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  1. - Top - End - #181
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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.



    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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.


    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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."
    Last edited by Segev; 2018-02-14 at 01:23 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #182
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post

    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.

  3. - Top - End - #183
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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}.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.

  5. - Top - End - #185
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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."

  6. - Top - End - #186
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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).

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    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).

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    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.''

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by RFLS View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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).
    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    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?

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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.)

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    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?

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    What does BNSF stand for?
    Burlington Northern Santa Fe
    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    Burlington Northern Santa Fe
    Er, okay. I'm... not sure what that region has to do with anything. Just an example place for a homebrew to be from?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    They're a freight rail company.

    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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...
    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    No, the point is neither is inherently superior to the other.
    Then on what do you think you disagree with me?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scripten View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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?
    Last edited by ImNotTrevor; 2018-02-14 at 08:14 PM.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Deophaun View Post
    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.
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    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''.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post

    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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''.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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....

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    "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...

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Ok, think I got it.
    Finally!

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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".

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