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Darth Ultron
2018-02-04, 11:07 PM
'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase when applied to TRPG. Really, the term is pointless. One of the most basic and fundamental things about most TRPG is the Freedom of Choice. Anything can Happen. A DM can do anything they can think of, on a whim. A player can have a character try to do anything they think of, on a whim. In theory, it's total Freedom of Choice.

So why does everyone somehow think TRPG's have ''No Choices'' ?

I blame the Role Playing Video Gamers.

Role Playing Video Games are the worst kind of No Choice Railroad Plot type games. But then they Have to be. A video game is finite. It's made by a couple people, and realistically, they can only program so much into the game. It's simple enough: anything in a video game has to not only be thought of by someone, but it also has to be programed into the game by someone. The player of a video game can only do what is already programed into the game to be done.

Of course, anyone who has ever played a role playing video game knows this well. A lot of the stuff in any video game is pure background. A tree or even building in the background can only just be walked by, and nothing else. There is no button you can push, nothing you can do at all, to say have your video game character chop down a background tree. If someone has programed into the game a set tree you can chop down, then your video game character can chop that tree down....but only if someone put that into the game. And this is true of other things in the game too. The innkeeper NPC will always say the game think when you click on the 'talk' button. Even if the innkeeper can say say five or ten or even twenty random things...well they can still only say that set number of things...whatever is programed into the game.

In most role playing video games you have to follow the plot the creators programed into the game: there is nothing else meaningful to do in the game. Anything with any real meaning or substance is programed in as part of the plot, because that is the whole reason the video game even exists. Some video games might have some side things programed in or even just 'busy' things you can do that are not part of the games plot, but still you can only do them if someone has programed them into the game.

So then all the role playing video gamers sit down and play a Pen and Paper or Table Top RPG, and bring that role playing video game bias with them. Play a couple role playing video games and you will often get bored with the No Choice Railroad Plot. As much fun as the role playing video game is your just jumping through the hoops someone programed into the game. But Table Top RPG's are not like that. In the TRPG the player can do anything, and that is and will always be very appealing. A TRPG with a DM, a real life person, can make the game play do anything, more then any role playing video game with a program can ever do.

Any well written TRPG adventure is a ''sandbox'', and you don't even really need to say it. The Freedom of Choice is a basic part of the game. It's not the pure random freedom chaos of the Storytelling activity, but it's nowhere near the No Choice Railroad of role playing video games. A writer of a well written TRPG adventure anticipates what the players might want or try to do and puts it in the adventure. The players don't have to do anything, but there are things there for them to see, find and do. The players can, of course, at least try to do anything and the DM can make, create or do anything, on a whim, as needed. Any well written TRPG adventure is full of ''if's''; if the players do this or that or if this or that happens.

Really, the only way a TRPG can't be a Sandbox is if the game has a DM that is a Jerk, or is just a Bad DM. Of course, some people are jerks and that is just life. While some people are just bad at being a DM, a lot more bad DMing simply comes from lack of ability and real life experience. And this is where the dreaded Railroad comes in for most people: where the DM makes or forces no choice. As structured linear things still need to happen to advance any plot, they still do need to happen in a TRPG. But a good or even average DM can at least soften the blow and make it not such a high lighted obvious big deal to be noticed. The Jerk DM, of course, simply does not care as they are just being a jerk; and the Bad DM with just make the blow hard, highlighted and very obvious: exactly like many role playing video games.

So 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase for a TRPG.

Xuc Xac
2018-02-04, 11:17 PM
'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase when applied to TRPG. ...
So 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase for a TRPG.

Well, that was certainly a passionate rant against what you seem to think "sandbox" means. You never defined your terms and you seem to be using it with a different meaning, so maybe that's why you don't see the point.

Wasteomana
2018-02-04, 11:24 PM
Well, that was certainly a passionate rant against what you seem to think "sandbox" means. You never defined your terms and you seem to be using it with a different meaning, so maybe that's why you don't see the point.

Basically this. I have found Sandbox to be a quite useful phrase for defining the kind of game people want. Sure some people want decade long campaigns where they are the masters of their destiny and everything can change with the roll of the D20 or a well-turned phrase. Some people want to delve into a dungeon and murderhobo their way through randomly generated encounters.

This entire rant carries with it a strong sense of "there is only one good type of campaign" or "my way is the right way" which makes me cringe.

I've been playing for a long long time and played D&D before any video games. I remember my early games being random, brutal and really only having the choices the DM gave us and not a lot more. I enjoyed that style and, with the right player buy-in, I could still enjoy that style today.

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-05, 05:43 AM
This entire rant carries with it a strong sense of "there is only one good type of campaign" or "my way is the right way" which makes me cringe.

Welcome to Darth Ultron. Now watch as he uses the fact that he didn't use those exact words to claim you're trying to make him look bad.

That's exactly what happened in the other thread where a 'linear versus sandbox' discussion appeared. Although DU was the one who started it off, I had little fun reading his contributions because they boiled down to 'you're stupid for not immediately agreeing with my unstated definitions and using the standard ones on this board'.

I mean, at it's core DU's premise isn't wrong. All games except the most linear do include some sandbox elements. He just refuses to admit that there's a spectrum of 'linear to sandbox' and that people do legitimately enjoy games with minimal linear elements as a legitimate style. He's even insisted that sandbox scenarios only exist until the players decide they want more than 'random messing about', refusing to believe that a plot could emerge from it without the GM having to write an adventure.

Florian
2018-02-05, 06:37 AM
I mean, at it's core DU's premise isn't wrong. All games except the most linear do include some sandbox elements. He just refuses to admit that there's a spectrum of 'linear to sandbox' and that people do legitimately enjoy games with minimal linear elements as a legitimate style. He's even insisted that sandbox scenarios only exist until the players decide they want more than 'random messing about', refusing to believe that a plot could emerge from it without the GM having to write an adventure.

I think itīs more a reaction on how some folks define and advocate "agency". I mean, even in a very classic Hex Crawl (think Wilderlands), you populate the map with stuff to interact with in some way, hex by hex. Decisions for this can be "Gygaxian Naturalism", aka. creating random tables that should reflect something (here's a swamp, let's use the Swamp table), whimsy (I think I place the City State of the Invincible Overlord... here, and the setting equivalent of Innsmouth.. there.) to a bit of simulationism (Itīs a national border, so there should be a watchtower or fort every 4 hexes).

Now the way some folks write about their gaming style, "agency" seems to mean absolute whimsy and being pīd off when that doesn't work out as they intended. You come across the "Haunted House on the Hill" and declare that you want to investigate it in the next session, all is fine, you engage in a small site-based adventure that the gm has to prep. You get roped into the "Three Cults War in the City State", you engage with a small linear adventure based on a timeline. But the way itīs often phrased, even that minimal level of preparation shouldn't happen.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-05, 07:53 AM
Well, that was certainly a passionate rant against what you seem to think "sandbox" means. You never defined your terms and you seem to be using it with a different meaning, so maybe that's why you don't see the point.

What term did I miss defining? Let me know and I'll post it.


Basically this. I have found Sandbox to be a quite useful phrase for defining the kind of game people want. Sure some people want decade long campaigns where they are the masters of their destiny and everything can change with the roll of the D20 or a well-turned phrase. Some people want to delve into a dungeon and murderhobo their way through randomly generated encounters.

This entire rant carries with it a strong sense of "there is only one good type of campaign" or "my way is the right way" which makes me cringe.


I agree that ''sandbox'' is a popular code word for ''cool game'', but my point is that it is meaningless. A lot like most modern buzz words, ''sandbox'' means ''whatever you want to mean (as long as it is good)"

It's typical of people to ''read'' things into whatever I type, so your not alone there.


I mean, at it's core DU's premise isn't wrong. All games except the most linear do include some sandbox elements. He just refuses to admit that there's a spectrum of 'linear to sandbox' and that people do legitimately enjoy games with minimal linear elements as a legitimate style. He's even insisted that sandbox scenarios only exist until the players decide they want more than 'random messing about', refusing to believe that a plot could emerge from it without the GM having to write an adventure.

I don't agree with the basic idea that you can do X amount of a thing, but still stomp your feet and demand that everyone must agree with you that your not doing X, until you personally say so. It's like saying you can commit 200 crimes and just be a 'normal citizen', but as soon as you do crime 201 you are a 'criminal'. That is not how it works.

And yes, it's typical in a some games for the DM to not prepare any adventure for the game session and just let the players 'randomly do whatever they want', often for hours. And some players do in fact, love doing nothing meaningful and of consequence, often for hours. Though most players do want to get to the more adventure part of the game. So, eventually, the players will pick something to do...either from the DM's hooks or just make something up themselves to do. Then the DM makes an adventure and it's a normal game.

I guess you might be talking about the One Step Too Far, where a Lazy DM, even once the players pick something to do, does not make an adventure. The Lazy DM just extends the sandbox play for a time, until the players make up (''emerge'') everything about the plot and adventure. Then the Lazy DM just needs to make the adventure the players made for them. Though if the DM is just the casual type, who will just Quantum Ogre whatever the players do, right in front of their characters to make an ''emergent'' plot, that is a whole other game type style.


I think itīs more a reaction on how some folks define and advocate "agency".

I think so too.

Eldan
2018-02-05, 08:07 AM
I think I'll just lay out how I think about Sandbox games as opposed to non-Sandbox ("classical") games.

For me, a "Classical" non-Sandbox game would be one where I sit down with the players before the game and tell them "Okay, I have written a rough outline of a campaign. I'd like you all to play characters that fulfill this condition and we'll mostly be staying in this general area". So, something like "You're all members of the explorer's guild", "You're all kobolds", "You're all hired to guard this caravan". It's a game where I, as the DM, have a plot outline with a beginning and end. How the players get from the beginning to end can still be quite open, but I'll usually geographically restrict it a bit. If the story I thought of is about saving the City of Redport from a demon cult, I'd roll my eyes at least if the players decided to jump on the first ship and sail to another continent. I'd call that miscommunication of expectations between players and DM.

A sandbox would be more the kind of game where I lay out a map and a few adventure threads the players might follow and then let them go wild exploring. Where they set their own goals, and those goals will be the main focus of the campaign, instead of a side-goal.

inexorabletruth
2018-02-05, 08:18 AM
I see your point, Darth, and it sounds like you recently had a run in with a frustrating DM, but please allow me to counterpoint.

First, RPG video games can be sandbox games. "A sandbox is a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will. In contrast to a progression-style game, a sandbox game emphasizes roaming and allows a gamer to select tasks." (Techopedia) I've seen and played quite a few, and I enjoy them greatly. I recently built a blacksmith in Skyrim. He's married, with two kids, and doesn't care much for adventuring. Sure, the options you have are still limited by the programs capabilities, but you still have the options to choose your own adventure.

Secondly, not all railroaded campaigns are run by bad DMs. I'm generally the DM in my campaigns. And sometimes I just want to run a simple "kick-in-the-door" campaign. I explain to my players, ahead of time, that the campaign I'm running is on the tracks... there's no plot. Enter the dungeon, kill the boss, get the loot, head to town, buy better gear, repeat. It can be a great way to energize players when RP heavy campaigns start to bog down... or just a fun way to kill an hour. The players who agree to the terms always seem to have a blast, and often appreciate the dip in the shallow waters, so to speak.

Thirdly, some DMs can be aggravating. Some players can be frustrating too. But I think the purpose of a game is to have fun, so I believe that as players, and as DMs, we're all trying to achieve that goal. I don't think it's productive to presume that DMs who prefer one style of play over another are jerks. The disparity doesn't intrinsically come from an antagonizing personality. It could simply be paradigm preferences, lack of experience, or a simply misinterpretation of their players gameplay preferences.

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-05, 08:32 AM
I think itīs more a reaction on how some folks define and advocate "agency". I mean, even in a very classic Hex Crawl (think Wilderlands), you populate the map with stuff to interact with in some way, hex by hex. Decisions for this can be "Gygaxian Naturalism", aka. creating random tables that should reflect something (here's a swamp, let's use the Swamp table), whimsy (I think I place the City State of the Invincible Overlord... here, and the setting equivalent of Innsmouth.. there.) to a bit of simulationism (Itīs a national border, so there should be a watchtower or fort every 4 hexes).

Now the way some folks write about their gaming style, "agency" seems to mean absolute whimsy and being pīd off when that doesn't work out as they intended. You come across the "Haunted House on the Hill" and declare that you want to investigate it in the next session, all is fine, you engage in a small site-based adventure that the gm has to prep. You get roped into the "Three Cults War in the City State", you engage with a small linear adventure based on a timeline. But the way itīs often phrased, even that minimal level of preparation shouldn't happen.

Here's the thing, I 100% agree with you, and I actually agree with quite a bit of what Darth Ultron says on these forums (down to 'most groups prefer light railroading over having no goal'). Plus if we get onto agency we'll argue until the universe undergoes heat death, especially because we're going to have to get into 'real' agency versus 'perceived' agency.

Heck, my actual style is mostly what DU talks about, I'll drop PCs in a sandbox with a goal and some planned situations I can build an adventure out of (I believe in lego adventures where you can move the bricks around). I'll also agree that there has been a large bias towards pushing sandboxes over the past decade or so (not sure about how much beforehand), which I suspect is a backlash to the push that happened about plot being the most important thing.

The problem is now a backlash against sandboxing is developing, I've occasionally had group members complain when I do as much as buy a horse (okay, that happened once). I once decided that when we were having trouble investigating I'd make myself visible by street preaching in the temple distract, and was told by the group I was wasting my time by not following the leads we had (that were failing to give any progress, so I thought being visible would draw either help or harm).


I don't agree with the basic idea that you can do X amount of a thing, but still stomp your feet and demand that everyone must agree with you that your not doing X, until you personally say so. It's like saying you can commit 200 crimes and just be a 'normal citizen', but as soon as you do crime 201 you are a 'criminal'. That is not how it works.

And yes, it's typical in a some games for the DM to not prepare any adventure for the game session and just let the players 'randomly do whatever they want', often for hours. And some players do in fact, love doing nothing meaningful and of consequence, often for hours. Though most players do want to get to the more adventure part of the game. So, eventually, the players will pick something to do...either from the DM's hooks or just make something up themselves to do. Then the DM makes an adventure and it's a normal game.

I guess you might be talking about the One Step Too Far, where a Lazy DM, even once the players pick something to do, does not make an adventure. The Lazy DM just extends the sandbox play for a time, until the players make up (''emerge'') everything about the plot and adventure. Then the Lazy DM just needs to make the adventure the players made for them. Though if the DM is just the casual type, who will just Quantum Ogre whatever the players do, right in front of their characters to make an ''emergent'' plot, that is a whole other game type style.

I'm saying it's a scale, and it's important to realise games can be more or less sandbox. You seem to only consider three categories, 'heavily railroaded', 'plotted', and 'utter chaos', without realising that a lot of games aren't any of those three.

Segev
2018-02-05, 10:58 AM
Does it strike anybody else that this is almost a 180 from Darth Ultron's usual position? Ignore the thesis title of the thread and read the post itself, and how he characterizes tabletop RPGs in it.

That said, I agree with a lot of his post, this time around. Not the thesis, but with the notion that the allure of tabletop RPGs vs. video games is the level of freedom and the ability for the depth of the game setting to be focused just where the players focus their attention.

I disagree with the thesis, however, because "sandbox" is a useful term to describe a style of gameplay where the GM doesn't have a Big Thing happening - either in the foreground or background - but rather has a lot of small to moderate things, some of which may or may not build up to big things as the players get involved. Lots is going on, and what gets developed depends on what the players latch onto.

The one game I'm running right now (an Exalted game) actually isn't a sandbox, though it has a great deal of freedom for how the players explore the issues that face them. I had a small number of hooks, and most were related to the same starting problem. I have a few side plots, which can reveal some things in different orders if they go down them. And players chose which paths they'd take to find things out, which impacts the order in which they learn things and what things they learn.

However, there is one big thing and several smaller things, not all related, going on, not a broad world with umpteen things that will develop independently of each other, or impacting each other on the smaller scale. I don't have that broad a setting developed. My game is not a sandbox. If the PCs had taken interest in playing in one, I'd have tried shifting it to accommodate, but that isn't what this game is.

The extreme end of "sandbox" actually is achieved in one video game that's very popular, for the record: Minecraft.

JeenLeen
2018-02-05, 11:34 AM
I think the term is useful if people use it in a consistent way. At least, with my group, we use it to mean a standard thing, which seems to be the definition most here are using.

I generally play games in 1 of 3 points along a gradient:
1) we're running a module, and there's restrictions on what types of PCs to make and it's understood the players should have some reason their characters care about the plot. The DM will improvise when the players have cool ideas, but things are fairly set in stone & if the PCs just leave town (or equivalent) the game stalls
Example: most modules, e.g., Pathfinder assuming you are members of the Pathfinder Society

2) the game has a fairly set plot, and while the DM will improvise if the players just leave the rails, something bad will likely happen as a natural consequence and the game will likely stall. Still a lot of flexibility in how we do things and plenty of NPCs to interact with and go on side-plots with.
E.g., an Exalted game we were in. If we had just ignored things, bad stuff like Nexus turning into a shadowland or fey-realm would've happened.

3) the game is pretty much an open sandbox, but there's an overarching quest. Plot points related to it pop up every few weeks to months in-game, so our characters have time to focus on other stuff. We could ignore the plot-points if we want, but that generally has detrimental side effects. Sometimes major story arcs are the side-effect of us interacting with NPCs that were tangential to the main plot.
E.g., a Mage game we were in that had an overarching plot of saving the universe but a lot of stuff just dealing with the local city or region as sandbox

Note that #1 and #2 are pretty close together, and #2 and #3 are pretty close together, as we get away from reliance on pre-set modules and relying more on GM creativity.

Wasteomana
2018-02-05, 04:27 PM
I agree that ''sandbox'' is a popular code word for ''cool game'', but my point is that it is meaningless. A lot like most modern buzz words, ''sandbox'' means ''whatever you want to mean (as long as it is good)"

It's typical of people to ''read'' things into whatever I type, so your not alone there.

I didn't say that. If you actually read the words on the page, without your dismissive "reading into things", you will see that I didn't say Sandbox = Good, Not Sandbox = Bad. I said it can be a useful term for defining what kind of games people want. If people want a more freeform, player driven, group experience then it can be a helpful tool. The upside of that style is that the players feel they have a lot of agency to move around, they often feel they are the center of the plot and feel the sense of freedom the game can offer. The downside is that they often need to put a lot more work into the game than showing up and rolling some dice. The game can stall out if everything is player driven if the players don't have a way forward, aren't used to that much freedom (new players and very old-school players especially) and so it feels like they are wandering around not getting anything done. That is a possible downside. Personally I call this style of play, or at least the DM that supports it best, an "Enabler" DM.

On the far other end of the Spectrum (and yes it is a spectrum with a lot in the middle and a bunch of other variables), you have a game with a concrete plot, defined edges and a clear story being told. People who run modules 'as written' or near to it work very well with this style. It might have less freedom, be dictated by the dm/module but that doesn't make it a bad experience. If the player buy-in is that we are playing "The Keep on the Shadowfell" and everyone has agreed to it, that means there is an assumption that the group will explore the Keep and not do something else. This works especially well with new players who don't really know what all they are free to do at table and are looking for structure to guide them. It also works well for the woman who is working 60 hours a week and doesn't want to think that hard on her time off, but wants to roll dice and enjoy food with friends. Personally I call this style of play, or at least the DM that supports it best, a "Director" DM.

The basic point I'm making here is that the key to a successful, enjoyable, long lasting game is matching player expectations with DM expectations. Discussing how much of a 'sandbox' the game is going to be is a useful slider to use to see what everyone's expectation is going to be for the game.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-05, 04:30 PM
I didn't say that.


If you keep engaging with that one, you'll find yourself having to make that clarification quite often.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-05, 04:34 PM
I agree it's pretty much meaningless ... when used to describe gameplay. Especially for single person or single party games. The gameplay itself, the experience, is only one resulting path through the content regardless of options available. Freedom of choices being theoretically infinite in an TRPG doesn't change this.

However, if the term is used to apply explicitly or implicitly to the content, it can haz meaning. Content itself can be designed on any continuum between "completely linear" and "completely non-linear". Which are often referred to as "sandbox" and "railroad". And this applies to both CRPGs and TRPGs. Amount of available choices being finite (CRPGs) vs the illusion of infinite (TRPGs via a GM) doesn't change that linearity is a continuum. It just changes how hard the content designers have to work to implement it in their content. As well as the possible lower bound (ie how close you can come to completely non-linear).

Of course, where people draw the line on that continuum is fairly arbitrary, especially if as noted above, they're only experiencing the content once. They've got a restricted view of the content. If you want to use that to say the word is "meaningless", go for it. :smallamused:

The distinction isn't in what's already happened, it's in what has yet to happen.

"Infinite choice" is a strawman, an extreme example that is used to disprove the falsely excluded middle.

The fact that I can't leap into the air and fly by will alone doesn't mean I don't have free will, and when gaming the choice isn't between "total railroad" or "absolutely uncontrolled chaos".

Psikerlord
2018-02-05, 06:01 PM
I find sandbox and linear/structured helpful labels for discussion. The terms have been in use for a long time for a reason.

ross
2018-02-05, 06:31 PM
lol, this guy's just gonna make a "x is meaningless" thread for every word in the english language

Cluedrew
2018-02-05, 07:00 PM
Welcome to Darth Ultron.You can check out any time you like, but he will never leave.

That just popped into my head when I read that line. And yes, it is to the music of Hotel California. ... Although if anyone is here just to complain about Darth Ultron, you might want to check out.


Does it strike anybody else that this is almost a 180 from Darth Ultron's usual position? Ignore the thesis title of the thread and read the post itself, and how he characterizes tabletop RPGs in it.That is the weird thing I noticed too. He seems to say that it is meaningless because it applies to any non-dysfunctional game is a sandbox. Which is a very sharp contrast to the usual "sandboxes are pathetic random garbage" tone.

Oddly, as I understand it, this is almost symmetric with my complaint of how he often uses the word railroading. The times it means any meaningful contribution to the game on the GMs part beyond just responding to player- whim.

Personally, I feel sandbox is meaningful, actually I think it is a pretty well defined term as far as role-playing games go (more well defined than "role-playing game" for instance) describing a particular style of setting focused game. Where "where to next" is a big question and low focus or lack of a single threat that must be addressed. I would say more but I said it is well defined for a role-playing term.

Jay R
2018-02-05, 08:41 PM
The term "sandbox" is not perfectly defined in a single unambiguous way that fits every conversation. But that doesn't make it a meaningless phrase; it makes it a vague one.

It has been used to communicate many times. It has conveyed meaning. Therefore it is not meaningless.

Milo v3
2018-02-06, 06:28 AM
I feel like I should apologise for linking definitions of Sandbox to Darth Ultron.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-06, 07:33 AM
That is the weird thing I noticed too. He seems to say that it is meaningless because it applies to any non-dysfunctional game is a sandbox. Which is a very sharp contrast to the usual "sandboxes are pathetic random garbage" tone.

Oddly, as I understand it, this is almost symmetric with my complaint of how he often uses the word railroading. The times it means any meaningful contribution to the game on the GMs part beyond just responding to player- whim.


It's two things.

One, if he distorts "railroading" to include as much of what most GMs do as possible, he can claim that all GMs railroad, and since all GMs railroad and it includes all this reasonable stuff, it can't actually be bad -- thus "justifying" the actual railroading he actually does.

Two, by asserting the false dichotomy that the only alternative to "railroading" is the GM sitting there passively responding to the players and giving them whatever they want, he seeks to prop up the first part, AND he can implicitly or explicitly state "well you don't want to be a passive useless yes-man GM, so you'd better railroad, right?"


{It's another version of the "if I define this term broadly enough and get people to agree, I can then imply that they agreed with me on the narrow version and win the argument" that's happened in other gaming debates (see, "all gaming is about story" debate recently here).}


On the flipside, and oddly, you'll see something like that ultra-broad and deceptively-open definition of "railroading" from the far opposite point from DU on the gaming landscape -- there really have been those who insisted that anything the GM actively does is "railroading" as an argument for eliminating the GM completely, shared narrative control, or other devices that take control of the setting and NPCs away from one player and divide it up evenly or whatever.

Grek
2018-02-06, 07:44 AM
But 'meaningless phrase' is a meaningless phrase. I mean, think about it. If it were actually meaningless, you wouldn't be able to parse that sentence at all. Your thesis here isn't that 'Sandbox' is 'meaningless' but that you hate railroad plots. Fine. Railroad plots are quite bad. Nobody disagrees with that. Nobody needed to be informed that you thought that - they could have inferred it directly from the fact that you play TTRPGs. Everyone who plays TTRPGs hates being subjected to a railroad plot. What we're left with is an unnecessary rant about how Video Games are the Devil.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-06, 09:09 AM
A sandbox would be more the kind of game where I lay out a map and a few adventure threads the players might follow and then let them go wild exploring. Where they set their own goals, and those goals will be the main focus of the campaign, instead of a side-goal.

This sounds about right....except once the players stop ''sandboxing around'' and want to go on an adventure, then you as the DM need to make the adventure.




First, RPG video games can be sandbox games. "A sandbox is a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will. In contrast to a progression-style game, a sandbox game emphasizes roaming and allows a gamer to select tasks." (Techopedia) I've seen and played quite a few, and I enjoy them greatly. I recently built a blacksmith in Skyrim. He's married, with two kids, and doesn't care much for adventuring. Sure, the options you have are still limited by the programs capabilities, but you still have the options to choose your own adventure.

I call this the Second Life Activity, and it's not really a ''game''. It's simply a player making a character and 'virtually living' a second life. Exactly like Second Life(It's a virtual world were you can live a second life). Once upon a time, I was a crafter in Star Wars Galaxies(long, long ago..before they ruined it for the first time). I'd log in, craft some stuff, sell some stuff and log out. I lot like I'd just your blacksmith would do. Though, you have to admit that being something like a blacksmith in Skyrim is not ''playing the game''.



Secondly, not all railroaded campaigns are run by bad DMs. I'm generally the DM in my campaigns. And sometimes I just want to run a simple "kick-in-the-door" campaign. I explain to my players, ahead of time, that the campaign I'm running is on the tracks... there's no plot. Enter the dungeon, kill the boss, get the loot, head to town, buy better gear, repeat. It can be a great way to energize players when RP heavy campaigns start to bog down... or just a fun way to kill an hour. The players who agree to the terms always seem to have a blast, and often appreciate the dip in the shallow waters, so to speak.

I know this well, I'm a good DM that ruins a hardcore railroad. Many more bad DMs run what they call 'sandboxes'.



The problem is now a backlash against sandboxing is developing, I've occasionally had group members complain when I do as much as buy a horse (okay, that happened once). I once decided that when we were having trouble investigating I'd make myself visible by street preaching in the temple distract, and was told by the group I was wasting my time by not following the leads we had (that were failing to give any progress, so I thought being visible would draw either help or harm).

I have not seen any of this backlash. Though I'm a Huge nitpicker of not wasting time in a game, in general. I hate it when players want to say ''sit in a tavern and pretend to drink for five hours'' and do absolutely nothing of value or substance, except waste time. BUT I do love deep, detailed role playing as part of the adventure. So if the characters are looking for a contact as part of an adventure, I'm more then fine with role playing out a tavern drinking scene. Though I also craft, make, even force for things to happen in the game.


Does it strike anybody else that this is almost a 180 from Darth Ultron's usual position? Ignore the thesis title of the thread and read the post itself, and how he characterizes tabletop RPGs in it.

Not sure where you see the 180?



I disagree with the thesis, however, because "sandbox" is a useful term to describe a style of gameplay where the GM doesn't have a Big Thing happening - either in the foreground or background - but rather has a lot of small to moderate things, some of which may or may not build up to big things as the players get involved. Lots is going on, and what gets developed depends on what the players latch onto.

I get the mini things, but I'm not so sure of the premise. This might be another video game thing carried over into TRPGs. A lot, if not all, video games, are all about the Big Thing. Even more so the Super Big Amazing Wondrous Thing that is Super Special. But this is how you sell video games you the typical video game player, lots of hype and lots of big things: You the Big Dam Hero must stop the Evil Dragon Queen, before she destroys the universe!. And, this has crept into TRPG over the last couple years too..as they try to attract the video gamers.

But a TRPG does not need to be so Super Duper Awesome...it can just be something happening somewhere. Like giant rats in a sewer with a Rat Lord. A group of bandits. A werewolf killer. And so on. Just little things. I've never been one for the: Pop Quiz Hot Shot-the demon monster will destroy the world at midnight- "what do you do?" I'm more for ''the cult will summon a succubus at midnight'', so not exactly ''the world will end'', but even 'one lone demon' will sure cause troubles(but still not blow up the world).

But this is more of just a Way to Play. Some gamers only want to do the ''we gotz to save the world!" and would never want to play a game with ''what? We just have to defend a bridge?".



The extreme end of "sandbox" actually is achieved in one video game that's very popular, for the record: Minecraft.

And, like I said: Second Life.


I didn't say that. If you actually read the words on the page, without your dismissive "reading into things", you will see that I didn't say Sandbox = Good, Not Sandbox = Bad. I said it can be a useful term for defining what kind of games people want. If people want a more freeform, player driven, group experience then it can be a helpful tool. The upside of that style is that the players feel they have a lot of agency to move around, they often feel they are the center of the plot and feel the sense of freedom the game can offer. The downside is that they often need to put a lot more work into the game than showing up and rolling some dice. The game can stall out if everything is player driven if the players don't have a way forward, aren't used to that much freedom (new players and very old-school players especially) and so it feels like they are wandering around not getting anything done. That is a possible downside. Personally I call this style of play, or at least the DM that supports it best, an "Enabler" DM.

You sure make the Sandbox sound all Touchy Feely, but guess people like that.



The basic point I'm making here is that the key to a successful, enjoyable, long lasting game is matching player expectations with DM expectations. Discussing how much of a 'sandbox' the game is going to be is a useful slider to use to see what everyone's expectation is going to be for the game.

Except your stuck on the Sandbox=Ultimate cool touchy feely or anything you want it to be and Normal game=Eh, ok, but boring.

My point is all games have 'sandboxes' in them. Yes you can do the random mess for a while and have tons of fun, but once the players pick anything of substance to do you need structure and a plot...the ''something'' it's a normal game. And in a normal game, it's all ready a 'sandbox': the players can at least ''try'' anything.




That is the weird thing I noticed too.

I don't really get what you ''see''?

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-06, 09:31 AM
I have not seen any of this backlash. Though I'm a Huge nitpicker of not wasting time in a game, in general. I hate it when players want to say ''sit in a tavern and pretend to drink for five hours'' and do absolutely nothing of value or substance, except waste time. BUT I do love deep, detailed role playing as part of the adventure. So if the characters are looking for a contact as part of an adventure, I'm more then fine with role playing out a tavern drinking scene. Though I also craft, make, even force for things to happen in the game.

As somebody who did participate in an hour of roleplaying our characters sitting around drinking beer and talking (while we were sitting around drinking beer* and talking), it wasn't wasting time. It was a much slower game, but we all had fun using it as an excuse to get to know each other's characters, work out our motivations, and so on. No contact, although we kept the GM engaged by making the staff part of the conversation.

But here's the thing, you're not seeing the backlash because you're part of the backlash. Such as how I don't see a lot of the anti-'GM may I' backlash because I'm an active part of it.

Also, that last sentence, that's a great description of railroading. 'When the GM crafts, makes, or forces things to happen for the sake of "the game"'. And railroadinging isn't a bad thing when it's taken in moderation.

(Although I do use railroading differently to many people on this forum, who only use it for the extreme cases.)

* All ales actually, that was a very anti-lager group.

Segev
2018-02-06, 11:18 AM
But 'meaningless phrase' is a meaningless phrase. I mean, think about it. If it were actually meaningless, you wouldn't be able to parse that sentence at all. Your thesis here isn't that 'Sandbox' is 'meaningless' but that you hate railroad plots. Fine. Railroad plots are quite bad. Nobody disagrees with that. Nobody needed to be informed that you thought that - they could have inferred it directly from the fact that you play TTRPGs. Everyone who plays TTRPGs hates being subjected to a railroad plot. What we're left with is an unnecessary rant about how Video Games are the Devil.Apologies for potentially stepping on a nice bit of humor, but I just feel the need to be pedantic:

A phrase can be meaningless but still technically parsable. It just has to be so ambiguous that it requires fully defining it before people can figure out what it means, regardless of context clues. It can also apply, particularly in debate-type environments, to any phrase which is able to be twisted to mean anything you want it to in order to do as Max Killjoy mentioned, and claim that people who agree with any definition you twist it to must thus agree with whatever definition you really are using it for. At that point, it becomes meaningless because using it conveys different things at different times and confuses and confounds communication.


I call this the Second Life Activity, and it's not really a ''game''. It's simply a player making a character and 'virtually living' a second life. Exactly like Second Life(It's a virtual world were you can live a second life). Once upon a time, I was a crafter in Star Wars Galaxies(long, long ago..before they ruined it for the first time). I'd log in, craft some stuff, sell some stuff and log out. I lot like I'd just your blacksmith would do. Though, you have to admit that being something like a blacksmith in Skyrim is not ''playing the game''. Er, that definitely is a kind of game.



Not sure where you see the 180?Normally, you hold up "any game that isn't wacky crazy randomness is a railroad." Now you're holding up "all games are sandboxes." Previously, you've dismissed sandboxes as wacky-crazy-randomness.


I get the mini things, but I'm not so sure of the premise. This might be another video game thing carried over into TRPGs. A lot, if not all, video games, are all about the Big Thing. Even more so the Super Big Amazing Wondrous Thing that is Super Special. But this is how you sell video games you the typical video game player, lots of hype and lots of big things: You the Big Dam Hero must stop the Evil Dragon Queen, before she destroys the universe!. And, this has crept into TRPG over the last couple years too..as they try to attract the video gamers. It's a matter of focus. Is the world under some grand epic threat that's building to a point where all other plots only matter insofar as they let the players prepare (or fail to prepare) to face this nigh-existential problem, or are the issues of the setting the ever-shifting problems that simply arise from people being people, possibly with magical/superpowers in the world for them to use?


And, like I said: Second Life. That's grossly overly broadly defining "second life." Minecraft is legos, not second life. It's almost the very DEFINITION of a sandbox. Here are a bunch of toys and random building materials. Go play with them by building stuff. Or destroying stuff. Or whatever floats your boat (which, incidentally, you make by playing with those resources over there in particular ways).



A great example of a game that incorporates a lot of sandbox elements, many plots from which to pick and choose, and a grand existential plot you use the other plots and their interactions to help you build up to deal with - not to mention to investigate - is Star Control II. There's a free, fan-redone version (since the game became abandonware some years ago) called Star Control: The Ur-Quan Masters. I highly recommend it if people want an example of how a video game can manage to incorporate such elements. Though I will warn that it can be...hard...to play. The computer isn't necessarily a cheating bastard, but it's got nasty-good reflexes.

inexorabletruth
2018-02-06, 02:36 PM
This sounds about right....except once the players stop ''sandboxing around'' and want to go on an adventure, then you as the DM need to make the adventure.

Sandboxes are rife with adventures. I'm confused about what we're defining here. I'm currently running a sandbox in PbP... it's in my signature. There are wars, plagues, political intrigue, criminal syndicates, transplanar (interplanar?) trade guilds, social injustice, an undead uprising, dungeon divers, fetch quests, and for good measure: jobs. Regular mundane jobs. There are so many options/adventures in the campaign, that we've been playing for three years now, and no one has even left the town they started in. Heck, they spent three weeks as blacksmiths working a forge. But they just as easily could've joined any of a dozen various guilds, become common thugs, or just walked right out the front gate to pursue a life in the wilderness. I mapped out an entire planet for them, as well as presented options for exploring other planes, each with mapped out worlds. All they have to do is have fun, however they wish to define that. Isn't that what a sandbox is? How do you ever finish "sandboxing around"? How do you run out of adventures in a sandbox game?



I call this the Second Life Activity, and it's not really a ''game''. It's simply a player making a character and 'virtually living' a second life. Exactly like Second Life(It's a virtual world were you can live a second life). Once upon a time, I was a crafter in Star Wars Galaxies(long, long ago..before they ruined it for the first time). I'd log in, craft some stuff, sell some stuff and log out. I lot like I'd just your blacksmith would do. Though, you have to admit that being something like a blacksmith in Skyrim is not ''playing the game''.

Also, how is that not really a game? This sounds dangerously like gatekeeping. As far as I know a game is a form of play. Simply put, it's a fun thing to do. I have fun playing a blacksmith in Skyrim. But I've also had fun playing as a sword-and-board female orc in Skyrim, and as a craven High Elf conjuror, and as a Breton merchant. Far as I can tell, I play the game almost too much.


I know this well, I'm a good DM that ruins a hardcore railroad. Many more bad DMs run what they call 'sandboxes'.

Assuming you meant to type "runs" instead of "ruins", your first post contradicts this entire statement. You said, "Really, the only way a TRPG can't be a Sandbox is if the game has a DM that is a Jerk, or is just a Bad DM." Before that, you also say, "Any well written TRPG adventure is a 'sandbox', and you don't even really need to say it." Are you changing your mind? Because, if you're a good DM, and you run a hardcore railroad, then that means you run good TRPGs that stay on the tracks, which means that these games you run aren't sandboxes. So not all campaigns are sandboxes, and therefore it is not a meaningless word, because open-world gaming isn't a prerequisite to a good TRPG experience. It's just a different form of play, and therefore it would be helpful to explain to your players beforehand whether or not this particular campaign is a sandbox.



I have not seen any of this backlash. Though I'm a Huge nitpicker of not wasting time in a game, in general. I hate it when players want to say ''sit in a tavern and pretend to drink for five hours'' and do absolutely nothing of value or substance, except waste time. BUT I do love deep, detailed role playing as part of the adventure. So if the characters are looking for a contact as part of an adventure, I'm more then fine with role playing out a tavern drinking scene. Though I also craft, make, even force for things to happen in the game.

I'm 100% on your side here. Backlash for good roleplay? Anonymouswizard, if you get that involved in your character, you are welcome to play any of my campaigns anytime. Especially my sandboxes. :smallcool:




I get the mini things, but I'm not so sure of the premise. This might be another video game thing carried over into TRPGs. A lot, if not all, video games, are all about the Big Thing. Even more so the Super Big Amazing Wondrous Thing that is Super Special. But this is how you sell video games you the typical video game player, lots of hype and lots of big things: You the Big Dam Hero must stop the Evil Dragon Queen, before she destroys the universe!. And, this has crept into TRPG over the last couple years too..as they try to attract the video gamers.

But a TRPG does not need to be so Super Duper Awesome...it can just be something happening somewhere. Like giant rats in a sewer with a Rat Lord. A group of bandits. A werewolf killer. And so on. Just little things. I've never been one for the: Pop Quiz Hot Shot-the demon monster will destroy the world at midnight- "what do you do?" I'm more for ''the cult will summon a succubus at midnight'', so not exactly ''the world will end'', but even 'one lone demon' will sure cause troubles(but still not blow up the world).

But this is more of just a Way to Play. Some gamers only want to do the ''we gotz to save the world!" and would never want to play a game with ''what? We just have to defend a bridge?".

Well, not to strain hairs, but... Dungeons and Dragons was originally about going into dungeons and slaying dragons. The RPG adventure games bit off that apple, not the other way around. And to be honest, the epic protagonist vs the epic antagonist concept goes way further back then that. Like waaaaaaaay back. I'm reminded of things like Beowulf, most Grecian myths, the Bible. The open exploration concept falls more in line with the 2-Person viewpoint books like the Choose Your Adventure series. If you never had those when you were a kid, I feel bad for you. Cause they were awesome. But I digress.



My point is all games have 'sandboxes' in them. Yes you can do the random mess for a while and have tons of fun, but once the players pick anything of substance to do you need structure and a plot...the ''something'' it's a normal game. And in a normal game, it's all ready a 'sandbox': the players can at least ''try'' anything.

I'm still unclear why you feel this way. Can you provide some examples? You have previously claimed that you keep your games on the rails. If it's on the rails, it's not a sandbox, and having a plot doesn't mean it can't still be a sandbox. The two are different, but they're not inherently mutually exclusive. Not all TRPGs are sandboxes, and not all RPG video games are railroaded. And a sandbox doesn't lose its status if there is a plot that the players chose to zero in on, as long as the option to choose a different course remains open.

Quertus
2018-02-06, 02:41 PM
'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase when applied to TRPG.


And yes, it's typical in a some games for the DM to not prepare any adventure for the game session and just let the players 'randomly do whatever they want', often for hours. And some players do in fact, love doing nothing meaningful and of consequence, often for hours. Though most players do want to get to the more adventure part of the game. So, eventually, the players will pick something to do...either from the DM's hooks or just make something up themselves to do. Then the DM makes an adventure and it's a normal game.

Ah, more definitions to work through.

Clearly, we don't all use the word to mean exactly the same thing. When I say "sandbox", I parallel a real world sandbox as much as possible, by defining it as a world where the GM has placed a number of (usually thematic and hopefully intended to be interesting) elements, but it is up to the players to determine what to do with them / what the plot is, within that theme. So, for example, in a political sandbox, I expect the GM to populate the game primarily with items that they believe would be interesting in a political game, and for the players to hold true to the theme, and attempt to use some of those items in a fashion appropriate to a political game.

However, I also use the word "sandbox" as the label for the other end of the "railroading" spectrum/axis. Which, as railroading involves the GM forcing one particular plot, usually works out to use this word both ways. Kinda like how "want" means both "desire" and "lack".

Thus, I'm on the side that says that sandbox is not a meaningless term so much as, perhaps, an ambiguous one at times.

Now, as to the idea that a sandbox must transition into a more "normal" railroad... This idea has more merit than most posters give you credit for. That is to say, many "sandbox" games are, in effect, a series of "choose your own railroad" games. And that is all the more freedom many players desire (or can handle!), and that's fine. But, if that is the only type of sandbox that you have experienced and can imagine, then, yes, I can see how the term might have dubious meaning.


the allure of tabletop RPGs vs. video games is the level of freedom and the ability for the depth of the game setting to be focused just where the players focus their attention.

The extreme end of "sandbox" actually is achieved in one video game that's very popular, for the record: Minecraft.

That certainly is one perk - one which I think deserves more attention - but I don't think it's the only one.

Oh, and <3 Minecraft :smallbiggrin:


I disagree with the thesis, however, because "sandbox" is a useful term to describe a style of gameplay where the GM doesn't have a Big Thing happening - either in the foreground or background - but rather has a lot of small to moderate things, some of which may or may not build up to big things as the players get involved. Lots is going on, and what gets developed depends on what the players latch onto.

I have to disagree with defining a sandbox by the size of the elements. One can have a sandbox with a dozen "end of the world" events going on simultaneously, and one can have a railroad about nothing, Seinfeld style.


I agree it's pretty much meaningless ... when used to describe gameplay. Especially for single person or single party games. The gameplay itself, the experience, is only one resulting path through the content regardless of options available. Freedom of choices being theoretically infinite in an TRPG doesn't change this.

However, if the term is used to apply explicitly or implicitly to the content, it can haz meaning. Content itself can be designed on any continuum between "completely linear" and "completely non-linear". Which are often referred to as "sandbox" and "railroad". And this applies to both CRPGs and TRPGs. Amount of available choices being finite (CRPGs) vs the illusion of infinite (TRPGs via a GM) doesn't change that linearity is a continuum. It just changes how hard the content designers have to work to implement it in their content. As well as the possible lower bound (ie how close you can come to completely non-linear).

Of course, where people draw the line on that continuum is fairly arbitrary, especially if as noted above, they're only experiencing the content once. They've got a restricted view of the content. If you want to use that to say the word is "meaningless", go for it. :smallamused:

The Dragon has kidnapped the Princess, and plans to eat her in a week's time if its demands aren't met. The GM has planned for the possibility of the party gathering the Seven Shards of the Sword McGuffin, scattered across the land. Or for the party to attempt to actually fulfill the dragon's demands. But the party might instead choose to try to abduct the princess back. Or to sell the Dragon one of the shards of the Sword McGuffin. Or to sell the Dragon herbs and spices to make the Princess more palatable.

Whether the GM can handle any of those player-driven plots is, to my mind, a factor of the GM, not of the scenario. To me, sandbox is still a description of the gameplay, nor of the content.

Can you sell me on your PoV?


Railroad plots are quite bad. Nobody disagrees with that.

Actually, plenty of people disagree with that, myself included. Don't get me wrong, I personally strongly dislike most railroads, but even I accept "you stay off the published adventure path, you lose the game", and plenty of people accept and desire much tighter rails.


As somebody who did participate in an hour of roleplaying our characters sitting around drinking beer and talking (while we were sitting around drinking beer* and talking), it wasn't wasting time. It was a much slower game, but we all had fun using it as an excuse to get to know each other's characters, work out our motivations, and so on. No contact, although we kept the GM engaged by making the staff part of the conversation.

Yeah, those of us... "dedicated"... enough to brave a blizzard for our D&D game were rewarded with the opportunity to have our characters chat while on watch. Role-playing - being true to the character - can happen in combat, can happen at decision points, and, yes, can happen while just sitting around chatting. This isn't wasting time, it's developing the character, teambuilding, and, for me, at least, fun. :smallbiggrin:

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-06, 02:58 PM
Yeah, those of us... "dedicated"... enough to brave a blizzard for our D&D game were rewarded with the opportunity to have or characters chatty while on watch. Role-playing - being true to the character - can happen in combat, can happen at decision points, and, yes, can happen while just sitting around chatting. This isn't wasting time, it's developing the character, teambuilding, and, for me, at least, fun. :smallbiggrin:

Okay, I quoted this thinking you were disagreeing with me, when you were agreeing with me.

I once had a character declared an overconfident idiot because three rounds into a combat (us against the doors out of the room, poison gas was involved) I ran across a table and hit a door covered in thermite paste. It completely fit the character because he was overconfident (literally had the flaw) and he hadn't been paying attention to the alchemist, but that got brought up for the rest of the campaign. Then when the combat had finished the engineer tried to steal one of the doors (it had been a really good shield when I hit the thermite covered door, again). That group essentially banned me from playing paladins because my clerics tended to act suicidal, they didn't want the risk.

That same game also included half an hour of dressing own the alchemist (who had the curious flaw, we weren't exactly the most functional group), exploring the reasons behind the party noble's PTSD, and we had the GM lecture us on the setting's trains for twenty minutes because the engineer rolled really high on a knowledge roll (he got confused as to why we hadn't stopped him, we were enjoying it). In another group I've been spending two weeks talking with the other players over who our characters are, to the point we have a rough idea as to why two of them might be working together, and the GM hasn't finished the setting yet.

Wasteomana
2018-02-06, 03:42 PM
You sure make the Sandbox sound all Touchy Feely, but guess people like that.

Except your stuck on the Sandbox=Ultimate cool touchy feely or anything you want it to be and Normal game=Eh, ok, but boring.


It is in these moments where I struggle with people on forums. I can't decide whether the lack of understanding basic concepts is something that you can't help or if you are actively trolling. I think either way you are going to not read / intentionally misread things.

Glad I got this out of the way up front as a newcomer to the forums.

inexorabletruth
2018-02-06, 04:37 PM
It is in these moments where I struggle with people on forums. I can't decide whether the lack of understanding basic concepts is something that you can't help or if you are actively trolling. I think either way you are going to not read / intentionally misread things.

Glad I got this out of the way up front as a newcomer to the forums.

If I may offer a bit of hope, the playground mods have little tolerance for trolling here. I find it is best to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are genuinely attempting to understand a concept. With patience, open mindedness, and a sincere attempt to communicate respectfully, we all tend to play nice and get along around here, even if we don't always see eye to eye.

Cluedrew
2018-02-06, 04:56 PM
Two, by asserting the false dichotomy that the only alternative to "railroading" is the GM sitting there passively responding to the players and giving them whatever they want, he seeks to prop up the first part, AND he can implicitly or explicitly state "well you don't want to be a passive useless yes-man GM, so you'd better railroad, right?"Actually this second point appears to be dying off. Slowly mind you but a differentiation between good railroading and bad railroading (what most people call railroading) has appeared. I'm not entirely sure why, although I have some optimistic interpretations I would like to believe, but there it is.

And I will grant that this thread makes more sense than many of his "not railroading=la la random" (I can see more of the logic behind it at least). Still problems of course, that have been voice.

Wasteomana
2018-02-06, 05:37 PM
If I may offer a bit of hope, the playground mods have little tolerance for trolling here. I find it is best to give people the benefit of the doubt that they are genuinely attempting to understand a concept. With patience, open mindedness, and a sincere attempt to communicate respectfully, we all tend to play nice and get along around here, even if we don't always see eye to eye.

Then what is the 'play nice' version of someone who takes whatever you say and ignores most of it? Its a dilemma. On the one hand the person might actually be trying to understand and be a willing participant in a discussion. If that is the case, they are likely to attempt to understand things, ask questions, look for clarifications. It would really suck to be dismissed as a troll if you were trying to understand something and just not getting it.

On the other hand, he doesn't really seem to have any indications that it what he is trying to do. Responding in snide snippets and rants rather than showing any sign of comprehension or debate. So any additional effort is simply feeding the desire for attention and enjoyment some people feel at being purposefully obtuse.

The last piece of the puzzle, at least from the way I see it, is the community and other posters. I am a new member to the community, but I know several of the posters here. The immediate response that I got after posting this was having a long-time member of the community message me on skype with something that was effectively "@Waste: Man, you found the resident soap-box troll instantly" as well as similar comments being shared not only in private but on this thread and in other sections of these forums.

Yeah its possible that we are misunderstanding one another and I should give him the benefit of the doubt (which I did initially). But the more I look into his posts, replies and talk to other members of this community the more it looks like giving the benefit of the doubt is likely to result in wasted time with no productive outcome.

Milo v3
2018-02-06, 06:19 PM
Even if mods do get involved it wont necessarily solve anything since Darth Ultron has been banned before as Jedipotter (iirc, it was discovered when he posted his home games houserules and they were word for word identical to Jedipotter's very specific houserules).

RazorChain
2018-02-06, 08:09 PM
Almost all my games have sandboxes in them. It's called campaign setting. But it's not good at describing a specific game type that has kinda claimed the word sandbox.

inexorabletruth
2018-02-06, 09:11 PM
Well, Wasteomana, I hope you are wrong. Maybe my voice and tone I've given Ultron when I read his posts are different from the one everyone else is reading it in. Because I don't get the same vibe of hostility from his posts... more confusion and frustration than anything. Hmm... it's probably naive of me to suggest this, but I suppose the only way to know is to ask.

Hey, Darth Ultron. Is this a grab for attention, or an honest discussion/debate about the nature of sandbox gaming and railroad gaming?

Darth Ultron
2018-02-06, 10:44 PM
As somebody who did participate in an hour of roleplaying our characters sitting around drinking beer and talking

Now see if all of the players would get together and be honest and say something like ''we just want to sit around and pretend we are cool in a bar''. I'd say I don't want to waste time doing that during the game. I'd suggest that if the players really want to do that, that they should all arrange to get together outside of the game time, and ''be cool in a bar'' as much as they want too. Amazingly, few players ever want to do that.



But here's the thing, you're not seeing the backlash because you're part of the backlash. Such as how I don't see a lot of the anti-'GM may I' backlash because I'm an active part of it.

I don't think I am.

1.I approve of doing any role playing DURING the game adventure. So as long as it's DURING the adventure, it's fine.

2.And I offer solo games to players.



Also, that last sentence, that's a great description of railroading. 'When the GM crafts, makes, or forces things to happen for the sake of "the game"'. And railroadinging isn't a bad thing when it's taken in moderation.

As a honest person, I've never denied I railroad....super hardcore railroad.


Normally, you hold up "any game that isn't wacky crazy randomness is a railroad." Now you're holding up "all games are sandboxes." Previously, you've dismissed sandboxes as wacky-crazy-randomness.

Well, the first is still what I believe....but I count ''railroading'' to cover a lot of things the DM does; ''everyone else'' only puts ''railroading as badwrongfun''.

And it's not that all games are sandboxes...it's that that word is pointless.

And snadboxes are wacky-crazy-randomness.



That's grossly overly broadly defining "second life." Minecraft is legos, not second life. It's almost the very DEFINITION of a sandbox. Here are a bunch of toys and random building materials. Go play with them by building stuff. Or destroying stuff. Or whatever floats your boat (which, incidentally, you make by playing with those resources over there in particular ways).

Well, I know nothing about minecraft other then lots of little kids love it, and guess it has really bad blocky like 8-bit Nentinedo animation.

Inchhighguy
2018-02-07, 12:18 AM
A typical TRPG, is not a functioning sandbox for any committed theory. It is an “open world game” where the laws of physics can change if the GM so desires. This game experience is usually inconsistent because the GM has never articulated what the theories governing the game world might be.

Gygax set the standards for many aspects of TRPGs. Gygax believed that DMs should fake dice rolls behind the screen, and that DMs should trick the players, but Gygax also believed that DMs should prepare actual clues. Gygax encouraged giving the players 99 opportunities to screw up and 1 obscure possibility to get it right. Gygax wanted the players to fumble around with guesswork until they happened to guess the possibility that Gygax had committed to as true in the game world. Gygax planned out a secret map of the landmines in his dungeons and waited to see if the player characters would step on them. If the player tested a location with a land mine without stepping on it, Gygax would give him a fair chance to disarm the land mine.

Unfortunately, most GMs who came after Gygax took a much easier route; they didn’t prepare any real clues – they just allowed the players to fumble around with guesswork until one of the player’s guesses sounded like a good idea. This system is very easy for the GM, because nothing is committed when play starts. Anything might turn out to be true in the game world, if the GM wants it to be true at any given moment.

The problem, of course, is that this kind of lazy GM work leads to highly inconsistent game worlds, and rather than remembering a set of land mines and giving the players chances to disarm them, the GM merely decides that the players will disarm mines if he feel like it, or step on undetected mines if he feels like it. It is no longer a game of preparation and random dice rolls; it becomes a game of whim.

The very first dungeon crawls – run by Arneson – seem to have been heavily governed by whim and malice. The first dungeons were much like the “Temple of the Frog” – i.e. lots of inconsistent magic items such as bags of holding, lots of incompatible monsters like a ravenous dragon in a 20-by-20 room with no food supply, surrounded by animated statues and green slimes. The whimsical style doesn’t stand up to examination, but that was initially okay because no one who had access to the games was in any mood to think logically. Gygax initially introduced minimal rules with a lot of room for improvisation, and then refined the game into AD&D, which attempted to return to the simulationist perspective that wargames had used for centuries. With increased simulationism, the dungeons began to show some attempts at internal consistency.

Sandbox rpgs have no story or plot at all, they are all action and nothing more, linear rpgs have story and characters to back it up and that is what matters for rpgs.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-07, 12:34 AM
Sandboxes are rife with adventures. I'm confused about what we're defining here. I'm currently running a sandbox in PbP... Isn't that what a sandbox is? How do you ever finish "sandboxing around"? How do you run out of adventures in a sandbox game?

But your using the ''cool'' definition of sandbox. Your game is cool and fun, so it's a sandbox.

I'd note that as your game is full of plots and adventures and makes sense it's not a sandbox game. Sure, you let the players pick what to do...but then it's just a normal game.

And what you do in the game is just a matter of style....if you and your players like to 'blacksmith' for hours or days or weeks....that is just your way of having fun.



Also, how is that not really a game? This sounds dangerously like gatekeeping. As far as I know a game is a form of play. Simply put, it's a fun thing to do. I have fun playing a blacksmith in Skyrim. But I've also had fun playing as a sword-and-board female orc in Skyrim, and as a craven High Elf conjuror, and as a Breton merchant. Far as I can tell, I play the game almost too much.

If your just logging in to do something like craft, are you really playing the game? If a bunch of your friends get together and play softball....and you stay home and knit a sweater, would you say you played softball with your friends?




Assuming you meant to type "runs" instead of "ruins", your first post contradicts this entire statement. You said, "Really, the only way a TRPG can't be a Sandbox is if the game has a DM that is a Jerk, or is just a Bad DM." Before that, you also say, "Any well written TRPG adventure is a 'sandbox', and you don't even really need to say it." Are you changing your mind? Because, if you're a good DM, and you run a hardcore railroad, then that means you run good TRPGs that stay on the tracks, which means that these games you run aren't sandboxes.

Well, no. But this gets into the Can of Worms of the false things like player agency, meaningful decisions and player control. And lots of illusions.



Choose Your Adventure series. If you never had those when you were a kid, I feel bad for you. Cause they were awesome. But I digress.

I had them all. Even the D&D ones. And one day after going through the Dungeon of Dread I say the add in the back of the book of ''if you liked this book, try this game(D&D)''....and the rest is history



I'm still unclear why you feel this way. Can you provide some examples? You have previously claimed that you keep your games on the rails. If it's on the rails, it's not a sandbox, and having a plot doesn't mean it can't still be a sandbox. The two are different, but they're not inherently mutually exclusive. Not all TRPGs are sandboxes, and not all RPG video games are railroaded. And a sandbox doesn't lose its status if there is a plot that the players chose to zero in on, as long as the option to choose a different course remains open.

Right I run normal games with railroads, no sandboxes, and that illusion of player choice...but that is just my style.

As a sandbox is just free form, once you have a plot, you have to ''dig out'' of the sand. A sandbox is just meaningless things of little or no consequence, you need a plot for anything to happen.

Like ok, the game starts and the DM just sits back. The players have fun having their characters go shopping, get their hair done, have drinks at a tavern and even knit some sweaters. As the players do that, the DM drops hints and hooks for the plot based action adventures. Assuming the players want to do anything meaningful, of notice and consequence, they will either pick a DM hook, or make up one on their own. Either way, the DM makes an adventure at that point, and at that point is not the ''so called sandbox'', it's a normal game. But even in the normal game, assuming an average or good DM, the players can still ''try to do'' just about anything to move along and advance the plot.



The Dragon has kidnapped the Princess, and plans to eat her in a week's time if its demands aren't met. The GM has planned for the possibility of the party gathering the Seven Shards of the Sword McGuffin, scattered across the land. Or for the party to attempt to actually fulfill the dragon's demands. But the party might instead choose to try to abduct the princess back. Or to sell the Dragon one of the shards of the Sword McGuffin. Or to sell the Dragon herbs and spices to make the Princess more palatable.

This would be what I call a normal game. The plot is ''save the princess'' or maybe more accurately ''deal with the princess and the dragon'' . The players are free to at least try anything.

I'd break it down more:

Good DM-has planed for all the ways mentioned, and four or five more. By simply having details like all the ''whys'' the DM knows how things will likely turn out no matter what the players think of and even if the DM has no plan.

Average DM-has planned for maybe one to three things on the list. But they let the players try anything, even if they have not thought or planned for it.

Bad DM/Jerk DM-has planned for just one thing on the list, and they only want the player to do the one they have the plan for. A lot of Bad DMs just have little experience or are simply not good at role playing at all. This is the type that might just say ''um, the river is too deep you guys can't swim across it''.




Hey, Darth Ultron. Is this a grab for attention, or an honest discussion/debate about the nature of sandbox gaming and railroad gaming?

I'm always about honest discussion/debate.

Mordaedil
2018-02-07, 02:46 AM
Well, Wasteomana, I hope you are wrong. Maybe my voice and tone I've given Ultron when I read his posts are different from the one everyone else is reading it in. Because I don't get the same vibe of hostility from his posts... more confusion and frustration than anything. Hmm... it's probably naive of me to suggest this, but I suppose the only way to know is to ask.

Hey, Darth Ultron. Is this a grab for attention, or an honest discussion/debate about the nature of sandbox gaming and railroad gaming?

He's literally calling anyone who DM's differently from him a bad DM. That's not even low-key trolling, it's straight up flame-baiting.

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-07, 05:01 AM
Now see if all of the players would get together and be honest and say something like ''we just want to sit around and pretend we are cool in a bar''. I'd say I don't want to waste time doing that during the game. I'd suggest that if the players really want to do that, that they should all arrange to get together outside of the game time, and ''be cool in a bar'' as much as they want too. Amazingly, few players ever want to do that.

You'd be politely shown the door in my group, because sometimes having or characters sit around talking to each other for an hour is a required change of pace.

You might see it as a waste, many people don't. Are you really trying to say that there's a wrong way to play make believe?

Sure, we can also hang out in a pub in real life, but that's different to exploring or characters. I hang out in pubs plenty, generally one of the two not getting plastered.

inexorabletruth
2018-02-07, 07:57 AM
I think the first problem here, is syntax. We're talking about the same words, but not the same meaning. Darth Ultron, it looks as though you have your own connotation of "sandbox" which doesn't coincide with the commonly accepted definition of a sandbox.

To have a serious discussion, we all have to be on the same page, here. Which most logically means you need to provide a consensus definition of the word. In my first post here, I provided Techopedia's definition:


A sandbox is a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will. In contrast to a progression-style game, a sandbox game emphasizes roaming and allows a gamer to select tasks.

But I'm willing to provide another link which goes further into the definition of the concept. Here is what Wikipedia (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_world) has to say about the phrase "sandbox game".

Once we're all defining the concept the same way, you will see that sandbox gaming (while it doesn't require a plot to be one) can have as many plots as it can contain and still be a sandbox. It doesn't revert back to a linear game when the players dedicate their interests to one plot or subplot as long as the option to pursue other plots or subplots remains. I'm not using the "cool" definition of sandbox gaming... I'm using the official definition of it. Please see the reference material I've presented. If you have a differing reference, feel free to present it. However, if you stand behind the argument that your specialized connotation of a sandbox game is the ultimate definition the concept, and trumps all common definitions of the term, then we are at an impasse.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-07, 07:59 AM
He's literally calling anyone who DM's differently from him a bad DM. That's not even low-key trolling, it's straight up flame-baiting.

You might note my list goes from good to average to bad to jerk.


You'd be politely shown the door in my group, because sometimes having or characters sit around talking to each other for an hour is a required change of pace.

You might see it as a waste, many people don't. Are you really trying to say that there's a wrong way to play make believe?

Sure, we can also hang out in a pub in real life, but that's different to exploring or characters. I hang out in pubs plenty, generally one of the two not getting plastered.


Well it is just different styles. I like fast paced wild ''edge of your seat'' adventures.

I'm not sure where the 'wrong' idea comes from. Guess I could type, yet again, anyone can have fun anyway they want too....but guess no one will read that. Again.

inexorabletruth
2018-02-07, 08:07 AM
He's literally calling anyone who DM's differently from him a bad DM. That's not even low-key trolling, it's straight up flame-baiting.

To be honest, I'm not certain that he is. I'm not 100% clear what he's trying to say. I think his subcurrent agenda is to suggest that he likes games that have lots of action and lots of options. I think we can all agree that there are... I don't want to say bad DMs, but DMs who have bad synergy with their players, or perhaps inexperienced DMs who aren't ready for the chaos of an open-world concept and wedge a railroad into the matrix of a sandbox to give it the easily shattered illusion of an open world game, and he's probably had a recent run-in with such a DM and needs to work through it. Or perhaps, he was the DM who struggled with his players, got frustrated that the game didn't go as planned (perhaps they spent longer than he would've liked "roleplaying" with the tavern servers) and needed to work through the problems on the forum.

Due to the fact that his argument self contradicts, changes agendas, and relies on opinions and connotations rather than stated fact, I would say this is more about him being frustrated than him wanting to frustrate others.

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-07, 08:28 AM
Well it is just different styles. I like fast paced wild ''edge of your seat'' adventures.

I'm not sure where the 'wrong' idea comes from. Guess I could type, yet again, anyone can have fun anyway they want too....but guess no one will read that. Again.

Sorry, had to make lunch then spend time digging this out.


If the activity done in a RPG is linear, then it's game and even normal. It's only when it's the Random Sandbox Mess of non-linear not much of anything that it's Barley a Game.

You've also used 'not really a game' and really anything else you can think of to imply sandboxes are Not As Worthy.

Here's the thing, I like plotted adventures. I've request that the GM for my 'starting soon, honest' game include my character running away from his family due to being transgender as a plot point. I tend to run more loosely, combining prepared encounters based on how I feel at the table, but I don't care if the GM has a preset plot as long as it's set out first. I actually enjoy sandboxes less.

(also, 'all edge of the seat' is boring to me, there's no variety. Give me highs and lows let the pace move, have moments where the characters get to relax. Nothing wrong with going full pelt all the time though.)

Quertus
2018-02-07, 08:56 AM
You missed a great link. It's not a definition, but a good explanation.
http://theangrygm.com/ask-angry-playing-in-the-sandbox/

Angry defines the difference between a sandbox and a "normal" game as who chooses the goal - the players or the GM. Although he's not entirely wrong, he's still missing the point, and wrong.

When you hand a child a sandbox IRL, and ask them to make their family (or they just make their family without being asked, because that's what kids often do), you've set the general expectations (implicitly or explicitly, to make your family), but the child chooses which figure best represents each family member.

So, in a political sandbox, the GM has chosen the general theme, and populated the sandbox with political elements. But the players choose what political thing to do with which of the elements, and which ones to ignore.

However, when the players change their mind / change their focus, that's fine. But when the GM presents one adventure, then suddenly pulls the rug out from under the players and forces them down a different path, it's a bait & switch (which I personally am not as opposed to as most Playgrounders are IME).

And there's many other differences that Angry missed, but I think that that's enough to make my point.


A great example of a game that incorporates a lot of sandbox elements, many plots from which to pick and choose, and a grand existential plot you use the other plots and their interactions to help you build up to deal with - not to mention to investigate - is Star Control II. There's a free, fan-redone version (since the game became abandonware some years ago) called Star Control: The Ur-Quan Masters. I highly recommend it if people want an example of how a video game can manage to incorporate such elements. Though I will warn that it can be...hard...to play. The computer isn't necessarily a cheating bastard, but it's got nasty-good reflexes.

Forget the reflexes, in my time playing it, half the universe was gone before I even got the resources together to go exploring. :smallfrown:


Okay, I quoted this thinking you were disagreeing with me, when you were agreeing with me.

Hahaha, I know, I actually posted to agree with someone? My account must clearly have been hacked. :smallwink:

Yeah, these "wastes of time" are often some of the best moments in the game, and what we remember 20 years later. :smallbiggrin:


''we just want to sit around and pretend we are cool in a bar''.

But that's only role-playing if the character actually is supposed to be cool. :smalltongue:


I don't think I am.

1.I approve of doing any role playing DURING the game adventure. So as long as it's DURING the adventure, it's fine.

2.And I offer solo games to players.

How is in the bar / around the campfire not sporting the adventure, if that's where the adventure takes them? I mean, I get that, if the characters remain in a single not plot relevant scene, they aren't advancing the plot... but so what? If the players are having fun role-playing in a role-playing game, isn't that a win?


; ''everyone else'' only puts ''railroading as badwrongfun''.


At least you're putting "everyone else" in quotes now. You might get more mileage out of "most people" than "everyone else".

As someone who used to believe that railroading = bad, and metagaming = evil, let me just say, you're in for a very tough fight.


A typical TRPG, is not a functioning sandbox for any committed theory. It is an “open world game” where the laws of physics can change if the GM so desires. This game experience is usually inconsistent because the GM has never articulated what the theories governing the game world might be.

Sandbox rpgs have no story or plot at all, they are all action and nothing more, linear rpgs have story and characters to back it up and that is what matters for rpgs.

The bolded part, plus GMs going with the first idea that the players put forth that sounds cool, sounds like a gaming style that I'm actively opposed to, and I certainly hope that it hasn't become the standard. :smallyuk:

Saying that sandboxes are all action seems almost antithetical to Truth, seeing as how one of the biggest complaints about sandboxes is that there is no action. In Reality, a sandbox has as much or as little action as the GM populated it with, just like a railroad. The difference is, a railroad has a conductor, forcing the players from one scene to the next, whereas, in a sandbox, the players have to forge their own path between elements. And, by forging that path, the players largely determine the story (either as fact, or as illusion, in the case of the child choosing to create their family).


Well, no. But this gets into the Can of Worms of the false things like player agency, meaningful decisions and player control. And lots of illusions.

I had them all. Even the D&D ones. And one day after going through the Dungeon of Dread I say the add in the back of the book of ''if you liked this book, try this game(D&D)''....and the rest is history

Right I run normal games with railroads, no sandboxes, and that illusion of player choice...but that is just my style.

You know, I'm going to test a crazy theory here.

See, I always had a love/hate relationship with choose your own adventure books. Because, while you were, in theory, free to pick whichever path you wanted, in practice, you usually could only "win" if you read the author's mind, and picked the One True Path.

In these books, Player Agency was an illusion. It was really a game of "keep guessing until you pick what I've chosen as the correct answer".

Now, I could write a whole lot more about this, and might just do so if this thread continues, but, DU, is this part of why you view Player Agency as an illusion?


As a sandbox is just free form, once you have a plot, you have to ''dig out'' of the sand. A sandbox is just meaningless things of little or no consequence, you need a plot for anything to happen.

So, many people, including myself as of when I joined the Playground, either view railroading as, or focus on the parts of railroading where, the GM will change the rules / established facts to force the players down the one specific path that they have planned for the adventure - that stuff that you call bad jerk GM.

Do you need a plot for anything to happen? Well, no. It's a pity that you aren't familiar with Minecraft... But we can use your experience with random games to get the point across, I think.

Suppose our characters are out in the wilderness. We roll up a random pack of orcs, we fight them and get loot and XP. We roll up a cliff, which we decide to go around. We roll up a small dragon, which we fight for loot and XP. Then we roll up a bear, which we kill for XP, then decide to turn into food and fur, and track back to its cave for shelter for the night.

Now, we could have had a plan like, "we're out hunting for food", or "we need to find shelter for the night", but we didn't. Instead, we just took what we were given, and made what we could out of it.

I'm not sure how you're defining "plot", but, while, yes, many sandboxes are simply a series of choose your own railroads, I'll argue that a sandbox need no more turn into a railroad than it needs to be populated by lol random.


But even in the normal game, assuming an average or good DM, the players can still ''try to do'' just about anything to move along and advance the plot.

This would be what I call a normal game. The plot is ''save the princess'' or maybe more accurately ''deal with the princess and the dragon'' . The players are free to at least try anything.

I'd break it down more:

Good DM-has planed for all the ways mentioned, and four or five more. By simply having details like all the ''whys'' the DM knows how things will likely turn out no matter what the players think of and even if the DM has no plan.

Average DM-has planned for maybe one to three things on the list. But they let the players try anything, even if they have not thought or planned for it.

Bad DM/Jerk DM-has planned for just one thing on the list, and they only want the player to do the one they have the plan for. A lot of Bad DMs just have little experience or are simply not good at role playing at all. This is the type that might just say ''um, the river is too deep you guys can't swim across it''.

Two things: one, if the players choose "not my problem", and go deal with something else, do you consider that normal game, sandbox, or something else?

Two, you have this strange belief in the GM planning for things. IME, I've found that better GMs plan for various outcomes only as a way to flesh out the world sufficiently to understand the world well enough to run it when the players do the unexpected. Plan-focused GMs are the ones who are forced to be bad jerk GMs and railroad to force the game onto one of the paths that they've planned and understand, whereas GMs who focus on understanding their world and the encounter can better adapt to whatever creative plan the party devises.

hamishspence
2018-02-07, 09:06 AM
See, I always had a love/hate relationship with choose your own adventure books. Because, while you were, in theory, free to pick whichever path you wanted, in practice, you usually could only "win" if you read the author's mind, and picked the One True Path.

In these books, Player Agency was an illusion. It was really a game of "keep guessing until you pick what I've chosen as the correct answer".

Some authors were better than others about creating "multiple viable paths to the same ending".

Others created "multiple good endings" each with their own path.

Still, it's true that some had only one path, where slightly "straying off it" could make the good ending impossible to achieve - with no clue that it was impossible to achieve until you actually got to the final battles.

I'm focusing mostly on the Fighting Fantasy franchise.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 09:34 AM
Some authors were better than others about creating "multiple viable paths to the same ending".

Others created "multiple good endings" each with their own path.

Still, it's true that some had only one path, where slightly "straying off it" could make the good ending impossible to achieve - with no clue that it was impossible to achieve until you actually got to the final battles.

I'm focusing mostly on the Fighting Fantasy franchise.

Certain C"RPG" games have that same frustrating illusionism, requiring ALL the right choices to be made EXACTLY as the creators of the game intended, starting with each character build option and going on to decision points in the unfolding story. It's akin to figuring out a maze, only you have to remember to spam the save function and keep lots of saves.

Cluedrew
2018-02-07, 09:37 AM
I'm not sure where the 'wrong' idea comes from. Guess I could type, yet again, anyone can have fun anyway they want too....but guess no one will read that. Again.To my understanding people do read it, but don't believe you because of the wording. That is you say you can have fun different types of fun, but then go on to describe all but the one your are arguing for with negative language that shows you don't think it is as good as the others.

As an example (this is not an actual quote but it should give the idea): "Yes it is perfectly reasonable to play a random and meaningless sandbox game. Or you can play a deep and fulfilling railroad." Technically it calls out both as valid, but just looking at the word choice, it does clearly state that one is viewed as better than the other. The opposite would be something like "The main difference between the two is railroading is about merely watching the GM advance the plot like watching a movie, while sandboxes is about being an important part of the plot and world and shaping its outcome."

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 09:46 AM
To my understanding people do read it, but don't believe you because of the wording. That is you say you can have fun different types of fun, but then go on to describe all but the one your are arguing for with negative language that shows you don't think it is as good as the others.

As an example (this is not an actual quote but it should give the idea): "Yes it is perfectly reasonable to play a random and meaningless sandbox game. Or you can play a deep and fulfilling railroad." Technically it calls out both as valid, but just looking at the word choice, it does clearly state that one is viewed as better than the other. The opposite would be something like "The main difference between the two is railroading is about merely watching the GM advance the plot like watching a movie, while sandboxes is about being an important part of the plot and world and shaping its outcome."


Indeed, it inevitably comes across as "Well, I guess if you enjoy that sort of thing, why not" or "Hey, some people like wasting their time doing nothing and wandering around randomly, who am I to judge?"

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-07, 10:00 AM
Hahaha, I know, I actually posted to agree with someone? My account must clearly have been hacked. :smallwink:

Yeah, these "wastes of time" are often some of the best moments in the game, and what we remember 20 years later. :smallbiggrin:

Sure, it's rarely the battles that my university group still talks about. It's generally the moments we spent just talking in character, like when I failed a roll to notice that the woman we were meeting was actually the party warrior. Or when we discovered we had all individually given our characters black trenchcoats (to be a bit inconspicuous in London, but four people in the same outfit stand out).


But that's only role-playing if the character actually is supposed to be cool. :smalltongue:

True, I've made so many characters meant to be uncool. Tended to sit around cramping the atmosphere at bars.


How is in the bar / around the campfire not sporting the adventure, if that's where the adventure takes them? I mean, I get that, if the characters remain in a single not plot relevant scene, they aren't advancing the plot... but so what? If the players are having fun role-playing in a role-playing game, isn't that a win?

You don't understand, the plot must always be moving forward or else it will die!

Segev
2018-02-07, 10:10 AM
The main trouble with discussing things with Darth Ultron tends to be his insistence that people are lying when they discuss whatever topic is being discussed in any way that doesn't comport with his personal GMing style being "right," and all others being "random wacky nonsense." "Sandbox" is "meaningless" because it means "wacky random nonsense" in which "nothing happens," and if anything happens that isn't the GM "being a slave" to the players by "doing anything they want," it is immediately "good railroading" and a "normal game."

It is possible that he just insistently uses the terms in a way that hinders communication, and his "normal games" are much like everybody else's "normal games," but he's insistent that they're also "good railroading" because anything the GM does is "railroading" if it isn't "wacky random nonsense that does whatever the players whine for and demand." It is equally possible, because he makes it impossible to discern by his insistent terminology, that he runs games that are hardcore one-true-path railroading that actively punish, deride, and abuse players who don't read his mind and play strictly to the script he's got for their characters.

When he discusses "normal games," it sounds like it's the former. When he discusses "bad players" and how he drives them "crying" from his games, it sounds like it's the latter. And, because he dances around with overly-broad terminology that obfuscates communication in order to take a holier-than-thou stance that he's a great GM and anybody who disagrees is a whiny spoiled player or a bad GM, it comes off as insulting and makes it very hard to actually have a discussion with him.

At best, I've managed to get a few posts into one, and then he tries to shift all the definitions from his broad terms he insisted must apply to narrow ones and became insulting in the process. Not ad hominem level, "Segev, you specifically are awful," but the passive-aggressive sort where anybody who happens to disagree with him is a bad person.

Wasteomana
2018-02-07, 12:49 PM
The main trouble with discussing things with Darth Ultron tends to be his insistence that people are lying when they discuss whatever topic is being discussed in any way that doesn't comport with his personal GMing style being "right," and all others being "random wacky nonsense." "Sandbox" is "meaningless" because it means "wacky random nonsense" in which "nothing happens," and if anything happens that isn't the GM "being a slave" to the players by "doing anything they want," it is immediately "good railroading" and a "normal game."

It is possible that he just insistently uses the terms in a way that hinders communication, and his "normal games" are much like everybody else's "normal games," but he's insistent that they're also "good railroading" because anything the GM does is "railroading" if it isn't "wacky random nonsense that does whatever the players whine for and demand." It is equally possible, because he makes it impossible to discern by his insistent terminology, that he runs games that are hardcore one-true-path railroading that actively punish, deride, and abuse players who don't read his mind and play strictly to the script he's got for their characters.

When he discusses "normal games," it sounds like it's the former. When he discusses "bad players" and how he drives them "crying" from his games, it sounds like it's the latter. And, because he dances around with overly-broad terminology that obfuscates communication in order to take a holier-than-thou stance that he's a great GM and anybody who disagrees is a whiny spoiled player or a bad GM, it comes off as insulting and makes it very hard to actually have a discussion with him.

At best, I've managed to get a few posts into one, and then he tries to shift all the definitions from his broad terms he insisted must apply to narrow ones and became insulting in the process. Not ad hominem level, "Segev, you specifically are awful," but the passive-aggressive sort where anybody who happens to disagree with him is a bad person.

A good summary of my interaction with / reading of his stance, posts and thread so far. Good to see that this is relatively normal and I wasn't being singled out for trolling.

Segev
2018-02-07, 01:17 PM
A good summary of my interaction with / reading of his stance, posts and thread so far. Good to see that this is relatively normal and I wasn't being singled out for trolling.

You're definitely not being singled out. Darth Ultron doesn't tend to be overtly rude, but it can feel like it after a while. I am, myself, unsure if he's deliberately confusing for trollish purposes of his own amusement, or if he really is just incapable of clear communication. There's a third possibility, but I think I'd be guilty of ad hominem if I went into it, so I choose to assume it must be one of the first two, and give benefit of a doubt towards the second one, specifically.

Doesn't make him less frustrating, but it works for keeping in perspective how much effort to put into conversations.


As to "sandbox," I still don't think it's been shown to be a meaningless phrase by this thread. It has a pretty sound definition, in fact. A "sandbox" is a game where the players can choose which aspects of the setting with which to interact, and from that interaction build something of their own into it.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 01:21 PM
As to "sandbox," I still don't think it's been shown to be a meaningless phrase by this thread. It has a pretty sound definition, in fact. A "sandbox" is a game where the players can choose which aspects of the setting with which to interact, and from that interaction build something of their own into it.


I'd say that it's not a binary choice, either, between "sandbox" or "not-sandbox". Different campaigns or even different parts of the same campaign can be more or less sandboxy.

Segev
2018-02-07, 01:23 PM
I'd say that it's not a binary choice, either, between "sandbox" or "not-sandbox". Different campaigns or even different parts of the same campaign can be more or less sandboxy.

Absolutely. Sorry, I was being simplistic with that because I wanted to be pithy, rather than ramble off on one of my epic essay posts. ^^;

inexorabletruth
2018-02-07, 01:29 PM
I agree Segev. I think a better question would be:

Is it time to redefine the term Sandbox Game?

I think that's closer to the spirit of the question, because I could make fine points and counterpoints to the question. The problem here is that once you establish that Sandbox Game is a phrase which has meaning and definition, the conversation is effectively over. Any attempts to keep the conversation going will seem beligerent because there is a wealth of data and corroboration to support the fact that Sandbox Gaming is a phrase with meaning and definition.

A less interesting, but more context appropriate topic would also be:

Now that Sandbox Games are so popular, is it really necessary to declare that your are running one? It would make more sense to declare that you are running a linear game.

Either way... the problem in this topic has been resolved as conclusively as it can be.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-07, 01:37 PM
Absolutely. Sorry, I was being simplistic with that because I wanted to be pithy, rather than ramble off on one of my epic essay posts. ^^;

No need to apologize.

In general I think that these discussions would be better off if more of the terms were treated as verbs or adjectives, instead of nouns.

IMO, it's better to say that a game is more or less "sandboxy" than it is to say "this is a sandbox" and "that is not a sandbox". "Railroad" is far more useful as a verb than as a noun... to describe something the GM does as railroading is more useful than to say "this game is a railroad".

Wasteomana
2018-02-07, 01:45 PM
I will definitely say that people should see it as a spectrum (as our OP appears not to) rather than an either-or option.

Whenever I sit down with a group of new players for a campaign that is one of the primary things we talk about. How much they want to be involved in creating the plot and how much they want to experience me creating the plot. What sort of expectations the players have for this and many other things (many of which determine where on the scale of 'complete sandbox' to 'complete railroad' the campaign sits) are good to hash out as early as possible.

Florian
2018-02-07, 01:56 PM
A good summary of my interaction with / reading of his stance, posts and thread so far. Good to see that this is relatively normal and I wasn't being singled out for trolling.

DU is a bit special in consistent misuse of certain established terms, but also very consistent and reliable when it comes to POV. Understand that POV besides the misuse, it actually makes sense.
You'll notice, itīs all about "agency" and also about player looking for mechanical solutions first.

Brookshw
2018-02-07, 04:30 PM
Understand that POV besides the misuse, it actually makes sense.
You'll notice, itīs all about "agency" and also about player looking for mechanical solutions first.

I'm inclined to agree. DU has in the past brought up many issues that I've found myself agreeing with, the presentation could use a bit of work.

Milo v3
2018-02-07, 06:53 PM
I just want to say I am very thankful that Sandbox games are a real and viable style of running various RPGs because I am a lot better at doing prep for them than when I was going Linear campaigns. It is so much easier for me to build a world and fill it with potential plot hooks and stat everyone on a particular island, than it is for my brain to write a linear campaign.

John Campbell
2018-02-07, 09:34 PM
A great example of a game that incorporates a lot of sandbox elements, many plots from which to pick and choose, and a grand existential plot you use the other plots and their interactions to help you build up to deal with - not to mention to investigate - is Star Control II. There's a free, fan-redone version (since the game became abandonware some years ago) called Star Control: The Ur-Quan Masters. I highly recommend it if people want an example of how a video game can manage to incorporate such elements. Though I will warn that it can be...hard...to play. The computer isn't necessarily a cheating bastard, but it's got nasty-good reflexes.

UQM isn't really a redone version of Star Control II in the sense that, say, FreeCiv is a redone version of Civ II or OpenXCOM is a redone version of the original X-COM. The original creators of Star Control II didn't merely abandon it; they released the mostly-complete source code of the 3DO version for use. The UQM team (I have a friend on it) is working with that original source code. They've done some improvements, both internal and external, and they don't have the legal rights to use the Star Control name (thus "Ur-Quan Masters"), but fundamentally it is Star Control II, just re-released for modern systems.

And it's not really all that sandboxy. It generally looks kind of sandboxy, if you don't look closely, because you can fly wherever you want and it leaves finding and getting to the railroad stations largely up to you, but there's a list of Things That You Must Do, and you must do them by a certain point in time, or the Kohr-Ah burn Earth and you lose the game. And several of them you must do in a specific order, and for some of them there's only one way to accomplish it (assuming that "following the Kohr-Ah around and picking plot tokens out of the ashes of the civilizations they've burned" is considered a suboptimal path to victory). And the conversation trees, for all that they have a lot of twigs you can explore, tend to have only one meaningful path through them.

And the game's not all that hard, at least once you figure out how to get rid of the Probes, which are the one ship I've never figured out how to fight. It helps to play through and figure out what you need to do, and then restart and go do things in a more optimal order. Particularly, figure out what you need to do to get the Portal Spawner, and don't wait until it's clued to go get it. It makes everything else way easier. And practice in SuperMelee... a little skill in handling an Eluder will take you a long way.

Florian
2018-02-08, 07:05 AM
I will definitely say that people should see it as a spectrum (as our OP appears not to) rather than an either-or option.

It really isn't. TTRPGs are about choices. Take away those or replace them with pre-defined options, you quickly land at near-RPGs (like Descent) or the gm/players just narrating the plot. That's the whole point of saying "Everything is a sandbox". "Powergamers" are people who restrict their own choices and options to what is written on their character sheet.

When talking about a spectrum, what people often mix up is the function of "setting" for RPGs. Setting is where the action happens and the choices are made. Itīs basically interchangeable whether you use a "game world", a "story" or both as a setting.

That's also the point of taking a critical look at what happens when you use the "game" as a "toy", something that systems like D&D are prone to because itīs easy to use them as such. We switch to "toy" mode when we do such things as "getting into character and roleplaying an evening at the bar".
Strictly speaking, we have paused "game mode" and play something else for a while. Naturally, that has its own appeal, but itīs not part of the "core game". Itīs important to keep that separation in mind when talking about RPG theory.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-08, 07:29 AM
That's also the point of taking a critical look at what happens when you use the "game" as a "toy", something that systems like D&D are prone to because itīs easy to use them as such. We switch to "toy" mode when we do such things as "getting into character and roleplaying an evening at the bar".

Strictly speaking, we have paused "game mode" and play something else for a while. Naturally, that has its own appeal, but itīs not part of the "core game". Itīs important to keep that separation in mind when talking about RPG theory.


You keep repeating the notion that having an in-character conversation at a bar, or similar, is "toy mode" as if it were some sort of widely accepted truism.

And yet you're the only source I've ever seen for it, and it seems to be nothing more interesting than "all gaming is storytelling, so all decisions should be made for the good of the story", or "only the mechanics matter" or "optimizing is bad for roleplaying"... a rather transparent attempt to integrate into definition and theory one's own approach to gaming and favored parts of gaming, while denigrating and belittling other people's preferences.

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-08, 07:38 AM
Now that Sandbox Games are so popular, is it really necessary to declare that your are running one? It would make more sense to declare that you are running a linear game.

I honestly don't think 'true' sandboxes are more popular than ever. In fact, I've seen a trend away from them, although that might be the circles I tend to play in.


You keep repeating that self-serviing, narrow-minded notion that having an in-character conversation at a bar is "toy mode" as if it were some sort of widely accepted truism.

True. While the basic idea Florian is pushing is correct (a session will move between rules-light and rules-heavy based on the desires of it's participants) the terminology is rather insulting. Traditionally the heaviest point is combat and the lightest point is social interaction, but it's not the only valid possibility (however there is a tendency for games to provide the most rules for combat).

Darth Ultron
2018-02-08, 08:27 AM
How is in the bar / around the campfire not sporting the adventure, if that's where the adventure takes them? I mean, I get that, if the characters remain in a single not plot relevant scene, they aren't advancing the plot... but so what? If the players are having fun role-playing in a role-playing game, isn't that a win?

Not exactly. Sure it's great that the players do want to role play, but if it's irrelevant and meaningless role play then it's just a waste of time. The vast majority of gamers play the game for the action and adventure....not to role play a character shopping or planting a garden.

BUT, yes, there are some players that just want to do the near endless fluff. They do want to spend six hours role playing being a farmer or a drunk at a bar. And really, that is fine. Assuming you get into that type of game. Where all the players and the DM all agree 100% that they will just do fluff for the whole game.

AND I'd love it if players can do that, in the plot, but somehow players have this disconnect:

1.They make a super optimized hero/secret agent/barbarian/whatever with tons of combat(or action adventure) stuff.
2.Then they idiotically want to waste like six hours doing nothing other then role playing shopping, shining their shoes or pretending to get drunk.
3.Eventualy they do get around to ''oh yea, lets adventure'', except NOW they want to skip past EVERYTHING that is not pure roll playing combat.

Like the players are ''bond'' agent types, and they want to disrupt a bad guys gambling business. And the players are all dull like, ''um can we roll and if we get a 10, lets just say we disrupt everything''. And I wonder why a couple hours ago they were all for wasting all day at a bar pointlessly....but now that they can ''got to bar/casino'' during the game with a purpose and reason they are all like ''skip''.



Now, I could write a whole lot more about this, and might just do so if this thread continues, but, DU, is this part of why you view Player Agency as an illusion?

Yes.



Suppose our characters are out in the wilderness. We roll up a random pack of orcs, we fight them and get loot and XP. We roll up a cliff, which we decide to go around. We roll up a small dragon, which we fight for loot and XP. Then we roll up a bear, which we kill for XP, then decide to turn into food and fur, and track back to its cave for shelter for the night.

Now, we could have had a plan like, "we're out hunting for food", or "we need to find shelter for the night", but we didn't. Instead, we just took what we were given, and made what we could out of it.

I'm not sure how you're defining "plot", but, while, yes, many sandboxes are simply a series of choose your own railroads, I'll argue that a sandbox need no more turn into a railroad than it needs to be populated by lol random.

So that looks like a good Random Meaningless Sandbox game. And I'd note that you use the word random, so you are saying it's random. There is a plan/plot or random mess. I know everyone goes crazy over ''there are billions of ways in the middle that we can't describe, but they are there!" But that is not how it works. If your game has even a ''little tiny plot'', then it has a plot. You can't say ''my game has a tiny plot'' and then say at exactly the same time ''my game has no plot''.



Two things: one, if the players choose "not my problem", and go deal with something else, do you consider that normal game, sandbox, or something else?.

Well, if it's before the adventure starts I don't care....but after the adventure starts, that is a jerk move by the players. I don't go for the stupid idea that there are like 25 plot hooks happening in every five foot square, just waiting for the players to pick one. I go for more there are a couple things always happening in the background and foreground..and often something immediate right near the characters.



Two, you have this strange belief in the GM planning for things. IME, I've found that better GMs plan for various outcomes only as a way to flesh out the world sufficiently to understand the world well enough to run it when the players do the unexpected. Plan-focused GMs are the ones who are forced to be bad jerk GMs and railroad to force the game onto one of the paths that they've planned and understand, whereas GMs who focus on understanding their world and the encounter can better adapt to whatever creative plan the party devises.

I think we are talking about the same thing here.

Your just falling into the trap of Plan=Railraod=Badwrongfun. And the only way to ''have fun'' is to be a ''wacky cool sandbox''.


As an example (this is not an actual quote but it should give the idea): "Yes it is perfectly reasonable to play a random and meaningless sandbox game. Or you can play a deep and fulfilling railroad." Technically it calls out both as valid, but just looking at the word choice, it does clearly state that one is viewed as better than the other. The opposite would be something like "The main difference between the two is railroading is about merely watching the GM advance the plot like watching a movie, while sandboxes is about being an important part of the plot and world and shaping its outcome."

Except the first one is true and accurate.....and the second one is just a bias lie?

Like your example above you do agree sandboxes are random. So it's not in anyway an insult or ''bad''. Somehow lots of people don't like the word ''random'', but those people are just being silly. And meaningless, again, should be agreeable to normal people. After all meaningless fluff is a big part of why people like to play in the sandbox. Though I guess again the word ''sounds bad'' to some people.

But your second one is just a bias lie. Like take a sandbox game: the DM sits back and says ''do whatever you want players the world is your sandbox''....HOW is that about being an important part of the plot and world and shaping its outcome? It's not. There is NOTHING inherent about a sandbox game that makes the characters super duper special demigods that can control and shape the world. Or even take what everyone says is a sandbox, but is really not: a normal game with a plot, structure, pre made things and a goal. This is only a sandbox as everyone keeps saying it is, but anyway....take the false sandbox: How are the player ''so'' important just as the lazy casual DM will roll over and let the players do whatever they want?

See, your definition has nothing to do with a ''sandbox''. The ''sandbox'' is just ''freedom'', and has nothing to do with the game really. Any normal RPG has freedom....but also has paths, rails and even chains. That is just the nature of the game. Your character can't do X. Period. That is part of the game. Your character can try Y or Z, sure. But Z will be much harder. You want to think of of a J, ok, fine, you can try. That is a normal game.

Florian
2018-02-08, 08:55 AM
True. While the basic idea Florian is pushing is correct (a session will move between rules-light and rules-heavy based on the desires of it's participants) the terminology is rather insulting. Traditionally the heaviest point is combat and the lightest point is social interaction, but it's not the only valid possibility (however there is a tendency for games to provide the most rules for combat).

The terms "game", "play" and "toy" are pretty well defined part of social sciences, as is the difference and overlap between them. The "toy aspects" are a major appeal and source of fun when it comes to TTRPG, things like CharOp, writing in-character session logs, creating backstories or "just roleplaying it" are all fun activities connected to TTRPGs, but they're not part of the "game aspects" and as such not strictly necessary for discussion the topic at hand - sandboxes.

Earthwalker
2018-02-08, 08:57 AM
Like your example above you do agree sandboxes are random.



I don't think he did agree that the whole thing was random. He said the game had ransom elements. This points towards me that your game DU might have a random element. The players may roll dice in your game and those rolls change the outcome of an encounter.

From your own definition I assume you are happy to call your own game both Random and Meaningless.

Or has there never been a situation in any of your games where a dice roll has changed the outcome of something ?

Cluedrew
2018-02-08, 09:11 AM
Except the first one is true and accurate.....and the second one is just a bias lie?Yes to the second, that is the point, I don't agree with either of those lines. However the first one is not true and accurate, in fact it is just as wrong, just as biased and much of a lie as the second. (I apologize if you thought I meant either of them where true.)

And yes, randomness is not bad. However people who argue against sandboxes seem to use it as an insult, even though it shouldn't be*, so I added it into the example. Meaningless has a pretty negative connotations, if you don't see that, well I would suggest spending more time around criticism of fiction, it comes up there more often. As a more immediate example: "Your arguments are meaningless Darth Ultron and I don't understand why anyone would even bother to read them."** If I said that for real, what does that say of my opinion or your arguments?

Stuff about the second part being wrong... You got the wrong issues (a sandbox can actually take more work than a linear campaign because there are more possibilities to prepare for, nor does it have anything to do with power level) but the main point stands. It was never supposed to be true.

And to finish off: No sandbox does not mean freedom. It has been described several times before in this thread and attempting to redefine in suddenly will only lead to bad communication and hurt feelings.

* They may be appealing to the idea that something that is improvised is necessarily inferior to something planned out ahead of time. Which is untrue because improvisation allows for new and better ideas, as well as more up to date information and results, into the mix. However both pre-planning and improvisation can be used in a sandbox campaign (and ideally, both of them should be to get the best of both worlds) so this actually isn't a factor in sandbox or not.

** Remember this is an example.

Florian
2018-02-08, 09:13 AM
I don't think he did agree that the whole thing was random. He said the game had ransom elements. This points towards me that your game DU might have a random element. The players may roll dice in your game and those rolls change the outcome of an encounter.

From your own definition I assume you are happy to call your own game both Random and Meaningless.

Or has there never been a situation in any of your games where a dice roll has changed the outcome of something ?

Itīs a hard case of people talking by each other.

DUs position is that he gives players content to interact with and they are free to do so as they please, as long as they do it - that's when "railroad" is used. "Random" or "meaningless" come into it when players instigate activities that don't directly deal with the given content.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-08, 09:27 AM
The terms "game", "play" and "toy" are pretty well defined part of social sciences, as is the difference and overlap between them.


Well there's your first mistake.

This is RPG discussion, not "misrepresent (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2013/10/02/the-shocking-truth-of-the-notorious-milgram-obedience-experiments/) and (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair) distort (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/rethinking-one-of-psychologys-most-infamous-experiments/384913/) human (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/28/science/many-social-science-findings-not-as-strong-as-claimed-study-says.html) culture (https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/how-reliable-are-the-social-sciences/) and behavior (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/05/weird_psychology_social_science_researchers_rely_t oo_much_on_western_college.html)" club.

At the very least, it's just another example of an insular, self-referential field of academic study hijacking commonly-used words, giving them a slanted and peculiar "meaning" as terms of art, and then acting aggrieved and slighted when using those words in broader contexts results in "outsiders" being confused or offended.

But, given the use of "go play with your barbie" and similar comments previously... if you truly do not intend to belittle and demean those who don't play their elfgames the way you think elfgames should be played, then you need to work on your delivery.

Earthwalker
2018-02-08, 09:29 AM
Itīs a hard case of people talking by each other.

DUs position is that he gives players content to interact with and they are free to do so as they please, as long as they do it - that's when "railroad" is used. "Random" or "meaningless" come into it when players instigate activities that don't directly deal with the given content.

Yes I see but the point I was trying to make is that even if you add in the phrase, people can play how they want.

Deciding to call any other style of play but your preferred style random and meaningless is going to be counter to the above statement.

More so when the definitions of random and meaningless are miss applied.

Dealing with something that is not part of the plot inside the GMs head is in fact not what random means nor what meaningless means.

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-08, 11:07 AM
The terms "game", "play" and "toy" are pretty well defined part of social sciences, as is the difference and overlap between them. The "toy aspects" are a major appeal and source of fun when it comes to TTRPG, things like CharOp, writing in-character session logs, creating backstories or "just roleplaying it" are all fun activities connected to TTRPGs, but they're not part of the "game aspects" and as such not strictly necessary for discussion the topic at hand - sandboxes.

While making no claims as to the validity or accuracy of the social sciences, that doesn't matter here.

We aren't talking about RPGs in a social sciences context therefore most people aren't using the social sciences definition, most people are using less formal definitions, in which case toy is an insulting term compared to game.

Florian
2018-02-08, 02:35 PM
While making no claims as to the validity or accuracy of the social sciences, that doesn't matter here.

We aren't talking about RPGs in a social sciences context therefore most people aren't using the social sciences definition, most people are using less formal definitions, in which case toy is an insulting term compared to game.

We have this discussion via the medium of an internet forum. New tab, maybe two searches on google and wikipedia to get up to the speed on at least the basics. It can also be seen as insulting to not do this very basic step and enter a discussion based on how you yourself know it.

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-08, 03:03 PM
We have this discussion via the medium of an internet forum. New tab, maybe two searches on google and wikipedia to get up to the speed on at least the basics. It can also be seen as insulting to not do this very basic step and enter a discussion based on how you yourself know it.

True, and that would make a lot of sense if we were on a social sciences forum and discussing toys and games.

But we're on a roleplaying forum, discussing sandboxes and whether roleplaying sitting around a campfire is worthy. That has nothing to do with 'toys and games' or the differences between them. What purpose does bringing the terms in serve? It actually makes things less clear, because most people posting in this thread likely aren't social sciences.

I don't insist people on this forum go away and look up the SI unit for pressure on this forum if it gets into a discussion of venting spaceship atmospheres, because doing so in and off itself is impolite. I just go along with the consensus, this isn't an engineering forum anyway.

PhantasyPen
2018-02-08, 04:59 PM
A sandbox is a style of game in which minimal character limitations are placed on the gamer, allowing the gamer to roam and change a virtual world at will. In contrast to a progression-style game, a sandbox game emphasizes roaming and allows a gamer to select tasks. Instead of featuring segmented areas or numbered levels, a sandbox game usually occurs in a “world” to which the gamer has full access from start to finish.

A sandbox game is also known as an open-world or free-roaming game. (https://www.techopedia.com/definition/3952/sandbox-gaming)


There, a clear and concise meaning of "sandbox" which disproves your initial statement that it is meaningless.

Wasteomana
2018-02-08, 06:43 PM
It really isn't. TTRPGs are about choices. Take away those or replace them with pre-defined options, you quickly land at near-RPGs (like Descent) or the gm/players just narrating the plot.

See the problem here is in degree. "Oh its not a TTRPG because you replaced my character concept with pre-defined options. You call them 'classes' I call them 'how to make this not a TTRPG'. It is a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum you have people using pregenerated character for a linear game that follows a predetermined story where they have minimal freedom to move around the world at large. The archtypical example being a straight dungeon crawl. That isn't any more or less of a TTRPG than a complete sandbox told through cooperative story telling where everyone shows up at Session 0 and the DM designs the central town and asks each player what is in a cardinal direction (which I have done before) and then has them draw out that section of the map. Both are TTRPGs, both are a on spectrum. The only thing that makes it good or bad is whether it meets or breaks the expectations of the type of game the players or DM wants to run. I can enjoy a linear game with pre-gen characters (I have in the past) and I can enjoy a completely open world where I am as responsible for populating it with ideas as the DM is.


That's the whole point of saying "Everything is a sandbox". "Powergamers" are people who restrict their own choices and options to what is written on their character sheet.

I would not agree to that definition of powergaming even a little. New players who don't really understand how to RP and are using a pre-generated sheet that they picked up at the counter before heading to the table often hunt for something on their sheet that gives them permission to do a thing. They aren't powergamers at all.

Wasteomana
2018-02-08, 09:32 PM
Many dungeon crawls are highly non-linear. Far more so than many non-dungeon crawl published adventures for a variety of gaming systems.

Linear dungeon crawl, non-linear dungeon crawl, game in a world where dungeons don't exist. All reasonably TTRPG games. Saying that one type of game just isn't in the genre is goofiness.

And again this isn't "linear = bad, non-linear = good". It is simply stating that you can't say that X amount of non-linear or linear play is needed to even call it a TTRPG.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-08, 10:28 PM
Or has there never been a situation in any of your games where a dice roll has changed the outcome of something ?

Well, yes: I'm a Killer DM and a Let the Dice Roll as they May type DM. When a player has a super special snowflake character that they love...and they roll and fail at something...that character dies. I don't change things. The same way, if a player has a character take a wild sniper shot and ''rolls a 20'' they sure can kill a foe.



And yes, randomness is not bad. However people who argue against sandboxes seem to use it as an insult

You should always note that I am not ''one of them''.



Meaningless has a pretty negative connotations, if you don't see that, well I would suggest spending more time around criticism of fiction, it comes up there more often.

Well, ''meaning'' is objective. Take Soap Operas, they are a huge pile of meaningless meaningless, yet that does not mean that some people don't like them. The same is true of daytime talk shows, seriously watch one episode of Jerry Sprinnger, and that covers every single other Jerry show ever made(and not made yet). The Weekly World News is an utter pile of meaninglessness, yet somehow they sell tons of issues.

But yes it's meaningless to say ''sit around and pretend to drink at a bar'' in a RPG that has a focus of, well, just about anything. Like when you make a wizard, starship captain or secret agent in lots of detail and then say ''lets sit around and do nothing related to the game or an adventure at all''. Unless there is a Cheers RPG....

RFLS
2018-02-09, 03:19 AM
'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase when applied to TRPG. Really, the term is pointless. One of the most basic and fundamental things about most TRPG is the Freedom of Choice. Anything can Happen. A DM can do anything they can think of, on a whim. A player can have a character try to do anything they think of, on a whim. In theory, it's total Freedom of Choice.

Well, no. Let's break it down.


So why does everyone somehow think TRPG's have ''No Choices'' ?

I blame the Role Playing Video Gamers.

Off to a rocky start with this premise - video game RPGs emerged from (early) TTRPGs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Role-playing_video_game#History_and_classification). Looking back just a few years further, TTRPGs emerged from tactical wargaming. This emergence lead to a narrow focus on what the system would be used for, and, unsurprisingly, it lead to combat. However, the table dynamic had shifted - there was now a DM. Instead of players agreeing to a field of battle, the DM would lay it out, and they would progress. The people that continued to play in these games were the ones that were interested in that kind of game - so the rules and the focus of the games tended to focus and stay on combat. The RP surrounding them was a thin membrane designed to pull the PCs on into the next fight. It was, initially, about as railroaded as you can get.

This did change fairly rapidly. Traveller (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveller_(role-playing_game)) came out in '77, and had a pretty sturdy framework to hang the branching RP choices we're more familiar with. However, the video game RPG genre was already off.


Role Playing Video Games are the worst kind of No Choice Railroad Plot type games. But then they Have to be. A video game is finite.

Brief interlude.


It's made by a couple people, and realistically, they can only program so much into the game.

I (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overwatch_(video_game)#Development) really (http://en.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Development_Team) hope (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/League_of_Legends#Development) that (https://twitter.com/englishguy/status/918634191046283264/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.reddit.com%2Fr%2Fwow%2Fc omments%2F764jxv%2Fthe_entire_current_wow_dev_team _dogs%2F) you're (http://www.perfectly-nintendo.com/legend-zelda-breath-wild-aonuma-dev-team-size/) kidding (https://battlelog.battlefield.com/bf4/credits/).

Interlude over.


It's simple enough: anything in a video game has to not only be thought of by someone, but it also has to be programed into the game by someone. The player of a video game can only do what is already programed into the game to be done.

Of course, anyone who has ever played a role playing video game knows this well. A lot of the stuff in any video game is pure background. A tree or even building in the background can only just be walked by, and nothing else. There is no button you can push, nothing you can do at all, to say have your video game character chop down a background tree. If someone has programed into the game a set tree you can chop down, then your video game character can chop that tree down....but only if someone put that into the game. And this is true of other things in the game too. The innkeeper NPC will always say the game think when you click on the 'talk' button. Even if the innkeeper can say say five or ten or even twenty random things...well they can still only say that set number of things...whatever is programed into the game.

In most role playing video games you have to follow the plot the creators programed into the game: there is nothing else meaningful to do in the game. Anything with any real meaning or substance is programed in as part of the plot, because that is the whole reason the video game even exists. Some video games might have some side things programed in or even just 'busy' things you can do that are not part of the games plot, but still you can only do them if someone has programed them into the game.

This is generally accurate. I'm putting a break here for a few reasons. First - this is, aside from your premise statement, your first use of the word "meaning," and I'd like to address it here first. Meaning is a subjective quality of a work of art that is defined by the consumer upon consumption. Death of the author (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DeathOfTheAuthor), and all that (as a side note, the author might be "dead," but you should at least read the will - there might be a few pointers in there to help you find meaning if you're struggling).


So then all the role playing video gamers sit down and play a Pen and Paper or Table Top RPG, and bring that role playing video game bias with them. Play a couple role playing video games and you will often get bored with the No Choice Railroad Plot. As much fun as the role playing video game is your just jumping through the hoops someone programed into the game. But Table Top RPG's are not like that. In the TRPG the player can do anything, and that is and will always be very appealing. A TRPG with a DM, a real life person, can make the game play do anything, more then any role playing video game with a program can ever do.

This is, on the face of it, accurate. However, the word "anything" comes bundled with some assumptions, and I'm going to unpack them. "Anything," if taken literally, means the player can dictate reality. I think I've seen you use some variation of the phrase "lolrandom (https://xkcd.com/1210/)" (read the mouse-over) to describe this style of play. So either a very freeform game is being played, or the word "anything" comes with a caveat or two.

The most eloquent caveat I can think of would be something like this: "In the TRPG the player can do anything allowed by the existing fiction." There are caveats to the caveat (genre jumping, McGuffins, Deus Ex Machina - any of the variety of plot devices that say "The world is different now"). So it's important to note that anything isn't actually "anything" in a traditional roleplaying game.


Any well written TRPG adventure is a ''sandbox'', and you don't even really need to say it. The Freedom of Choice is a basic part of the game. It's not the pure random freedom chaos of the Storytelling activity, but it's nowhere near the No Choice Railroad of role playing video games. A writer of a well written TRPG adventure anticipates what the players might want or try to do and puts it in the adventure. The players don't have to do anything, but there are things there for them to see, find and do. The players can, of course, at least try to do anything and the DM can make, create or do anything, on a whim, as needed. Any well written TRPG adventure is full of ''if's''; if the players do this or that or if this or that happens.

Really, the only way a TRPG can't be a Sandbox is if the game has a DM that is a Jerk, or is just a Bad DM. Of course, some people are jerks and that is just life. While some people are just bad at being a DM, a lot more bad DMing simply comes from lack of ability and real life experience. And this is where the dreaded Railroad comes in for most people: where the DM makes or forces no choice. As structured linear things still need to happen to advance any plot, they still do need to happen in a TRPG. But a good or even average DM can at least soften the blow and make it not such a high lighted obvious big deal to be noticed. The Jerk DM, of course, simply does not care as they are just being a jerk; and the Bad DM with just make the blow hard, highlighted and very obvious: exactly like many role playing video games.

So 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase for a TRPG.

So here's the meat of it. You have described 3 styles of TTRPG in these two and change paragraphs - "Storytelling", "No Choice Railroad", and regular(?) ("well written TRPG adventure"). You've also actually managed to address narrative causality (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheoryOfNarrativeCausality) without naming it. Essentially, you are stating that amazing things are required to happen to the main characters (PCs, +/-) for the game to progress. You also state that "the players don't have to do anything," implying that these amazing things will happen without their input. Basically, a story that contains the main characters in a TTRPG will progress because it is a story in a TTRPG, and not because the main characters are doing something. You do acknowledge that a "good or even average DM" will soften the blow - the exception that proves the rule. The blow (required mile marker in the story) is there, and the best you can do in a "well written TRPG adventure" is soften it.

Let's go through this again. The PCs (+/-) are the main characters. They are this because amazing things happen to them (as dictated by the DM). Structured linear things still need to happen to advance the plot. These are the amazing things that happen to the PCs. The players don't have to do anything. A good (or average) DM will conceal/soften the fact that these amazing things are happening because the plot dictates. This is, as best I can tell, your definition of what a "well written TRPG adventure" consists of. That...gets awfully close to conflating "well written TRPG adventure" and "No Choice Railroad."

The players aren't able to do anything, and the things they are allowed to do aren't going to erase/redefine the milestones in the plot. That adventure, however loosely, is on the rails.

Let's go check out what people mean by sandboxes. I'm going to introduce two concepts for you to familiarize yourself with. Sente/goke (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Go_terms#Gote,_sente_and_tenuki) and emergence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergence). I wish I could find a less roundabout way to explain the concept of gote/sente, but this is the most concise denotation I've found, so we'll run with it. Essentially, goto/sente is the idea that, in a game (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game), one player is occasionally in a position where they can force another player to make a direct reaction to them in order for the game to proceed. Emergence is the idea that, over time, enough little pieces added together can create something that's not a pile of the little pieces (that definition's a little simplistic, but it'll do).

Sandbox games are a combination of the concept of emergence with the idea that, as often as possible, the players (as opposed to the DM) should have the option of sente. Essentially, the goal is to provide the players with a world that is reactive to their actions. The amazing things that happen should be because of the players' actions, not something that will happen. Eventually, their actions will begin producing an emergent structure (a plot) without outside dictation. The players having sente does not mean that they can actually do anything (freeform). They're still bounded by the fiction. It just means that they go first, as it were.

The problem here is that, at any point, this style of play can shift to the style you have described as well written (or vice versa). However, just because something can be something, does not mean that it is that thing. There is a delineation between the two. It's a rare game that stays entirely inside one or the other. This does not mean that they are the same. It is important to acknowledge that the delineation is there if you want to have constructive discussions about how to go about running/playing a game in one or the other. Both types have someone "playing" the world. Both types have others running a single (+/-) character within that world. Both are bounded by rules. Both are bounded by fiction. Both are TTRPGs.

Florian
2018-02-09, 04:49 AM
@Wasteomana:

See, itīs a matter of POV. You always have a "game world" or "setting" that characters are free to explore, move around in and interact with and have impact on, itīs just a matter of scale and boundaries. As long as the players core agency stays intact, itīs only a matter of form and presentation and there's no real difference between "World", "Dungeon" or "Story", all three of them being equal "game worlds", just with different scaling.

The problem that regularly comes up with this kind of discussion is confusing "game world" and "setting". To use a Forge term, for "Dungeon" and "Story", the setting is only there to provide Color and context, for "World", the setting is the "Game World" itself.

So this is basically where you seem to have misunderstood me, as this is about player agency. A core principle of TTRPGs is that you have full agency to act within the boundaries set by the rules and "game world". You don't have full agency, you don't play a RPG. There is no spectrum here, no degrees, either you have it or you don't.

That makes talking about Sandboxes such a chore.

Anonymouswizard
2018-02-09, 05:53 AM
Setting consists of a few things:
-Location. This can change a lot as the game goes on, but that just means that the 'location' part of setting also incorporates those.
-Style. Is this a gritty war story? An investigative drama? A political epic?
-Characters. Both PCs and NPCs contribute to the story by being there. As an extension of this, factions. Goals are a part of the characters that have them.
-Items. Particularly important ones change how characters behave.
-Limitations.

The limitations are a vital part of the setting. I don't mean in the 'you can't just sprout wings' sense, but where you can't go and what you can't go is as important as what you can do.

In a sandbox this might be 'you can't leave the location', in a plotted campaign this might be more restrictive.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 07:47 AM
If someone uses "game world" and "setting" interchangeably, there's no confusion involved.

If someone is trying to draw a big distinction between "setting" and "game world", then outside concepts that have nothing to do with RPGs are being dragged in.

Florian
2018-02-09, 08:35 AM
Setting consists of a few things:
-Location. This can change a lot as the game goes on, but that just means that the 'location' part of setting also incorporates those.
-Style. Is this a gritty war story? An investigative drama? A political epic?
-Characters. Both PCs and NPCs contribute to the story by being there. As an extension of this, factions. Goals are a part of the characters that have them.
-Items. Particularly important ones change how characters behave.
-Limitations.

The limitations are a vital part of the setting. I don't mean in the 'you can't just sprout wings' sense, but where you can't go and what you can't go is as important as what you can do.

In a sandbox this might be 'you can't leave the location', in a plotted campaign this might be more restrictive.

Genosse, itīs quite interesting to see what kind of power and influence "setting" can and should have upon "game" in your opinion.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-09, 08:39 AM
The most eloquent caveat I can think of would be something like this: "In the TRPG the player can do anything allowed by the existing fiction."

Anything is always tricky as you can't do ''anything''. But even the ''best'' video game has things like a river, hedge or such that you simply can't go past as they have not programed anything beyond that. The same is true of buildings in a town or city: you simply can't go in them all. And sure a couple video games do have ''random generators'' so you can go into say a house an see what is there, but still they can only program so much and you will see repeats. And maybe most of all for NPC's they can only ''say'' what is programed, and the ''game'' can't ''fake'' a real person at all. That is the type of video game stuff I'm talking about.




Let's go through this again. The PCs (+/-) are the main characters. They are this because amazing things happen to them (as dictated by the DM). Structured linear things still need to happen to advance the plot. These are the amazing things that happen to the PCs. The players don't have to do anything. A good (or average) DM will conceal/soften the fact that these amazing things are happening because the plot dictates. This is, as best I can tell, your definition of what a "well written TRPG adventure" consists of. That...gets awfully close to conflating "well written TRPG adventure" and "No Choice Railroad."

This sounds like a good overview. As the PC's are the main characters (''stars'') of the story, amazing things must and will happen to them. Structured linear things need to happen to advance the plot is plot 101. In a good game the plot will always be advancing, no matter what the players do, unless of course, they have the characters somehow stop the plot.



The players aren't able to do anything, and the things they are allowed to do aren't going to erase/redefine the milestones in the plot. That adventure, however loosely, is on the rails.

I see the plot as like a river, with the PC's on a boat. So for the most part PCs will only move and change things on the boat....they won't effect the river at all. The PC's are still changing and altering things, but they are not altering reality on a whim.



Emergence is the idea that, over time, enough little pieces added together can create something that's not a pile of the little pieces (that definition's a little simplistic, but it'll do).

Yes, the Lazy DM way. The DM sits there and does just about nothing. The players aimlessly wander and do random things. At best the DM makes up stuff by improv and at worst they are just doing the Quantum Ogre. I call this Reverse Railroading myself and it's one of the worst ways to play the game. No matter what the players do randomly, it will always be the ''right'' way, as the DM will just make things out of thin air, right in front of the characters. So they players are not even making an choices, they are more creating the world, while the Dm mostly watches.



Sandbox games are a combination of the concept of emergence with the idea that, as often as possible, the players (as opposed to the DM) should have the option of sente. Essentially, the goal is to provide the players with a world that is reactive to their actions. The amazing things that happen should be because of the players' actions, not something that will happen. Eventually, their actions will begin producing an emergent structure (a plot) without outside dictation. The players having sente does not mean that they can actually do anything (freeform). They're still bounded by the fiction. It just means that they go first, as it were.

Now see here it sounds like your describing a ''frozen world'' that only moves when the PCs do something. So like everything is on 'pause' unless the PCs act....and this is one of the worst types of ways to run a game. The whole fiction game world just sits there...nothing ever happens anywhere anytime for any reason. The daily news is simply a blank sheet of paper. Unless a player says ''wow, it would be cool to fight a dragon'', then 'pop' a dragon is right there by the PCs ready to fight.

Segev
2018-02-09, 09:42 AM
If someone uses "game world" and "setting" interchangeably, there's no confusion involved.

If someone is trying to draw a big distinction between "setting" and "game world", then outside concepts that have nothing to do with RPGs are being dragged in.

I was initially going to agree with this, but discovered I have a quibble: the "setting" is the general world, the basis of the fiction. It's the background, the dressing, the design parameters for the metaphorical stage. The "game world" is a little more specific. It's this particular game's world, and it includes the setting as modified by any table-unique alterations and the actions of the PCs.

The setting is what could be defined in a world book or rule book. The game world is messier and more specific, and includes things like the rules for physics and magic and the like, because it's the simulation that is running when you actually play the game.

Now, this is a quibble, because most of the time the terms really are interchangeable. But I think I would be more likely to say "setting" if I were discussing geography, geopolitics, culture, etc. of the fictional setting, and "game world" if I were discussing causal events and the interaction of the setting+NPCs+rules with the PCs.

PCs act within the game world. The game world uses the setting as a basis.

Pleh
2018-02-09, 09:52 AM
To the original post:

The definition of Sandbox here is very limited (hence why it's so easy to misconstrue it as meaningless).

You seem to only include a game's limitation on player choices when defining "Sandbox." You correctly pointed out that even some of the most restricting games still allow a reasonable amount of choice if the game is any good at all. You also correctly pointed out that any DM worth their salt can adjudicate games spontaneously ("on the fly").

This is not what "sandbox" means, since both Sandbox and Linear games will both possess these qualities (albeit often to different degrees). As other people here have stated, a "Sandbox" game rather indicates that the game's primary purpose is to roam and explore, while a "Linear" game's purpose is to follow one of a few paths prepared by the DM. This latter type of game is often confused by inexperienced and power-hungry DMs as a method for control as opposed to a tool for creating goals and PC-Centered-Narrative.

"Linear" games CAN be approximated as a very tiny Sandbox where the players are weak relative to the forces moving in the setting and "Sandbox" games CAN be approximated as Linear games with high degrees of agency paired with low degrees of urgency. This relationship between the types of games arises from their cohabitation of a single spectrum.

But just because Blue and Red are both broad bands of colors on the greater Spectrum of Colors doesn't mean that Red and Blue are inherently meaningless.

For application of the Definition to help outline the importance of the distinction.

I am currently running two D&D games (not hypothetical, actual). One of them I would describe as a Sandbox style game, while the other I would not.

The first game is a Frostfell themed game that is very similar in tone and content as Skyrim. Players are level 10 as rare exceptional heroes and thus are more or less free to do as they please (they almost are legendary in strength compared to most of the world around them). I've laid out a map with a few important local regions, people groups, common threats to society, then I had them make characters and inserted the characters into the story in a manner best suited for those characters. From there, I give them fairly little prompting besides a "starter quest" to get their feet wet in the world and help solidify their companionship as a party of heroes. Past that point, I try to let them lead the story. Often, they desire some prompting to help them make some choices, so they'll make some inquisitional skill checks (spot, listen, gather info, etc). One of them is a Swordsage Mercenary, so he almost always has something for the party to choose, if they like it, because he can always find a local bounty board and see what problems people in the area are willing to pay to have resolved for them. Recently, I pointed out that there seems to be a Region Wide Dire Winter preparing to set in and I told the players if they ever want to pursue encounters that will test their characters more gravely, they can head north and seek out the Cryomancer's Tower beyond the halls of the Viking Dwarves in the Sprawling Peaks, far in the Blighted North of the Arctic Winter. Until then, they can spend as much time as they want breaking bandits over their knees. I've given the players the heads up that I don't mean the urgency of the world to be urgency to their game: the "Main Quest" isn't moving forward until they choose to pursue it. I don't want to take away the sandbox of them doing whatever they want and going wherever they want, discovering small side quests along the way.

The second game is far more linear, despite the world actually being larger and even more detailed on a large scale. This plot has a world with active political turmoil, putting the players into a critical position leading armies at the start of the world's first Great War. In this game, I'm planning where the adventure will go next and I take the time to work with the players to find out how best to incorporate their characters into my plans. I talk to the players out of game about sending them deep into the Bioshock-Inspired Dwarven Underdark to resolve the corruption that has taken hold there. In return, the Dwarves have promised to lend their armies to the war, having been freed from their struggle with the lower levels of their mountain confederacy. Out of game, the primary purpose for this side adventure was to power level the party so they would be prepared to face armies of Mindflayers, who would have otherwise been an army of Boss Level CR enemies. I'm not asking the party where they want to go next, but "this is the path, how do you think your character might choose to follow it?" That is where it becomes linear, not sandbox. They didn't choose the path, I did. And I'm not railroading, because I made it clear ahead of time that this is the adventure I've planned and the players were on board with it. I'm also not railroading because I do a lot of work with the players to justify their involvement in the plot. There aren't many true surprises in the story, because a lot of it is rather designed to get the characters from A to B, with the only uncertainty being the "how."

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 10:09 AM
I was initially going to agree with this, but discovered I have a quibble: the "setting" is the general world, the basis of the fiction. It's the background, the dressing, the design parameters for the metaphorical stage. The "game world" is a little more specific. It's this particular game's world, and it includes the setting as modified by any table-unique alterations and the actions of the PCs.

The setting is what could be defined in a world book or rule book. The game world is messier and more specific, and includes things like the rules for physics and magic and the like, because it's the simulation that is running when you actually play the game.

Now, this is a quibble, because most of the time the terms really are interchangeable. But I think I would be more likely to say "setting" if I were discussing geography, geopolitics, culture, etc. of the fictional setting, and "game world" if I were discussing causal events and the interaction of the setting+NPCs+rules with the PCs.

PCs act within the game world. The game world uses the setting as a basis.


Funny thing is, I get the impression (from past reading and here) that some want to draw what might be the opposite distinction -- that the "game world" is everything, the "setting" is akin to a stage or movie set, "where today's events take place", so that the "setting" of a dungeon crawl is the dungeon.

Cluedrew
2018-02-09, 10:22 AM
To RFLS: Very nice, he seems to have misunderstood a lot of it, but still good job there. For the most part I will let you (if you feel the need) address that. Except for one thing.


In a good game the plot will always be advancing, no matter what the players do, unless of course, they have the characters somehow stop the plot. Judging from how you use the word here, you are only counting the major, world state changing, events in the plot. The problem is this excludes moments that establish the current world state and develop characters and that sort of thing. In other words, it excludes all the moments that give us the reasons we need to care about the world in the first place. I know a number of stories that suffered by focusing on "the plot" without first establishing the stakes. Without first establishing why we should care.

And I don't think a story people don't care about could be described as "good".

Florian
2018-02-09, 10:26 AM
Funny thing is, I get the impression (from past reading and here) that some want to draw what might be the opposite distinction -- that the "game world" is everything, the "setting" is akin to a stage or movie set, "where today's events take place", so that the "setting" of a dungeon crawl is the dungeon.

That's so. You play a game of Undermountain, it is "set in" the city of Waterdeep which is in turn "set in" the Forgotten Realms. This gives meaning and context, but the game is still Undermountain.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 10:28 AM
They're more words that vary.

Game world can mean a published campaign setting, or it can mean the customized one at a given table by the GM, or it can mean the shared ongoing idea in everyone's head during the game (but mainly the GMs).

Setting can be anything from global to local, to a more narrative meaning.


I just use -- and many others seem to use -- the word "setting" to mean "the fictional reality in which the characters exist and the events take place".

Nothing to do with locality or story.




That's so. You play a game of Undermountain, it is "set in" the city of Waterdeep which is in turn "set in" the Forgotten Realms. This gives meaning and context, but the game is still Undermountain.


I've never "played a game of Undermountain", or a "game of waterdeep"... or a "game of Seattle" to reference an old Vampire campaign that took place in Seattle.

Never.

Scripten
2018-02-09, 11:13 AM
I just use -- and many others seem to use -- the word "setting" to mean "the fictional reality in which the characters exist and the events take place".

Nothing to do with locality or story.


I tend to agree (largely) with your interpretations on terms in RPGs, Max, but I have to disagree here. Perhaps not quite as often in RPGs as in fiction, but in my experience "setting" can be used to describe a particular locality within a greater reality. It's a matter of determining scale. One campaign may be "set" in NYC, for example, which would be very different from a campaign in Siberia, even if both share the greater reality of "Earth, in a universe generally resembling our own". I would go so far as to say that a game "set" in the greater United States would be in a different "setting" than a game "set" in just one city.

The constraints, I'd argue, would define the limits of the setting. If the players are not expected (session 0) to leave the dungeon of Undermountain, then the setting of the campaign would be in Undermountain. Otherwise, the setting would be understood to contain the whole of the Forgotten Realms. Florian's wording is weird, but the premise, in this case, is perfectly sound.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 11:33 AM
I tend to agree (largely) with your interpretations on terms in RPGs, Max, but I have to disagree here. Perhaps not quite as often in RPGs as in fiction, but in my experience "setting" can be used to describe a particular locality within a greater reality. It's a matter of determining scale. One campaign may be "set" in NYC, for example, which would be very different from a campaign in Siberia, even if both share the greater reality of "Earth, in a universe generally resembling our own". I would go so far as to say that a game "set" in the greater United States would be in a different "setting" than a game "set" in just one city.

The constraints, I'd argue, would define the limits of the setting. If the players are not expected (session 0) to leave the dungeon of Undermountain, then the setting of the campaign would be in Undermountain. Otherwise, the setting would be understood to contain the whole of the Forgotten Realms. Florian's wording is weird, but the premise, in this case, is perfectly sound.


I'm not going to argue strongly against that usage, I think in context it's generally clear.

My objection is to the assertion that "setting" specifically and only means something like "a movie set" or "the specific limited area in which the direct events of the narrative take place", and that it would somehow be wrong to use it in the broader sense.

This strikes me as just yet another attempt to impose the terminology and analytical approaches generally used for something that shares some parallels with RPGs, directly onto RPGs -- to treat RPGs as another form or mode of that thing.

We see people who come in from authorial fiction writing and storytelling do it, people who come in from stage acting and/or improv do it, people who come in from various academic fields do it, and so on, and in each case they make the mistake of assuming that RPGs are somehow perfectly aligned with that other thing and can be understood and talked about in that framework -- and that those who approach creating, playing, or analyzing RPGs differently are "doing it wrong".

Cluedrew
2018-02-09, 01:19 PM
This strikes me as just yet another attempt to impose the terminology and analytical approaches generally used for something that shares some parallels with RPGs, directly onto RPGs -- to treat RPGs as another form or mode of that thing.Some times it is useful, sometimes it is not. For instance I also write and I have found that some concepts and guides transfer quite well to role-playing games. Pacing rules for instance mostly seem to stay the same. On the other hand anything about planning changes because dice and their randomness, people getting new ideas as the story progresses, or just having different clashing ideas that they let the plot resolve, and plan old improvisation. Although you can bring more of that over in more linear campaigns and some people do with success, but I find it doesn't work as well. So sometimes it works and some times it doesn't, sometimes you just got to try it and see.

Also, going back another step, where do your campaigns occur? Original settings all the time?

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 01:44 PM
Some times it is useful, sometimes it is not. For instance I also write and I have found that some concepts and guides transfer quite well to role-playing games. Pacing rules for instance mostly seem to stay the same. On the other hand anything about planning changes because dice and their randomness, people getting new ideas as the story progresses, or just having different clashing ideas that they let the plot resolve, and plan old improvisation. Although you can bring more of that over in more linear campaigns and some people do with success, but I find it doesn't work as well. So sometimes it works and some times it doesn't, sometimes you just got to try it and see.


Where there are parallels, the same tools and concepts can be useful, of course.

My objection is to when "RPGs share some elements with improv acting" is taken to mean "RPGs are improv acting, and all the same theories and principles and terminology apply". Or "I'm a writer, I tell stories, and RPGs feel like stories to me, therefore RPGs are all about storytelling and story is everything".




Also, going back another step, where do your campaigns occur? Original settings all the time?


If one considers "the real world, but..." an original setting, then yes. Even for something like Star Wars, it was never a published sector or supplement, or for the most part established planets, the PCs never encountered characters from the movies or novels, and we had our own very-unLucas take on what the Force is and is not (example, "the Dark Side" leaned heavily evil, but wouldn't turn a character into a cartoon villain, Evil Stupid, or a gibbering baby-murderer).

Segev
2018-02-09, 02:05 PM
Funny thing is, I get the impression (from past reading and here) that some want to draw what might be the opposite distinction -- that the "game world" is everything, the "setting" is akin to a stage or movie set, "where today's events take place", so that the "setting" of a dungeon crawl is the dungeon.

Hm. Thinking on it more, I think what I, personally, mean by "setting" is "the physical location and all the set dressings." And by "game world," I mean, "the simulation."

The difference between the stage and the play. The play includes the stage, but it also includes what the actors do within it.

...that's still not quite right. It's the difference between the environment and the simulation of what goes on in the environment.

The game world is, to me, everything going on. Arguably minus the players, as I often will speak in terms of PCs interacting with the game world. They can't really interact, in my vernacular, with the "setting." They interact with the game world, and the setting might be altered in small or large ways by this.


I may be getting way too nitpicky, here, in trying to explain in words the subtle difference in what I mean when I use one or the other of those terms. Because a lot of the time, they're so nearly interchangeable that little is lost if nobody knows why I picked one over the other.

RazorChain
2018-02-09, 08:08 PM
I don't agree often with DU but the point he's making is mostly true. All roleplaying games are sandboxes, there is literally nothing stopping the PC's from doing something completely different or exploring the sandbox except the GM. The GM is the only one who can drag the PC's through the sand to his carefully built sand castle that the PC's are meant to explore. Now mostly the players and GM are in agreement on what content can be explored but if the game takes place in Forgotten Realms then the sandbox is literally the whole universe if the PC's find a means to jump between planes.


The other thing is the illusion of agency. In a traditional RPG where the GM is in control of everything except the PC's, the only agency the players have is over their PC's and even there the only agency is what the GM gives them. There is nothing that stops the GM from invalidating every choice the PC's make which in a sense makes agency an illusion because the only agency the PC's have is what the GM allows them.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 08:20 PM
I don't agree often with DU but the point he's making is mostly true. All roleplaying games are sandboxes, there is literally nothing stopping the PC's from doing something completely different or exploring the sandbox except the GM. The GM is the only one who can drag the PC's through the sand to his carefully built sand castle that the PC's are meant to explore. Now mostly the players and GM are in agreement on what content can be explored but if the game takes place in Forgotten Realms then the sandbox is literally the whole universe if the PC's find a means to jump between planes.


That doesn't make the term meaningless, or considerations of whether a campaign is more or less "sandboxy" pointless.




The other thing is the illusion of agency. In a traditional RPG where the GM is in control of everything except the PC's, the only agency the players have is over their PC's and even there the only agency is what the GM gives them. There is nothing that stops the GM from invalidating every choice the PC's make which in a sense makes agency an illusion because the only agency the PC's have is what the GM allows them.


By that standard, the GM also "has as much agency as the players allow". They can always refuse to go along with anything, or just get up from the table.

RazorChain
2018-02-09, 09:35 PM
That doesn't make the term meaningless, or considerations of whether a campaign is more or less "sandboxy" pointless.

No, I get that sandbox is used for certain types of games.




By that standard, the GM also "has as much agency as the players allow". They can always refuse to go along with anything, or just get up from the table.

Well yes unless you are a mad dictator and have your players roleplaying at gunpoint.

But heavyhandedness isn't required

A GM can control the game by illusionism, which I think DU is alluding to.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-09, 09:47 PM
Well yes unless you are a mad dictator and have your players roleplaying at gunpoint.

But heavyhandedness isn't required

A GM can control the game by illusionism, which I think DU is alluding to.



His sort of illusionism amounts to "I'm an awesome GM and players never see through my veil, except for the ones who do... but they're all jerks and I send them running from the game crying". (More likely they realize what's going on and leave, but hey.)


But either way, I see very little need if any for illusionism -- a robust setting and a GM willing to improvise a little makes it almost entirely unnecessary.

RFLS
2018-02-10, 02:52 AM
His sort of illusionism amounts to "I'm an awesome GM and players never see through my veil, except for the ones who do... but they're all jerks and I send them running from the game crying". (More likely they realize what's going on and leave, but hey.)

Unintentional forum rules violation. Woops. Sorry mods.

RazorChain
2018-02-10, 02:53 AM
His sort of illusionism amounts to "I'm an awesome GM and players never see through my veil, except for the ones who do... but they're all jerks and I send them running from the game crying". (More likely they realize what's going on and leave, but hey.)


But either way, I see very little need if any for illusionism -- a robust setting and a GM willing to improvise a little makes it almost entirely unnecessary.


I'm not advocating for removing player agency just pointing out that it can be removed both against the players will and via deception. I mean statistically if you go through enough players you are bound to find a group that you can bully around. If you don't like bullying then you can do the same thing via deception.

This means that players agency within the game is dependent on the GM.

Wasteomana
2018-02-10, 05:02 AM
I'm not advocating for removing player agency just pointing out that it can be removed both against the players will and via deception. I mean statistically if you go through enough players you are bound to find a group that you can bully around. If you don't like bullying then you can do the same thing via deception.

This means that players agency within the game is dependent on the GM.

So rather than be a better DM and not have such an antagonistic view towards your players you... just cycle through enough people until eventually you find one you can bully or deceive?

I feel there MIGHT be something wrong with that plan. Just something about it strikes me as not the best of ideas to promote...

Florian
2018-02-10, 05:19 AM
I'm not going to argue strongly against that usage, I think in context it's generally clear.

My objection is to the assertion that "setting" specifically and only means something like "a movie set" or "the specific limited area in which the direct events of the narrative take place", and that it would somehow be wrong to use it in the broader sense.

The problem is that role-players traditionally use the term "setting" for a dual purpose of "provider of content" and "provider of context", so "stage" and "backdrop" at the same time. So using it in a broader sense is, well, wrong because you don't convey what of the two different things you mean when using it.


I'm not advocating for removing player agency just pointing out that it can be removed both against the players will and via deception. I mean statistically if you go through enough players you are bound to find a group that you can bully around. If you don't like bullying then you can do the same thing via deception.

This means that players agency within the game is dependent on the GM.

That's just weird. You have to "bully" players around when there's a fundamental difference in how to understand the game and if the players didn't "buy in" to the game you actually offer. So, yes, naturally, in a "traditional" game where the GM is in charge of the content, the GM is the one setting the limits and boundaries which in turn will inform what agency is and means.

Something must have gone wrong at some point when I offer a game of "Rise of the Runelords" and I do so with people more interested in exploring Varisia or don't bring characters suitable to do so.

RazorChain
2018-02-10, 05:47 AM
That's just weird. You have to "bully" players around when there's a fundamental difference in how to understand the game and if the players didn't "buy in" to the game you actually offer. So, yes, naturally, in a "traditional" game where the GM is in charge of the content, the GM is the one setting the limits and boundaries which in turn will inform what agency is and means.

Something must have gone wrong at some point when I offer a game of "Rise of the Runelords" and I do so with people more interested in exploring Varisia or don't bring characters suitable to do so.

Yes this might sound weird but I'm not advising anyone on bullying players. I'm using it to make a point that agency within the game is dependent on the GM and that might prompt DU's reaction on that player agency is an illusion, just to put things into context.

But now that we're here I'll point out that there are a lot of GM's out there that severly limit agency.

GM: "Guys I'm going to run Rise of the Runelords and you have no choice but to play it as I'm the only GM in the village.

Bob "Oh again...but we died last time"

GM: "That was because you went to do some stupid crap that wasn't in the module and the Gods got angry. So I need a fighter, cleric, rogue and wizard."

Jim: "Can't I play a barbarian?"

GM: "No, barbarians don't fit in with my vision of the campaign world. Soooo Jim, you get to play the fighter"

Jim: "Great, fighter again"

GM: "If you play well you might get to be a cleric next time....eh...how about that."

Koo Rehtorb
2018-02-10, 06:42 AM
GM: "Guys I'm going to run Rise of the Runelords and you have no choice but to play it as I'm the only GM in the village.

This is the point where you laugh and walk off.

Florian
2018-02-10, 07:03 AM
This is the point where you laugh and walk off.

Is it? If itīs the only game in town, you either swallow the toad or you GM yourself and offer another.

Koo Rehtorb
2018-02-10, 07:35 AM
Is it? If itīs the only game in town, you either swallow the toad or you GM yourself and offer another.

Or play on the internet instead.

Any of those three options are better.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-10, 08:06 AM
The problem is that role-players traditionally use the term "setting" for a dual purpose of "provider of content" and "provider of context", so "stage" and "backdrop" at the same time. So using it in a broader sense is, well, wrong because you don't convey what of the two different things you mean when using it.


That would assume that there's any distinction to be made there in the first place.

Cluedrew
2018-02-10, 09:20 AM
But now that we're here I'll point out that there are a lot of GM's out there that severly limit agency.Yes, they are called bad GMs.

If a GM runs a low agency game and the players just want in for tactical combat (or a number of other reasons), that is fine. But cutting down choices for no reason other than "you know what, what I want is more important than you want by the cult of GM, so we are just going to go with what I want," is both selfish and will result in a net loss of fun for the players. Which means they are doing a bad job.

And honestly, although it doesn't happen very often, players can limit GM agency. Part of the reason it doesn't happen is people realize that would be rude, but I don't see how it would be any less rude than doing the same to the player. Agency can conflict and then of course you have to find some fair way to limit them. Fair can be a bit complicated, but it is not "just limit the player's agency until it doesn't conflict with the GM's".

Pleh
2018-02-10, 10:03 AM
Is it?

Yes, it is. Not gaming at all is better than a toxic game.

There are other hobbies. Putting up with abuse is never worth it in any field of life.

It's unhealthy to need these games so much you put up with abuse from other people to get it. At that point, you're probably better weaning yourself off this stuff a bit.

Florian
2018-02-10, 10:44 AM
That would assume that there's any distinction to be made there in the first place.

Sure. That's why you can place a Rappan Athuk or Red Hand of Doom before the backdrop of nearly any setting, a Tales from the Infinite Staircase only works in combination with Planescape as a setting, tho.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-10, 11:13 AM
Sure. That's why you can place a Rappan Athuk or Red Hand of Doom before the backdrop of nearly any setting, a Tales from the Infinite Staircase only works in combination with Planescape as a setting, tho.

That still doesn't draw any distinction between "context" and "content".

The "secondary reality", the "fictional world", the setting, whatever one wants to call it... that's the backdrop AND the stage, an integral part of the context and the content. The village one of the characters is from, the mountains in the distance, the history of the kingdoms, the city the characters first met in or operate out of, the constellations in the sky and the restaurant they gather in the back of for secret meetings... all of that is the setting.

Cosi
2018-02-10, 11:33 AM
Is it? If itīs the only game in town, you either swallow the toad or you GM yourself and offer another.

Or you tell the DM that you're not interested in that, and the group works together to find an acceptable compromise. If you set up your game by offering ultimatums to one another until either the players or the DM break down, you will end up with a bad game even if everyone accepts the same ultimatum. It's a group game, and its contents should be a group decision.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-10, 04:57 PM
As other people here have stated, a "Sandbox" game rather indicates that the game's primary purpose is to roam and explore, while a "Linear" game's purpose is to follow one of a few paths prepared by the DM.

That is not a common definition of a Sandbox, and it's sure not one I see used.





The first game is a Frostfell themed game

You say this is a sandbox? The players are free to do meaningless fluff things for as long as they want too. You as DM just sit back and do very little other then react to the players and drop random plot hooks. Then, maybe eventually, the players will final say ''ok, lets do something meaningful'' and pick a plot hook. Then the normal game starts.

All the meaningless fluff things are great, for as long as everyone wants to do them. But, most often, people do eventually want to do ''more''.



The second game is far more linear,

So my question is, after all the meaningless fluff things, when the players do finally pick something meaningful to do that is adventure worthy...does not the game become linear?


Funny thing is, I get the impression (from past reading and here) that some want to draw what might be the opposite distinction -- that the "game world" is everything, the "setting" is akin to a stage or movie set, "where today's events take place", so that the "setting" of a dungeon crawl is the dungeon.

I think the two are a bit interchangeable. Though I'd say ''game world'' is a bit more ''the single planet'' and ''setting'' is more ''the multiverse''.




But now that we're here I'll point out that there are a lot of GM's out there that severly limit agency.


I think that the vast majority of DMs, like just about all of them, do this. And the vast majority of players, like just about all of them are fine with this and agree with it.

It's odd to see people disagree with that. Like when a DM says ''this game is set in a mythical Aztec like setting'' and a players is like ''I demand to have a ninja cyborg alien character!''

Cluedrew
2018-02-10, 06:01 PM
So my question is, after all the meaningless fluff things, when the players do finally pick something meaningful to do that is adventure worthy...does not the game become linear?Isn't that like saying when you come to a fork in the road and then choose a to turn one way or the other... wasn't there just a curve in the road? No of course not, the fact that you choose one option doesn't mean that the other options have not existed. Baring retcons, you will always have taken exactly one path, but choosing that path because it was the only one available is a very different experience than choosing one from many different options.

Also Pleh's definition of sandbox seems to be pretty much the standard as far as I can tell.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-10, 09:00 PM
Isn't that like saying when you come to a fork in the road and then choose a to turn one way or the other... wasn't there just a curve in the road? No of course not, the fact that you choose one option doesn't mean that the other options have not existed. Baring retcons, you will always have taken exactly one path, but choosing that path because it was the only one available is a very different experience than choosing one from many different options.

Also Pleh's definition of sandbox seems to be pretty much the standard as far as I can tell.

Well, no. The way I'm seeing it is the group is sitting at home just doing dull, normal stuff: going shopping, drinking at a bar, or doing laundry. And things don't and can't get exciting and interesting until they finally leave their safe home and start off down the road. Like all the stuff until the players pick a plot hook to do or follow is just pre-game.

Really? It does not seem like when people say Sandbox they are saying ''roam and explore''. But is that somehow what people think they are saying? Because saying the game is a pointless, random mess does not seem to be a good thing.

Like ok, the DM makes a setting and then does little else. So then for hours, the players can just have their characters wander around doing trivial, meaningless things. Then, eventually, the players will pick a plot hook and the normal game adventure will then start. And as a plot is linear that is that.

So what is the point of highlighting the pre game fluff by going all out and saying it will be a sandbox game...especially as it will just be a normal game?

Pleh
2018-02-10, 09:33 PM
That is not a common definition of a Sandbox, and it's sure not one I see used.

To be fair, you fairly commonly seem to have a different understanding of what other people are saying (even when others explicitly correct you).

You don't seem to be a reliable authority on what other people have been saying.


You say this is a sandbox? The players are free to do meaningless fluff things for as long as they want too. You as DM just sit back and do very little other then react to the players and drop random plot hooks. Then, maybe eventually, the players will final say ''ok, lets do something meaningful'' and pick a plot hook. Then the normal game starts.

All the meaningless fluff things are great, for as long as everyone wants to do them. But, most often, people do eventually want to do ''more''.

Why are the endless sidequests "meaningless"? What if that's the game they prefer to play? My players don't seem to be in any hurry to get on with the "main quest."

You're judging their game based on your own ideas about what makes games fun, ignoring the fact that other people think differently than you.


So my question is, after all the meaningless fluff things, when the players do finally pick something meaningful to do that is adventure worthy...does not the game become linear?

Think of "Sandbox" like a forest full of hiking trails while a "linear" game is like riding a train on a rail. During most Sandbox games, you follow somewhat linear paths that aren't necessarily interconnected or interdependent. They seem linear, because they are still following some logical progression, just not necessarily leading anywhere (or if leading somewhere, not necessarily having any more purpose than getting to location X.

In a Linear games, the point is to ride the train. You can move back and forth between compartments, climb out on top or on the sides, try to take control of the speed of the train, or maybe jump off (at which point the nature of the game changes). You have no power directly to affect which way you're going, you're on a train that carries you).

In a sandbox, while you can walk along a set of rails and follow after the train, you move under your own power and determine your path at will, stepping on and off the rail track as you choose, or even embarking off into uncharted territory on a whim. No one objective is ever more meaningful than another, as the value in every quest is only what you choose to place in it.

In a more linear game, you are already being swept along, you don't control so much where you go as much as how (though that *can* be altered, it's more difficult than in a sandbox).

At no point are Sandbox or Linear games distinguished by objectives that are more or less meaningful. It's more that Linear games attempt to tie Meaning to the Overarching Plot. Sandbox games try to accumulate as much Meaning as possible in every various thing that the players pursue.

RFLS
2018-02-10, 09:34 PM
Dude, at this point it has to be willful ignorance. It's been spelled out for you repeatedly. People have told you that they game a certain way. You are busily alternating between calling them liars and telling them that they're bad/wrong about how to play RPGs. I don't think this can be made any clearer.

Cluedrew
2018-02-10, 10:29 PM
Like ok, the DM makes a setting and then does little else. So then for hours, the players can just have their characters wander around doing trivial, meaningless things. Then, eventually, the players will pick a plot hook and the normal game adventure will then start. And as a plot is linear that is that.Oh that part. Also no, but for a different reason, or reasons.

First off you assume that what the players do wandering around is meaningless. Which if they are doing it, they obviously do not think it is. As an example, a lot of "narrative structure diagrams" I have seen include a gap before the trigger incident. This introduction period is used to establish character and setting and build the base assumptions used later. In a role-playing game, where you don't know what will be important later and have to make the decision as opposed to merely follow it. So that might explain the wandering in your example. (Actually, is it an example from your experience or guessing what happens in a sandbox game?)

Second, picking a plot hook from options is still different from just being given a single one. Because people will choose the one that interests them, makes the most sense for their characters to follow, so you can get better results out of that.

RazorChain
2018-02-11, 01:03 AM
Like ok, the DM makes a setting and then does little else. So then for hours, the players can just have their characters wander around doing trivial, meaningless things. Then, eventually, the players will pick a plot hook and the normal game adventure will then start. And as a plot is linear that is that.

So what is the point of highlighting the pre game fluff by going all out and saying it will be a sandbox game...especially as it will just be a normal game?


You pretty much summed it up. Sandbox game is a game where the GM places hooks beforehand and the players have the joy of wandering around hunting for those hooks. Remember the beforehand part is very important because for some players adding things after the fact is cheating on the GMs part. When the players finally find a hook they have to determine if they have the guts to go through with the adventure itself and then a normal linear or even not so linear adventrure starts. If the players don't like the hook or the adventure they are allowed to back out and find a new one.

So I don't know where all the randomness or meaningless wandering stems from....maybe while the players are trying to find an appropriate hook?

See in my books a sandbox just looks like a normal game where the GM doesn't just kick player agency in the balls and allows the players some freedom of choice.

Florian
2018-02-11, 02:49 AM
So I don't know where all the randomness or meaningless wandering stems from....maybe while the players are trying to find an appropriate hook?

Itīs basically a good description of hex crawling. Even when you've got your initial plot hooks, you still have to "crawl" to them, doing the exploration and (random) encounters en route.

Maybe 6 years ago, I gmīed a rather typical hex crawl (frontier outpost, uncharted wilderness, lost civilizations, you know the drill) for a bunch of players new to the format. Although they managed to deal with and discover a lot, even in the initial session, by session four we even two emerging stories based not the prior action tentatively starting, when two of the players quit the game after that session.

Reasons were:
- Story development to slow, no overall coherent story.
- Game not character focused.
- Why don't we just skip the boring parts and only tackle the interesting stuff?

So, ok, those guys were WoD players, so their understanding of "sandbox" might have been vastly different from mine.

RFLS
2018-02-11, 03:19 AM
So, ok, those guys were WoD players, so their understanding of "sandbox" might have been vastly different from mine.

Understatement of the YEAR.

hamishspence
2018-02-11, 10:05 AM
You pretty much summed it up. Sandbox game is a game where the GM places hooks beforehand and the players have the joy of wandering around hunting for those hooks.

In Elminster's Forgotten Realms (splatbook, for no specific edition, created late in 4e) it talks about how, to make your world seem "alive" you need to constantly be creating new hooks - make it seem like time is passing, and that events keep happening around the players even if they do nothing and they don't see those events close up.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-11, 10:41 AM
In Elminster's Forgotten Realms (splatbook, for no specific edition, created late in 4e) it talks about how, to make your world seem "alive" you need to constantly be creating new hooks - make it seem like time is passing, and that events keep happening around the players even if they do nothing and they don't see those events close up.

That's key, and something were a lot of video games, for example, fail -- the setting doesn't feel very real if it just sits around waiting for the PC(s) to show up and interact with it.

RazorChain
2018-02-11, 01:08 PM
In Elminster's Forgotten Realms (splatbook, for no specific edition, created late in 4e) it talks about how, to make your world seem "alive" you need to constantly be creating new hooks - make it seem like time is passing, and that events keep happening around the players even if they do nothing and they don't see those events close up.

Ok then let me explain better. The GM has to place the hooks before the session starts. No quantum ogres!

jayem
2018-02-11, 02:09 PM
I suspect it depends on the scale.
The big situations ought to be from before the start. You start in a small region of squabbling countries surrounded by great empires (behind which may be even bigger fish).
The fairly big situations for the campaign. The small region is more or less described. CountryB is invading, the Lords of Parliament and the Crown are at tensions over XYZ.
...
Before the session after the one in which the group didn't join the army. A regiment is missing, lots of people in town have a connection. (slowly changing plot hooks)
During the session, whatever a specific person's connection (if any) is to the lost regiment. Not QO but some similarities.
Instantaneous, minor details, that specific person's strength, etc...

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-11, 02:17 PM
Ok then let me explain better. The GM has to place the hooks before the session starts. No quantum ogres!

What if a new hook emerges from the events of a session?

RazorChain
2018-02-11, 02:28 PM
This is the point where you laugh and walk off.


Is it? If itīs the only game in town, you either swallow the toad or you GM yourself and offer another.


Or play on the internet instead.

Any of those three options are better.


Yes, it is. Not gaming at all is better than a toxic game.

There are other hobbies. Putting up with abuse is never worth it in any field of life.

It's unhealthy to need these games so much you put up with abuse from other people to get it. At that point, you're probably better weaning yourself off this stuff a bit.


Or you tell the DM that you're not interested in that, and the group works together to find an acceptable compromise. If you set up your game by offering ultimatums to one another until either the players or the DM break down, you will end up with a bad game even if everyone accepts the same ultimatum. It's a group game, and its contents should be a group decision.

You see when I was growing up and playing roleplaying games in 80s and 90s we didn't have internet or any source to tell us this. My parents didn't have answers for how to deal with a toxic GM and we had a hard time identifying them as we were pre-teens or early teens.

One of the first games I joined was a BECMI game run by my older brother and I joined on the premise that they needed a healer so I got to play a cleric. You might scoff at this but this is a reality that preteens and early teens might be struggling with and there is a good chance they aren't on these forums to get advice. Being a GM at this age is a status symbol in the group because not everyone can or will be a GM as it seems hard and difficult task. Not everyone has a plethora of games to chose from.

Just pointing people out that there are other hobbies doesn't help. I have always been passionate about gaming, starting as a kid and have been playing for rpgs over three decades. So should I have picked up another hobby because my brother forced me to play a cleric if I wanted join his game? So yes Florian, you swallow that toad and hope for better times and then you memorize the rules because you don't have the rulebooks or the money to buy them and start your own group :smallmad:

Florian
2018-02-11, 03:02 PM
What if a new hook emerges from the events of a session?

What exactly are hooks? They're pointers towards something, giving a direction to move forwards to, as most of the time, with a fresh new sandbox, you don't have a clue what exactly to do with it.

A bit cliché, but such things as a rumor table and some wanted posters are simple tools to get things in motion. I mean, you didn't place/hide also those shiny toys in the sandbox for them not to be found and toyed with, right?

So I guess you're rather talking about "emergent plot" instead of hook.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-11, 03:21 PM
To be fair, you fairly commonly seem to have a different understanding of what other people are saying (even when others explicitly correct you).

You don't seem to be a reliable authority on what other people have been saying.

All I keep seeing is everyone saying Sandbox=Cool.

Like you yourself say your one game is a sandbox...but then you detail that it is just a normal game.



Why are the endless sidequests "meaningless"? What if that's the game they prefer to play? My players don't seem to be in any hurry to get on with the "main quest."

You're judging their game based on your own ideas about what makes games fun, ignoring the fact that other people think differently than you.

Sidequests are not meaningless, though they do need a big main quest to ''be on the side'' of.

And I'm not judging, as I've said lots of time and will say again: Any way to play the game is fine and any way people want to have fun is fine. I'm not talking about those people at all. Some people want to play an RPG and do nothing except roll a d20 to toss a peanut in their characters's mouth at a bar. And that is fine, for some people. I'm talking about the other players, the ones that want to role play more meaningful, exciting and adventurous things. They want to fight a dragon on the edge of a volcano much more then they just want to have a drink at a bar or do some dirty laundry.



Think of "Sandbox" like a forest full of hiking trails while a "linear" game is like riding a train on a rail. During most Sandbox games, you follow somewhat linear paths that aren't necessarily interconnected or interdependent. They seem linear, because they are still following some logical progression, just not necessarily leading anywhere (or if leading somewhere, not necessarily having any more purpose than getting to location X.

THIS is my point: all RPGS are the ''many paths''. The problem is that everyone else is seeing Sandbox= Cool Game and Jerk DM Railroad as the only two game types.

If you follow a path that is does not lead anywhere...that is the definition of meaningless and pointless. You play the game, run around in a couple pointless circles, then stop playing that game.



You have no power directly to affect which way you're going, you're on a train that carries you).

Again, this is my point. You can endlessly take meaningless actions in the game(and yes, have tons and tons of tons of fun...if this is your version of fun) and pointlessly wander lots of paths to nowhere. Eventually, though, most players pick a big main path...a quest, with a story and plot: basically something meaningful to do. And, yes, once you pick that path...you do have to follow it: that is how paths work.



In a sandbox, while you can walk along a set of rails and follow after the train, you move under your own power and determine your path at will, stepping on and off the rail track as you choose, or even embarking off into uncharted territory on a whim. No one objective is ever more meaningful than another, as the value in every quest is only what you choose to place in it.

Again, this is my point: A so called Sandbox is a Normal game.

The players want to ''fight an evil king and save a kingdom''. So the DM makes the Adventure. A, at least average DM will make at least a couple ways (''paths''), especially the ''obvious'' ones: a good sister to the evil king, a hardy band of rebels against the king, an evil demon that is influencing the king and an imprisoned brass dragon(*Now* note it does not have to be these exact ones, they are just examples). Then when the game play starts, the players can have their characters do whatever they want along the adventure path of ''fight an evil king and save a kingdom''. The players are free to ignore everything the DM has made; like they can have their characters charge the evil kings castle in broad daylight and not get the rebel army to help(though admittedly this is stupid.) The characters in the game can only act/react to things the DM has made; the players can't just make stuff up.




First off you assume that what the players do wandering around is meaningless.

Well, yes, objectively. I'm saying that in a typical action adventure RPG, where the players make a character that is a super hero, secret agent, or minotaur barbarian that yes it is meaningless to say wash some laundry or drink at a bar. Again, I'm not talking about where your playing the Cake Baking RPG, where you make a character to do nothing but bake cakes in the game.



Which if they are doing it, they obviously do not think it is. As an example, a lot of "narrative structure diagrams" I have seen include a gap before the trigger incident. This introduction period is used to establish character and setting and build the base assumptions used later.

I guess this is just a matter of style. I think it's better to establish character and setting and build the base assumptions during an adventure, not spend hours doing it in a pre-adventure introduction.

Like a player can make a character that is afraid of spiders. So the so called Sandbox way is to have the character drink at a bar, for hours of real time, and when they see a common normal spider at some point the player can say ''Oh, hey my character is afraid of spiders''. Or there is the normal game Adventure way of having the character, during the adventure, as they move through the Caves of Doom to sneak into the evil kings castle, they encounter a monstrous giant spider and role play their character as being afraid of it.



Second, picking a plot hook from options is still different from just being given a single one. Because people will choose the one that interests them, makes the most sense for their characters to follow, so you can get better results out of that.

I agree that for some players, the picky ones and ones likely to cause problems, it's better to let them ''pick'' something to do. In theory such players should follow the adventure path because they want too. Though, in reality, any player that wants to be a problem player will do so; even if they pick the adventure of ''destroy the lich king'', they can still whine and cry ten minutes into the game when they encounter a tough skeletal guard they can't destroy in front of a door.


So I don't know where all the randomness or meaningless wandering stems from....maybe while the players are trying to find an appropriate hook?

See in my books a sandbox just looks like a normal game where the GM doesn't just kick player agency in the balls and allows the players some freedom of choice.

So, it's more accurate to say: The game will have a Sandbox pre-game, and then be a normal game. So it's missleading to say it will be a ''sandbox game'', as the sandbox part only comes before the normal game play starts.

So Sandbox = Pick a Plot?

Pleh
2018-02-11, 04:18 PM
You see when I was growing up and playing roleplaying games in 80s and 90s we didn't have internet or any source to tell us this. My parents didn't have answers for how to deal with a toxic GM and we had a hard time identifying them as we were pre-teens or early teens.

One of the first games I joined was a BECMI game run by my older brother and I joined on the premise that they needed a healer so I got to play a cleric. You might scoff at this but this is a reality that preteens and early teens might be struggling with and there is a good chance they aren't on these forums to get advice. Being a GM at this age is a status symbol in the group because not everyone can or will be a GM as it seems hard and difficult task. Not everyone has a plethora of games to chose from.

Just pointing people out that there are other hobbies doesn't help. I have always been passionate about gaming, starting as a kid and have been playing for rpgs over three decades. So should I have picked up another hobby because my brother forced me to play a cleric if I wanted join his game? So yes Florian, you swallow that toad and hope for better times and then you memorize the rules because you don't have the rulebooks or the money to buy them and start your own group :smallmad:

Well, you live and you learn, but the fact that you didn't have people helping you doesn't mean that we should answer the question any differently.


All I keep seeing is everyone saying Sandbox=Cool.

Like you yourself say your one game is a sandbox...but then you detail that it is just a normal game.

That's because Sandboxes ARE "Normal" games. Linear Games are "Normal" games. They're just different styles of Normal Games, which is why both terms are meaningful.


Sidequests are not meaningless, though they do need a big main quest to ''be on the side'' of.

No, they don't. Sure, the term originally came up to describe quests that were ancillary to a larger plot, but since then the Sidequest has evolved and no longer needs a larger companion.


THIS is my point: all RPGS are the ''many paths''. The problem is that everyone else is seeing Sandbox= Cool Game and Jerk DM Railroad as the only two game types.

Nobody playing "Sandbox" games has a problem. You are the one struggling to understand them. The problem is with your understanding, not the principles they utilize.


If you follow a path that is does not lead anywhere...that is the definition of meaningless and pointless. You play the game, run around in a couple pointless circles, then stop playing that game.

Wrong on so many levels. Simple counterexample: NASCAR (or any looped race). You're not trying to go anywhere new, just trying to get there first. You go around in pointless circles, but the challenge is in perfecting your technique and racing alongside skilled competitors.

It's not that these games have no meaning, it's that they have a different meaning which you are failing to recognize.

Sometimes you follow a Path because you want to go to Point A and that location happens to be somewhere on the Path. That is taking a path to reach a destination.

In Looped Racing, you follow the path the same as your competitors, not going anywhere in particular, but trying to go there the fastest.

Then, in some games, you follow a path just to see where it will take you. You aren't deciding to go to any particular place, but to change your location to any other particular place. Pointless? Not in the least, though it does tend to have a more derivative, more emergent meaning. Many stories about the wandering traveler who just set out to see what was actually out there, not having any point of reference from which to decide on where they would go.

Sandbox games aren't about "doing trivial stuff" like washing dishes, doing laundry, or walking the dog. They're about placing the story motivation on the player rather than the DM.

And you're not allowed to take Sandbox games, relabel them as "Normal games" and use that as your justification for saying, "Sandbox game has no meaning." At that point, it only has no meaning because you have stripped it of the meaning it carried.


Again, this is my point. You can endlessly take meaningless actions in the game(and yes, have tons and tons of tons of fun...if this is your version of fun) and pointlessly wander lots of paths to nowhere. Eventually, though, most players pick a big main path...a quest, with a story and plot: basically something meaningful to do. And, yes, once you pick that path...you do have to follow it: that is how paths work.

OR you can abandon that particular quest and pick up another one whenever you fancy. The quest that you decide as your "Big Main Quest" might be left unfinished and instead pursue an unrelated quest. Maybe because the new quest is bigger and more meaningful, or maybe just because your characters had personal motivation to settle down or lay low for a while.

Anything is meaningful if a person attributes meaning to it.


Again, this is my point: A so called Sandbox is a Normal game.

To propose a change of definition, we must gain something beneficial from the change. As it stands, Sandbox gives us a descriptive idea as to the motivating factors behind a game. Normal doesn't tell us much of anything at all.

We change definitions to lose information? Seems like a terrible idea.


The players want to ''fight an evil king and save a kingdom''. So the DM makes the Adventure. *snips* Then when the game play starts, the players can have their characters do whatever they want along the adventure path of ''fight an evil king and save a kingdom''. The players are free to ignore everything the DM has made; like they can have their characters charge the evil kings castle in broad daylight and not get the rebel army to help(though admittedly this is stupid.) The characters in the game can only act/react to things the DM has made; the players can't just make stuff up.

No, they can't make stuff up, but in a Sandbox game, they can get partway into the story and say, "I don't want to do this quest anymore."

Maybe they don't like the King's sister. Maybe they don't like the Rebels. Maybe they like the King. Maybe they just dislike all the people involved and wander off because, "these guys deserve each other." Whatever their reason, in a Sandbox Game, they can't just make a new Quest, but they CAN just abandon the quest and seek out a new one. At this point, the DM should either provide new primary motivating quests, adjust the factors in the old quest to make it more appealing, or retire the game.

But if the players aren't allowed to hop off the train and find a new train going a different direction, then it's a Linear Game, not a Sandbox.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-11, 04:19 PM
What exactly are hooks? They're pointers towards something, giving a direction to move forwards to, as most of the time, with a fresh new sandbox, you don't have a clue what exactly to do with it.

A bit cliché, but such things as a rumor table and some wanted posters are simple tools to get things in motion. I mean, you didn't place/hide also those shiny toys in the sandbox for them not to be found and toyed with, right?

So I guess you're rather talking about "emergent plot" instead of hook.

So what's the actual difference between establishing before the campaign starts that an NPC princess has lost her brother to an attack by demonic forces and has decided to dedicate her life to rooting out and destroying infernalists... and establishing as a result of the events of the ongoing campaign (an during an actual session of play) that an NPC princess has lost her brother to an attack by demonic forces and has decided to dedicate her life to rooting out and destroying infernalists?

Cluedrew
2018-02-11, 04:41 PM
THIS is my point: all RPGS are the ''many paths''. The problem is that everyone else is seeing Sandbox= Cool Game and Jerk DM Railroad as the only two game types.What are you talking about? My favourite game structure is neither of those two. Its player-driven improvisational campaigns by the way.


Again, I'm not talking about where your playing the Cake Baking RPG, where you make a character to do nothing but bake cakes in the game.I don't actually see how making the game about cooking would change the adventure structure. It will change the kind of challenges you overcome and so on. But you could have a linear adventure about a cake baking tournament or a sandbox about a cake baking catering service.


I agree that for some players, the picky ones and ones likely to cause problems, it's better to let them ''pick'' something to do.For the other players, it is also better, because even if they are kind enough to run with whatever comes out of your mouth, picking the one that meshes with their characters the most will lead to better results.

So Sandbox = Pick a Plot?[/QUOTE]

Florian
2018-02-11, 04:46 PM
So what's the actual difference between establishing before the campaign starts that an NPC princess has lost her brother to an attack by demonic forces and has decided to dedicate her life to rooting out and destroying infernalists... and establishing as a result of the events of the outgoing campaign that an NPC princess has lost her brother to an attack by demonic forces and has decided to dedicate her life to rooting out and destroying infernalists?

The first thing is actually akin to planting a "plot seed" - "Local rumor says that the princess has some serious grudge against the infernalists...". That's then either something to investigate or ignore. Incidentally, you now have established two facts about the world, first that there's a princess, second that there're infernalists, a topic that could also be investigated independently of the princess right now. Open decision.

Applying consequences to actions is just moving the game world forward in response to what happens. You already have all elements into place (princess, brother, infernalists), you don't add anything new as "hook", you just change their state/status.

Steel Mirror
2018-02-11, 04:58 PM
The first thing is actually akin to planting a "plot seed" - "Local rumor says that the princess has some serious grudge against the infernalists...". That's then either something to investigate or ignore. Incidentally, you now have established two facts about the world, first that there's a princess, second that there're infernalists, a topic that could also be investigated independently of the princess right now. Open decision.

Applying consequences to actions is just moving the game world forward in response to what happens. You already have all elements into place (princess, brother, infernalists), you don't add anything new as "hook", you just change their state/status.That seems to me to largely be a distinction without a difference. You can have a game where the GM prepares a 'princess hunting demons' subplot from day 0, and puts the rumor in hex F7. That's sort of the standard sandbox approach.

You could also have a game with a bunch of pre-made plot hooks which the PCs can choose between, but after the party ignored the rumors of the cult rising in Feverfew Swamp, the GM decides that a demon attack killed the prince and led to a 'princess hunting demons' plot hook developing out of the decisions made during the game. You can argue that this one shouldn't be called a hook for some reason, but I don't see the use of such a distinction when it functions identically and the players might never be aware of the difference.

Then you could have a campaign that's more branching, with a single definite quest that the GM prepared and which he nudges players back onto whenever they stray too far. But after the big battle against the cultists, if the players defend the gates then everyone survives and they gain the prince as an ally, but if they let too many demons through then the prince is killed and instead they gain the 'princess hunting demons' hook and the chance to earn her as an ally (or an enemy!).

And then you could have the most railroady of games, where no matter what the PCs do or how their decisions turn out, they have to go investigate the cultists, there is going to be a battle, and the prince is going to die, leading to a 'princess hunting demons' hook which they will now be required to pursue.

Lots of other points on that spectrum, of course, but the first two are recognizably an example of what people talk about when they talk about sandbox games, and the latter two are not. And in any of them, whenever and however the PCs hear about this 'princess hunting demons' as a possible thread to unravel and pursue, I'd call it a plot hook.

Florian
2018-02-11, 05:29 PM
@Steel Mirror:

Itīs pretty much changing the game itself, because it changes what should be explored and alters players agency. When the premise of the game is to explore the world and you start introducing non-player-initiated plot to said world, you're forcing your player to react to the emergent plots that you create instead of focussing on their own ones. So basically, you punish them for having made a choice at all. When you're presented with 4 "hooks" to start with and the three you didn't chose will lead to tragedy, the games not fun - been a player in one of those and it was a very frustrating experience.

Steel Mirror
2018-02-11, 05:43 PM
@Steel Mirror:

Itīs pretty much changing the game itself, because it changes what should be explored and alters players agency. When the premise of the game is to explore the world and you start introducing non-player-initiated plot to said world, you're forcing your player to react to the emergent plots that you create instead of focussing on their own ones. So basically, you punish them for having made a choice at all. When you're presented with 4 "hooks" to start with and the three you didn't chose will lead to tragedy, the games not fun - been a player in one of those and it was a very frustrating experience.Well that's a problem with a particular way to use plot hooks, and to structure a game. You can have a wide open sandbox that respects player choice and one just as wide open that spitefully spits on it. I'll leave that discussion aside, except to say that I sympathize with any bad experiences you've had.

I was talking particularly about your splitting of hairs between a plot hook:
What exactly are hooks? They're pointers towards something, giving a direction to move forwards to, as most of the time, with a fresh new sandbox, you don't have a clue what exactly to do with it.

A bit cliché, but such things as a rumor table and some wanted posters are simple tools to get things in motion.
and what you termed as 'emergent plot', distinct from plot hooks:
What if a new hook emerges from the events of a session?

So I guess you're rather talking about "emergent plot" instead of hook.
I agree that there can be plot hooks that the GM spins out of whole cloth, and plot hooks that emerge from gameplay or that the GM concocts based on things already established in the setting. But those ARE all plot hooks, and insisting on different terms for all of them in order to claim that some are plot hooks and others are not is a distinction without a difference.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-11, 06:26 PM
So what's the actual difference between establishing before the campaign starts that an NPC princess has lost her brother to an attack by demonic forces and has decided to dedicate her life to rooting out and destroying infernalists... and establishing as a result of the events of the ongoing campaign (an during an actual session of play) that an NPC princess has lost her brother to an attack by demonic forces and has decided to dedicate her life to rooting out and destroying infernalists?

The big difference is the details. Before the game, a DM can make up lots of details. Lots of perfectly made information that is all interconnected and makes sense. Very few (but sure there are some) people can just ''make up stuff'' in one second and have it be any good.

Like just take the demon attack. Lets say it takes the DM ten minutes or so to make the details like when and where the attack happened...and can look up in the games timeline to fit it into the story, and then make the whole story too. During the game, sure the DM can toss out ''there was a whatever demon attack whatever or something and the brother was there''. But when asked when it happened the DM might have every game detail memorized...or they might need to look at that time line and take a couple minutes to look over things. But during the game the, if the DM does not know, they just have to say ''I don't know'', pause the game and say ''ok everyone just sit there and wait'' while they look up stuff or worst of all, just make up the random pile of mess of stuff.

And the last one is by far the worst. The DM says ''oh, um, the demon attack was five years ago in the glass castle on May 5th''. But then a couple minutes later say the brother was on vacation on May 5th on Happy Island. Opps! Then the DM has to back track and change things...oh he meant to say four years ago...but then again, oops, that does not work so another three things need to be changed...and soon enough the story and plot is a mess beyond all other messes...and worse gets changed every couple of minutes. And like when you get to ''ok, um, for the 12th time we change this...um, the demon attack happened two years ago''.


What are you talking about? My favourite game structure is neither of those two. Its player-driven improvisational campaigns by the way.

So this is the Lazy DM Quantum Ogre type game right? The DM just sits back, and only reacts to the players. And when and if the players to ever pick any sort of plot or story to follow: the players just make up every single detail, that the DM then just uses and makes right in front of the characters.



I don't actually see how making the game about cooking would change the adventure structure. It will change the kind of challenges you overcome and so on. But you could have a linear adventure about a cake baking tournament or a sandbox about a cake baking catering service.

I'm talking about a game, like say D&D, where the player has a character that is a half gold dragon barbarian wizard made and meant to go on an action adventure...and the player wants to hang around the town of DullDale and bake cakes, for like five hours of real time.

Xuc Xac
2018-02-11, 06:28 PM
Some people want to play an RPG and do nothing except roll a d20 to toss a peanut in their characters's mouth at a bar. And that is fine, for some people. I'm talking about the other players, the ones that want to role play more meaningful, exciting and adventurous things. They want to fight a dragon on the edge of a volcano much more then they just want to have a drink at a bar or do some dirty laundry.
...
Like a player can make a character that is afraid of spiders. So the so called Sandbox way is to have the character drink at a bar, for hours of real time, and when they see a common normal spider at some point the player can say ''Oh, hey my character is afraid of spiders''. Or there is the normal game Adventure way of having the character, during the adventure, as they move through the Caves of Doom to sneak into the evil kings castle, they encounter a monstrous giant spider and role play their character as being afraid of it.


This is getting really frustrating to watch. Let me try to lay this out simply for you.

"Sandbox vs Linear" describes how the adventure is organized. It has nothing to do with the SCALE or PACE of the action .

A linear adventure can waste a lot of time on small scale stuff. A sandbox can move along at breakneck speed and full of constant explosions. What separates them is how they are organized.

In a railroad, there is one path: you go from A to Z in alphabetical order. "The PCs want to get rid of the king, so first they need to... And then they can..." Etc.

In a good linear game, there is more than one path: you go from A to B then choose C1 or C2 or C3 (C1 goes to D & E, C2 goes to E, C3 skips straight to M7), but they all lead to some version of Z. "The PCs want to get rid of the king, so they can swear fealty to the king's sister who wants to become queen, join the church that wants to put a priest on the throne to make a theocracy, or join the underground republican resistance. After that, their new patron will send them on a side quest to prove their loyalty. After they've proven themselves, they'll either go on an espionage mission to find out what the other factions are up to or they'll go dungeon-delving to retrieve a magic doohickey to boost their faction's power." Etc.

In a sandbox, there are no paths. A through Z are all out there, some of the points are close together, some are far apart, and some might even be tightly connected. What makes a sandbox different is that there's no preferred order. There is no "the PCs are supposed to get to Z" or "the PCs have to pass through B". The world is full of places and things and people with their own goals and plans, but there's no plot from the GM. The plot is what the players do. "The king is a real doodoo head who heavily taxes the PCs' favorite ale, but most of the nobles support him. He is known to be worried that his sister is gaining support from the merchant class as well as a couple prominent dukes who control the major ports. The church of the Supreme Light claims that the king's castle is built on an ancient temple and the high priest should be running the kingdom as the Holy See of the Priest-King of Supreme Light. There's a growing republican movement composed mostly of intellectuals and free farmers who want to eliminate the monarchy completely. The king negotiated a favorable peace with the neighboring kingdoms a few years ago, which has been good for most people, but several large mercenary companies have been getting lean and hungry. It's no coincidence that piracy and banditry are becoming a more common problem." Etc.

If the PCs want to overthrow the king, there are a lot of ways they can do it. How? I don't know. If they like one of the factions against the king, they can join and try to help out. Maybe they'll go fight bandits to suck up to become heroes of the merchants or fight pirates as privateers of the coastal dukes to worm their way into the good graces of the wannabe queen. Maybe they'll just try to take over the mercenaries-turned-bandits and raise their own army to sell to the highest bidder. Maybe they'll decide that they'd rather just be rich so they can easily afford all the ale they want no matter how much the king taxes it. It's up to the PCs and they can interact with the world and its inhabitants in any way they want. Within the limits of their ability, obviously. They have freedom, not unlimited wishes.

A sandbox is like the real world. There are a lot of great stories and adventures, but they aren't plotted in advance. They happen and then people look back at what happened and tell the story. Sandboxes can be a lot of fun if you want to inhabit and explore another world or trod their jeweled thrones under your sandaled feet to become king by your own hand. Linear adventures are good if you want to be given various cool missions to do for a patron.

If players just sit around a sandbox waiting to be told what they're "supposed to do next" like a linear adventure, sandboxes are really boring and feature a lot of small scale time-wasting. That's not the sandbox's fault. It's just a play style mismatch. Just like if you try to play a railroad game like it's a sandbox, you'll swerve off the tracks and derail everything. A railroad can be really fun if you want to go to the destination and the scenery on the way is cool, but it sucks if you want to do something else.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-11, 06:30 PM
And in either case, pre-seeded or emergent, the thing can come from, or not come from, PC actions -- or lack of actions.

The situation that could arise with the princess and the infernalists might happen as a result of the PCs ignoring the infernalists in favor of uncovering a plot to replace the heads of the ruling houses in a neighboring country with doppelgangers, or whatever, and might only come to pass because some side-determinations (maybe even involving dice rolls for the NPCs!) by the GM resulted in the local priests or competing adventurers failing to stop the infenralists too. Events in "the world" are still taking place regardless of whether the PCs get involved, just like real life.

137ben
2018-02-11, 06:41 PM
But 'meaningless phrase' is a meaningless phrase. I mean, think about it. If it were actually meaningless, you wouldn't be able to parse that sentence at all. Your thesis here isn't that 'Sandbox' is 'meaningless' but that you hate railroad plots. Fine. Railroad plots are quite bad. Nobody disagrees with that. Nobody needed to be informed that you thought that - they could have inferred it directly from the fact that you play TTRPGs. Everyone who plays TTRPGs hates being subjected to a railroad plot. What we're left with is an unnecessary rant about how Video Games are the Devil.

Everything you just typed in this post is a meaningless phrase.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-11, 07:15 PM
In a sandbox, there are no paths.

Ok, if there are no paths, then the game is a pointless random mess. How could it not be? Even if the characters just want to kill a giant rat in a cave...they have to first go over to the cave and then attack the rat. And 1.go to cave, and 2. attack rat IS a path....a very, very, very simple one...but still a path. But if a sandbox has NO paths, even that simple thing can't happen.



A sandbox is like the real world.

This goes along with Sandbox = Cool. But to say the game is like the real world is saying the non-game activity is dull and boring. I don't want to dispel any illusions, but in the real world nothing much ''adventure worthy'' happens.

But RPGs are not Real World Simulators, they are Games. And not just games, but also settings for fictional stories and plots: because, again, I don't want to dispel any illusions, but nothing in an RPG is ''real''.

Pleh
2018-02-11, 08:04 PM
There are two conceits here that naturally lead to your conclusions and they are the premises which are incorrect.

1: Spontaneous DMing cannot also be high in quality.

Very few people can just ''make up stuff'' in one second and have it be any good.

So this is the Lazy DM Quantum Ogre type game right? The DM just sits back, and only reacts to the players. And when and if the players to ever pick any sort of plot or story to follow: the players just make up every single detail, that the DM then just uses and makes right in front of the characters.

2. A Game cannot have "no paths" and be meaningful since we require every choice and action in the game to have a logical progression.

Ok, if there are no paths, then the game is a pointless random mess. How could it not be? Even if the characters just want to kill a giant rat in a cave...they have to first go over to the cave and then attack the rat. And 1.go to cave, and 2. attack rat IS a path....a very, very, very simple one...but still a path. But if a sandbox has NO paths, even that simple thing can't happen.

To the first conceit, Spontaneous DMing can be superior to planned DMing. A Spontaneous Game will always have a tendency to be more Whimsical as opposed to Logical, but a Logical Game isn't intrinsically BETTER than a Whimsical Game. It may be intrinsically PREFERABLE to YOU, but not definitively superior, because such judgments are subjective, not objective.

It's like saying that a carefully written comedy routine will ALWAYS be better than an Improv routine. This is just not in any way objectively true. Now, a person might find they enjoy carefully written comedy better than improvised comedy, but then you could easily find another person who feel the opposite.

To the second conceit, you seem concerned that the word "path" must mean ANY logical progression of events. I believe the intended meaning from others using the word would be better described as, "a set of requirements placed upon the player to evaluate their 'success.' "

Yes, a game that lacks any logical progression doesn't much represent the common RPG session. However, there is a great diversity in common RPG games in exactly how restrictive the "win conditions" are to the quests the heroes pursue.

In a Sandbox, there are no DM assigned "win-conditions." There are only self-appointed goals set by the players. The "Meaning" behind each task is whatever the Player makes of it. This does NOT mean the DM has to bend over backwards to every Whim the players fancy, but it DOES mean practicing an aggressively minimalist degree of control over the game. The Sandbox DM works hard to design a world that speaks for itself, then steps out of the way and lets the players make of it what they will (applying consequences to their actions/inaction as appropriate). They offer supplementary prompting and installing railroads in the places where the Sandbox fails to stimulate.

Yes, this is "normal," though that word is meaningless.

In a Linear Game, the DM has a particular goal in mind and the players craft characters specifically designed to meet that chosen objective (or adapt their character concept to the goal). The nature of the intended goal will place certain requirements and expectations on the players, since failing to meet the objective fails to meet the fundamental purpose of the game.

But do note that having a rigorously defined purpose and goal doesn't automatically make the game more meaningful. The DM could choose a Quest to be the world's most faithful dishwashers. If they can get a group of players interested in that game, more power to them.

But the difference between Sandbox and Linear isn't how much or little they care about the profundity of the game. It's about how they measure success. In a Linear Game, the DM chooses some things they would like to see happen in the game and plans around it. In a Sandbox, the Players decide at every step which actions/inaction would create for them the best and most interesting progression.

And in some games, these two measurements of success can be virtually indistinguishable because the players and the DM are on the same page about what they would like to have happen in the game. This is why there is a sliding scale spectrum of games that tend to be more Linear and games that tend to be more Sandbox (naturally concluding that there are at least a few that sit squarely inbetween).

They're all "Normal" games.

Xuc Xac
2018-02-11, 08:09 PM
Ok, if there are no paths, then the game is a pointless random mess. How could it not be? Even if the characters just want to kill a giant rat in a cave...they have to first go over to the cave and then attack the rat.

Ok, how about this: "There are no paths predetermined by the GM." The GM doesn't plan a plot based on the rat being killed (with or without contingency plans for what will happen if the rat survives). The GM isn't writing a story. The players are.

"There are no paths" means that the GM's preparation is "there's a cave over here with a big rat in it; if the PCs stop in the village nearby, they'll hear about it" and not "the PCs will go to this cave to kill the giant rat and get a giant cheese wheel as a reward from the local farmers; after that, the Vermin Exterminators' Guild will try to recruit them for a mission against an even bigger rat".

Things still have to happen in a logical order. PCs can't just walk through walls if they want to travel through a maze.


But to say the game is like the real world is saying the non-game activity is dull and boring. I don't want to dispel any illusions, but in the real world nothing much ''adventure worthy'' happens.


There is no "non-game activity". Do you mean the time between encounters? If the PCs decide to ride camels across a desert to an oasis and there's nothing but sand between them and their destination, you don't need to pay it the journey in real time. The GM looks at the map and sees there's nothing but sand, determines that there aren't any random encounters on the way, and says "You follow the caravan for three days. In the afternoon of the third day, you spot the oasis on the horizon."

If you think the real world doesn't have anything "adventure worthy", history shows you're extremely mistaken. Try reading a book without dragons once in a while. There's no way Sir Richard Francis Burton, Sir Ernest Shackleton, or King Leopold I of Belgium (to name a few off the top of my head) weren't PCs.

Cluedrew
2018-02-11, 08:48 PM
So this is the Lazy DM Quantum Ogre type game right?If by "Lazy DM" you mean having incredible creative abilities to do whole encounter designs in just a few minutes (I aspire to that level) and by "Quantum Ogre" you mean creating content to fix into the exact situation and series of choices that lead up to this point (which is almost opposite what it normally means), then yes.


To the first conceit, Spontaneous DMing can be superior to planned DMing. A Spontaneous Game will always have a tendency to be more Whimsical as opposed to Logical, but a Logical Game isn't intrinsically BETTER than a Whimsical Game.You know on the player- side, I actually removing linear structure actually creates more thoughtful decisions. Because they matter. It doesn't matter what crazy ideas I bounce around in a linear game, because the adventure will bounce it back. In a more open game, the characters and motivations will effect the direction of the plot, so people think them through a bit more to make sure they go in a fun direction. (According to the games I have observed at least.)

RazorChain
2018-02-11, 09:43 PM
What if a new hook emerges from the events of a session?

I guess that's a logical progression of unfolding events.


So what's the actual difference between establishing before the campaign starts that an NPC princess has lost her brother to an attack by demonic forces and has decided to dedicate her life to rooting out and destroying infernalists... and establishing as a result of the events of the ongoing campaign (an during an actual session of play) that an NPC princess has lost her brother to an attack by demonic forces and has decided to dedicate her life to rooting out and destroying infernalists?

For someone like me who has run campaigns on only improvisation it doesn't matter at all. But the impression from players that take their sandboxes very seriously is that quantum ogres and improvising is tantamount to cheating.

Part of the charm is supposed to be that you can stumble upon things that are vastly beyond the PC's powerlevel.

If you are improvising you might be tempted to adjust the power level to the party, whereas if you rely on random rolls the party may have the luxury of stumbling upon a dragon that eats them at the start of the campaign.

For me the sandbox is the setting, not a type of game. If I run a Cyperpunk game and the setting is Night City then that's the sandbox. If the PC's want to leave to New York then I won't stop them and shift my focus on developing NY further.

The structure of the campaign really doesn't matter because if I have a campaign world then nothing in it is off limits.

Wasteomana
2018-02-11, 10:08 PM
I thought I'd be mad. But DU is one of the highest quality trolls I've ever seen. Coming back to read how he twists everyone's simple phrases by completely ignoring key points and restating things out of context is just amazing.

I am watching a master at work. Although, honestly, if how he responds to players in his games how he responds to people on these forums, I can completely understand how in his mind sandbox=random mess. Or really any concept= any other concept because of a total unwillingness to perceive anything that doesn't match with his random psuedo definitions.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-11, 10:12 PM
That's because Sandboxes ARE "Normal" games. Linear Games are "Normal" games. They're just different styles of Normal Games, which is why both terms are meaningful.

Well, yes, my point is that a normal game is both a sandbox and linear...so much so that you don't even need to say it. It's like making the point to tell people you live on the planet Earth or telling the worker at the Dive Up window, that you drove up to after placing your food order, that your food order is ''to go''.



Nobody playing "Sandbox" games has a problem. You are the one struggling to understand them. The problem is with your understanding, not the principles they utilize.

I only see people doing whatever they want, and then putting the Sandbox label on it....or more simply Sandbox=Cool.




Wrong on so many levels. Simple counterexample: NASCAR (or any looped race). You're not trying to go anywhere new, just trying to get there first. You go around in pointless circles, but the challenge is in perfecting your technique and racing alongside skilled competitors.

Not really sure of your point here, as ''looped races'' are not games.



In Looped Racing, you follow the path the same as your competitors, not going anywhere in particular, but trying to go there the fastest.

How are you comparing loop racing to an RPG? Are you like doing ''magical chairs'' around the gaming table and trying to ''win a race''?



Then, in some games, you follow a path just to see where it will take you. You aren't deciding to go to any particular place, but to change your location to any other particular place. Pointless? Not in the least, though it does tend to have a more derivative, more emergent meaning. Many stories about the wandering traveler who just set out to see what was actually out there, not having any point of reference from which to decide on where they would go.

And I've addressed this lots of time. Yes, it does seem there are a lot of players that like to aimlessly wander and do random, meaningless things during the pre-game introduction. And that is great, if you like that sort of style.

But, again, most players, after pointlessly wandering around, will finally pick something meaningful to do an start some normal game play.



Sandbox games aren't about "doing trivial stuff" like washing dishes, doing laundry, or walking the dog. They're about placing the story motivation on the player rather than the DM.

But then the game is not a sandbox, as your talking about something that takes like less then a minute. The DM says ''what do you players want to do?" The players say ''fight a dragon'', and then the Dm makes that adventure.





OR you can abandon that particular quest and pick up another one whenever you fancy. The quest that you decide as your "Big Main Quest" might be left unfinished and instead pursue an unrelated quest. Maybe because the new quest is bigger and more meaningful, or maybe just because your characters had personal motivation to settle down or lay low for a while.

Sure you could, if you were a jerk. You could also say you will show up to the game at the set time of 6 pm, and then not show up until 10 pm.



No, they can't make stuff up, but in a Sandbox game, they can get partway into the story and say, "I don't want to do this quest anymore."

I'm not sure why this is a big deal, unless the players want to be jerks. Like, ok, the players can call the DM up and say ''we are never playing again!''. Er, ok. So the players then leave and do something else? Not really a big deal.

But if the players just want to ''not do things anymore'' like every hour or day or week, then they are just being jerks. And really few DMs would even bother with such players.




At this point, the DM should either provide new primary motivating quests, adjust the factors in the old quest to make it more appealing, or retire the game.


But now your really crossing the line to Jerk Tyrant players. Like the characters encounter a locked door, and the players whine and cry like two year olds....so the DM says ''oh, I was mistaken, the door is unlocked''. THAT is not even a game....it's just so twisted wish fulfillment waste of time for the cry baby players.




To the first conceit, Spontaneous DMing can be superior to planned DMing.

Well, in reality planning beats improv just about every time...and just about always for complicated things.



To the second conceit, you seem concerned that the word "path" must mean ANY logical progression of events. I believe the intended meaning from others using the word would be better described as, "a set of requirements placed upon the player to evaluate their 'success.' "

A path sure does sound like a logical progression of events. Your ''other usage'' sounds like a Test. Or maybe even just ''the game rules''?



In a Sandbox, there are no DM assigned "win-conditions." There are only self-appointed goals set by the players. The "Meaning" behind each task is whatever the Player makes of it. This does NOT mean the DM has to bend over backwards to every Whim the players fancy, but it DOES mean practicing an aggressively minimalist degree of control over the game. The Sandbox DM works hard to design a world that speaks for itself, then steps out of the way and lets the players make of it what they will (applying consequences to their actions/inaction as appropriate). They offer supplementary prompting and installing railroads in the places where the Sandbox fails to stimulate.

I get that some DMs are just weird and don't want to take any credit for making/running the game and really want to bend over backwards to make it seem like they are doing nothing. Even more so, a great many DM's seem to think their setting and/or NPCs ''talks to them'' inside their head. So the DM can sit back and say it was not ''them'' that had the dragon attack the PCs; the voices inside the DMs told them to do it.

And any plot that is based on logic has set and obvious ''win'' or ''victory conditions''. Again, it's how reality works. If the players want to say, rob a bank, then they ''win'' once they have their characters rob the bank. But nothing else will count as a win.



But the difference between Sandbox and Linear isn't how much or little they care about the profundity of the game. It's about how they measure success. In a Linear Game, the DM chooses some things they would like to see happen in the game and plans around it. In a Sandbox, the Players decide at every step which actions/inaction would create for them the best and most interesting progression.

This makes no sense. Like ok, the players in a sandbox want to kill a dragon and loot it's lair. The DM, as well as Reality, Logic and Common Sense all say ''well then the players MUST have thier characters do things and take actions to kill the dragon and loot it's lair. "

But your saying the players can just say ''our characters go fishing for six hours...and we decide the dragon is now dead, what loot was in it's lair" ?????


Ok, how about this: "There are no paths predetermined by the GM." The GM doesn't plan a plot based on the rat being killed (with or without contingency plans for what will happen if the rat survives). The GM isn't writing a story. The players are.

Ok, well, this might make sense. So your saying a Sandbox game is one where the DM willing ''acts and plays dumb''? Like, most of the time there will be a clear path that even an average five year old can see, but the DM will just sit there and be like ''I see no paths'', and just play with their fidget spinner until the players ask the DM to react to something their characters do?





"There are no paths" means that the GM's preparation is "there's a cave over here with a big rat in it; if the PCs stop in the village nearby, they'll hear about it" and not "the PCs will go to this cave to kill the giant rat and get a giant cheese wheel as a reward from the local farmers; after that, the Vermin Exterminators' Guild will try to recruit them for a mission against an even bigger rat".

Now see I call the first one a normal game, and the second is a game with a jerk DM.



There is no "non-game activity".

I'm talking here about things like where the players go and have their characters hang out at a bar for several hours of real time. Or aimlessly wander and look for plot hooks.



If you think the real world doesn't have anything "adventure worthy", history shows you're extremely mistaken. Try reading a book without dragons once in a while. There's no way Sir Richard Francis Burton, Sir Ernest Shackleton, or King Leopold I of Belgium (to name a few off the top of my head) weren't PCs.

My point is real world adventure is nothing like or even close to fiction.


If by "Lazy DM" you mean having incredible creative abilities to do whole encounter designs in just a few minutes (I aspire to that level) and by "Quantum Ogre" you mean creating content to fix into the exact situation and series of choices that lead up to this point (which is almost opposite what it normally means), then yes.

Well, no. A lazy DM simply does nothing to prepare, they just show up and are like ''lets game''. An doing the Quantum Ogre is just putting the plot of the adventure always directly in front of the characters, no matter what they do. (to me this is reverse railroading and is the worst type of railroad).



You know on the player- side, I actually removing linear structure actually creates more thoughtful decisions. Because they matter. It doesn't matter what crazy ideas I bounce around in a linear game, because the adventure will bounce it back. In a more open game, the characters and motivations will effect the direction of the plot, so people think them through a bit more to make sure they go in a fun direction. (According to the games I have observed at least.)

This does not make sense though.

If a game has a plot and linear structure, and follows logic and make sense....and a player has a goal of/desire to do X, then they must follow path X.

Like the players want to rob a bank. As they have their characters go to the bank at midnight and say ''we have them walk in and take all the money''. But, the DM will ''bounce back'' with ''the bank door is locked''. So the characters can't just walk in...and have to try something else. But in a more open game the players can just say ''my motavation is my character is greedy'' and then all the loot from the bank is there?

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-11, 10:46 PM
I guess that's a logical progression of unfolding events.


I'd ask why a "pre-campaign plot hook" can't be part of a logical progression of events, with the campaign starting point simply being another point in time.




For someone like me who has run campaigns on only improvisation it doesn't matter at all. But the impression from players that take their sandboxes very seriously is that quantum ogres and improvising is tantamount to cheating.

Part of the charm is supposed to be that you can stumble upon things that are vastly beyond the PC's powerlevel.

If you are improvising you might be tempted to adjust the power level to the party, whereas if you rely on random rolls the party may have the luxury of stumbling upon a dragon that eats them at the start of the campaign.

For me the sandbox is the setting, not a type of game. If I run a Cyperpunk game and the setting is Night City then that's the sandbox. If the PC's want to leave to New York then I won't stop them and shift my focus on developing NY further.

The structure of the campaign really doesn't matter because if I have a campaign world then nothing in it is off limits.


Quantum Ogre can be a bit of a boogieman, IMO. Sometimes there's a solid in-"fiction" reason for the encounter to happen regardless... such as the PCs are being watched. I think sometimes people assume that any encounter that isn't dead-locked in stone in one particular place in time is a "quantum ogre", which is taking it way too far.

Milo v3
2018-02-11, 10:49 PM
Well, yes, my point is that a normal game is both a sandbox and linear
And that point is incorrect.

You literally are saying a normal game is on both opposite ends of a spectrum.

I myself am currently running a linear game rather than a sandbox game for the first time in maybe four years. But according to you, what must be impossible because of you thinking actions leading to consequences makes a game linear.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-12, 08:16 AM
And that point is incorrect.

You literally are saying a normal game is on both opposite ends of a spectrum.

I myself am currently running a linear game rather than a sandbox game for the first time in maybe four years. But according to you, what must be impossible because of you thinking actions leading to consequences makes a game linear.

Well, lets see if I describe a game and you say what it is?

1.The DM makes the setting and mega story of the game world. And puts in details of the current events, with plot hook.
2.The Players then look over the details and either decide to follow a plot thread or maybe pick a plot based on the details, but not one specifically on a 'hook'.
3.The DM then makes and flushes out that plot. It has a beginning and end and lots of details.
4.The game play starts and the players are free to do whatever they want to have their characters try and do to follow the plot they picked and get to the successful end. An average DM will have at least a couple plot path threads to follow, and a good DM will have a dozen or more. The players don't ''have'' to follow any one plot path.
5.As the characters move along the plot, they can change and effect plot events..but, in general they won't effect the plot itself unless they are demigods(or the game makes no sense).


So like my example from before: A land with an evil baron. The players decide ''ok, lets take down the baron''. Now both the average DM and the good DM have made the Rebels. A group of good folk opposed to the evil baron..as a plot path thread. It's kind of ''obvious'' to get help from the rebels, and also smart. BUT if the players really want to just ignore the rebels they can (it's not a good idea, but they can do it.) Now the average DM (and the Casual/Lazy DM) only make up maybe two or three plot path threads (the bad DM only makes one) . The good Dm makes up around 10 to 20.

Now, for any DM except the Good DM as it is rare for it to happen to a good DM, it's possible for the players to think of something the DM did not think of ''to do'' to get to the end of the plot. And very often it will even be something the DM did not even make. So the average DM will have a bit of a struggle trying to improv and make stuff up. The casual/lazy DM ''likes'' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they ''don't think things up'', but it's possible for the casual DM, sometimes, to be good at just ''whipping stuff up''. The Bad DM does not have the skill, desire or ability to think beyond their one plot path they have made, and will want to do that, no matter what.

Now the players can NEVER just wish stuff to happen. They can't just say ''oh the baron has a daughter and she is walking alone in the woods and we grab her and hold her for ransom and force the baron to surrender and we loot his stuff''. But, if the DM says the baron does have a daughter, the players can try to find her and grab her with their characters in normal game play. Though even if the characters do grab her and hold her for ransom there is not a guarantee it will work out exactly as the players wish (after all the evil baron might just say ''bah, kill her!", for example)

So as you can see the game has Freedom (the so called sandbox) and Structure (the linear plot)

Wasteomana
2018-02-12, 08:31 AM
So like my example from before: A land with an evil baron. The players decide ''ok, lets take down the baron''. Now both the average DM and the good DM have made the Rebels. A group of good folk opposed to the evil baron..as a plot path thread. It's kind of ''obvious'' to get help from the rebels, and also smart. BUT if the players really want to just ignore the rebels they can (it's not a good idea, but they can do it.) Now the average DM (and the Casual/Lazy DM) only make up maybe two or three plot path threads (the bad DM only makes one) . The good Dm makes up around 10 to 20.

Now, for any DM except the Good DM as it is rare for it to happen to a good DM, it's possible for the players to think of something the DM did not think of ''to do'' to get to the end of the plot. And very often it will even be something the DM did not even make. So the average DM will have a bit of a struggle trying to improv and make stuff up. The casual/lazy DM ''likes'' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they ''don't think things up'', but it's possible for the casual DM, sometimes, to be good at just ''whipping stuff up''. The Bad DM does not have the skill, desire or ability to think beyond their one plot path they have made, and will want to do that, no matter what.

Now the players can NEVER just wish stuff to happen. They can't just say ''oh the baron has a daughter and she is walking alone in the woods and we grab her and hold her for ransom and force the baron to surrender and we loot his stuff''. But, if the DM says the baron does have a daughter, the players can try to find her and grab her with their characters in normal game play. Though even if the characters do grab her and hold her for ransom there is not a guarantee it will work out exactly as the players wish (after all the evil baron might just say ''bah, kill her!", for example)



Is there a reason why you label people good and bad DM's seemingly at random? Like, nobody is turning this into a 'you are a good or bad dm' but you.

I don't know how this is seen as anything but trolling. You turn every discussion that might get to a point into an insulting rant.

"The casual/lazy DM 'likes' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they 'don't think things up'...." Is there a purpose for that that isn't just being a troll? Serious question.

Cluedrew
2018-02-12, 08:49 AM
Well, no. A lazy DM simply does nothing to prepare, they just show up and are like ''lets game''. An doing the Quantum Ogre is just putting the plot of the adventure always directly in front of the characters, no matter what they do.Well... then no that is not the type of game I'm walking about.

Florian
2018-02-12, 10:04 AM
And that point is incorrect.

You literally are saying a normal game is on both opposite ends of a spectrum.

I myself am currently running a linear game rather than a sandbox game for the first time in maybe four years. But according to you, what must be impossible because of you thinking actions leading to consequences makes a game linear.

DU is still basically correct. Letīs not use normal as a term, that's misleading, let's say a non-storytelling game, as that's more fitting in contrast to classic rpgs.

The GMs job in any classic game is to provide the content, from world to locations, npc to encounters, the whole shebang. You either create and prep that, or you train up your skills to come up with high quality content on the fly, no difference, basically all content is gm-made. It doesn't make much of a difference whether that's used for a linear or non-linear game, most of it will be created to be fun for the players to encounter and explore in one way or the other, why else would it be included when not?

That's what's so annoying when people say stuff like "the world is my sandbox".

Beleriphon
2018-02-12, 10:11 AM
If you think the real world doesn't have anything "adventure worthy", history shows you're extremely mistaken. Try reading a book without dragons once in a while. There's no way Sir Richard Francis Burton, Sir Ernest Shackleton, or King Leopold I of Belgium (to name a few off the top of my head) weren't PCs.

I think the biggest thing to remember in RPG context the vast majority of humans are nameless NPCs.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-12, 11:57 AM
DU is still basically correct. Letīs not use normal as a term, that's misleading, let's say a non-storytelling game, as that's more fitting in contrast to classic rpgs.

The GMs job in any classic game is to provide the content, from world to locations, npc to encounters, the whole shebang. You either create and prep that, or you train up your skills to come up with high quality content on the fly, no difference, basically all content is gm-made. It doesn't make much of a difference whether that's used for a linear or non-linear game, most of it will be created to be fun for the players to encounter and explore in one way or the other, why else would it be included when not?


This brings up what is, IME, a very common failing of RPG theory and analysis. To use a bit of a math metaphor, in asking "are these different along the X axis?" and getting (at least what some perceive as) a "No" answer, the question then entirely ignores differences on the Y, Z, etc axes.

There's a big difference here that's being ignored by saying "the GM has to do it all either way".

If it's made for a linear campaign the GM is able to (and likely tempted to) focus almost entirely on the aspects of the game that they know will come up. The GM can put their probably limited resources (time, energy, creativity) into a very specific set of details. But anything that gets slightly off the rails will show that the setting is a bit of a 2D facade like an old movie set (http://c7.alamy.com/comp/KPH6N5/latvia-western-latvia-kurzeme-region-tukums-cinevilla-film-studio-KPH6N5.jpg), unless the same GM who wants to run a linear and pre-plotted campaign is also somehow a GM who is skilled with improvising material on the fly. It's very easy for a linear campaign to end up with a "stage dressing" world, that's only "living" when the PCs are present, because it's all designed specifically around a series of presentations for the PCs.

If it's made for a non-linear campaign, the GM has strategically balance breadth and depth, and be willing and ready to expand the specific from the general. Both the GM and the players need to have a shared understanding of the setting, its "basic principles", and the framework-level information, so their expectations don't diverge. While the setting and NPCs might still all be controlled by the GM, there's more that's being informed by the player's decisions -- for example, the players decide they want to follow some NPC to their hometown, the GM might have an idea of where it is or what size it is, but they're going to have to fill in details on the fly based on what's already know of the geography, culture, population, etc of that area. The world however is far more likely to be "alive", because it changes over time and responds dynamically to character interactions, PC and NPC.


I go for the non-linear, which is why I don't see any difference between "game world" and "setting"... there is no stage, there are no sets, and the entire world is the setting, because the players could in theory take the game anywhere their characters can get to.

Segev
2018-02-12, 12:23 PM
Well, lets see if I describe a game and you say what it is?

1.The DM makes the setting and mega story of the game world. And puts in details of the current events, with plot hook.
2.The Players then look over the details and either decide to follow a plot thread or maybe pick a plot based on the details, but not one specifically on a 'hook'.
3.The DM then makes and flushes out that plot. It has a beginning and end and lots of details.
4.The game play starts and the players are free to do whatever they want to have their characters try and do to follow the plot they picked and get to the successful end. An average DM will have at least a couple plot path threads to follow, and a good DM will have a dozen or more. The players don't ''have'' to follow any one plot path.
5.As the characters move along the plot, they can change and effect plot events..but, in general they won't effect the plot itself unless they are demigods(or the game makes no sense).


So like my example from before: A land with an evil baron. The players decide ''ok, lets take down the baron''. Now both the average DM and the good DM have made the Rebels. A group of good folk opposed to the evil baron..as a plot path thread. It's kind of ''obvious'' to get help from the rebels, and also smart. BUT if the players really want to just ignore the rebels they can (it's not a good idea, but they can do it.) Now the average DM (and the Casual/Lazy DM) only make up maybe two or three plot path threads (the bad DM only makes one) . The good Dm makes up around 10 to 20.

These are much more linear games, albeit ones with large numbers of branches.

The pure sandbox doesn't have the GM plan out the future events. Just the current state. Depending on what the players have their characters do, or not do, and how successful they are at their actions, the GM then advances time and knows the new current state of all things he had placed in the world. Some will have interacted with each other, and some will not. All will have something change, even if it's just that they're a week closer to harvest in Tinyville Thorpetown.

The Evil Baron has this band of rebels, as you lay out. The GM hasn't expressly planned, necessarily, how the PCs will interact with these rebels to lead them to victory against the Evil Baron by facing each of his Wicked Knights in succession in their three Dark Castles. But he may well have all three Wicked Knights with their Dark Castles planned out. And he knows how the Baron and the Knights will act in response to the good rebels in his territory, based on what the rebels will do.

If the PCs get involved, all of that changes. The GM isn't making up something random, here, though, nor is he scrapping a whole campaign of preparation. He knows, now, what impact the PCs' actions have had, and how this changes the rebels' plans, and how this impacts the reactions of the Knights and Baron.

The GM hasn't planned out a dozen ways - four leading to Knight 1, four to Knight 2, three to Knight 3, and one to the dragon that the Baron has been secretly breaking to his will - that the PCs may follow if they choose. Instead, he knows what the Knights and Baron are up to. The PCs come up with what they want to do, and go try to do it. No need to hunt for the Quest NPC to let them advance the quest by picking one of the prescribed paths. Come up with a plan and pursue it.

Now, not all players will like that approach. Many may well appreciate some solid hooks pointing them down possible paths.

Neither kind of game is "cooler" than the other.

But, to answer your quoted bit, you're describing more linear games. Lots of choice about which line to follow, from your "good GM," but still linear because, once they've picked it, you've planned out "lots of details" on a particular path they must pursue or give up and return to another hook to try a different tactic. You have lots of paths planned. That's a ton of work! If your "good GM" is sufficiently talented at planning paths and reading his players, it may be indistinguishable from their perspective from a sandbox; the GM has accounted for literally everything they'd think to try and want to do. But it's possible to run a true sandbox without that much planning ahead. It's not even that the sandbox is superior; if players want to pursue a specific plot to topple the evil Baron and are happy with interesting hooks that provide clear quest objectives along the way, established by the GM via his NPCs, that's a great game.

RazorChain
2018-02-12, 02:45 PM
This brings up what is, IME, a very common failing of RPG theory and analysis. To use a bit of a math metaphor, in asking "are these different along the X axis?" and getting (at least what some perceive as) a "No" answer, the question then entirely ignores differences on the Y, Z, etc axes.

There's a big difference here that's being ignored by saying "the GM has to do it all either way".

If it's made for a linear campaign the GM is able to (and likely tempted to) focus almost entirely on the aspects of the game that they know will come up. The GM can put their probably limited resources (time, energy, creativity) into a very specific set of details. But anything that gets slightly off the rails will show that the setting is a bit of a 2D facade like an old movie set (http://c7.alamy.com/comp/KPH6N5/latvia-western-latvia-kurzeme-region-tukums-cinevilla-film-studio-KPH6N5.jpg), unless the same GM who wants to run a linear and pre-plotted campaign is also somehow a GM who is skilled with improvising material on the fly. It's very easy for a linear campaign to end up with a "stage dressing" world, that's only "living" when the PCs are present, because it's all designed specifically around a series of presentations for the PCs.

If it's made for a non-linear campaign, the GM has strategically balance breadth and depth, and be willing and ready to expand the specific from the general. Both the GM and the players need to have a shared understanding of the setting, its "basic principles", and the framework-level information, so their expectations don't diverge. While the setting and NPCs might still all be controlled by the GM, there's more that's being informed by the player's decisions -- for example, the players decide they want to follow some NPC to their hometown, the GM might have an idea of where it is or what size it is, but they're going to have to fill in details on the fly based on what's already know of the geography, culture, population, etc of that area. The world however is far more likely to be "alive", because it changes over time and responds dynamically to character interactions, PC and NPC.


I go for the non-linear, which is why I don't see any difference between "game world" and "setting"... there is no stage, there are no sets, and the entire world is the setting, because the players could in theory take the game anywhere their characters can get to.


I agree, even if you are running a "linear" campaign, one RPG's biggest strength is that you can go off the beaten path, solve problems in different ways or just do something completely different. Therefor the sandbox should be in place else you'll have a western movie set. This is why the idea of the sandbox as a type of game is a bit alien to me.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-12, 02:53 PM
I agree, even if you are running a "linear" campaign, one RPG's biggest strength is that you can go off the beaten path, solve problems in different ways or just do something completely different. Therefor the sandbox should be in place else you'll have a western movie set. This is why the idea of the sandbox as a type of game is a bit alien to me.

I think this goes back to my earlier post that treating "railroad" and "sandbox" as nouns somewhat misses the point.

"Railroad" is a verb, a GM action involving a lot of bad GM practices (violating player agency, disregarding established facts, deceitful illusionism, etc).

"Sandbox" works better when changed to an adjective, in a scalar assessment of how "sandboxy" a particular campaign is. Few RPG campaigns actually have no "sandboxiness" in them, it's just a matter of how much each one has. One might even surmise that the ability to decide which weapon to use, or when and who to attack, is a degree of "sandboxiness".

RazorChain
2018-02-12, 03:02 PM
I think this goes back to my earlier post that treating "railroad" and "sandbox" as nouns somewhat misses the point.

"Railroad" is a verb, a GM action involving a lot of bad GM practices (violating player agency, disregarding established facts, deceitful illusionism, etc).

"Sandbox" works better when changed to an adjective, in a scalar assessment of how "sandboxy" a particular campaign is. Few RPG campaigns actually have no "sandboxiness" in them, it's just a matter of how much each one has. One might even surmise that the ability to decide which weapon to use, or when and who to attack, is a degree of "sandboxiness".


True, we talk about linear game not that I'm running a railroad game. But then again I don't know how much time GM's spend on the surroundings of the modules their running so that anything that has things developed outside the beaten path is sandbox to them.

I never run anything without having a good grasp of the setting unless it's a one shot. If I can't answer general questions about the setting (sandbox) then I'd not consider myself a very good GM

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-12, 03:11 PM
True, we talk about linear game not that I'm running a railroad game. But then again I don't know how much time GM's spend on the surroundings of the modules their running so that anything that has things developed outside the beaten path is sandbox to them.

I never run anything without having a good grasp of the setting unless it's a one shot. If I can't answer general questions about the setting (sandbox) then I'd not consider myself a very good GM


Personally, I've never run a published linear module as a GM, and never really wanted to. They seemed incredibly pointless to me from the start -- why not just play a video game if you're on the rails anyway?

IMO, much of the appeal of the TTRPG run by and played by people sitting around together at a table or wherever was always the wide-open range of possibilities and imagination. See also, why I dislike classes and class-like character build mechanics.

RazorChain
2018-02-12, 04:03 PM
Personally, I've never run a published linear module as a GM, and never really wanted to. They seemed incredibly pointless to me from the start -- why not just play a video game if you're on the rails anyway?

IMO, much of the appeal of the TTRPG run by and played by people sitting around together at a table or wherever was always the wide-open range of possibilities and imagination. See also, why I dislike classes and class-like character build mechanics.

It's funny because when I started running games as a preteen I didn't run modules but then as a teen I started running AD&D modules. I think my group got really burnt when playing through the Time of Troubles modules which is one of the most awful excuses for an adventure trilogy that exists, the thoughts of it just puts bile in my mouth.

For me published modules are alright for people who like such a thing and probably great to inspire new people to the hobby. So I might draw inspiration from published modules and adapt to my games and do so infrequently.

Pleh
2018-02-12, 04:19 PM
Personally, I've never run a published linear module as a GM, and never really wanted to. They seemed incredibly pointless to me from the start -- why not just play a video game if you're on the rails anyway?

I don't have time yet to respond to everything I would like to in this thread, but this one point I can manage.

The benefit of linear games is Focus. Many players get a creative blockage (commonly known as "writer's block," but it applies to every creative effort) when faced with too many choices (or worse, a totally blank slate).

Clearly, the opposite is true as well. Some people are so inconsolably creative that they balk at even the smallest degree of restrictions.

But linear games are a great place for newer players to learn the game, or a busy group invest less time, or an advanced group to really explore how far the rails can be bent by playing a single module over and over to see what their character is really capable of.

Milo v3
2018-02-12, 05:01 PM
Well, lets see if I describe a game and you say what it is?

1.The DM makes the setting and mega story of the game world. And puts in details of the current events, with plot hook.
2.The Players then look over the details and either decide to follow a plot thread or maybe pick a plot based on the details, but not one specifically on a 'hook'.
3.The DM then makes and flushes out that plot. It has a beginning and end and lots of details.
4.The game play starts and the players are free to do whatever they want to have their characters try and do to follow the plot they picked and get to the successful end. An average DM will have at least a couple plot path threads to follow, and a good DM will have a dozen or more. The players don't ''have'' to follow any one plot path.
5.As the characters move along the plot, they can change and effect plot events..but, in general they won't effect the plot itself unless they are demigods(or the game makes no sense).


So like my example from before: A land with an evil baron. The players decide ''ok, lets take down the baron''. Now both the average DM and the good DM have made the Rebels. A group of good folk opposed to the evil baron..as a plot path thread. It's kind of ''obvious'' to get help from the rebels, and also smart. BUT if the players really want to just ignore the rebels they can (it's not a good idea, but they can do it.) Now the average DM (and the Casual/Lazy DM) only make up maybe two or three plot path threads (the bad DM only makes one) . The good Dm makes up around 10 to 20.

Now, for any DM except the Good DM as it is rare for it to happen to a good DM, it's possible for the players to think of something the DM did not think of ''to do'' to get to the end of the plot. And very often it will even be something the DM did not even make. So the average DM will have a bit of a struggle trying to improv and make stuff up. The casual/lazy DM ''likes'' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they ''don't think things up'', but it's possible for the casual DM, sometimes, to be good at just ''whipping stuff up''. The Bad DM does not have the skill, desire or ability to think beyond their one plot path they have made, and will want to do that, no matter what.

Now the players can NEVER just wish stuff to happen. They can't just say ''oh the baron has a daughter and she is walking alone in the woods and we grab her and hold her for ransom and force the baron to surrender and we loot his stuff''. But, if the DM says the baron does have a daughter, the players can try to find her and grab her with their characters in normal game play. Though even if the characters do grab her and hold her for ransom there is not a guarantee it will work out exactly as the players wish (after all the evil baron might just say ''bah, kill her!", for example)

So as you can see the game has Freedom (the so called sandbox) and Structure (the linear plot)
Dude. Is it possible for you to debate without trying to insult people? :smallsigh:

I'm also not sure why you mention "Now the players can NEVER just wish stuff to happen", since no one has mentioned anything of the sort in regards to sandbox or linear games.

There is something I'm confused about with your description which makes it hard for me to place it exactly in regards to the spectrum of sandbox to linear, Number 2. Am I correct in understanding that this examination of the details by the players/choice of the players in regards to what plot-point they want to do is before play rather than during play?


DU is still basically correct. Letīs not use normal as a term, that's misleading, let's say a non-storytelling game, as that's more fitting in contrast to classic rpgs.
What? I very much disagree whether or not storytelling has anything to do with whether a game is linear or not, or sandbox or not.


The GMs job in any classic game is to provide the content, from world to locations, npc to encounters, the whole shebang. You either create and prep that, or you train up your skills to come up with high quality content on the fly, no difference, basically all content is gm-made. It doesn't make much of a difference whether that's used for a linear or non-linear game, most of it will be created to be fun for the players to encounter and explore in one way or the other, why else would it be included when not?

That's what's so annoying when people say stuff like "the world is my sandbox".
In my view, how the content is made has nothing to do with whether something is sandbox or not.... You are sort of arguing against points that I haven't made....

Segev
2018-02-12, 05:11 PM
Personally, I've never run a published linear module as a GM, and never really wanted to. They seemed incredibly pointless to me from the start -- why not just play a video game if you're on the rails anyway?

IMO, much of the appeal of the TTRPG run by and played by people sitting around together at a table or wherever was always the wide-open range of possibilities and imagination. See also, why I dislike classes and class-like character build mechanics.

One way to utilize published linear modules is as options for the players to pursue. One of many things going on. You can literally drop one in a sandbox world, and if the players don't bite, let its plot advance on the "without the PCs" path. Linear adventures do tend to spell out what the bad guys are trying to accomplish. It doesn't take much - especially for a GM running sandboxes preferentially - to reason out how the bad guys' plans working would impact the setting.

It's also possible to take a linear adventure and run it like a sandbox. It might go way off the rails, but you know the setup and status and it gives enough information for a GM to improvise if he wants to.

Well, assuming it's a GOOD linear module, and not one where the PCs are so on rails that they may as well not be present. I'm still looking at you, Witchfire Trilogy.

Florian
2018-02-12, 05:26 PM
Witchfire Trilogy.

Oh, that was a crass one.

Segev
2018-02-12, 05:30 PM
Oh, that was a crass one.

I know!


...for those unfamiliar with it, the PCs are literally superfluous to the module. They do not make a difference. If they succeed at everything and make the "right" choices, they will have a front-row seat and a favored place as the destined NPC sweeps to victory. If they fail, they miss out on seeing parts of the plot surrounding the NPC unfold. If they succeed but make the "wrong" choice, they get a third-row seat to watching the NPC sweep to victory and get to "enjoy" being on that NPC's crap-list. Said NPC is a vengeful sort. In fact, 3/4 of the NPC's motivation in the module is revenge.

I'm not exaggerating. The players' choices only determine how much of the action they get to observe. There are dungeon crawls, and in theory mysteries to uncover, but solving the mysteries only gets you to the cutscene, and doing the dungeon crawls gets you to the next cutscene. Failing at them means you miss the cutscene. It doesn't actually matter if you're there or not; plot progresses the same way.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-12, 06:48 PM
I know!


...for those unfamiliar with it, the PCs are literally superfluous to the module. They do not make a difference. If they succeed at everything and make the "right" choices, they will have a front-row seat and a favored place as the destined NPC sweeps to victory. If they fail, they miss out on seeing parts of the plot surrounding the NPC unfold. If they succeed but make the "wrong" choice, they get a third-row seat to watching the NPC sweep to victory and get to "enjoy" being on that NPC's crap-list. Said NPC is a vengeful sort. In fact, 3/4 of the NPC's motivation in the module is revenge.

I'm not exaggerating. The players' choices only determine how much of the action they get to observe. There are dungeon crawls, and in theory mysteries to uncover, but solving the mysteries only gets you to the cutscene, and doing the dungeon crawls gets you to the next cutscene. Failing at them means you miss the cutscene. It doesn't actually matter if you're there or not; plot progresses the same way.


What...

Was this at least a bad attempt to modulize some novel attached to the game? Or was it actually from scratch? I mean, that's on the Mass Effect 3 level of bad design... just wow.

Mr Beer
2018-02-12, 06:53 PM
I know!


...for those unfamiliar with it, the PCs are literally superfluous to the module. They do not make a difference. If they succeed at everything and make the "right" choices, they will have a front-row seat and a favored place as the destined NPC sweeps to victory.

<SNIP>

Nothing players enjoy more than being reminded they are less important than the NPC in every way.

RazorChain
2018-02-12, 07:05 PM
I know!


...for those unfamiliar with it, the PCs are literally superfluous to the module. They do not make a difference. If they succeed at everything and make the "right" choices, they will have a front-row seat and a favored place as the destined NPC sweeps to victory. If they fail, they miss out on seeing parts of the plot surrounding the NPC unfold. If they succeed but make the "wrong" choice, they get a third-row seat to watching the NPC sweep to victory and get to "enjoy" being on that NPC's crap-list. Said NPC is a vengeful sort. In fact, 3/4 of the NPC's motivation in the module is revenge.

I'm not exaggerating. The players' choices only determine how much of the action they get to observe. There are dungeon crawls, and in theory mysteries to uncover, but solving the mysteries only gets you to the cutscene, and doing the dungeon crawls gets you to the next cutscene. Failing at them means you miss the cutscene. It doesn't actually matter if you're there or not; plot progresses the same way.

Sound almost as bad as the Times of Troubles or Avatar Wars as it's also called in Forgotten Realms. There you get to play second fiddle and watch the awesome NPC's from the books...Cyric, Kelemvor and Midnight (Mystra) become Gods. And of course Elminster makes an appearance just to tell you how awesome he is. If you are a DM that likes to play DMPC's that adventure trilogy is going to arouse you to new heights.

Florian
2018-02-13, 02:47 AM
What...

Was this at least a bad attempt to modulize some novel attached to the game? Or was it actually from scratch? I mean, that's on the Mass Effect 3 level of bad design... just wow.

Witchfire, Curse of the Azure Bonds and such are good examples when somebody wants to tell a "tight" story to such an extend that the actual role-playing moves to the background of it. I think you can say that modules like these gave linear modules the bad rep they have in some circles..

Darth Ultron
2018-02-13, 08:38 AM
Is there a reason why you label people good and bad DM's seemingly at random? Like, nobody is turning this into a 'you are a good or bad dm' but you.

Well, the labels are not at random. If you do X, your a Bad DM; if you do Y you are a Good DM. For example, if a DM makes an adventure with only one path and then demands and forces the players down that One Path, that DM is a Bad DM. See how that works?



"The casual/lazy DM 'likes' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they 'don't think things up'...." Is there a purpose for that that isn't just being a troll? Serious question.

A good number of DMs like to be surprised by the actions the players take in the game; this is fun for some DMs. But any Good or even just experienced DM will be hard to surprise as they will have already though of all the ways and actions that can be done to reach a goal. So, in order to be surprised, the DM needs to try and not think about all the details or at least try not to remember them. Then when the players do something, the DM can at least act surprised. It's Illusionism for DMs.



I go for the non-linear, which is why I don't see any difference between "game world" and "setting"... there is no stage, there are no sets, and the entire world is the setting, because the players could in theory take the game anywhere their characters can get to.

Odd, that I sort of agree with Max here.

But it's not about linear...as if the game makes sense has any sort of meaningfully plot and story it has to be linear. I do think people get too caught up in the idea that linear=a tiny nitpicky railroad DM power trip detail, or something negative like that. Like it's bad to say ''linear'' as that high light and admits the DM is all powerful in the game. Or even more simply, again, Non-Linear=Cool.

But linear events are not so specific, and are often vague. Like say the characters agree to help the king and to go rescue Princess Buttercup from imprisonment in the Dark Tower; this means in order to do this goal....the characters must go to the Dark Tower. And see, that is a linear progression of a plot. A=meet king---->B=Accept quest and C=characters go to the Dark Tower.

Or like the characters want to kill a pack of werewolves living in Bunglewood. So this is vaguely A-characters want to kill a pack of werewolves living in Bunglewood to B-the characters MUST go to Bunglewood and at least interact (though most likely fight and kill) the werewolves. Now the players are free to have their characters try ''all most anything'', but they still must go from A to B.


The Setting, is really more about DM Skill, Dedication, Experience and the dreaded Time Investment. The Time Investment is the easy one: a lot of DMs, and all Casual and Lazy DMs, don't have the ''time'' to invest in doing things for the game. This is the whole reason the RPGs have adventures: then the DM needs to only make up a very narrow chunk of the game world/setting. The DM does not need to make up 100 towns if the characters will spend the whole game in and around a single town.

The DM Skill, Dedication, and Experience is all about how good the DM is. A good DM can seamlessly handle anything, so even if the players really make some sort of wild left turn, it utterly would not matter and the players would never even notice a slight bump. The good DM's game rolls on, no matter what happens, with the same level of quality. The Good DM's world has no ''sets'' or such; everything everywhere in the world is always perfectly made at the same level of quality.

But, of course, Average or Bad DM's can't do this....and this is where you will get anything that is slightly off the rails will show that the setting is a bit of a 2D facade like an old movie set, a cartoon, or worst of all, a video game.

But DM Skill, Dedication, Experience and the dreaded Time Investment...or if the DM is good, bad or just average, has nothing to do with the game being linear.




The pure sandbox doesn't have the GM plan out the future events. Just the current state.

But then your saying the pure sandbox game makes no sense and is just a random pile of nothing. Like:

Normal Game: The evil cult plans to summon the demon at midnight on the last day of the year (a plan for a future event). The characters might or might not know that, either way they will try an take actions to stop it...and depending on what they do, and how successful they are, they might prevent, delay or stop the summoning.

Sandbox Mess: The evil cult might do something sometime. The characters might or might not know that, either way they will simply do pointless random things.....and depending on what they do something might happen sometime.




If the PCs get involved, all of that changes. The GM isn't making up something random, here, though, nor is he scrapping a whole campaign of preparation. He knows, now, what impact the PCs' actions have had, and how this changes the rebels' plans, and how this impacts the reactions of the Knights and Baron.

This is just Being a good DM, and has nothing to do with the type of game.



But, to answer your quoted bit, you're describing more linear games. Lots of choice about which line to follow, from your "good GM," but still linear because, once they've picked it, you've planned out "lots of details" on a particular path they must pursue or give up and return to another hook to try a different tactic. You have lots of paths planned. That's a ton of work! If your "good GM" is sufficiently talented at planning paths and reading his players, it may be indistinguishable from their perspective from a sandbox; the GM has accounted for literally everything they'd think to try and want to do. But it's possible to run a true sandbox without that much planning ahead. It's not even that the sandbox is superior; if players want to pursue a specific plot to topple the evil Baron and are happy with interesting hooks that provide clear quest objectives along the way, established by the GM via his NPCs, that's a great game.

Of course, being a Good DM is a lot of work. Really being a Good Anything, takes a lot of work.


Dude. Is it possible for you to debate without trying to insult people? :smallsigh:....

I follow the advice of Yoda, I don't ''try'' to do anything.




There is something I'm confused about with your description which makes it hard for me to place it exactly in regards to the spectrum of sandbox to linear, Number 2. Am I correct in understanding that this examination of the details by the players/choice of the players in regards to what plot-point they want to do is before play rather than during play?

I'm not sure what your asking here.

Segev
2018-02-13, 10:15 AM
But then your saying the pure sandbox game makes no sense and is just a random pile of nothing. Like:

Normal Game: The evil cult plans to summon the demon at midnight on the last day of the year (a plan for a future event). The characters might or might not know that, either way they will try an take actions to stop it...and depending on what they do, and how successful they are, they might prevent, delay or stop the summoning.

Sandbox Mess: The evil cult might do something sometime. The characters might or might not know that, either way they will simply do pointless random things.....and depending on what they do something might happen sometime. You are wrong.

The first, as written, describes one thing that might be going on in the current state of a sandbox game. You have not defined what the characters will do to stop it, or even that they will bite the hook. The hook is there, presumably, that will allow them to learn of it if they bite the hook.

What the players do about it when (and if) they learn of it is also up to them. The DM knows the state of the world. What resources there are. And may or may not allow player suggestions as to what resources might be drawn upon if the players' suggestions are something he didn't think of but make sense. (e.g. if the Paladin of the Arch Order brings up that, as the official guardians of the Arch of the Convent, his order would have a history of demonic forces that have assaulted the Arch to try to escape the Great Seal of the Convent, and asks if the cultists' demonic trappings look like anything in that history; the GM will determine if it makes sense that this particular cult's demonic patron(s) were participants in past assaults or not, and give the appropriate answer. Even if he didn't think of it before, himself.)

A linear game - "one with lots of details" on an adventure path the DM lays out - wouldn't have just, "The evil cult plans to summon the demon at midnight on the last day of the year (a plan for a future event)." It would have, "...and the PCs first learn about it from one of these N sources, and each source leads to these next clues, which the PCs will follow to the next plot point to learn more about what's going on. After defeating the cult's otyugh in their undercity outpost, they will find the ritual book belonging to the mad guardian who bound the creature to their service, which will tell them how to stop the ritual."

The sandbox game would have the fact that the otyugh is bound by the mad guardian, and that said mad guardian has the ritual book, but it wouldn't require the PCs to follow one of N specific paths to get to it before they can learn about the cult. The sandbox game would have the important cultists statted up as NPCs, know what they're doing and how they're motivated, and the PCs engage in detective work of their own design to pursue leads they happen to have. The GM might have given them the starting leads, but he doesn't say "and now you go here."

The linear game would have X, Y, and Z important cultists defeated in some order, and their defeats trigger specific cutscenes and changes to the cult's plans. And, since it's a linear game, the cult's plans BEFORE they are defeated don't need to be planned; the party will take them out and the cult's plans will be the ones the GM came up with. The sandbox game will know what the plans are before any particular cultists are defeated. The PCs may or may not take out any of them before confronting the ritual site. If and when they take out a given important cultist, the cult's plans will change accordingly. The GM may or may not have planned for every single possible permutation of missing cultists, but if he hasn't, he knows the remaining NPCs well enough to know how they'd react and figure out how they'd change their plans accordingly.

And, if you say any of that is "a random mess," then you're admitting you didn't read what I wrote, since it will require you to pretend I said something I didn't. Thus, I challenge you to quote, specifically, anything that you think is "a random mess" and explain precisely how it's "random" or "a mess," without ignoring what was actually said and making up a straw man of your own.




Of course, being a Good DM is a lot of work. Really being a Good Anything, takes a lot of work.It does! Sandboxes are a lot of work to set up! Linear modules that don't feel highly constrained are also a lot of work, but actually tend to be less work overall.

That doesn't mean either is superior. They're play styles and GMing styles.



I follow the advice of Yoda, I don't ''try'' to do anything.THen you also never fail! But you also never succeed, nor actually do anything. Yoda's advice was crap if you take it at its word, rather than ignoring what he said and heeding what he meant. What Yoda was really saying was, "Go out and work at it, and don't stop working at it, no matter the setbacks, until you succeed."

In reality, "trying" is just that, as long as you keep trying until you find something that succeeds. Yoda was admonishing Luke because Luke was using "try" to say, "I'll make some motions without expecting to get anywhere, and give up when nothing happens."

Darth Ultron
2018-02-13, 08:14 PM
And, if you say any of that is "a random mess,"

Well, no, you are describing a sandbox as a normal game....and that is my basic point.



In reality, "trying" is just that, as long as you keep trying until you find something that succeeds. Yoda was admonishing Luke because Luke was using "try" to say, "I'll make some motions without expecting to get anywhere, and give up when nothing happens."

Always seemed to me like Yoda was saying ''just do it'', don't just ''try'' and don't sit there and don't complain how hard it is to do.

Segev
2018-02-13, 08:26 PM
Well, no, you are describing a sandbox as a normal game....and that is my basic point.And yet, there is a distinction between the sandbox I described and the linear game I described, both of which are normal games. So "sandbox" isn't a meaningless phrase. If set S = {A, B}, A isn't a meaningless item just because both it and B are both in set S.

normal game = {sandbox, linear game}.


Always seemed to me like Yoda was saying ''just do it'', don't just ''try'' and don't sit there and don't complain how hard it is to do.Technically, doing requires trying to do. :P

Cluedrew
2018-02-13, 10:36 PM
normal game = {sandbox, linear game}.Is supposed to be the complete set. I would add "improvisational" (or dynamic or character-driven, I talked a bit about it earlier if you remember) but I'm not sure how common that actually is.

Xuc Xac
2018-02-13, 11:35 PM
But then your saying the pure sandbox game makes no sense and is just a random pile of nothing.


You're the only one saying that.



Normal Game: The evil cult plans to summon the demon at midnight on the last day of the year (a plan for a future event). The characters might or might not know that, either way they will try an take actions to stop it...and depending on what they do, and how successful they are, they might prevent, delay or stop the summoning.


Linear and rather railroady. Let's ignore the issue of how the PCs are going to take action to stop the cult even if they don't know about it. The fact that you've already decided--in advance--that the PCs will try to stop it means it's not a sandbox.



Sandbox Mess: The evil cult might do something sometime. The characters might or might not know that, either way they will simply do pointless random things.....and depending on what they do something might happen sometime.


That is indeed a mess. It's also a ridiculous strawman designed to show that sandboxes are bad and wrong "but if some people like it, that's fine for them, I guess."

A real sandbox version: The evil cult plans to summon the demon at midnight on the last day of the year. The ritual requires the sacrifice of a blood relative of each of the 12 Peers. Three of them (minor cousins of the houses of Nefarion, Bellbrook, and Droulon) have already been kidnapped and are being kept secretly in the dungeon below Duke Thinwhistle's castle, because the Duke's seneschal is a high ranking member of the cult. The ritual also requires an enormous bonfire of sulfur and cinnamon, so agents of the cult are trying to buy up as much as they can in every major port and trading center in the kingdom. They're trying not to arouse suspicion by buying too much at once, but they'll get more obvious as the time of the ritual draws nearer. If nothing interferes with the ritual, the demon will arrive and spend New Year's Day slow roasting and then devouring the local villagers.

Whether or not the PCs uncover the cult's plan (or even becomes aware of its existence) will depend on where and when the PCs go during play. Whether or not the PCs decide to stop the cult is entirely up to the players.

They might decide to interfere in the ritual because demons are really bad by definition.

Or they might ignore it. "Which demon are they summoning? Vermithrax the Succulent? Meh. That guy just devours people in alphabetical order and my name is Zeke. I got some time."

Or they might decide to profit from it. "Let's corner the market on cinnamon and gouge those religious fanatics on the price when they get desperate in December!"

They might even join the cult. "I'm not too keen on Vermithrax's peasant-eating and death-dealing policies, but he is promising to lower the capital gains tax, so..."

You can try to guess what the PCs will do so you can plan ahead to save time, but if you plan too much, it can become tempting to railroad them into doing what you planned for so your prep time isn't wasted.

Being a sandbox doesn't mean that things don't happen in a logical order. It just means the GM doesn't arrange that order in advance. PCs and NPCs in the world can have goals and step-by-step plans to achieve them, but the GM doesn't.

Even something simple like "there's a giant rat in that cave over there". You can't say "if the PCs want to kill that rat then they have to go to the cave and fight it". It's up to the players to decide how to achieve the goal of killing the rat. They'll probably just go to the cave and fight it, because that's the simplest and most direct, but they might not. They might poison a big cheese wheel and leave it out for the giant rat or say "Hey, remember that homeless goblin who was begging us for work? Let's give him a knife and a map to the cave and offer him a gold piece for the dead rat."

Deophaun
2018-02-14, 12:16 AM
Mind the avatar.

I've skipped over a lot of this thread, but I will tentatively agree that sandbox, as the term is largely used, is indeed meaningless. DU is right, there are many illusions DMs can use to make a linear story appear open, and with what I've seen other people here comment on, many of my own railroad heavy campaigns would be considered "sandbox" simply because I have a lot of tangential things statted out that players can pursue or not. It can change the outcome, but the train is going to make it to the station.

So, what is the proper use of the word "sandbox?" To answer that, we have to look at what you do in a sandbox: you build sandcastles. A lot of things marketed as sandboxes aren't. Skyrim is not a sandbox; unless you mod it (in which case, the mod, not the play, is the sandcastle) there's really nothing for you to "build." You aren't going to establish a trading company or your own guild or carve out a kingdom; and even if did have that ability, your options are going to be highly constrained so that you don't threaten the setting. You can only react to the world, the world is not going to react to you. And the problem is some people take their cues from videogames and call everything that's open world a sandbox.

The question then is what makes a game a sandbox game? And that is the characters must be proactive. Every published adventure has the characters reacting to something: the princess has been kidnapped, the mad scientist is opening a portal to Hell on Mars, slicers have taken control of the world's nuclear arsenal and holding the world hostage. Throughout all of these adventures, the characters are going to be reacting to the situation until they catch up in the final act and have the ultimate confrontation. In a sandbox, though, it's the characters that come up with the idea to kidnap the princess. It's the characters that decide to usher in the demon invasion. It's the characters that dream of conquering the world. They come up with the plan and then execute, and the world has to react to what they do.

In this way, sandbox games lend themselves much better to playing the villain. Unless, of course, you're starting out in a highly dystopian world where anything that you build is going to be a lot better than what already exists.

RFLS
2018-02-14, 12:48 AM
I follow the advice of Yoda, I don't ''try'' to do anything.

I mean...following philosophical advice from Star Wars is not...exactly ideal. We're 2/9 on movies with any serious intellectual oomph behind them.

Florian
2018-02-14, 02:42 AM
In this way, sandbox games lend themselves much better to playing the villain. Unless, of course, you're starting out in a highly dystopian world where anything that you build is going to be a lot better than what already exists.

(Talking D&D/PF)

That's more or less the Tippyverse question: If itīs there (in the rules) why don't they use it already?
Mostly followed up by: If itīs there (in the rules), why don't high-level casters use spell A and B to be invincible and rule the world already?

A lot of the more functional settings therefore feature a combination of post apocalypse and after the fall of rome scenario as their base background. All is there, but most of it has been lost and needs to be either reinvented or rediscovered. The main appeal of delving into ancient ruins should be to rediscover ancient mysteries now lost, like old spell books with "unknown" spells, artifacts and so on, hauling them back to civilization.

I often think that players should focus more on the player section of the setting then on the player section of the rules.

Satinavian
2018-02-14, 03:58 AM
In this way, sandbox games lend themselves much better to playing the villain. Unless, of course, you're starting out in a highly dystopian world where anything that you build is going to be a lot better than what already exists.

Or to settings in the aftermath of some catastrophic event when you want to rebuild and get back to a proper situation.
Or to a setting where the old order is in danger and change is coming ... which might be fought or channeled.
Or to exploration/expedition stories
Or to general settlement/building stories.

the last sandbox campaigns i played in the last year :
1 - the heroes get handed the power over a small town in a wartorn region. They have to navigate between all the external factions and warlords, make general gouvernment decisions and have eventually to deal with a central gouvernment trying to reestablish order which might threaten all they have done so far. (of course they could just try to abuse their power, plunder the town and flee, but they choose differently)
2 - A BBEG is starting his big plan. It will end in a big magic/demonic ritual in the open sea which will amongst others flood most of the coast. He already reigns over a whole host of sea monsters and seems to have a big pirate alliance and seems to employ lots of soldiers from underwater realms. All of that is revealed at the beginning. The PCs are already established as seafarers from a former campaign, have a ship, hav riches, are mostly born in coastel cities and have family ties there. Most of the coastel nations don't particular like each other
3 - The PCs are living in a capital. They are not nobles, but certainly upper class. Some cult (forbidden by the established church) is rising and gaining influence on the souvereign who acts more and more tyrannical. politics turn violent, proscription ensures while the souverain acts more and more insane. There are dozens of NPCs with their own agendy. The PCs can try to influence all of that or try to hide from politics or whatever. They might even leave all that behind.
4 - The PC inherit a family fortune in an oligarchy. Traditionally the family has right and duty to fill certain positions and take an active part in the gouvernment. But until the PCs actually prove that they can play this game of power, the other old families see possibilities to either steal some of those privileges or to make the PCs their pawns. Most of the family wealth is also bound in trading posts, ships, plantages, mining rights, slaves. The PCs will continously get money if they manage to keep this family empire alive. Obviously they could try to close some branches or make investments in new stuff. There is also a rebellion brewing because of unequality but mainly because of food prices.
5 - A son of a noble gets the right to all the unknown land beyond some river. He tries to find settlers willing to accompany him to go there and carve out a new realm. The PCs are voluntaries for that and start more experienced than most other would be settlers which would allow them to take control of the whole thing or be the most qualified expert for whatever.

None of that were villain setups. Sure, as sandboxes, the PCs could always act as villains, but all of them work fine, even better, if they don't

Darth Ultron
2018-02-14, 08:08 AM
And yet, there is a distinction between the sandbox I described and the linear game I described, both of which are normal games. So "sandbox" isn't a meaningless phrase. If set S = {A, B}, A isn't a meaningless item just because both it and B are both in set S.

normal game = {sandbox, linear game}.



The ONLY thing that makes a sandbox a sandbox, according to everyone that has posted, is just the ''feeling'' that the players can choose to do ''anything''. And my whole point is that ''feeling'' is part of ANY TRPG (at least any one that is not bad or run by a bad DM, of course).



Linear and rather railroady. Let's ignore the issue of how the PCs are going to take action to stop the cult even if they don't know about it. The fact that you've already decided--in advance--that the PCs will try to stop it means it's not a sandbox.

Right....well I'll expand my example to make my point a bit clearer.

Ok, so the DM utterly does nothing but show up for the game. The players then spend hours and hours wandering around in the game world doing random mostly meaningless things and having mostly meaningless random encounters. The DM, other then just reacting to the players, occasionally drops a plot hook. Eventually, most players do get bored of just doing random mostly meaningless things and want to do something of more meaning and substance. So the players either make up a plot hook and hook themselves, or they pick one of the DMs plot hooks. Either way does not really matter. No matter what, the DM will make the adventure out of the plot hook.

So in my example, the players characters learn about the cult, and the players decide to oppose them.



A real sandbox version:

This is a Normal Game, and my whole point: Unless your in a bad game with a bad DM: All TRPG have the so called ''sandbox'' built in.

Your example even provides examples of what I'm talking about: The DM HAS made VERY linear things the characters can TRY to do, if they want to, to stop the ritual. You mention two: the cult needs some set people and spices. So, the obvious and linear thing is to ''stop the cult from getting what they need; go from A(take action) -> B(stop the cult).



You can try to guess what the PCs will do so you can plan ahead to save time, but if you plan too much, it can become tempting to railroad them into doing what you planned for so your prep time isn't wasted.

This is a bit more pre-game stuff: Simply pick Players you get along with/agree with.



Being a sandbox doesn't mean that things don't happen in a logical order. It just means the GM doesn't arrange that order in advance. PCs and NPCs in the world can have goals and step-by-step plans to achieve them, but the GM doesn't.

BUT, in your very own example of a sandbox game, you DID arrange that order in advance. The cult needs to do X. I guess you can do the wacky crazy thing where you will say the ''cult comes alive in the DMs mind and tells them what to do, but the DM themselves does not do anything but listen to the voice in their head.''



Even something simple like "there's a giant rat in that cave over there". You can't say "if the PCs want to kill that rat then they have to go to the cave and fight it". It's up to the players to decide how to achieve the goal of killing the rat. They'll probably just go to the cave and fight it, because that's the simplest and most direct, but they might not. They might poison a big cheese wheel and leave it out for the giant rat or say "Hey, remember that homeless goblin who was begging us for work? Let's give him a knife and a map to the cave and offer him a gold piece for the dead rat."

Right...but make it ''if the PC's want to kill the giant rat they must A)Go to where the giant rat is and B)interact with it in some way(even if it's indirect). There is NO way the PCs can do anything else and kill the rat.

And I'd note your last example is just beyond stupid for most games. The vast majority of TRPG's only give rewards IF the PC's directly do something. So if the really lazy characters just hire NPC's to do everything for them, they won't get much of anything. I'd also note it's very boring to sit around and hire NPC.


I mean...following philosophical advice from Star Wars is not...exactly ideal. We're 2/9 on movies with any serious intellectual oomph behind them.

Any time you want to start a thread ''How Disney Ruined Star Wars'' or even ''How 'modern day thinking(aka after 2000)' Ruined Star Wars'' I'm up for it.

Pleh
2018-02-14, 11:23 AM
The ONLY thing that makes a sandbox a sandbox, according to everyone that has posted, is just the ''feeling'' that the players can choose to do ''anything''. And my whole point is that ''feeling'' is part of ANY TRPG (at least any one that is not bad or run by a bad DM, of course).

And this is exactly where you are incorrect.

Sandbox is not about a Feeling or an Illusion of the ability to choose "anything." It is the ACTUAL ABILITY to choose "anything."

The real troublesome bit is the implication that these choices are meant to be limited to "within reason," which is where we differ in what we consider "reasonable" and the precise cause for a "sandbox spectrum" since most tables have a slightly different place where they drawn the lines of what they consider, "reasonable."

It's a subjective choice, not an objective measurement, which is why the terms, "good," "bad," and "normal" are exceptionally poor choices.

Segev
2018-02-14, 01:15 PM
The ONLY thing that makes a sandbox a sandbox, according to everyone that has posted, is just the ''feeling'' that the players can choose to do ''anything''. And my whole point is that ''feeling'' is part of ANY TRPG (at least any one that is not bad or run by a bad DM, of course).



And this is exactly where you are incorrect.

Sandbox is not about a Feeling or an Illusion of the ability to choose "anything." It is the ACTUAL ABILITY to choose "anything."

The real troublesome bit is the implication that these choices are meant to be limited to "within reason," which is where we differ in what we consider "reasonable" and the precise cause for a "sandbox spectrum" since most tables have a slightly different place where they drawn the lines of what they consider, "reasonable."

It's a subjective choice, not an objective measurement, which is why the terms, "good," "bad," and "normal" are exceptionally poor choices.
Pleh has the right of it, here. Darth Ultron, you're still ignoring what people say in favor of what you want to pretend they said.

But I can make this simpler, if you'll refrain from pretending that anything other than your preference involves "random crazy nonsense."

Sandboxes don't plan the path forward of what the PCs will do to resolve the problems. They just plan what the situation is, and may or may not have plans of what the likely next steps are as the situations evolve if the PCs don't intervene.

Linear games, no matter how many paths, have paths designed for the PCs to traverse. They plan FOR the PCs' actions, and the PCs acting in a way that they were not planned for requires either that those unplanned-for actions be minimally disruptive to the planned-for path, that new paths be written ex nihilo, or that the PCs be tricked, forced, or cajoled back into making the planned-for actions of at least one of the extant paths.

Does that difference make more sense to you? Or are you going to close your eyes and scream "crazy random!" rather than actually read what I wrote?

Deophaun
2018-02-14, 02:07 PM
Sandboxes don't plan the path forward of what the PCs will do to resolve the problems. They just plan what the situation is, and may or may not have plans of what the likely next steps are as the situations evolve if the PCs don't intervene.

Linear games, no matter how many paths, have paths designed for the PCs to traverse. They plan FOR the PCs' actions, and the PCs acting in a way that they were not planned for requires either that those unplanned-for actions be minimally disruptive to the planned-for path, that new paths be written ex nihilo, or that the PCs be tricked, forced, or cajoled back into making the planned-for actions of at least one of the extant paths.
These are just styles of DMing. To the players or an outside observer, there might well be no functional difference between them. Which is why it would be meaningless to advertise such a campaign as a "sandbox," because the players aren't really experiencing anything different from a homebrew BNSF campaign.

Segev
2018-02-14, 02:32 PM
These are just styles of DMing. To the players or an outside observer, there might well be no functional difference between them. Which is why it would be meaningless to advertise such a campaign as a "sandbox," because the players aren't really experiencing anything different from a homebrew BNSF campaign.

What does BNSF stand for?

And by that definition, there's no difference between a hardline railroad and any other game beyond "DMing style."

But, no. There is a difference, in much the same way that there's a difference between a mac and a PC and a Linux machine. Even if you do everything you can to set your graphical look to have the same-looking interface, there are background differences in how the OSs run that will reflect in the machine's performance.

Some players may never notice the difference. Some will. It will depend strongly on how well the players mesh with the GM's expectations and how well he predicted their responses and solutions. As well as how good the GM is at improvising and throwing out all his paths for a new one.

Players who surprise the GM with their solutions and approaches will notice the linear game stalling a bit as the GM scrambles to change things up, and might see behind the thin walls of the prop city. Players who are used to following the GM-provided hooks and taking their cues for solutions from the structure of the game might find themselves befuddled by the way the sandbox game has a slower real-world update pace and how the GM seems to improv a fair bit of it. They may even think he's purely improvising the plot as he goes along, not realizing there's a whole detailed world the GM is referencing in his head.

Yes, there is DMing style involved, but they do have meaningful differences. To say "that's just DMing style," though, means that there's no difference between Hero Quest and GURPS; just DMing style. (Okay, system shifts aren't a fair comparison. But my point is that there is a difference between GAMES based on difference in DMing styles, and trying to dismiss those differences as "only being DMing styles" is deliberately trying to muddy communication in order to "win" an argument through pedantry.)

Quertus
2018-02-14, 02:35 PM
So, to play DU's advocate here...

Can I define things by GM mindset? Where "Sandbox" means that the GM plans the state of the world (and may or may not think through how things will play out of the PCs weren't there), whereas "Linear"/"Branching", the GM plans out one or more paths from the start state to the desired (or, I suppose, undesireable) possible end states?

If that definition passes inspection, then... what is the difference between a Sandbox game, and a Linear game where the GM a) does not Railroad like a "bad jerk GM"; b) is able to improvise new linear paths on the fly?

What I describe as my first and best Sandbox, I always ended the session with, "what are we doing next session?", so that I could plan out content for wherever the PCs were going / what they were doing, and have that area/concept "loaded up" in my headspace. How is that functionally different from a Branching adventure?


A lot of the more functional settings therefore feature a combination of post apocalypse and after the fall of rome scenario as their base background. All is there, but most of it has been lost and needs to be either reinvented or rediscovered. The main appeal of delving into ancient ruins should be to rediscover ancient mysteries now lost, like old spell books with "unknown" spells, artifacts and so on, hauling them back to civilization.

This is what drew me to D&D, and the D&D Wizard archtype, in the first place. :smallbiggrin:

Florian
2018-02-14, 02:58 PM
Can I define things by GM mindset? Where "Sandbox" means that the GM plans the state of the world (and may or may not think through how things will play out of the PCs weren't there), whereas "Linear"/"Branching", the GM plans out one or more paths from the start state to the desired (or, I suppose, undesireable) possible end states?

"Linear" is a game without (meaningful) choices, as the story has already been told, the players just have to reenact it. You could actually grab a beer and ask the gm to tell you the story of how your group of heroes do their heroic deed.

"Sandbox" is a game of choices. The question of "meaningful" is more a matter of scope (and maybe style): Is the world static or is it set in motion (meta-plot)?

Deophaun
2018-02-14, 03:11 PM
What does BNSF stand for?
Burlington Northern Santa Fe

And by that definition, there's no difference between a hardline railroad and any other game beyond "DMing style."
Only if your definition hinges on DMing style. I've already presented a definition of what a sandbox is that does not rely on it.

But, no. There is a difference, in much the same way that there's a difference between a mac and a PC and a Linux machine. Even if you do everything you can to set your graphical look to have the same-looking interface, there are background differences in how the OSs run that will reflect in the machine's performance.
This is very thin gruel. Whether I use Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, the audience is not going to know the difference. This is why no one advertises that they have a "Mac movie" versus a "PC movie."

Segev
2018-02-14, 03:17 PM
Burlington Northern Santa FeEr, okay. I'm... not sure what that region has to do with anything. Just an example place for a homebrew to be from?


Only if your definition hinges on DMing style. I've already presented a definition of what a sandbox is that does not rely on it.Not...really. I could dismiss your definition as "DMing style" too, if I wanted to stretch the definition of "DMing style" as much as you have.


This is very thin gruel. Whether I use Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, the audience is not going to know the difference. This is why no one advertises that they have a "Mac movie" versus a "PC movie."However, when the audience is sharing in the creation process (as players do in games), and thus is using the same software you are to generate the final product, they will eventually notice the differences between the tools they have available to create those "movies."

Somebody reading the novelization of the campaign may never be able to tell what was pre-planned vs. what was "sandboxed" vs. what was hard-railroaded (unless the railroad was so bad it'd be bad writing in a normally-written novel). But the players may well be able to tell, with the probability that they never notice hints to what kind of game it is being very small, in fact.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-14, 03:18 PM
Er, okay. I'm... not sure what that region has to do with anything. Just an example place for a homebrew to be from?


They're a freight rail company.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/99/BNSF_8013.jpg/800px-BNSF_8013.jpg

Segev
2018-02-14, 03:19 PM
They're a freight rail company.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/99/BNSF_8013.jpg/800px-BNSF_8013.jpg

Ah! Okay, that makes much more sense now, and changes the connotation of the phrase entirely, now that I understand it. Thanks for the clarification.

Deophaun
2018-02-14, 03:35 PM
Not...really. I could dismiss your definition as "DMing style" too, if I wanted to stretch the definition of "DMing style" as much as you have.
Apparently defining "DMing style" as "what the DM does" is as much of a stretch as "what the players do." Ok...

However, when the audience is sharing in the creation process (as players do in games), and thus is using the same software you are to generate the final product, they will eventually notice the differences between the tools they have available to create those "movies."

Somebody reading the novelization of the campaign may never be able to tell what was pre-planned vs. what was "sandboxed" vs. what was hard-railroaded (unless the railroad was so bad it'd be bad writing in a normally-written novel). But the players may well be able to tell, with the probability that they never notice hints to what kind of game it is being very small, in fact.
Or the improvisation was so hamfisted. "Oh look, they're fighting orcs in a burned out village for the sixth time." (Not hyperbole, that's real experience)

There are people that are good at improv. There are people that are good at anticipating and planning. There are people in-between. How these people utilize their skills is the definition of DMing style. You cannot just say "people will know" when different DMs are going to thrive and die in different environments. This is why using "sandbox" as a synonym for improv tells you nothing, just as all that "Made on a Mac" tells you is Apple gave the producers money. It is, as DU says, meaningless if that's how you're using it.

Which is why you shouldn't use it that way. You should strive for meaning.

Segev
2018-02-14, 04:04 PM
Apparently defining "DMing style" as "what the DM does" is as much of a stretch as "what the players do." Ok...

Or the improvisation was so hamfisted. "Oh look, they're fighting orcs in a burned out village for the sixth time." (Not hyperbole, that's real experience)

There are people that are good at improv. There are people that are good at anticipating and planning. There are people in-between. How these people utilize their skills is the definition of DMing style. You cannot just say "people will know" when different DMs are going to thrive and die in different environments. This is why using "sandbox" as a synonym for improv tells you nothing, just as all that "Made on a Mac" tells you is Apple gave the producers money. It is, as DU says, meaningless if that's how you're using it.

Which is why you shouldn't use it that way. You should strive for meaning.I'm honestly not even sure what you're arguing at this point. I had thought you were arguing over definitions, but this post gives me the impression that you're arguing that improv is a bad way to run a game?

What's your thesis? Or, if I sound too nerdy there, what's your point? I chose "thesis" because I'm not trying to be confrontational nor dismissive. I genuinely don't know what point you're trying to make.

Deophaun
2018-02-14, 04:18 PM
I'm honestly not even sure what you're arguing at this point. I had thought you were arguing over definitions, but this post gives me the impression that you're arguing that improv is a bad way to run a game?
Only if you were arguing that running a game linearly was a bad way to run a game. As your negative case was of a bad railroad, I threw in one of a bad improv. I certainly wouldn't be saying "sandbox" is meaningless if I thought improvisation was bad. To the contrary, "sandbox" would be a red flag. No, the point is neither is inherently superior to the other.

Scripten
2018-02-14, 04:29 PM
No, the point is neither is inherently superior to the other.

Who is arguing that? "Sandbox" is a useful, meaningful term for detailing how a DM approaches the progression of a campaign. All of the arguments otherwise that have been made so far have been made based either on a false premise or conjured up of outright fabrication of what "everyone" is saying.

To whit, another bog-standard DU troll thread.

Segev
2018-02-14, 04:46 PM
No, the point is neither is inherently superior to the other.

Then on what do you think you disagree with me?

Deophaun
2018-02-14, 06:35 PM
Who is arguing that?
Question for you: Why is it that giving a jab about bad railroading doesn't elicit any sort of response, but yet someone does the same thing to improvisation styles and OMGNOONESARGUINGTHATSERIOUSLY!?

Why? If just tossing out a negative dig at railroading does not equal arguing linear play is bad, why does tossing out a negative dig at improvisation mean that choice is bad?

The reactions tell me someone isn't being honest here.

Then on what do you think you disagree with me?
That the term "sandbox," how you use it, is in any sense a useful term (unless, I guess, you're giving DMs advice about what to do behind the screen, but then there are other, better words and terms for that, like improvisation, choice, open world). It's not.

ImNotTrevor
2018-02-14, 08:09 PM
Question for you: Why is it that giving a jab about bad railroading doesn't elicit any sort of response, but yet someone does the same thing to improvisation styles and OMGNOONESARGUINGTHATSERIOUSLY!?

Why? If just tossing out a negative dig at railroading does not equal arguing linear play is bad, why does tossing out a negative dig at improvisation mean that choice is bad?

The reactions tell me someone isn't being honest here.

They react that way because nobody here is arguing the inverse, either. Nobody has said Linear Is Bad, but they have said "Selling Linear as not that is bad" in the same way that if I sold you a Ford F-150 on craigslist and when you showed up I handed you the keys to a Civic, you would be justifiably confused and upset.

Neither car is explicitly better, but they are different enough in purpose and use that they are not interchangeable. It is laughable to suggest otherwise. Same goes for the two styles. What is rejected is the idea that Linear and Sandbox are the same thing, or that there is no distinction between them. Which is like saying a Truck and a Coupe are the same thing.



That the term "sandbox," how you use it, is in any sense a useful term (unless, I guess, you're giving DMs advice about what to do behind the screen, but then there are other, better words and terms for that, like improvisation, choice, open world). It's not.

Except that Sandbox serves as a term that incorporates all those last three things. You are, at this point, quibbling that you don't happen to like that particular word for it, since you've highlighted all of the smaller pieces that go into the term "Sandbox" as currently used.

It's basically like if you argued that "cherry" is a useless term when we can describe "red, round, pitted fruit that goes on top of banana splits." Well guess what? All of that is communicated by the word "cherry." So why would Cherry be a useless term, again?

To Elaborate, it communicates the approach you yourself are taking from behind the screen and communicates a lot of general information rapidly. Namely, if I say "I'm running a Sandbox" that means most of these will be things I'm doing:

-Focusing on what IS rather than what WILL BE.
-Allowing characters to make decisions on what pieces of the world they interact with.
-have a fairly large world full of things to do.
-I use improv a lot
-Player Agency is preserved as much as possible.
-I have no planned out "end game" and probably have no "BBEG" or at least don't have just one.

To name a few things.

These things are communicated in the term Sandbox and serves as a quick preamble to what sort of things we'll hear about as they speak.

Does that make sense? Have I lost you anywhere?

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-14, 08:16 PM
Question for you: Why is it that giving a jab about bad railroading doesn't elicit any sort of response, but yet someone does the same thing to improvisation styles and OMGNOONESARGUINGTHATSERIOUSLY!?

Why? If just tossing out a negative dig at railroading does not equal arguing linear play is bad, why does tossing out a negative dig at improvisation mean that choice is bad?

The reactions tell me someone isn't being honest here.


OR... because the two terms aren't equivalent sorts of terms, despite being shoehorned into the far ends of a mistaken axis. One (railroading) is a blanket verb for a set of bad behaviors that some GMs have been known to engage. The other is really more of an adjective, a quality that most campaigns have across a wide range of degrees.


And people don't react the same way because unlike railroading and the extremely linear sorts of campaigns associated with it, they just don't have a history of terrible experiences and gaming horror stories associated with really sandboxy campaigns.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-14, 10:25 PM
And this is exactly where you are incorrect.

Sandbox is not about a Feeling or an Illusion of the ability to choose "anything." It is the ACTUAL ABILITY to choose "anything."

Right Everyone is saying ''Sandboxes are where the Players can choose Anything!" and then they cover their ears and say ''lalalala" loudly.

But when you finally get them to stop, they will admit that they don't really mean ''anything''. They agree that the players don't have game reality control and can't just wish things to happen.

Then they agree that the players must follow the game rules.

Then they agree that the players must follow the common sense game reality rules.

Then they agree the players won't be jerk tyrants telling the DM what to do.

So, that ''anything'', becomes a ''normal game''.




Does that difference make more sense to you? Or are you going to close your eyes and scream "crazy random!" rather than actually read what I wrote?

Ok, think I got it.

Sandbox-A game run by a bad, lazy or casual DM, that on purpose does noting to plan any sort of path ahead and mostly just sits there and reacts to the PCs by doing the Quantum Ogre thing right in the players path.



Players who surprise the GM with their solutions and approaches will notice the linear game stalling a bit as the GM scrambles to change things up, and might see behind the thin walls of the prop city.

Not True. There are plenty of Jerk Players that Only play the game vs the DM and just love to hit the DM with a surprise and watch the DM stall and get flustered. But, well jerks will be jerks.

Again this is just about DM skill. A good DM will never have a stall or bump or skip...the game will all ways run smooth.



Can I define things by GM mindset? Where "Sandbox" means that the GM plans the state of the world (and may or may not think through how things will play out of the PCs weren't there), whereas "Linear"/"Branching", the GM plans out one or more paths from the start state to the desired (or, I suppose, undesireable) possible end states?

But there is no difference here.

Game A-The DM makes up the good rebels that oppose the evil baron. The DM makes a couple rebel NPCs and gives them details and makes a vague ''rebel plan'' of what they tried (and failed) in the past and their plans for the future.

Game B-The DM makes up the good rebels that oppose the evil baron. The DM makes a couple rebel NPCs and gives them details and makes a vague ''rebel plan'' of what they tried (and failed) in the past and their plans for the future.

So is A or B the so called Sandbox? You can say both are just the ''state of the world''. And both have a vague plan for the future. You can even say both have a path, but sure you can do the twisting word play and say one is ''the fictional setting just coming alive and doing things on it's own as the DM does nothing'' and one is ''A DM being a DM''.



If that definition passes inspection, then... what is the difference between a Sandbox game, and a Linear game where the GM a) does not Railroad like a "bad jerk GM"; b) is able to improvise new linear paths on the fly?

I see no difference.



What I describe as my first and best Sandbox, I always ended the session with, "what are we doing next session?", so that I could plan out content for wherever the PCs were going / what they were doing, and have that area/concept "loaded up" in my headspace. How is that functionally different from a Branching adventure?

I end my game sessions that way too....


"Linear" is a game without (meaningful) choices, as the story has already been told, the players just have to reenact it.

"Sandbox" is a game of choices. The question of "meaningful" is more a matter of scope (and maybe style): Is the world static or is it set in motion (meta-plot)?

This is my original point then: A so-called sandbox IS a normal game.

Though, too, here, your saying ''linear'' is automatically ''worst railroad ever'', but eh...

Xuc Xac
2018-02-14, 10:51 PM
Ok, think I got it.


Finally!



Sandbox-A game run by a bad, lazy or casual DM, that on purpose does noting to plan any sort of path ahead and mostly just sits there and reacts to the PCs by doing the Quantum Ogre thing right in the players path.


You don't "got it".

Milo v3
2018-02-14, 11:28 PM
I mainly run Sandbox games, but my current campaign is a linear one. It hasn't had any railroading so far, and for some obstacles I don't even bother trying to think up ways for the players to overcome the obstacle because I know they can come up with something.

But it's a linear game, the players know "this game revolves around x" and if they stop being interested in the plot we'll just stop the campaign and make a different one. They can as they please, as long as it relates to a plot plot and makes sense for their characters.

In a sandbox game. There is no "this game revolves around x", you just make a setting and drop the players in.

Quertus
2018-02-15, 01:27 AM
There are people that are good at improv. There are people that are good at anticipating and planning. There are people in-between.

Just to make sure, you aren't trying to put "improv skill" and "planning skill" as opposite ends of a spectrum, are you? Because, IME, there's people who are good at both, and people who are bad at both.

Florian
2018-02-15, 01:39 AM
In a sandbox game. There is no "this game revolves around x", you just make a setting and drop the players in.

Yeah... no. Your sandbox also has a style, theme and mood to it, places and people to explore that are connected to that elements. When you place a Hobgobling kingdom on the map and decide that they follow a samurai-based culture and the kingdom is run as something like a shogunate, by the choice of content to be explored, you're already creating sets of "about" for the regions.
Add in the previous "princess" discussion that things can and should involve once interacted with and you move some of the small "about" forward to be a big "about".

Quertus
2018-02-15, 01:44 AM
Yeah... no. Your sandbox also has a style, theme and mood to it, places and people to explore that are connected to that elements. When you place a Hobgobling kingdom on the map and decide that they follow a samurai-based culture and the kingdom is run as something like a shogunate, by the choice of content to be explored, you're already creating sets of "about" for the regions.
Add in the previous "princess" discussion that things can and should involve once interacted with and you move some of the small "about" forward to be a big "about".

Yeah, I often talk about buying in for a political sandbox, or even one based on a particular region. With a rare few exceptions, like Neil Armstrong, I think it's fair to say that all of us are in an Earth sandbox.

Florian
2018-02-15, 02:31 AM
Yeah, I often talk about buying in for a political sandbox, or even one based on a particular region. With a rare few exceptions, like Neil Armstrong, I think it's fair to say that all of us are in an Earth sandbox.

The political sandbox is a good example. You have to prep the number of organizations, power players, people connected, got to ask yourself the question if the game world has gods and if those also meddle in the political game, then draw up a power diagram, a relationship map and work out how all of that is connected. That by itself will generate a multitude of plots.

Or using the Varisia region as a sandbox is terrific because you can scavenge so much material. Some 5-6 detailed cities, some interesting cultures in the region, tons of locations, monsters and dungeons as 4 APs play there, along with some modules, great thing. This will be all about varisians, shoanti and korvosans, the ruins of an age of glory now lost, the runelords secrets, and so on.

Milo v3
2018-02-15, 02:39 AM
Yeah... no. Your sandbox also has a style, theme and mood to it, places and people to explore that are connected to that elements.
I consider all those aspects of the setting, so I am pretty sure we actually agree once we go past the barrier of everyone having slightly different views of many of the words that are being utilised in this discussion.

Lorsa
2018-02-15, 04:18 AM
I really should stay away from this thread but...


These are just styles of DMing. To the players or an outside observer, there might well be no functional difference between them. Which is why it would be meaningless to advertise such a campaign as a "sandbox," because the players aren't really experiencing anything different from a homebrew BNSF campaign.

There "might" be no functional difference. But there might also be functional differences. In my experience, most sandboxes give different experiences than a homebrew BNSE. While there can be cases where they are identical, that doesn't make it true for the majority of cases nor that "sandbox" looses its meaning as a useful word.



Question for you: Why is it that giving a jab about bad railroading doesn't elicit any sort of response, but yet someone does the same thing to improvisation styles and OMGNOONESARGUINGTHATSERIOUSLY!?

This answer is quite easy. Railroading, as opposed to linear adventures, is a matter of the GM disrespecting the players. Bad improvisation is a matter of poor skill. I am perfectly fine with making jabs at people who disrespect others, there's really not much "good" there. However, improvisation is a skill that people can be more or less well trained in, they can practice it and get better. Painting improvisation in general as bad is therefore quite uncalled for, whereas painting an activity that is the result of disrespect is not.



Right Everyone is saying ''Sandboxes are where the Players can choose Anything!" and then they cover their ears and say ''lalalala" loudly.

But when you finally get them to stop, they will admit that they don't really mean ''anything''. They agree that the players don't have game reality control and can't just wish things to happen.

Because it's only in your world "anything" is interpreted literally. How about "Sandboxes are where the Players can choose More Things than in a Linear Adventure"?



So, that ''anything'', becomes a ''normal game''.

A "normal game" depends on what you have experienced most of, or possibly if you want to talk objectively you need to measure a statistically significant number of worldwide games to make claims as to which is the most prevalent, i.e. "normal".

The only really meaningless phrase in this (and all other discussions you take part in), is the phrase "Normal Game".

To someone who has only played PF Adventure Paths, a sandbox is definitely NOT a normal game.



Sandbox-A game run by a bad, lazy or casual DM, that on purpose does noting to plan any sort of path ahead and mostly just sits there and reacts to the PCs by doing the Quantum Ogre thing right in the players path.

I run a linear adventure with my girlfriend and her little brother. It takes me about 10-20 minutes average to prepare a session, as I mostly have to prepare a bunch of encounters (with the help of the MM).

I also run a sandbox campaign with a friend of mine (Vampire: the Requiem 2.0). Before the game had even started, I had prepared 59 named Vampires in the city, involving both the "important ones" and the ones "currently on the 'tilt'" (so that I had some gossip the PC could hear). I had also prepared various locations and hang-arounds for Vampires in the city. I knew the approximate goals of all these 59 vampires, and had made a mind-map of the most important political plots that were going on. As much as possible, I tried to find names for the vampires that were common around in the era in history when they became immortal. I also printed a map of the city the game took place in, read up on the history, studied the various neighborhoods and wrote down where each Covenant had their hunting grounds.

I can't really say how much time I spent on this, but an estimate is 30+ hours. And that was before the first session even began. After this I've had to increase the list of vampires, expand the locations etc.

So believe me when I say that running a sandbox game is by no means something I would do if I want to be "lazy" or "casual". If that's my goal I would run a linear type adventure, which, if I want to be REALLY lazy, I can simply improvise on the spot without any significant drop in quality.

Basically, preparing a linear adventure is easier than preparing a sandbox. Improvising a linear adventure is ALSO easier than improvising a sandbox.

Pleh
2018-02-15, 07:11 AM
Right Everyone is saying ''Sandboxes are where the Players can choose Anything!" and then they cover their ears and say ''lalalala" loudly.

But when you finally get them to stop, they will admit that they don't really mean ''anything''. They agree that the players don't have game reality control and can't just wish things to happen.

The rest of my post, which you carefully omitted to make my post seem less complete or reasonable than it is, resolves this problem you are pretending it has.

I said, "anything within reason" and that different groups have different ideas of reasonableness, creating a spectrum of "normal" game styles some of which being more sandbox and others more linear.

Your blatant selective misrepresentation of my post makes it clear you have no intention (either unwillingness or inability) of honest discussion or debate.

Have a good day.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-15, 07:16 AM
Just to make sure, you aren't trying to put "improv skill" and "planning skill" as opposite ends of a spectrum, are you? Because, IME, there's people who are good at both, and people who are bad at both.

Indeed, the two approaches are not opposed, and the two skills are not opposed.

The problem lies in what the GM plans and how far they're willing to go to force the campaign to adhere to those plans.




Your blatant selective misrepresentation of my post makes it clear you have no intention (either unwillingness or inability) of honest discussion or debate.


Really, we could just boilerplate that as the standard response to any post made by DU.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-15, 08:08 AM
In a sandbox game. There is no "this game revolves around x", you just make a setting and drop the players in.

And this is great for a ''Pre-Game Introduction'', where the players are free to aimlessly wander around and do meaningless things like drink at a bar and go shopping. Though, my point is again, most players do what to ''really play'' the game eventually and do meaningful things.


The political sandbox is a good example. You have to prep the number of organizations, power players, people connected, got to ask yourself the question if the game world has gods and if those also meddle in the political game, then draw up a power diagram, a relationship map and work out how all of that is connected. That by itself will generate a multitude of plots.

By ''plots'', here you mean ''linear plot paths'', right? Each organization and person has a ''goal''(even if it's a vague one) and a ''Linear Path'' they will take to try and do that. Like take young NPC Avon; he wants to be elected to a public office someday, so he does the linear path of--->get education in politics---->work as a volunteer for any political campaign he can--->get hired by a politician as an aid/staffer/helper--->make friends and contacts in politics-->get support and backing-->Run for office himself.

And if that was a PC, it would not be all that different, right? Sure a PC can do different things, but it's not exactly a ''whole new path'', just a variation on the same path. Like a PC might do: dig up dirt on politicians-->blackmail them for support and backing--> run for office. But it's not like that path is ''so'' different.


Because it's only in your world "anything" is interpreted literally. How about "Sandboxes are where the Players can choose More Things than in a Linear Adventure"?


Because that describes a normal TRPG. Just about all TRPGs are both sandboxes and linear.

Your falling into the trap of Sandbox=Cool and Fun and Linear=Automatic Railroad Badwrongfun! Your saying that if the DM does anything the game is a linear railroad. Like if the DM was to say ''you see a goblin walking down the road with a bag of gold'', you'd whine and cry and complain that the DM is ''forcing you along a railroad because you MUST attack the goblin and steal it's gold because your character is greedy."



To someone who has only played PF Adventure Paths, a sandbox is definitely NOT a normal game.

I've never played one myself.



So believe me when I say that running a sandbox game is by no means something I would do if I want to be "lazy" or "casual". If that's my goal I would run a linear type adventure, which, if I want to be REALLY lazy, I can simply improvise on the spot without any significant drop in quality.

Basically, preparing a linear adventure is easier than preparing a sandbox. Improvising a linear adventure is ALSO easier than improvising a sandbox.

I'd note the level of detail of a game is more just the DMs style and has nothing to do with the type of game.

Also note you can have a Casual or Lazy DM in any game. And for the record:

Casual or Lazy DM: This is the DM that just does not care to put too much effort into something that is ''just a game''. They are seeing TRPG's as ''just'' a ''fun thing to do'', exactly like a video game or a board game. And no one ''prepares'' things ahead of time to play a game like Checkers: you just pull the game out and play. The DM that ''has no free time'' (is unwilling to make the time, actually). Very often a Casual or Lazy DM sees themselves as ''just a player'', who just happens to be DM ''this week'', so very often they will just try to coast through it until they can ''really'' be a player again: It's common in groups where everyone 'must' take turns DMing.





Your blatant selective misrepresentation of my post makes it clear you have no intention (either unwillingness or inability) of honest discussion or debate.


I can only quite so much.... I though I covered the Core Part of the post.

As soon as it can be admitted: "Ok, the players can NOT do anything'', it has to be accepted that the players can only do ''some thing's''. And in fact, there are a limited number of ''things'' that can be done. So this takes us down to just ''a couple things''.

Milo v3
2018-02-15, 08:37 AM
And this is great for a ''Pre-Game Introduction'', where the players are free to aimlessly wander around and do meaningless things like drink at a bar and go shopping. Though, my point is again, most players do what to ''really play'' the game eventually and do meaningful things.
^ Proof Darth Ultron has never played in a good sandbox game.

Wasteomana
2018-02-15, 09:12 AM
Yeah... After all this time every shred of 'benefit of the doubt' is gone. DU is either a troll or one of the most willfully misleading people I've ever met. Which, I guess, is likely a form of troll.

Scripten
2018-02-15, 10:15 AM
Yeah... After all this time every shred of 'benefit of the doubt' is gone. DU is either a troll or one of the most willfully misleading people I've ever met. Which, I guess, is likely a form of troll.

Welcome to the Roleplaying subforum on GitP.

Is anyone actually getting anything meaningful out of this discussion? At least in our last "Railroading is the ONLY true way to DM" thread, a few posters managed to squeeze some utility out between DU willfully misrepresenting them and arguing in bad faith. (And let's not kid ourselves. This thread is exactly that same discussion over again.)

Deophaun
2018-02-15, 10:48 AM
They react that way because nobody here is arguing the inverse, either. Nobody has said Linear Is Bad, but they have said "Selling Linear as not that is bad" in the same way that if I sold you a Ford F-150 on craigslist and when you showed up I handed you the keys to a Civic, you would be justifiably confused and upset.
The problem with your example is you are looking at two distinguishable products. The complaint I have about how sandbox is used is that it results in an indistinguishable product. See: Shroedinger's Dungeon. It's entirely possible to have no idea you are on a train if you're only concerned with player choice. Player choice is an illusion for as long as it is the player's job to react (this is important: this is the piece that you are missing from your definition of sandbox that makes it meaningful).

Except that Sandbox serves as a term that incorporates all those last three things. You are, at this point, quibbling that you don't happen to like that particular word for it, since you've highlighted all of the smaller pieces that go into the term "Sandbox" as currently used.
The bold portion is wrong. The phrase "necessary but not sufficient" comes to mind. If a sandbox game has only those three, then it can still be indistinguishable from a railroad.

It's basically like if you argued that "cherry" is a useless term when we can describe "red, round, pitted fruit that goes on top of banana splits." Well guess what? All of that is communicated by the word "cherry." So why would Cherry be a useless term, again?
The problem is, you are describing a "cherry" as a red fruit, and then wondering how someone can confuse it with a tomato. Your definition is incomplete.

To Elaborate, it communicates the approach you yourself are taking from behind the screen and communicates a lot of general information rapidly. Namely, if I say "I'm running a Sandbox" that means most of these will be things I'm doing:
All of which doesn't actually matter to the player because it doesn't mean there's a different experience. Made with a Mac versus made with a PC. Who cares?

Does that make sense? Have I lost you anywhere?
You enjoy communicating nothing meaningful. Doesn't make sense, but I follow you.

OR... because the two terms aren't equivalent sorts of terms, despite being shoehorned into the far ends of a mistaken axis. One (railroading) is a blanket verb for a set of bad behaviors that some GMs have been known to engage. The other is really more of an adjective, a quality that most campaigns have across a wide range of degrees.


And people don't react the same way because unlike railroading and the extremely linear sorts of campaigns associated with it, they just don't have a history of terrible experiences and gaming horror stories associated with really sandboxy campaigns.
Ah, so people are arguing that one is better than the other.

Quertus
2018-02-15, 10:56 AM
By ''plots'', here you mean ''linear plot paths'', right? Each organization and person has a ''goal''(even if it's a vague one) and a ''Linear Path'' they will take to try and do that. Like take young NPC Avon; he wants to be elected to a public office someday, so he does the linear path of--->get education in politics---->work as a volunteer for any political campaign he can--->get hired by a politician as an aid/staffer/helper--->make friends and contacts in politics-->get support and backing-->Run for office himself.

And if that was a PC, it would not be all that different, right? Sure a PC can do different things, but it's not exactly a ''whole new path'', just a variation on the same path. Like a PC might do: dig up dirt on politicians-->blackmail them for support and backing--> run for office. But it's not like that path is ''so'' different.

I was going to say something about contingency plans <-> branching paths, and "I'll go on spring break and have fun with no preset party plan" <-> sandbox, but I think my answer below is better.


I can only quite so much.... I though I covered the Core Part of the post.

As soon as it can be admitted: "Ok, the players can NOT do anything'', it has to be accepted that the players can only do ''some thing's''. And in fact, there are a limited number of ''things'' that can be done. So this takes us down to just ''a couple things''.

I hand you a real life sandbox, filled with toys carefully chosen to facilitate a particular question / discussion; in this case, mostly bipedal humanoids of various sizes and genders, and ask you to build your family.

You are free to pick whichever doll you want to represent each member of your family. You are free to position them wherever you want in the sandbox. You are free to do what you want with the sand.

IIRC, you have one or more children, including at least one daughter, do you not? She likely owns dolls, and you likely own minis, so, in the likely case that your house has numerous small humanoid figures, if this sandbox that I handed you contained the relevant minis from your house, how would you use them to build a representation of your family?

The freedom in a real sandbox is not the same as "a couple of paths". It is the explicit right to play with whichever subset of the toys you want, to build whatever you want, with the caveat of "so long as it fits the theme" (in this case, "build your family"; in a political sandbox... "Um, do something political").

Segev
2018-02-15, 11:35 AM
That the term "sandbox," how you use it, is in any sense a useful term (unless, I guess, you're giving DMs advice about what to do behind the screen, but then there are other, better words and terms for that, like improvisation, choice, open world). It's not.Except that, aside from asserting that, you didn't back it. Your arguments from that point on seemed to be aimed at proving improv to be ... I'm not even sure if it was superior or inferior to planning. But regardless, if you meant your arguments to support that thesis, you need to try again. Either I completely misunderstood them (possible), or you got lost rambling on another point when you were giving the evidence.

Either way, what you say your thesis is ("Segev's definition of 'sandbox' is not useful") is not supported by the evidence/argumentation you gave. To the point that I get the same sense I get from somebody arguing that water is dry because chocolate ice cream tastes better than vanilla. But not quite to the same extent I do from Darth Ultron, who will argue that water is dry because everybody always says it's wet and then dresses like clowns and throws pies at each other, which proves they don't know what they're talking about.


Right Everyone is saying ''Sandboxes are where the Players can choose Anything!" and then they cover their ears and say ''lalalala" loudly. Oh, hey, here he is, demonstrating!


But when you finally get them to stop, they will admit that they don't really mean ''anything''. They agree that the players don't have game reality control and can't just wish things to happen.

Then they agree that the players must follow the game rules.Only you pretend that people are "admitting" this rather than stipulating it from the get-go.

The flaw in your argument, which you painstakingly avoid even acknowledging that anybody has said, is where you then pretend that these two things mean that there is no difference between linear games with N paths and a sandbox.



Ok, think I got it.Finally!Yay!



Sandbox-A game run by a bad, lazy or casual DM, that on purpose does noting to plan any sort of path ahead and mostly just sits there and reacts to the PCs by doing the Quantum Ogre thing right in the players path. You don't "got it".Darn.

Darth Ultron? This? Right here? Is a straw man. You ignored what I actually said, and injected insults in place of it.

This is probably because you are a bad, lazy, casual DM who has made up one true path through your game and will berate and browbeat your players if they don't guess the exact script you want them to follow.

That text in red? That is the equivalent of me doing to your saying that a linear game is one with many paths and lots of details for the story the players have chosen to play what you've done to my description of a sandbox.

Sadly, given the history of our conversations with you, I suspect that the red text is actually very close to the truth, even though it's an unfair interpretation of your description of a linear game "with lots of details." I base this suspicion on the fact that you are so determined to declare that all games where the GM isn't "bad, lazy, casual" and/or a "slave to the players" are exactly the same kind of "normal game" with no gradation along the scale, and then turn around and use anybody who tries to engage with you on the definition of "normal game" to say "see? You agree that hardcore railroads are great and that players who don't stay in their seats and read the lines they're given are bad players!"


Not True. There are plenty of Jerk Players that Only play the game vs the DM and just love to hit the DM with a surprise and watch the DM stall and get flustered. But, well jerks will be jerks.Note, here, how you jump from, "Players can surprise the DM" - which is what I said - to, "Players love to watch the DM stall and get flustered."

This tells me that you view anything players do that you didn't plan for as malice on their part. It is no wonder you consider them bad players for not reading the script you meant for them to divine telepathically from your intentions. Or do you actually tell them, "Your characters must do this, next?"

Either way, your inability to handle deviation from your script is what makes them seem malicious.

Oh, I'm sure there are jerk players out there. But the fact that you equate all players who happen to come up with an idea the DM didn't think of with malicious jerks is very telling about your attitude towards running games.


Again this is just about DM skill. A good DM will never have a stall or bump or skip...the game will all ways run smooth.An excellent GM will be able to do this, yes. That is, however, independent of the style of game.



Game A-The DM makes up the good rebels that oppose the evil baron. The DM makes a couple rebel NPCs and gives them details and makes a vague ''rebel plan'' of what they tried (and failed) in the past and their plans for the future.

Game B-The DM makes up the good rebels that oppose the evil baron. The DM makes a couple rebel NPCs and gives them details and makes a vague ''rebel plan'' of what they tried (and failed) in the past and their plans for the future.

So is A or B the so called Sandbox? You can say both are just the ''state of the world''. And both have a vague plan for the future. You can even say both have a path, but sure you can do the twisting word play and say one is ''the fictional setting just coming alive and doing things on it's own as the DM does nothing'' and one is ''A DM being a DM''.Assuming the GM has also planned out the Baron and his faction and what they're doing and planning to do, both of them are a sandbox.

Neither is a linear game, because neither has established plans based on expected PC choices.


This is my original point then: A so-called sandbox IS a normal game.It is a kind of normal game, yes. Nothing abonormal about it.

The set of "Normal Games" includes as elements "sandbox" and "linear" games.


Though, too, here, your saying ''linear'' is automatically ''worst railroad ever'', but eh...Nope! People have actually been discussing how good linear games can be run, too, in this very thread.

What's a bad linear game is one where the players are forced along rigidly. This generally requires a lack of buy-in from the players.

And, yes, the difference between a good and bad linear game can very much hinge on whether the players had buy-in on it. This is often related to how well the players enjoy it, but is not dependent on that. Well, other than the fact that a "good game" is one where everybody had fun, and a "bad game" is one where people generally didn't.

Deophaun
2018-02-15, 01:15 PM
Except that, aside from asserting that, you didn't back it. Your arguments from that point on seemed to be aimed at proving improv to be ... I'm not even sure if it was superior or inferior to planning.
I throw a single splash of shade at "sandboxes" (losing the term loosely) to balance out the constant stream of denigration of railroad and somehow that's my entire argument?

It was a good thing I did that, too. It just illuminated the disingenuous of that entire side of the argument. It's all "Muh sandbox!" with no thought behind it. That's why even as you get the vapors that someone could possibly have a bad experience with it, you must make it absolutely clear that you don't hold it superior to the bumbling and poorly written alternative.

Either I completely misunderstood them (possible)
Yes. You did.

or you got lost rambling on another point when you were giving the evidence.
You got lost. You were driven so out of sorts that someone could find something wrong with improvisation that it overrode all other thought.

But no, you aren't arguing that sandboxes are superior to railroads. The lady doth protest on that very, very, very much.

Either way, what you say your thesis is ("Segev's definition of 'sandbox' is not useful") is not supported by the evidence/argumentation you gave.
Based on the above quotes, forgive me if I do not trust your ability to discern the strength of my argument. It's painfully obvious the you ignore the entire argument in favor of this outrage that someone suggested "sandboxes" aren't perfect. Because if the argument presented didn't support my contention that what you call a "sandbox" isn't, then you would have actually bothered to address that, and not try this distraction. But this is all that you have. You think you have a better shot at putting a different argument in my mouth and attacking that. What's that called? Tin man? Do you know? Cowardly Lion? Toto? Dorothy? Anyone?

Segev
2018-02-15, 01:52 PM
I throw a single splash of shade at "sandboxes" (losing the term loosely) to balance out the constant stream of denigration of railroad and somehow that's my entire argument?

It was a good thing I did that, too. It just illuminated the disingenuous of that entire side of the argument. It's all "Muh sandbox!" with no thought behind it. That's why even as you get the vapors that someone could possibly have a bad experience with it, you must make it absolutely clear that you don't hold it superior to the bumbling and poorly written alternative.

Yes. You did.

You got lost. You were driven so out of sorts that someone could find something wrong with improvisation that it overrode all other thought.

But no, you aren't arguing that sandboxes are superior to railroads. The lady doth protest on that very, very, very much.

Based on the above quotes, forgive me if I do not trust your ability to discern the strength of my argument. It's painfully obvious the you ignore the entire argument in favor of this outrage that someone suggested "sandboxes" aren't perfect. Because if the argument presented didn't support my contention that what you call a "sandbox" isn't, then you would have actually bothered to address that, and not try this distraction. But this is all that you have. You think you have a better shot at putting a different argument in my mouth and attacking that. What's that called? Tin man? Do you know? Cowardly Lion? Toto? Dorothy? Anyone?Ahem. You're the one getting bent out of shape.

The moment I realized I was seeing you arguing against, as you put it, "muh sandbox," I stopped and asked for clarification, because I knew I'd lost your point somewhere. I'm sorry that you feel insulted by me not understanding your position, but I can't find it in your posts. That may well be my fault. However, I have asked you to re-iterate it, and you're instead resorting to an ad hominem attack, accusing me of being disingenuous and implying I have the maturity of a youtube commenter whose favorite American Idol star was called "ugly."

So, again, please re-iterate your actual point and supporting arguments. I can't see them in your posts. Trying to pick them out from your supposed "one" instance of calling something a "sandbox" confuses me even further.

I apologize if I am not the intellectual giant you are. Please try to make your points concise and clear and do not muddy them with brilliant distractions "thrown in" to prove to yourself that I am unworthy of your genius by being so distracted.

...okay, I'm getting a little snide, here. Sorry. I don't like being accused of intellectual dishonesty, particularly not when I have gone out of my way to acknowledge that I have apparently misunderstood your position and asked you to re-iterate it. Hint: that's not a move done out of a desire to misconstrue you.



So. If your point is not, "Segev's definition of 'sandbox' is not a useful one," please tell me what your point is.

Then, please, reiterate your supporting arguments. Do so as clearly as you can, making sure to show me how they support your point. Please do not attempt to "prove" that I am Darth Ultron by throwing in distracting elements; I have a tendency to assume what you say is meant to be supportive of your point, rather than a distraction to see if I "care too much" about the distraction topic.

I don't think I got "bent out of shape." I got confused, because it looked like you were trying to say "muh sandbox" is "bad" when that wasn't connected to your point.

Personally, I don't think "muh sandbox" is better than a well-designed linear game. Better than a tyrannical railroad, certainly, but I have never claimed that all linear games are railroads. I'll thank you not to put words in my mouth. It seems rather disingenuous of you to interpret my confusion as to how your apparent argument regarding improv related to your point about definitions of "sandbox" as me being "really" only interested in "defending muh sandbox."

Cluedrew
2018-02-15, 03:57 PM
Painting improvisation in general as bad is therefore quite uncalled for, whereas painting an activity that is the result of disrespect is not.I would say the critical difference between railroading (ill intended improvisation) and will intended improvisation is the former try to negate the significance of what just happened, while the latter tries to build on it. The success of "try" is of course dependant on the skill of the improviser.


Is anyone actually getting anything meaningful out of this discussion?There was an interesting definition of sandboxes being about building. Which I don't actually agree with as what "sandbox" usually means in role-playing, but it gave me some ideas. But it got buried or I lost it in point and counter point.

Mr Beer
2018-02-15, 05:05 PM
I think we ended up roughly where we started, which is that 'sandbox' is a meaningless phrase...under the particular and unusual definition used by Darth Ultron. But otherwise it's perfectly workable.

ImNotTrevor
2018-02-15, 07:33 PM
The problem with your example is you are looking at two distinguishable products. The complaint I have about how sandbox is used is that it results in an indistinguishable product. See: Shroedinger's Dungeon. It's entirely possible to have no idea you are on a train if you're only concerned with player choice. Player choice is an illusion for as long as it is the player's job to react (this is important: this is the piece that you are missing from your definition of sandbox that makes it meaningful).
You continue to assert that they are indistinguishable and yet I've seen many instances of players knowing for sure if they're on rails or not fairly easily even when great strides are made to hide them. It's not particularly difficult, despite your belief to the contrary. In fact, I've caught some of the best DMs I know railroading portions of what was supposed to be open out of habit without realizing it. Which was fine, they were trying.

If they are indistinguishable....
How did I and so many others tell the difference?
Or is there a grand conspiracy?



The bold portion is wrong. The phrase "necessary but not sufficient" comes to mind. If a sandbox game has only those three, then it can still be indistinguishable from a railroad.
This doesn't deal with my point, which tells me you weren't looking at my point and instead looking for a gotcha.

Essentially, you've listed a few parts that when combined can form an engine.
I responded by saying "You just listed some of the parts of an engine. Here are some of the other parts. Why not just use the word Engine to describe that combination of parts?"
To which you said "but just three of those parts would not by itself make an engine! HA!"

Meanwhile I'm politely golfclapping as you thrash this strawman.



The problem is, you are describing a "cherry" as a red fruit, and then wondering how someone can confuse it with a tomato. Your definition is incomplete.
I see you did not read. Try to stick with me on this go around, I'll only say it once more:
"Sandbox" is a shorthand for a large collection of similar parts that function in a very similar way between themselves, and may be present entirely or in part in the DM's particular style of play.

For real-world examples of this:
The DSM-V, which is used to classify and organize mental health diagnoses. You may experience all or only some of the listed symptoms, and at various severities. But the diagnosis covers any combination of those terms so long as there are sufficient of them to count.




All of which doesn't actually matter to the player because it doesn't mean there's a different experience. Made with a Mac versus made with a PC. Who cares?
See above, where actual experience disagrees with you.

Also, where Segev pointed out that being part of that creative process (being a player) means that you are not a passive audience. If your games feature an audience sitting around a table while you tell them things, you're doing storytime, not D&D.



You enjoy communicating nothing meaningful. Doesn't make sense, but I follow you.

It seems weird to me to pat yourself on the back this hard for fighting a strawman.

Jama7301
2018-02-15, 07:56 PM
And people don't react the same way because unlike railroading and the extremely linear sorts of campaigns associated with it, they just don't have a history of terrible experiences and gaming horror stories associated with really sandboxy campaigns.

From what I've seen, the worse end of the Sandbox Experience looks like a game where the players suffer from Choice Paralysis, or they don't feel engaged with the world.

Whereas the worse end of the Railroad spectrum appears to be "your choices don't matter".

Sound about right? Maybe someone else has heard of a nightmare story with a sandbox that we can point to as an example.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-15, 11:03 PM
The freedom in a real sandbox is not the same as "a couple of paths". It is the explicit right to play with whichever subset of the toys you want, to build whatever you want, with the caveat of "so long as it fits the theme" (in this case, "build your family"; in a political sandbox... "Um, do something political").

So your saying a Sandbox is is the activity where you have a group of all player GM's and each is all poweful and can change and alter the game reality on a whim. The ''and then'' type of game.



Note, here, how you jump from, "Players can surprise the DM" - which is what I said - to, "Players love to watch the DM stall and get flustered."

Sure the players can surprise the DM, at least a Bad or Average DM...or, the Casual DM that wants to be surprised.



This tells me that you view anything players do that you didn't plan for as malice on their part. It is no wonder you consider them bad players for not reading the script you meant for them to divine telepathically from your intentions. Or do you actually tell them, "Your characters must do this, next?"


As I'm a good DM, it's impossible for most players to surprise me.



Oh, I'm sure there are jerk players out there. But the fact that you equate all players who happen to come up with an idea the DM didn't think of with malicious jerks is very telling about your attitude towards running games.

There is nothing wrong with a player coming up with ideas.




Neither is a linear game, because neither has established plans based on expected PC choices.

I guess this just goes back to the same thing the Everyone Collective always says: X is the ''right and cool'' way to have fun; ''Y'' is always Badwrong fun.


I think we ended up roughly where we started, which is that 'sandbox' is a meaningless phrase..

Agreed.

RFLS
2018-02-15, 11:15 PM
As I'm a good DM, it's impossible for most players to surprise me.

The sheer arrogance is breathtaking.

Quertus
2018-02-15, 11:37 PM
So your saying a Sandbox is is the activity where you have a group of all player GM's and each is all poweful and can change and alter the game reality on a whim. The ''and then'' type of game.

Well, no. If I hand you that sandbox, one would expect that you are still bound by the laws of physics, chemistry, gravity, etc. You can play with those toys in whatever way the natural laws allow you to in creating your family.

If you try to turn lollipops upside down as trees, I suspect (but have not tested) that they would fall over in a sandbox. I certainly would be surprised if you built a 20-ton pyramid out of 15 lbs of sand, let alone had it floating above the toys and discussing D&D rules! There are things that the rules, and the nature of the objects, say cannot be done. Some are obvious; others, you may have to learn through experimentation.

So, in a sandbox, you are allowed to do whatever you want, but are still limited by the rules as to what you can do.

Mr Beer
2018-02-15, 11:59 PM
I think we ended up roughly where we started, which is that 'sandbox' is a meaningless phrase...under the particular and unusual definition used by Darth Ultron. But otherwise it's perfectly workable.


Agreed.

Whew, it was a long ride but almost worth it.

Satinavian
2018-02-16, 12:41 AM
From what I've seen, the worse end of the Sandbox Experience looks like a game where the players suffer from Choice Paralysis, or they don't feel engaged with the world.

Whereas the worse end of the Railroad spectrum appears to be "your choices don't matter".

Sound about right?
Basically yes. (And yes, i have seen the choice paralysis too)

But Railroading is not the other end of the spectrum. That would be the linear campaign instead. There is nothing wrong per se with linear campaigns and they are as valid as sandboxes.

Railroading instead is a techniqe of using DM fiat to keep a linear campaign on on the intendet path against significant forces. It only can happen when PCs try to do something very different or when the setting or the rules don't really fit to the intended story making it utterly implausible.
Railroading thus only occurs if a linear campaign has already significant issues otherwise, being either a breally bad linear campaign or one without player buy in. It is about refusing to solve the issues and adapting the plot when it clearly doesn't seem to work and to force through the original idea with any contreivances needed, not regarding plausibility or properly resolving player actions.

That is why Railroading has such a bad reputation.

Wasteomana
2018-02-16, 12:56 AM
The sheer arrogance is breathtaking.

The concept makes sense from within his own private universe.

He must be a great DM, cause he is. Its a basic rule in his own head that must be true.

Because he is a great DM he cannot be surprised by any reasonable choices the players make. He knows what the options are, because he is a great DM.

Because he knows what all the reasonable options are, any player who deviates from that is unreasonable. That player then becomes a "Jerk player".

The fact that he knows all reasonable choices that can be made by players is part of what makes him a great DM. Thus if other people don't know all reasonable choices that players can make in their games, they are a bad DM.

It is a ridiculous mindset that is so chock-full of arrogance its hard to comprehend, but at least it is consistent.

Florian
2018-02-16, 02:50 AM
Maybe someone else has heard of a nightmare story with a sandbox that we can point to as an example.

I think I've already posted some examples earlier in this discussion.

But, yeah, I've been player in two sandbox games that bored me to tears (D&D, Traveller).
Why? Nothing happened, the worlds were static. In both cases, the gm solely worked with random encounter charts and the worlds stayed dull. Tried the usual, formulating plans and goals and went for those, same did the other players, ended up with everyone playing solo and still getting dull results.

Lorsa
2018-02-16, 04:46 AM
I would say the critical difference between railroading (ill intended improvisation) and will intended improvisation is the former try to negate the significance of what just happened, while the latter tries to build on it. The success of "try" is of course dependant on the skill of the improviser.

This is true enough.



By ''plots'', here you mean ''linear plot paths'', right? Each organization and person has a ''goal''(even if it's a vague one) and a ''Linear Path'' they will take to try and do that. Like take young NPC Avon; he wants to be elected to a public office someday, so he does the linear path of--->get education in politics---->work as a volunteer for any political campaign he can--->get hired by a politician as an aid/staffer/helper--->make friends and contacts in politics-->get support and backing-->Run for office himself.

And if that was a PC, it would not be all that different, right? Sure a PC can do different things, but it's not exactly a ''whole new path'', just a variation on the same path. Like a PC might do: dig up dirt on politicians-->blackmail them for support and backing--> run for office. But it's not like that path is ''so'' different.

It is certainly different enough that a player intending to do the latter, but are forced by "DM railroading to follow a certain path" to do the former will not get the game they desire. The only real similarity between the paths is the end goal. Don't mix up "path to goal" with "the goal". When people talk about paths, they're talking about how you get there.

A sandbox, typically, has the players being able to choose both goal and path, whereas a firm linear adventure might have them able to choose neither. Then there's the mix between where the players don't really choose the goal but can decide on the path.



Because that describes a normal TRPG. Just about all TRPGs are both sandboxes and linear.

Many have elements from both certainly. But all are not both. Some are more linear, some are more sandboxy. There's a long scale which is part of "normal game".


Y
our falling into the trap of Sandbox=Cool and Fun and Linear=Automatic Railroad Badwrongfun! Your saying that if the DM does anything the game is a linear railroad. Like if the DM was to say ''you see a goblin walking down the road with a bag of gold'', you'd whine and cry and complain that the DM is ''forcing you along a railroad because you MUST attack the goblin and steal it's gold because your character is greedy."

I'm not going to fall into the trap of DU strawman trolling.

I'll just refer to my previous post where I mentioned running a Linear Adventure.



I've never played one myself.

Nor have I, but I've been lead to believe most of them can not be described with the "sandbox" tag. They are still "normal games" though.



I'd note the level of detail of a game is more just the DMs style and has nothing to do with the type of game.

That's wrong. A Linear Adventure will never require as much detail as a true Sandbox Game. It's the difference between building a Western Town set for making a movie and building a Western Town themepark where people can spend days immersing themselves.

I mean, it's basically the difference between making Westworld, the TV show and making, well, Westworld.



Also note you can have a Casual or Lazy DM in any game. And for the record:

Casual or Lazy DM: This is the DM that just does not care to put too much effort into something that is ''just a game''. They are seeing TRPG's as ''just'' a ''fun thing to do'', exactly like a video game or a board game. And no one ''prepares'' things ahead of time to play a game like Checkers: you just pull the game out and play. The DM that ''has no free time'' (is unwilling to make the time, actually). Very often a Casual or Lazy DM sees themselves as ''just a player'', who just happens to be DM ''this week'', so very often they will just try to coast through it until they can ''really'' be a player again: It's common in groups where everyone 'must' take turns DMing.

Funny, that's what I said too. Doesn't contradict my statement that preparing linear adventures is less time consuming than preparing a sandbox.



So your saying a Sandbox is is the activity where you have a group of all player GM's and each is all poweful and can change and alter the game reality on a whim. The ''and then'' type of game.

Nope, he's not saying that.



As I'm a good DM, it's impossible for most players to surprise me.

I disagree with your premise entirely. A good DM is not defined by their inability to be surprised.



I guess this just goes back to the same thing the Everyone Collective always says: X is the ''right and cool'' way to have fun; ''Y'' is always Badwrong fun.

Yep. Everybody knows the X chromosome is superior to the Y chromosome, so X is clearly better than Y.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-16, 09:20 AM
So, in a sandbox, you are allowed to do whatever you want, but are still limited by the rules as to what you can do.

Ok, but just sitting in a real sandbox and just making stuff is not a game. So how do you ''translate'' this to being a TRPG term?


The sheer arrogance is breathtaking.

It's not arrogance, it's just intelligence and experience. I will admit that it is rare, but it's not like it's unique.



It is a ridiculous mindset that is so chock-full of arrogance its hard to comprehend, but at least it is consistent.

The hostility show for a simple fact is just funny. Again, being able to know and predict the future when it comes to fiction is not all that hard. For example, I have not see Avengers:Infinity War yet....but I already KNOW the Avengers will Win the War. It's amazing, right? How could I possibly know that? I have not yet see Black Panther, and yet again I know he will defeat whatever bad guy is in the movie(is it Klaw?). Amazing, again, I know.

Now lets take something in the game like a castle. Some (bad) DMs would look at the castle and be like ''wow there is no way in except the main gate'' and then, yes, they would be ''supper surprised'' when the players are like ''we go in the back door''. Now, me, as a good DM, have all ready though of the back door...and the side door...and the windows...and climbing over the wall..and finding the secret escape tunnel...and climbing in the air vent...and crawling in through the sewer..and hiding in a supply wagon...and many many more.


This is true enough.
A sandbox, typically, has the players being able to choose both goal and path, whereas a firm linear adventure might have them able to choose neither. Then there's the mix between where the players don't really choose the goal but can decide on the path.

I guess this is where I lose people: I think in any normal TRPG the players can choose a goal and path. As I said way back on page one, THIS really is the whole point of a TRPG with a GM : the players can choose a goal and path. As I said, unlike the vast majority of video games.



That's wrong. A Linear Adventure will never require as much detail as a true Sandbox Game. It's the difference between building a Western Town set for making a movie and building a Western Town themepark where people can spend days immersing themselves.

Well, this is not exactly true. This, after all, is more of a Style thing or more of how ''far'' someone wants to go.

Sure a lot of movies/themeparks go for the cheep, easy way of fake plywood facades and such....but that is not universally true. Sometimes, for example, the DO build a REAL western town for a movie.



A good DM is not defined by their inability to be surprised.

It's more then just that, of course. But the ability to know and predict player actions IS something a good DM can do.

Mumm...maybe we can start a ''how did your players surprise you'' thread. Then we'd have lots of examples. And I could point out where ''DM Bob'' was ''so shocked and surprised'' when his players had their characters build a bridge to get across a river.....and I can point out, yea, I thought of that one and it would not surprise me.

Cluedrew
2018-02-16, 10:26 AM
It's not arrogance, it's just intelligence and experience. I will admit that it is rare, but it's not like it's unique.The arrogance is insisting you have those things. I don't think anyone is suggesting arrogance makes a good GM, quite the opposite usually.


It's more then just that, of course. But the ability to know and predict player actions IS something a good DM can do.OK, but no one can do it every time. The best GM I know has been caught by surprise. One time it happened because he didn't know a player that well and underestimated how simplistic their character idea was. Another because they knew the player really well but didn't understand that they (I actually) had decided go out of their comfort zone this campaign.

In case anyone is wondering, I'm procrastinating.

Scripten
2018-02-16, 10:57 AM
The hostility show for a simple fact is just funny. Again, being able to know and predict the future when it comes to fiction is not all that hard. For example, I have not see Avengers:Infinity War yet....but I already KNOW the Avengers will Win the War. It's amazing, right? How could I possibly know that? I have not yet see Black Panther, and yet again I know he will defeat whatever bad guy is in the movie(is it Klaw?). Amazing, again, I know.

This is a perfect example of the disconnect in thought processes going on here. That the heroes "win" is not the only important element of a superhero movie. Otherwise, what's the point of watching the film?


Now lets take something in the game like a castle. Some (bad) DMs would look at the castle and be like ''wow there is no way in except the main gate'' and then, yes, they would be ''supper surprised'' when the players are like ''we go in the back door''. Now, me, as a good DM, have all ready though of the back door...and the side door...and the windows...and climbing over the wall..and finding the secret escape tunnel...and climbing in the air vent...and crawling in through the sewer..and hiding in a supply wagon...and many many more.

Yeah, until the players decide that they will go to the nearby rival kingdom that you "just put in as background" and raise an army. Then suddenly it appears you have a sandbox. Oh no!

You're strawmanning again here. Most DMs think of a reasonable amount of options and extrapolate potential results from there. That's nothing new. The scale of "sandboxiness" is determined by how filled in the background is and how much of that background could be brought in as active elements by the player's choices.



I guess this is where I lose people: I think in any normal TRPG the players can choose a goal and path. As I said way back on page one, THIS really is the whole point of a TRPG with a GM : the players can choose a goal and path. As I said, unlike the vast majority of video games.


If the players are choosing their goal and path, then the game has sandbox elements. There are campaigns that are built with a specific goal (and sometimes path) that have fewer sandbox elements. It's a scale. We use the term to refer to where on the scale our individual DMing "Styles" lay. That's useful when we are advertising or even just talking about our games.



Well, this is not exactly true. This, after all, is more of a Style thing or more of how ''far'' someone wants to go.

Sure a lot of movies/themeparks go for the cheep, easy way of fake plywood facades and such....but that is not universally true. Sometimes, for example, the DO build a REAL western town for a movie.


Yes. Sometimes they do. In those times, the RPG equivalent would be considered more "sandbox-y". If it's just a facade, then it is less "sandbox-y". This can be determined by how the world reacts when the players attempt to do things.

You're actually arguing for the meaningfulness of the word "sandbox" here. The amount of "sandboxiness" in a campaign is that "Style" you are talking about. The community has just come up with a word for it.



It's more then just that, of course. But the ability to know and predict player actions IS something a good DM can do.

Mumm...maybe we can start a ''how did your players surprise you'' thread. Then we'd have lots of examples. And I could point out where ''DM Bob'' was ''so shocked and surprised'' when his players had their characters build a bridge to get across a river.....and I can point out, yea, I thought of that one and it would not surprise me.

You know, this post would actually have been more useful if you hadn't spent half of it strawmanning and insulting the rest of us.

Lorsa
2018-02-16, 11:05 AM
The hostility show for a simple fact is just funny. Again, being able to know and predict the future when it comes to fiction is not all that hard. For example, I have not see Avengers:Infinity War yet....but I already KNOW the Avengers will Win the War. It's amazing, right? How could I possibly know that? I have not yet see Black Panther, and yet again I know he will defeat whatever bad guy is in the movie(is it Klaw?). Amazing, again, I know.

Now lets take something in the game like a castle. Some (bad) DMs would look at the castle and be like ''wow there is no way in except the main gate'' and then, yes, they would be ''supper surprised'' when the players are like ''we go in the back door''. Now, me, as a good DM, have all ready though of the back door...and the side door...and the windows...and climbing over the wall..and finding the secret escape tunnel...and climbing in the air vent...and crawling in through the sewer..and hiding in a supply wagon...and many many more.

But can you write the movie script in advance and have it be identical to the one made by Marvel Studios?

I mean, I can predict approximately what your replies will be, but I can't tell the exact words and therefore one can say I am "mildly surprised" by your posts.

Surprise, as everything else, is a matter of scale.

For example, if a character has established that his favorite color is red but then paints his house blue you might be surprised as a DM. Not that this choice matters in any way nor may you be horrified with shock, but it can still surprise you.



I guess this is where I lose people: I think in any normal TRPG the players can choose a goal and path. As I said way back on page one, THIS really is the whole point of a TRPG with a GM : the players can choose a goal and path. As I said, unlike the vast majority of video games.

But many TRPGs do not allow players to do this. This is why we come up with terms such as "sandbox" to describe a certain type of game and "linear adventure" to describe another. These are not complete terms, they don't fully describe ALL TRPGs, but they do serve a purpose.

If you think a normal TRPG is one where players can choose a goal and a path, then by effect you are saying that people who play linear adventure modules are not playing "normal games". In fact, this means that DMs who railroad their players are not playing "normal games" either.

Could it be that you've never been a player under a real railroading DM, so that you in fact don't know what the term refers to?



Well, this is not exactly true. This, after all, is more of a Style thing or more of how ''far'' someone wants to go.

If not exactly true, do you agree that it is mostly true?



Sure a lot of movies/themeparks go for the cheep, easy way of fake plywood facades and such....but that is not universally true. Sometimes, for example, the DO build a REAL western town for a movie.

I am talking more of a general thing than fringe cases. The fact is that for a movie, you can get away with a lot of plywood facades, whereas an immersive themepark can not. That movies "sometimes" build real towns, doesn't make it the norm nor a requirement.



It's more then just that, of course. But the ability to know and predict player actions IS something a good DM can do.

Mumm...maybe we can start a ''how did your players surprise you'' thread. Then we'd have lots of examples. And I could point out where ''DM Bob'' was ''so shocked and surprised'' when his players had their characters build a bridge to get across a river.....and I can point out, yea, I thought of that one and it would not surprise me.

Sure. I was surprised once when a player who were a "supernatural FBI agent" in a modern fantasy game decided to recruit a vengeance demon instead of killing her. I had not anticipated that, but I don't think that makes me in any way a bad DM.

Quertus
2018-02-16, 11:09 AM
Ok, but just sitting in a real sandbox and just making stuff is not a game. So how do you ''translate'' this to being a TRPG term?

I will concede that most definitions of games require rules. While "just make stuff" may be fun, the laws of nature are insufficient to make playing in sand qualify as a game.

However, RPGs have rules, and playing by those rules is sufficient to qualify as playing a game.

But the translation is still quite literal: here's a bunch of toys, chosen for a specific theme, and you can play with some subset however you'd like, within what the rules / laws of nature allow.

Now, this style of game may be alien to you, and that's fine, but it doesn't make it any less a game. You might not be able to imagine how anyone could possibly have fun playing such a game, or you might only imagine the fail state of "empty room" or "decision paralysis" - just like how, when I first joined this site, I couldn't imagine rails as anything but what you describe as "bad jerk GM".

But, don't worry, the Playground will happily* try to explain it.

* also grumpily, sleepily, and dopily, too, I imagine :smalltongue:

Segev
2018-02-16, 11:32 AM
So your saying a Sandbox is is the activity where you have a group of all player GM's and each is all poweful and can change and alter the game reality on a whim. The ''and then'' type of game.Others have addressed how this straw man bears no resemblance to what has been said. I accept your concession that you cannot support your own position against real counter-arguments, and instead must go back to the campaign mode set up specifically to let you win by providing you with easy-mode nonsense arguments to dismantle.


Sure the players can surprise the DM, at least a Bad or Average DM...or, the Casual DM that wants to be surprised.



As I'm a good DM, it's impossible for most players to surprise me. No, you're a bad DM who thinks players surprising you MUST be malicious actors trying to ruin your carefully-constructed and highly delicate house of cards game.

See? I can argue the way you do, too.

More seriously, you're not a telepath, and you're not a precog. You are not smarter than an entire table full of RPG players put together at all times. You will be surprised. You have stated that you kick players out for surprising you, characterizing their behavior as malicious and based in a desire to watch you squirm and be befuddled. This attribution of malice is what tells us you can't run sandboxes, but need strongly linear games where player choices are constrained only to those which you've predicted.

You are, however, confusing cause and effect. You have not, in fact, anticipated all reasonable player actions. You've instead redefined "reasonable" to "things you've thought of that they might do."


There is nothing wrong with a player coming up with ideas.Even ideas you haven't thought of?


I guess this just goes back to the same thing the Everyone Collective always says: X is the ''right and cool'' way to have fun; ''Y'' is always Badwrong fun.How? Look back at what you wrote this in reply to, and please carefully explain how what you quoted me as saying said either way was superior to the other.

I said they were different. I didn't say one was good and the other bad.


Yep. Everybody knows the X chromosome is superior to the Y chromosome, so X is clearly better than Y.Bah! The X Chromosome takes far more words to say what the Y Chromosome says much more concisely! Clearly, the Y chromosome is the pithier, superior one!

GreatKaiserNui
2018-02-17, 12:35 AM
Others have addressed how this straw man bears no resemblance to what has been said. I accept your concession that you cannot support your own position against real counter-arguments, and instead must go back to the campaign mode set up specifically to let you win by providing you with easy-mode nonsense arguments to dismantle.

No, you're a bad DM who thinks players surprising you MUST be malicious actors trying to ruin your carefully-constructed and highly delicate house of cards game.

See? I can argue the way you do, too.

More seriously, you're not a telepath, and you're not a precog. You are not smarter than an entire table full of RPG players put together at all times. You will be surprised. You have stated that you kick players out for surprising you, characterizing their behavior as malicious and based in a desire to watch you squirm and be befuddled. This attribution of malice is what tells us you can't run sandboxes, but need strongly linear games where player choices are constrained only to those which you've predicted.

You are, however, confusing cause and effect. You have not, in fact, anticipated all reasonable player actions. You've instead redefined "reasonable" to "things you've thought of that they might do."

Even ideas you haven't thought of?

How? Look back at what you wrote this in reply to, and please carefully explain how what you quoted me as saying said either way was superior to the other.

I said they were different. I didn't say one was good and the other bad.

Bah! The X Chromosome takes far more words to say what the Y Chromosome says much more concisely! Clearly, the Y chromosome is the pithier, superior one!

Please just read this Darth Ultron rather then ignoring it.
Every time you ignore this you are just strengthening the 'Everyone Collective' otherwise known as everyone that does not submit to your petty rules.

Florian
2018-02-17, 08:47 AM
But can you write the movie script in advance and have it be identical to the one made by Marvel Studios?

Do I have to? What I can do is come up with a "campaign web". Let's use the Princess/Infernalist thing we discussed here earlier.

Major Factions: Hellknight Bastion, Wyvernrider Tower, Infernalist Mansion, Imperial Celiax Naval Base, Hidden Stryx Tribe, City Council.
Major NPC: Princess Annette, Infernalists Suzy and Andy, Lictor Hugo and so on (see R-Map).

General assumption: When one of the factions comes under attack, they will sound an alarm, light up the bat signal, fire up fireworks, and so on. (The Stryx tribe doesn't sound an alarm)

Hellknight Bastion: Will send a troop of Armigers led by a Hellknight and Signifer. (takes 1 hour)
Wyvernrider Tower: Has 4 wyverns and riders. Will send out 2 of them. (takes 30 minutes)
Infernalisch Mansion: Has 8 Bearded Devils. Will spy on certain locations using crystal ball. Will order 4 Bearded Devils to teleport to location when intruders come into view. (immediately)
Naval Base: Will send a Battleship to check on the Hellknights (takes 2 hours), will send a squadron of sailors to check on the other locations. (takes 2 hours)
Stryx Tribe: Has a spy team monitoring the Hellknights and Navy Base. Shaman will scry other alarms, but not the city council.
City Council: Will send 2 detectives, a forensics divination specialist and some token policemen. (24 hours after an alarm)

That covers the basics. Now we know that our players are a creative bunch, so we work on the small things, like assassination, blackmail, bribe, dominate and so on.

Suzy and Andy: Suzy has a devil-bound lover and bodyguard. They like to visit the "hops and barley". Andy is quite lonely and canīt stand when Suzy has some "quality time". He generally visits the "blue oyster bar" when they do.
Lictor Hugo: A hard man with a very soft spot for Annette and a grudge with Admiral Peter. Canīt be bribed, has continual mind blank, but will help storming the mansion at the request of the princess, can be talked into inaction when it comes to the navy.
Stryx Spies and Shaman: Hate humans, but hate Hellknights and Imperial Cheliax even more. Have some good intel and can be talked into handling the wyverns. Their greatest fear are the Bearded Devils, which they canīt handle on their own.
... and so on.

That's basically only one DinA4 page with some circles, arrows, notifications and pretty sufficient to set the stage and get the actions started.

Milo v3
2018-02-17, 09:44 AM
Do I have to? What I can do is come up with a "campaign web". Let's use the Princess/Infernalist thing we discussed here earlier.
Lorsa was replying to Darth Ultron saying that there is nothing that could possibly surprise him about the new marvel movies because he knows 1 thing about them.

Steel Mirror
2018-02-17, 11:28 AM
Mazes are a meaningless kind of puzzle. People think that they offer all sorts of challenge in solving how to get to the end of the maze, but really they are no different from walking in a straight line. For example, look at the following maze:

https://image.ibb.co/nHTNi7/simplemaze.png (https://imgbb.com/)

You'll notice that while it seems to offer a bunch of different paths to explore, even different exits you can choose to go for in order to escape from the center of the maze, once you actually choose a goal and reach that exit, and then look behind you at the path you've taken, that path is just one line from your starting point to your destination. A line that looks very much like this one:


https://image.ibb.co/i5Y537/red_line.png (https://imgbb.com/)

So you see, since both of those paths can be looked back upon retroactively and said to be single lines from start to finish, mazes are in fact meaningless puzzles and are no different from just walking down a straight path in one direction. Thus all mazes are actually just walks down a straight path, and people who insist that they like exploring mazes are just overusing a meaningless phrase and trying to say that it's badwrongfun for people who like to take walks on paths, which are the only kind of walk there actually is anyway.

Anyway, mazes are supposed to be this mysterious problem to solve, but in fact there is no problem and they are all really straight paths. For example, if you dropped someone in the middle of the maze above, they might think, oh wow, a new maze to explore! But I can predict even without ever seeing it that there will actually be an exit, and that you can find a way to reach it that will just be a line through the various paths that turns out to be just a single path. Amazing, right? But I've been in enough mazes to know that there is always an exit, because I am a good maze runner.

Florian
2018-02-17, 01:01 PM
Lorsa was replying to Darth Ultron saying that there is nothing that could possibly surprise him about the new marvel movies because he knows 1 thing about them.

And? Is it wrong? As much as I love the MCU, now after, what, 17 movies, their persistent clinging to certain dramaturgic and storytelling baseline shows. That makes the central conflict, and I don't mean fighting the BBEG, very predictable. So, yes, they will have the usual heroes journey arc, experience loss, then growth and not die at the end.

Max_Killjoy
2018-02-17, 02:09 PM
And? Is it wrong? As much as I love the MCU, now after, what, 17 movies, their persistent clinging to certain dramaturgic and storytelling baseline shows. That makes the central conflict, and I don't mean fighting the BBEG, very predictable. So, yes, they will have the usual heroes journey arc, experience loss, then growth and not die at the end.

Heck, just looking at the second Avengers movie, it seemed to have a lot of rehash / recycle a lot of the "internal team conflict" stuff from the first movie. And then there was Civil War, which between rehitting those same buttons and the utter stupidity of the comic books source material, I didn't even bother watching.

Squiddish
2018-02-17, 02:40 PM
Sandbox is a meaningful phrase that you seem to have missed the meaning of.

Sandbox and open-world are related terms, and often work side-by-side, but are not quite the same.
Sandbox is a game that is fairly self-directed. The player(s) choose what to do and when to do it. A sandbox game has fewer narrative boundaries.

An open-world game, meanwhile, has fewer physical boundaries. The players can go all over the place, rather than being confined.

Let's translate this to D&D:

A game that is both open world and sandbox gives the players the choice of where they want to be and what they want to be doing. It could be more or less sandbox. For example, a complete sandbox would have fairly little in the way of plot, just unresolved problems scattered across the land, or maybe not even that. A more realistic game of this sort has an overarching plot, but the players can choose the order in which they do it, and even the extent to which they engage.

A game that is neither sandbox nor open world has the players on a fairly limited path. They may have many options for how to proceed, but they don't really choose where they are or what they're working on.

A game that is sandbox but not open-world would see the players locked in a confined area and left to their own devices. An example of this might be a standard dungeon crawl; you're in a confined space (the dungeon and maybe a nearby town) but you don't have any goals except those you set yourself (get all the money, for example).

A game that is open-world but not sandbox would see you in a wide open space, free to roam, but still bound to an overarching plot. This is much more rare than an open-world sandbox, a closed-world non-sandbox, or even a closed-world sandbox. This might happen with a game where the players are on a strict time limit and don't have time to do things outside of the established plot.

Steel Mirror
2018-02-17, 03:07 PM
Heck, just looking at the second Avengers movie, it seemed to have a lot of rehash / recycle a lot of the "internal team conflict" stuff from the first movie. And then there was Civil War, which between rehitting those same buttons and the utter stupidity of the comic books source material, I didn't even bother watching.This is a shameless fan squee, but while I totally agree with you on how the MCU is generally extremely formulaic, I found the new Black Panther movie to be incredibly enjoyable. It does follow a very classic arc and is arguably quite predictable, but it's also a really well made movie that does an amazingly good job (IMHO) of making those moments feel fresh and unpredictable in the moment, even if you can sit back and see exactly how they stuck to the formula in the end, after all. The broad arcs of the story are familiar, but the details are so exuberantly different from what we've seen from the MCU so many times that it works (for me).

Which is a pretty good analogue of how a lot of my most successful GMing experiences were. With the benefit of hindsight, they were a familiar rehash of lots of things I tend to cover in lots of my other games, and that games and fiction in general have done successfully for years. But if you are doing your job, you can mix up those tropes with individual characters and situations and make them FEEL fresh in the moment, maybe even pull some genuine surprises. That might reflect a lack of ambition from me as a storyteller, I'll be the first to admit that, but it's something that's led to a lot of enjoyment for me and (I hope!) my players and I feel that it's a good way to frame my goals as a GM.

Florian
2018-02-17, 03:47 PM
Which is a pretty good analogue of how a lot of my most successful GMing experiences were. With the benefit of hindsight, they were a familiar rehash of lots of things I tend to cover in lots of my other games, and that games and fiction in general have done successfully for years. But if you are doing your job, you can mix up those tropes with individual characters and situations and make them FEEL fresh in the moment, maybe even pull some genuine surprises. That might reflect a lack of ambition from me as a storyteller, I'll be the first to admit that, but it's something that's led to a lot of enjoyment for me and (I hope!) my players and I feel that it's a good way to frame my goals as a GM.

Oh, I wouldn't call it "lack of ambition" but rather "good workmanship". Tropes work. People are just so familiar with them, they often don't even notice them when they come up. A GM familiar with his tropes has a ready toolbox to create characters and plots on the fly and already know where this could lead and what would happen when the trope gets subverted.

Darth Ultron
2018-02-17, 04:13 PM
OK, but no one can do it every time.

Sure, maybe not every time for most people. I'd guess most people can only do it 99 times out of 100 times, but that is still a good amount.


Most DMs think of a reasonable amount of options and extrapolate potential results from there. That's nothing new. The scale of "sandboxiness" is determined by how filled in the background is and how much of that background could be brought in as active elements by the player's choices.

Again, just like a normal game.

A normal game has a focus on a generally small area, really like all fiction does.



If the players are choosing their goal and path, then the game has sandbox elements. There are campaigns that are built with a specific goal (and sometimes path) that have fewer sandbox elements.

Again, it's my point. All games have so called sandbox elements. It's really a nice 50/50 split:
Half of the players don't want to choose a goal and path, half of the players do want to to choose a goal and path. But that is all up to the players.



But many TRPGs do not allow players to do this. This is why we come up with terms such as "sandbox" to describe a certain type of game and "linear adventure" to describe another.

I don't think many games ''don't allow'' a player to do something?



If you think a normal TRPG is one where players can choose a goal and a path, then by effect you are saying that people who play linear adventure modules are not playing "normal games". In fact, this means that DMs who railroad their players are not playing "normal games" either.


As I've said a normal game is both linear and a sandbox.

Except everyone is using ''linear'' to be only ''worst horrible jerk railroad ever''.



If not exactly true, do you agree that it is mostly true?

No, it's just different styles.



Sure. I was surprised once when a player who were a "supernatural FBI agent" in a modern fantasy game decided to recruit a vengeance demon instead of killing her. I had not anticipated that, but I don't think that makes me in any way a bad DM.

I would not say so either. It would just make you an average DM.



But the translation is still quite literal: here's a bunch of toys, chosen for a specific theme, and you can play with some subset however you'd like, within what the rules / laws of nature allow.

Except your not describing anything like a game?

Like ok...when playing in a ''real'' sandbox you can sit there and make anything you and and do anything you want.

But...ok, in any normal TRPG a player can't do that. Like what some people would sit at a table and each one would just say ''and then'' and make up any random stuff they wanted too?


Others have addressed how this straw man bears no resemblance to what has been said. I accept your concession that you cannot support your own position against real counter-arguments, and instead must go back to the campaign mode set up specifically to let you win by providing you with easy-mode nonsense arguments to dismantle.

Except everyone keeps saying it.

I say the players can try anything along the path to get to the goal. Then everyone posts and screams ''no! the players can do anything!"



Even ideas you haven't thought of?

Sure, if it was possible.

Quertus
2018-02-17, 05:26 PM
Except your not describing anything like a game?

Like ok...when playing in a ''real'' sandbox you can sit there and make anything you and and do anything you want.

But...ok, in any normal TRPG a player can't do that. Like what some people would sit at a table and each one would just say ''and then'' and make up any random stuff they wanted too?

Not "make stuff up". Instead, (I chose this piece, and) "I move this piece in accordance with the rules". Note that that describes chess, which is a game.

For an RPG, that translates to, "my character chooses to interact with object X in way Y, and does so in accordance with the rules."

Darth Ultron
2018-02-17, 06:54 PM
For an RPG, that translates to, "my character chooses to interact with object X in way Y, and does so in accordance with the rules."

Ok, but that is only at the level of ''a game like Chess or Monopoly''. It's just saying ''ok, I move my game token to area 2 and encounter what is there''.

Your not up to the TRPG height of a simulated fictional world.

Or are you talking about playing a TRPG like a video game? So the DM fills each spot (''hex") with something. Then the player just says ''my character goes to hex 2". Then the DM tells them what is in that hex. Then the play can pick from the drop down menu of ''fight'', ''run'' or ''talk''.