Do you like your games to move or remain largely stationary? This seems to me to be an important question. D&D games tend to follow the Lord of the Rings example. That is to say they start out somewhere relatively safe and involve a long journey into danger on some kind of quest. While Vampire games (and most White Wolf games in general) tend to be rooted in the intrigues and events within a single city or town. Very few D&D games revolve around the politics of a single city and an equally few number of Vampire games involve much travel that isn’t like traveling for business in real life; you go in order to accomplish a specific purpose, it’s a hassle, you do what came to do, then you go home.
I have, however, seen examples of both games that went in the opposite direction you’d have expected them to. Many would say that it is purely a choice on the GM’s part and that is a lot of it, but I don’t think it is all of it. Assuming you don’t choose either the square hole or the round one and jam your game into whichever one you’ve predetermined will “fit”, of course, any game can really go in any direction. Game mechanics have a lot say on the matter as well and so does how the PCs built their characters and how those characters react to the information the GM gives them.
It is possible for Vampires to decide life on the road is where it’s at. It is also possible for a group of adventurers to by premises and set up shop. The reason these things don’t happen all the time is each games individual mechanics. Vampires die in the sun. It is simply easier to setup a hole that you always hide in than it is to find a new hole every day. D&D adventurers gain experience from killing monsters and while people can make fine monsters at low levels, one usually has to go where the people aren’t to find the high level monsters. One would almost think that people don’t enjoy living in the same cave as a horde of trolls.
The GM can make decisions to alter these circumstances if they so desire. Demons could infest a city and that city could need the help of some stalwart adventurers to get to the bottom of the problem and solve it. A vampire could find them self in possession of the most awesome Winnebago of the night ever designed; one with a wet bar, a jacuzi, fold out disco dance floor, and coffin sized storage compartment in the floor where the waste tank ought to be.
What the players decide do with those circumstances is also very important though. Do they take the Winnebago on the road or stick with the apartment? Do they settle in the town or look for the cave into the netherworld where all these Demons are obviously coming from? You really have to look at your players and figure out what you (as a group) want to do.
At the moment my Alternity game has been alternating (lol) between sitting stationary in a given system for weeks to months and moving around. Partially because the story line the players are dealing with entails looking for things that are not all in one convenient location and partially because the players have a desire to explore, but mostly because that’s what the players want to do. I’ve given them a few options to settle down, but they seem to me to prefer having their own ship and being on a quest. So that’s what we’re doing. Actually, they’ve recently figured out a way to take a little from each option at the same time, but that’s neither here nor there (it’s both!).
For a while I was feeling guilty because stationary games often have a great deal more going on in them, plot wise, than do traveling games. In stationary games you can have contacts and influence and there is usually the option of exploring many avenues of interest at once. While traveling games often play out with the PCs following a trail of plot crumbs laid out by the GM instead of enjoying any true self-determination. You end up with everything that is set before them being sniffed over for the scent of “plot” and then being discarded when that odor isn’t immediately found.
After thinking about it though and I give them a ton of options on where to go and what avenues of information to follow. They all know me so are aware that I’m not set on any one of those hooks being the one this whole game hinges upon. When they ask for more, I oblige them by suggesting yet more options for them to chew on. When they completely ignore something I’ve set out, I store it away just in case they decide to come back to it, but I don’t punish them for avoiding it or mourn for the loss of the plot line.
In the end it would seem that I’m more of a stationary game person, but my players enjoy living like space gypsies. It felt awkward to me at first to allow this because it is a little against my own nature as a player, but we’ve come to a pretty good balance and everyone is enjoying themselves. What more could I ask for? Tentacle beasts. That’s it. There haven’t been nearly enough tentacle beasts in the game. Note to self…