Started by James_Nostack, October 28, 2011, 12:02:58 AM
QuoteProblematic term: "sandbox"Recent discussions among the self-described Old School Renaissance have revived and extended the term "sandbox play," but have failed to define it.As far as I can tell, it can mean anything but railroading, but that means it can include the whole range of Story Before, Now, or After, and the whole range of setting use from barely-any to all-encompassing. Which makes it pretty hard to talk about outside of a given group's actual play experience. The term is also completely unconstructed regarding the size of a sandbox or if it's supposed to have a size relative to the whole setting, regarding how changes to the setting procedurally occur.In other words, the term means almost entirely nothing, and I think it's kind of a shibboleth based on romantic notions of "Gygaxian play" (another everyone-knows but can't-define term) and imagined notions of what it's like, or must have been like, to play The Keep on the Borderlands.
QuoteThere was no regular plot: The players decided where to go and what to do. It was a sandbox game in the sense that's now used to describe video games like Grand Theft Auto, minus the missions. There was no mysterious old man sending them on quests. No overarching plot, just an overarching environment.My motivation in setting things up this way was to overcome player apathy and mindless "plot following" by putting the players in charge of both scheduling and what they did in-game.
Quote[N]ow for my real point: [mechanics equivalent to the elaborate rules for how characters change over time, i.e., advancement] for the consequences upon setting are rare. . . . Whereas for setting, the historical default is for there to be little if any such things, so that's what we see across the games today.
QuoteJust adhering to an Apocalypse World like insistence to "make the world seem real" will get you through half the battle. Cause and effect, action and reaction, in the short and the long term is at the core of sandbox play in my opinion. . . . My experience is that the core of the [sandbox] idea is "make the world seem real" and "let the players decide what is important". Those are your primary priorities as a sandbox GM. The rest is mostly a combination of flavoring to taste and the proclivities of the players. Oh, and improvisation. Lots of improvisation.
Quote from: James_Nostack on October 29, 2011, 01:46:37 AMSo here's a thing I've noticed in my own game, and in both of the longer-running D&D games. Despite being ostensibly "go anywhere" games, players want to go to the same dungeon, over and over again. In the early Glantri game, we could not get enough of that Wizard Tower. The n00bs (who have been playing like 9 times longer than me by this point) usually can't get enough of the Chateau. Same's true in Tavis's 0e game. I think what happens is that the most dangerous thing in D&D is ignorance. Once you know something, you can exploit that knowledge if you're clever enough, so there's this feedback loop that encourages repeated delving. Once the looting begins to peter out, people get anxious to find richer plunder.
Quote from: James_Nostack on October 29, 2011, 01:46:37 AMC. Edwards wrote:QuoteJust adhering to an Apocalypse World like insistence to "make the world seem real" will get you through half the battle. Cause and effect, action and reaction, in the short and the long term is at the core of sandbox play in my opinion. . . . My experience is that the core of the [sandbox] idea is "make the world seem real" and "let the players decide what is important". Those are your primary priorities as a sandbox GM. The rest is mostly a combination of flavoring to taste and the proclivities of the players. Oh, and improvisation. Lots of improvisation.I am not sure that I would phrase it that broadly. For me, "make the world seem real," free will, and fictional cause-and-effect are practically the definition of imagining yourself as another person in another place. To use Forge jargon, I think it's the essence of Exploration itself. I hope to talk about a Traveller game, railroaded to hell, where the inability to explore beyond the railroad pretty much prevented me from playing the game at all. (I think in terms of Ron's essay, this type of Story Before play stomped all over my free will and complicated the act of playing. I realize this can be finessed, but usually by getting the players to agree that free will isn't all it's cracked up to be, at least on important issues.) So I think sandboxing is more than just "Exploration" in the Forge sense. In theory every RPG is delivering that if it's functioning at all. I suspect sandboxing is a particular technique within that broader framework. More at some later time.
QuoteI will now provide a set of concepts and practices to bring out what seem to me to be these games' bestfeatures for setting-centric Story Now play. The idea is to embrace the setting as a genuine, centralsource of the colorful thematic dilemmas explicit in the games' introductory text, and to resist theretraction and retreat to comparatively tame Story Before which are explicit in the later GM-advice andscenario-preparation text. . . . [snip]Make player-characters in it. In doing so, drive this into your brain: fuck "the adventurer."• Not all types of characters described in the character creation options are OK. They need to becharacters who would definitely be at that location, not just someone who could be there. Theyhave something they ordinarily do there, and are engaged in doing it.• All characters, player-characters too, have lives, jobs, families, acquaintances, homes, andeverything of that sort. Even if not native to that location, they have equivalents there.• Player-characters do not comprise a "team." They are who they are, individually. Each of themcarries a few NPCs along, implied by various details, and those NPCs should be identified. It ishelpful for at least one, preferably more of them to be small walking soap operas.
Quote from: James_Nostack on October 29, 2011, 12:45:30 PMSo that's one peril of extreme laid-back sandboxing "you tell me what you're doing" style of play: if the Dungeon Master takes no social control over the deliberation process, you can end up with analysis-paralysis situations. Tavis doesn't see it as his role to ramrod people. Rather, the group will organically evolve its own procedures for reaching decisions that are optimized for the preferences of the regular players. People who don't like it will self-select out, as I largely have. (I don't agree with this, but it seems to be philosophy.)
Quotewe often have similar 20-50% shares of the session dedicated to doing party logistics, sorting information and deciding on the next adventure and its parameters. I read that planning thread just now, would love to play in that group!
QuoteThinking about this a little more, about how to define a sandbox. Perhaps a sandbox is a medium for play?
Quote from: Abkajud on October 29, 2011, 11:46:20 PMWasn't "sandbox" a direct response to the old way of having the players on a rail straight for the dungeon?
QuoteUsing the KEEP as "home base", your players should be able to have quite a number of adventures (playing sessions) before they have exhausted all the possibilities of the Caves of Chaos map. . . . In fact, before they have finished all the adventure areas of this module, it is likely that you will have begun to add your own separate maps to the setting. The KEEP is only a small section of the world. You must build the towns and terrain which surround it. You must shape the societies, create the kingdoms, and populate the countryside with men and monsters.The KEEP is a microcosm, a world in miniature. Within its walls your players will find what is basically a small village with a social order, and will meet opponents of a sort. Outside lies the way to the Caves of Chaos where monsters abound. As you build the campaign setting, you can use this module as a guide. Humankind and its allies have established strongholds - whether fortresses or organized countries - where the players' characters will base themselves, interact with the society, and occasionally encounter foes of one sort or another. Surrounding these strongholds are lands which may be hostile to the bold adventurers. Perhaps there are areas of wilderness filled with dangerous creatures, or maybe the neighboring area is a land where chaos and evil rule
QuoteAfter the group establishes itself and obtains equipment, they will either follow clues gained in conversation with residents of the KEEP or set out exploring on their own (or both). Naturally, they will be trying to find the Caves of Chaos, but this will take some travelling, and in the meantime they might well run into more than they can handle. Thus there are two maps - an AREA MAP for use when the party searches for the caves, and the CAVES OF CHAOS MAP which is a dungeon level map.
QuoteTRIBAL ALLIANCES AND WARFARE: You might allow player characters to somehow become aware that there is a constant fighting going on between the goblins and hobgoblins on one side and the orcs, sometimes with gnoll allies, on the other - with the kobolds hoping to be forgotten by all, and the bugbears picking off any stragglers who happen by. With this knowledge, they might be able to set tribes to fighting one another, and then the adventurers can take advantage of the weakened state of the feuding humanoids. Be careful to handle this whole thing properly; it is a device you may use to aid players who are few in number but with a high level of playing skill. It will make it too easy if there are many players, or if players do not actually use wits instead of force when the opportunity presentsitself.MONSTERS LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE: Allow intelligent monsters (even those with only low intelligence) to learn from experience. If player characters use flaming oil against them, allow the monsters to use oil as soon as they can find some. If adventurers are always sneaking up on them, have the monsters set warning devices to alert them of intruders. If characters run from overwhelming numbers, have the monsters set up a ruse by causing a few to shout and make noise as if there were many coming, thus hopefully frightening off the intruders. This method of handling monsters is basic to becoming a good DM. Apply the principle wherever and whenever you have reason.EMPTIED AREAS: When monsters are cleared out of an area, the place will be deserted for 1-4 weeks. If no further intrusion is made into the area, however, the surviving former inhabitants will return or else some other monster will move in. For instance, a thoul might move into the minotaur's cave complex.
Quote(DM Note: Orc losses cannot be replaced, but after an initial attack by adventurers, the males at location 10. will move four of their number into area 9., arm these orcs with crossbows, and lay an ambush for intruders. If the leader is slain, all surviving orcs from this locale will seek refuge with the tribe at C. (see below), taking everything of value (and even of no value) with them, and B. will thereafter be deserted.)
Quote from: James_Nostack on October 31, 2011, 01:09:57 PMIf people want to discuss the early history of D&D with respect to this type of play, preferably from actual experience, I'm cool with that. But it's not my primary focus. If it turns out that nobody played this way in 1974 ("sandbox," as a term, appears to come from relatively recent video games, so maybe the idea behind it is brand new), it wouldn't change the fact that in 2011 these procedures work reasonably well.