say it really depends on what I'm running. Constraint games are easier to manage and prepare for and sandbox games can really depend on the mood and brain working and if I've had enough spike in my coffee. They can run good or bad depending on me and my active imagination at the time.

I will say I'd have to lean more on constrained because I can get more bang outta the players with that route. I can have the area, npcs, shops, atmosphere, and culture and conflicts ready for the players.

Because sometimes, sometimes it sucks when u spent 2 weeks crafting npcs, shops, atmosphere, the location down to where the players can feel they are there....only to have them go "eh I wanna pass this town and go out in the fields there and pick some flowers and go get lost". They have every right to ask that especially in a sandbox but with a constrained campaign they know to go with the flow and thankfully I have players who are like that and still have fun and keep asking for more days to do games


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Matt Thomason wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Again, I say, we'll argue about anything, won't we?
Kobold? KOBOLD? Why, you're nothing but a glorified dragonlet! How can you go around calling yourself a Kobold! ;)

Okay, that does it. It's on! Where's my meat cleaver?


Continuing on from earlier post.

When I ran Second Darkness, the adventure begins in Riddleport. I basically made it a bit like Mos Eisley, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious." It also drew exotic scholars due to the Cyphergate. Putting these together and it made it likely that just about any race could be found there. There was little reason to be restrictive in that case.

I did let the party know that I was approaching this from the perspective that evil characters would probably work better than good ones. I didn't say that no one could play a good character, not even a paladin, but they had to make it work with the group. I took the whole don't associate with evil as fluff. I mean if Reed Richards can work with Dr. Doom, someone that had tried to kill Reed and his family multiple times, on occasions then surely a paladin could work with evil rogue. I think most people went with evil or neutral characters.


I would hazard a bet that few people run a setting with no constraints.

Even Golarion, which is pretty "kitchen sink" as settings go and was designed that way, still has genres that wouldn't work there.

To some degree I prefer a bit of kitchen sink. In real life there is a pretty strong kitchen sink feeling through history, and I think it gives a setting a bit of verisimilitude. I would expect that to be even more extreme in environments where gods are real, magic works, and humans are not the only sapient race. How well those settings work depend on the cooperation of players and the imagination/interest of the GM


pres man wrote:

A lecture that might be relevant to the position of having a more restrictive game.

The Paradox of Choice

That is hands down the best argument I've ever heard contrary to my native position. Thank you for that.


Vincent Takeda wrote:
pres man wrote:

A lecture that might be relevant to the position of having a more restrictive game.

The Paradox of Choice

That is hands down the best argument I've ever heard contrary to my native position. Thank you for that.

While limiting choice (within reason) may drive greater satisfaction, it must be the right choices.

One of the things that drove me towards embracing 3.5 and what drove me away from embracing PF was the idea of being able to play various "monsters". PF later come out with some rules for playing monsters and I applaud such a thing, but the overall design goal of the system has always been away from the idea.

But if we think back to when PF was first released, quite a lot of people were excited about only using the CRB and not all the splat books for 3.5. I think this was an expression of this limiting choice going to greater satisfaction. Now we see that the number of splat books are increasing for PF, and people will again begin to get more dissatisfied, despite having more choices, including the choice to just stick with the CRB.


whats funny is that although I am a simulationist sandboxer who is willing to run a group with the most ludicrous combination of players, playstyles and goals, I happen to prefer 2e where the options are much more restricted and not every decision is incentivized with a stat bonus.

I do entirely feel like monetizing actions with feats and bonuses has increased dissatisfaction and lowered the amount of imaginative options my players take.


MMCJawa wrote:

I would hazard a bet that few people run a setting with no constraints.

Even Golarion, which is pretty "kitchen sink" as settings go and was designed that way, still has genres that wouldn't work there.

This is true. Every setting has constraints. Hence, the question is not whether or not one should have constraints, but rather what kind of constraints should be used.

I think the best approach, the one which is the most fun for the most people at the table, is to be parsimonious with constraints. Don't unnecessarily introduce constraints and minimize the effect of constraints you do introduce. This is one reason I don't like using published settings. So much is already fixed that it can really limit what players and DMs can do.

I don't think you lose much by taking this approach. Instead of saying something like "all elves love and revere nature" you say "this elven society places a lot of importance on nature and most elves here love and revere nature". This leaves open the possibility of an elf that doesn't love and revere nature, whether that character is a PC or an NPC. Or, if you want to DM a game centered around a succession crisis in a dwarven kingdom, present that to your players. Don't say everyone has to play a dwarf, because that isn't necessary. Even if no one plays a dwarf character, the game will still work. When I was in a group playing through Second Darkness (where the latter half focuses almost entirely on elves and drow) there wasn't a single elf or half-elf PC. The game didn't explode.

Also, with strict constraints, you run the risk that your constraints don't make as much sense as you originally thought. As an extreme example of this, in another thread from the other day, someone brought up a hypothetical campaign set in the late-1800s American West. They mentioned constraining players by not letting them play Irish or Chinese characters. Someone else promptly responded, mentioning that constraint would be historically inaccurate. Most examples wouldn't be this extreme. But the lighter and fewer your constraints, the less likely it is for you to accidentally over-constrain.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Matt Thomason wrote:
Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Again, I say, we'll argue about anything, won't we?
Kobold? KOBOLD? Why, you're nothing but a glorified dragonlet! How can you go around calling yourself a Kobold! ;)
Okay, that does it. It's on! Where's my meat cleaver?

I've always wondered. Are you a Kobold who cleaves or someone who cleaves kobolds? (Or a Kobold who cleaves Kobold?)


The former, usually.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Vivianne Laflamme wrote:
MMCJawa wrote:

I would hazard a bet that few people run a setting with no constraints.

Even Golarion, which is pretty "kitchen sink" as settings go and was designed that way, still has genres that wouldn't work there.

This is true. Every setting has constraints. Hence, the question is not whether or not one should have constraints, but rather what kind of constraints should be used.

I think the best approach, the one which is the most fun for the most people at the table, is to be parsimonious with constraints. Don't unnecessarily introduce constraints and minimize the effect of constraints you do introduce. This is one reason I don't like using published settings. So much is already fixed that it can really limit what players and DMs can do.

I don't think you lose much by taking this approach. Instead of saying something like "all elves love and revere nature" you say "this elven society places a lot of importance on nature and most elves here love and revere nature". This leaves open the possibility of an elf that doesn't love and revere nature, whether that character is a PC or an NPC. Or, if you want to DM a game centered around a succession crisis in a dwarven kingdom, present that to your players. Don't say everyone has to play a dwarf, because that isn't necessary. Even if no one plays a dwarf character, the game will still work. When I was in a group playing through Second Darkness (where the latter half focuses almost entirely on elves and drow) there wasn't a single elf or half-elf PC. The game didn't explode.

Also, with strict constraints, you run the risk that your constraints don't make as much sense as you originally thought. As an extreme example of this, in another thread from the other day, someone brought up a hypothetical campaign set in the late-1800s American West. They mentioned constraining players by not letting them play Irish or Chinese characters. Someone else promptly responded, mentioning that constraint would be historically inaccurate. Most examples...

I have three lists basically. Red light is 'this does not exist, cannot be here'. This list is small and targeted. Green light is 'this is easy, likely automatic approval'. Anything not on those two lists is 'yellow light' as in 'I'm disinclined to put it in or didn't specifically include it, but talk to me and if you can make it fit the setting well, I'll add it. But you will have to do some work to make that happen.'


Vivianne Laflamme wrote:


I think the best approach, the one which is the most fun for the most people at the table, is to be parsimonious with constraints. Don't unnecessarily introduce constraints and minimize the effect of constraints you do introduce. This is one reason I don't like using published settings. So much is already fixed that it can really limit what players and DMs can do.

I don't think you lose much by taking this approach. Instead of saying something like "all elves love and revere nature" you say "this elven society places a lot of importance on nature and most elves here love and revere nature". This leaves open the possibility of an elf that doesn't love and revere nature, whether that character is a PC or an NPC. Or, if you want to DM a game centered around a succession crisis in a dwarven kingdom, present that to your players. Don't say everyone has to play a dwarf, because that isn't necessary. Even if no one plays a dwarf character, the game will still work. When I was in a group playing through Second Darkness (where the latter half focuses almost entirely on elves and drow) there wasn't a single elf or half-elf PC. The game didn't explode.

Also, with strict constraints, you run the risk that your constraints don't make as much sense as you originally thought. As an extreme example of this, in another thread from the other day, someone brought up a hypothetical campaign set in the late-1800s American West. They mentioned constraining players by not letting them play Irish or Chinese characters. Someone else promptly responded, mentioning that constraint would be historically inaccurate. Most examples...

Building on this...to me the most effective way to enforce certain constraints on settings is to try to build them up in a logical and consistent manner. Something that bothers me is when a DM/GM establishes some constraint that wasn't well thought of. The irish and chinese character thing above is an example.

Another is the "fantasy gun control" arguments. Personally there are plenty of ways to cleverly disallow/limit guns in a setting. But some of the reasons given are silly or break my brain. Saying firearms don't exist because magic is prevalent and the people who would experiment with gunpowder find magic more powerful and thus don't tinker with guns makes sense in my brain. Saying phosphorus doesn't exist just makes me googly eyed, since it's a key ingredient in living organisms, and it's removal would fundamentally change the basis of reality in a setting. Granted some audiences would find the above argument fine, but some players won't.


I like kitchen sinks, more or less, and I don't find them inherently unrealistic. When you think about it, the real world is the biggest damn kitchen sink ever, anyway.

It sometimes annoys me when the kitchen sinking is too blatant and delineated, though. Such that you have a straight solid black border that separates the armored knights land from the merchants and sailors land.

Golarion annoys me mildly on a similar level, in that I don't like the shapes of the countries, and there are not any nations that look kind of like this.

And yeah, not that much, because I understand that that would be an artist's nightmare, and that straightforward maps with a high proportion of vaguely rectangular or blobbish nations are way easier.


Coriat wrote:

I like kitchen sinks, more or less, and I don't find them inherently unrealistic. When you think about it, the real world is the biggest damn kitchen sink ever, anyway.

It sometimes annoys me when the kitchen sinking is too blatant and delineated, though. Such that you have a straight solid black border that separates the armored knights land from the merchants and sailors land.

Golarion annoys me mildly on a similar level, in that I don't like the shapes of the countries, and there are not any nations that look kind of like this.

And yeah, not that much, because I understand that that would be an artist's nightmare, and that straightforward maps with a high proportion of vaguely rectangular or blobbish nations are way easier.

I dunno. It depends on what you're talking about. Since most people seem to be focused on playable races, the real world seems pretty constrained. We've only got one. I don't think a world with dozens or more sapient races is more inherently realistic than that.

I get what you're saying about different nations and cultures being a bit too distinct. Neighboring countries may have their own reputations and distinctive traits, but they also share a lot with each other. Still, that's pretty orthogonal to the rest of the discussion.

I do find the games where the party is composed of 5 different races and/or cultures all rarely seen in the area to be somewhat unrealistic, unless that's a focus of the campaign. And it gets kind of old to have that be the regular focus.


I guess I like more kitchen sink stuff, but I have been told this is indicative of my youth and inexperience with rpgs. I don't know.

I mean, I dunno. Sometimes I just don't care about verisimilitude. I know that sounds weird, but sometimes the fact that my party is composed of weird races just doesn't enter my mind, because I'm too focused on how the story unfolds. In essence, I'm less concerned with "how would this party conceivably exist" than I am with "holy Crap what is that npc up to what are we going to do next can we trust anyone here?" I dunno. That's just me.

If we're talking just setting not-race wise, I prefer a limited scope within a country, but with a pretty diverse culture, if that makes sense. I should point out I'm not really too jazzed about all of golarion and prefer to put my own spin on it.

I want to run a game where players can play a large amount of races, because I want to focus on the fact that the pcs, being adventures, are viewed as misfits and disposable... If that makes sense.

Community / Forums / Gamer Life / General Discussion / Kitchen Sink vs Constrained setting All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in General Discussion