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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.
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  2. - Top - End - #62
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Wasteomana View Post
    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.

  3. - Top - End - #63
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

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

    Quote Originally Posted by inexorabletruth View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    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).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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''.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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''.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    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''.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    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.

  6. - Top - End - #66
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    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.

  7. - Top - End - #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post

    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 ?
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Earthwalker View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    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 and distort human culture and behavior" 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.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-02-08 at 11:21 AM.
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    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.
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    Milo - NEATO !!
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

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

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Earthwalker View Post

    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    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''.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    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....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    '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. 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 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 really hope that you're kidding.

    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, 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" (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 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 and 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, 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.
    Last edited by RFLS; 2018-02-09 at 03:20 AM.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    @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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    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.
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFLS View Post
    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.


    Quote Originally Posted by RFLS View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by RFLS View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by RFLS View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by RFLS View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    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."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    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.
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    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    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".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tanarii View Post
    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.


    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    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.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-02-09 at 10:35 AM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    Planet Mercenary RPG Discussion

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