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  1. - Top - End - #151
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Milo v3 View Post
    And that point is incorrect.

    You literally are saying a normal game is on both opposite ends of a spectrum.

    I myself am currently running a linear game rather than a sandbox game for the first time in maybe four years. But according to you, what must be impossible because of you thinking actions leading to consequences makes a game linear.
    Well, lets see if I describe a game and you say what it is?

    1.The DM makes the setting and mega story of the game world. And puts in details of the current events, with plot hook.
    2.The Players then look over the details and either decide to follow a plot thread or maybe pick a plot based on the details, but not one specifically on a 'hook'.
    3.The DM then makes and flushes out that plot. It has a beginning and end and lots of details.
    4.The game play starts and the players are free to do whatever they want to have their characters try and do to follow the plot they picked and get to the successful end. An average DM will have at least a couple plot path threads to follow, and a good DM will have a dozen or more. The players don't ''have'' to follow any one plot path.
    5.As the characters move along the plot, they can change and effect plot events..but, in general they won't effect the plot itself unless they are demigods(or the game makes no sense).


    So like my example from before: A land with an evil baron. The players decide ''ok, lets take down the baron''. Now both the average DM and the good DM have made the Rebels. A group of good folk opposed to the evil baron..as a plot path thread. It's kind of ''obvious'' to get help from the rebels, and also smart. BUT if the players really want to just ignore the rebels they can (it's not a good idea, but they can do it.) Now the average DM (and the Casual/Lazy DM) only make up maybe two or three plot path threads (the bad DM only makes one) . The good Dm makes up around 10 to 20.

    Now, for any DM except the Good DM as it is rare for it to happen to a good DM, it's possible for the players to think of something the DM did not think of ''to do'' to get to the end of the plot. And very often it will even be something the DM did not even make. So the average DM will have a bit of a struggle trying to improv and make stuff up. The casual/lazy DM ''likes'' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they ''don't think things up'', but it's possible for the casual DM, sometimes, to be good at just ''whipping stuff up''. The Bad DM does not have the skill, desire or ability to think beyond their one plot path they have made, and will want to do that, no matter what.

    Now the players can NEVER just wish stuff to happen. They can't just say ''oh the baron has a daughter and she is walking alone in the woods and we grab her and hold her for ransom and force the baron to surrender and we loot his stuff''. But, if the DM says the baron does have a daughter, the players can try to find her and grab her with their characters in normal game play. Though even if the characters do grab her and hold her for ransom there is not a guarantee it will work out exactly as the players wish (after all the evil baron might just say ''bah, kill her!", for example)

    So as you can see the game has Freedom (the so called sandbox) and Structure (the linear plot)

  2. - Top - End - #152
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    So like my example from before: A land with an evil baron. The players decide ''ok, lets take down the baron''. Now both the average DM and the good DM have made the Rebels. A group of good folk opposed to the evil baron..as a plot path thread. It's kind of ''obvious'' to get help from the rebels, and also smart. BUT if the players really want to just ignore the rebels they can (it's not a good idea, but they can do it.) Now the average DM (and the Casual/Lazy DM) only make up maybe two or three plot path threads (the bad DM only makes one) . The good Dm makes up around 10 to 20.

    Now, for any DM except the Good DM as it is rare for it to happen to a good DM, it's possible for the players to think of something the DM did not think of ''to do'' to get to the end of the plot. And very often it will even be something the DM did not even make. So the average DM will have a bit of a struggle trying to improv and make stuff up. The casual/lazy DM ''likes'' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they ''don't think things up'', but it's possible for the casual DM, sometimes, to be good at just ''whipping stuff up''. The Bad DM does not have the skill, desire or ability to think beyond their one plot path they have made, and will want to do that, no matter what.

    Now the players can NEVER just wish stuff to happen. They can't just say ''oh the baron has a daughter and she is walking alone in the woods and we grab her and hold her for ransom and force the baron to surrender and we loot his stuff''. But, if the DM says the baron does have a daughter, the players can try to find her and grab her with their characters in normal game play. Though even if the characters do grab her and hold her for ransom there is not a guarantee it will work out exactly as the players wish (after all the evil baron might just say ''bah, kill her!", for example)
    Is there a reason why you label people good and bad DM's seemingly at random? Like, nobody is turning this into a 'you are a good or bad dm' but you.

    I don't know how this is seen as anything but trolling. You turn every discussion that might get to a point into an insulting rant.

    "The casual/lazy DM 'likes' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they 'don't think things up'...." Is there a purpose for that that isn't just being a troll? Serious question.
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  3. - Top - End - #153
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Well, no. A lazy DM simply does nothing to prepare, they just show up and are like ''lets game''. An doing the Quantum Ogre is just putting the plot of the adventure always directly in front of the characters, no matter what they do.
    Well... then no that is not the type of game I'm walking about.

  4. - Top - End - #154
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Milo v3 View Post
    And that point is incorrect.

    You literally are saying a normal game is on both opposite ends of a spectrum.

    I myself am currently running a linear game rather than a sandbox game for the first time in maybe four years. But according to you, what must be impossible because of you thinking actions leading to consequences makes a game linear.
    DU is still basically correct. Letīs not use normal as a term, that's misleading, let's say a non-storytelling game, as that's more fitting in contrast to classic rpgs.

    The GMs job in any classic game is to provide the content, from world to locations, npc to encounters, the whole shebang. You either create and prep that, or you train up your skills to come up with high quality content on the fly, no difference, basically all content is gm-made. It doesn't make much of a difference whether that's used for a linear or non-linear game, most of it will be created to be fun for the players to encounter and explore in one way or the other, why else would it be included when not?

    That's what's so annoying when people say stuff like "the world is my sandbox".

  5. - Top - End - #155
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    If you think the real world doesn't have anything "adventure worthy", history shows you're extremely mistaken. Try reading a book without dragons once in a while. There's no way Sir Richard Francis Burton, Sir Ernest Shackleton, or King Leopold I of Belgium (to name a few off the top of my head) weren't PCs.
    I think the biggest thing to remember in RPG context the vast majority of humans are nameless NPCs.

  6. - Top - End - #156
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    DU is still basically correct. Letīs not use normal as a term, that's misleading, let's say a non-storytelling game, as that's more fitting in contrast to classic rpgs.

    The GMs job in any classic game is to provide the content, from world to locations, npc to encounters, the whole shebang. You either create and prep that, or you train up your skills to come up with high quality content on the fly, no difference, basically all content is gm-made. It doesn't make much of a difference whether that's used for a linear or non-linear game, most of it will be created to be fun for the players to encounter and explore in one way or the other, why else would it be included when not?
    This brings up what is, IME, a very common failing of RPG theory and analysis. To use a bit of a math metaphor, in asking "are these different along the X axis?" and getting (at least what some perceive as) a "No" answer, the question then entirely ignores differences on the Y, Z, etc axes.

    There's a big difference here that's being ignored by saying "the GM has to do it all either way".

    If it's made for a linear campaign the GM is able to (and likely tempted to) focus almost entirely on the aspects of the game that they know will come up. The GM can put their probably limited resources (time, energy, creativity) into a very specific set of details. But anything that gets slightly off the rails will show that the setting is a bit of a 2D facade like an old movie set, unless the same GM who wants to run a linear and pre-plotted campaign is also somehow a GM who is skilled with improvising material on the fly. It's very easy for a linear campaign to end up with a "stage dressing" world, that's only "living" when the PCs are present, because it's all designed specifically around a series of presentations for the PCs.

    If it's made for a non-linear campaign, the GM has strategically balance breadth and depth, and be willing and ready to expand the specific from the general. Both the GM and the players need to have a shared understanding of the setting, its "basic principles", and the framework-level information, so their expectations don't diverge. While the setting and NPCs might still all be controlled by the GM, there's more that's being informed by the player's decisions -- for example, the players decide they want to follow some NPC to their hometown, the GM might have an idea of where it is or what size it is, but they're going to have to fill in details on the fly based on what's already know of the geography, culture, population, etc of that area. The world however is far more likely to be "alive", because it changes over time and responds dynamically to character interactions, PC and NPC.


    I go for the non-linear, which is why I don't see any difference between "game world" and "setting"... there is no stage, there are no sets, and the entire world is the setting, because the players could in theory take the game anywhere their characters can get to.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-02-12 at 11:59 AM.
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    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.

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  7. - Top - End - #157
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Well, lets see if I describe a game and you say what it is?

    1.The DM makes the setting and mega story of the game world. And puts in details of the current events, with plot hook.
    2.The Players then look over the details and either decide to follow a plot thread or maybe pick a plot based on the details, but not one specifically on a 'hook'.
    3.The DM then makes and flushes out that plot. It has a beginning and end and lots of details.
    4.The game play starts and the players are free to do whatever they want to have their characters try and do to follow the plot they picked and get to the successful end. An average DM will have at least a couple plot path threads to follow, and a good DM will have a dozen or more. The players don't ''have'' to follow any one plot path.
    5.As the characters move along the plot, they can change and effect plot events..but, in general they won't effect the plot itself unless they are demigods(or the game makes no sense).


    So like my example from before: A land with an evil baron. The players decide ''ok, lets take down the baron''. Now both the average DM and the good DM have made the Rebels. A group of good folk opposed to the evil baron..as a plot path thread. It's kind of ''obvious'' to get help from the rebels, and also smart. BUT if the players really want to just ignore the rebels they can (it's not a good idea, but they can do it.) Now the average DM (and the Casual/Lazy DM) only make up maybe two or three plot path threads (the bad DM only makes one) . The good Dm makes up around 10 to 20.
    These are much more linear games, albeit ones with large numbers of branches.

    The pure sandbox doesn't have the GM plan out the future events. Just the current state. Depending on what the players have their characters do, or not do, and how successful they are at their actions, the GM then advances time and knows the new current state of all things he had placed in the world. Some will have interacted with each other, and some will not. All will have something change, even if it's just that they're a week closer to harvest in Tinyville Thorpetown.

    The Evil Baron has this band of rebels, as you lay out. The GM hasn't expressly planned, necessarily, how the PCs will interact with these rebels to lead them to victory against the Evil Baron by facing each of his Wicked Knights in succession in their three Dark Castles. But he may well have all three Wicked Knights with their Dark Castles planned out. And he knows how the Baron and the Knights will act in response to the good rebels in his territory, based on what the rebels will do.

    If the PCs get involved, all of that changes. The GM isn't making up something random, here, though, nor is he scrapping a whole campaign of preparation. He knows, now, what impact the PCs' actions have had, and how this changes the rebels' plans, and how this impacts the reactions of the Knights and Baron.

    The GM hasn't planned out a dozen ways - four leading to Knight 1, four to Knight 2, three to Knight 3, and one to the dragon that the Baron has been secretly breaking to his will - that the PCs may follow if they choose. Instead, he knows what the Knights and Baron are up to. The PCs come up with what they want to do, and go try to do it. No need to hunt for the Quest NPC to let them advance the quest by picking one of the prescribed paths. Come up with a plan and pursue it.

    Now, not all players will like that approach. Many may well appreciate some solid hooks pointing them down possible paths.

    Neither kind of game is "cooler" than the other.

    But, to answer your quoted bit, you're describing more linear games. Lots of choice about which line to follow, from your "good GM," but still linear because, once they've picked it, you've planned out "lots of details" on a particular path they must pursue or give up and return to another hook to try a different tactic. You have lots of paths planned. That's a ton of work! If your "good GM" is sufficiently talented at planning paths and reading his players, it may be indistinguishable from their perspective from a sandbox; the GM has accounted for literally everything they'd think to try and want to do. But it's possible to run a true sandbox without that much planning ahead. It's not even that the sandbox is superior; if players want to pursue a specific plot to topple the evil Baron and are happy with interesting hooks that provide clear quest objectives along the way, established by the GM via his NPCs, that's a great game.

  8. - Top - End - #158
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    This brings up what is, IME, a very common failing of RPG theory and analysis. To use a bit of a math metaphor, in asking "are these different along the X axis?" and getting (at least what some perceive as) a "No" answer, the question then entirely ignores differences on the Y, Z, etc axes.

    There's a big difference here that's being ignored by saying "the GM has to do it all either way".

    If it's made for a linear campaign the GM is able to (and likely tempted to) focus almost entirely on the aspects of the game that they know will come up. The GM can put their probably limited resources (time, energy, creativity) into a very specific set of details. But anything that gets slightly off the rails will show that the setting is a bit of a 2D facade like an old movie set, unless the same GM who wants to run a linear and pre-plotted campaign is also somehow a GM who is skilled with improvising material on the fly. It's very easy for a linear campaign to end up with a "stage dressing" world, that's only "living" when the PCs are present, because it's all designed specifically around a series of presentations for the PCs.

    If it's made for a non-linear campaign, the GM has strategically balance breadth and depth, and be willing and ready to expand the specific from the general. Both the GM and the players need to have a shared understanding of the setting, its "basic principles", and the framework-level information, so their expectations don't diverge. While the setting and NPCs might still all be controlled by the GM, there's more that's being informed by the player's decisions -- for example, the players decide they want to follow some NPC to their hometown, the GM might have an idea of where it is or what size it is, but they're going to have to fill in details on the fly based on what's already know of the geography, culture, population, etc of that area. The world however is far more likely to be "alive", because it changes over time and responds dynamically to character interactions, PC and NPC.


    I go for the non-linear, which is why I don't see any difference between "game world" and "setting"... there is no stage, there are no sets, and the entire world is the setting, because the players could in theory take the game anywhere their characters can get to.

    I agree, even if you are running a "linear" campaign, one RPG's biggest strength is that you can go off the beaten path, solve problems in different ways or just do something completely different. Therefor the sandbox should be in place else you'll have a western movie set. This is why the idea of the sandbox as a type of game is a bit alien to me.
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    I agree, even if you are running a "linear" campaign, one RPG's biggest strength is that you can go off the beaten path, solve problems in different ways or just do something completely different. Therefor the sandbox should be in place else you'll have a western movie set. This is why the idea of the sandbox as a type of game is a bit alien to me.
    I think this goes back to my earlier post that treating "railroad" and "sandbox" as nouns somewhat misses the point.

    "Railroad" is a verb, a GM action involving a lot of bad GM practices (violating player agency, disregarding established facts, deceitful illusionism, etc).

    "Sandbox" works better when changed to an adjective, in a scalar assessment of how "sandboxy" a particular campaign is. Few RPG campaigns actually have no "sandboxiness" in them, it's just a matter of how much each one has. One might even surmise that the ability to decide which weapon to use, or when and who to attack, is a degree of "sandboxiness".
    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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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I think this goes back to my earlier post that treating "railroad" and "sandbox" as nouns somewhat misses the point.

    "Railroad" is a verb, a GM action involving a lot of bad GM practices (violating player agency, disregarding established facts, deceitful illusionism, etc).

    "Sandbox" works better when changed to an adjective, in a scalar assessment of how "sandboxy" a particular campaign is. Few RPG campaigns actually have no "sandboxiness" in them, it's just a matter of how much each one has. One might even surmise that the ability to decide which weapon to use, or when and who to attack, is a degree of "sandboxiness".

    True, we talk about linear game not that I'm running a railroad game. But then again I don't know how much time GM's spend on the surroundings of the modules their running so that anything that has things developed outside the beaten path is sandbox to them.

    I never run anything without having a good grasp of the setting unless it's a one shot. If I can't answer general questions about the setting (sandbox) then I'd not consider myself a very good GM
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

  11. - Top - End - #161
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    True, we talk about linear game not that I'm running a railroad game. But then again I don't know how much time GM's spend on the surroundings of the modules their running so that anything that has things developed outside the beaten path is sandbox to them.

    I never run anything without having a good grasp of the setting unless it's a one shot. If I can't answer general questions about the setting (sandbox) then I'd not consider myself a very good GM
    Personally, I've never run a published linear module as a GM, and never really wanted to. They seemed incredibly pointless to me from the start -- why not just play a video game if you're on the rails anyway?

    IMO, much of the appeal of the TTRPG run by and played by people sitting around together at a table or wherever was always the wide-open range of possibilities and imagination. See also, why I dislike classes and class-like character build mechanics.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2018-02-12 at 03:12 PM.
    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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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Personally, I've never run a published linear module as a GM, and never really wanted to. They seemed incredibly pointless to me from the start -- why not just play a video game if you're on the rails anyway?

    IMO, much of the appeal of the TTRPG run by and played by people sitting around together at a table or wherever was always the wide-open range of possibilities and imagination. See also, why I dislike classes and class-like character build mechanics.
    It's funny because when I started running games as a preteen I didn't run modules but then as a teen I started running AD&D modules. I think my group got really burnt when playing through the Time of Troubles modules which is one of the most awful excuses for an adventure trilogy that exists, the thoughts of it just puts bile in my mouth.

    For me published modules are alright for people who like such a thing and probably great to inspire new people to the hobby. So I might draw inspiration from published modules and adapt to my games and do so infrequently.
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Personally, I've never run a published linear module as a GM, and never really wanted to. They seemed incredibly pointless to me from the start -- why not just play a video game if you're on the rails anyway?
    I don't have time yet to respond to everything I would like to in this thread, but this one point I can manage.

    The benefit of linear games is Focus. Many players get a creative blockage (commonly known as "writer's block," but it applies to every creative effort) when faced with too many choices (or worse, a totally blank slate).

    Clearly, the opposite is true as well. Some people are so inconsolably creative that they balk at even the smallest degree of restrictions.

    But linear games are a great place for newer players to learn the game, or a busy group invest less time, or an advanced group to really explore how far the rails can be bent by playing a single module over and over to see what their character is really capable of.

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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Ultron View Post
    Well, lets see if I describe a game and you say what it is?

    1.The DM makes the setting and mega story of the game world. And puts in details of the current events, with plot hook.
    2.The Players then look over the details and either decide to follow a plot thread or maybe pick a plot based on the details, but not one specifically on a 'hook'.
    3.The DM then makes and flushes out that plot. It has a beginning and end and lots of details.
    4.The game play starts and the players are free to do whatever they want to have their characters try and do to follow the plot they picked and get to the successful end. An average DM will have at least a couple plot path threads to follow, and a good DM will have a dozen or more. The players don't ''have'' to follow any one plot path.
    5.As the characters move along the plot, they can change and effect plot events..but, in general they won't effect the plot itself unless they are demigods(or the game makes no sense).


    So like my example from before: A land with an evil baron. The players decide ''ok, lets take down the baron''. Now both the average DM and the good DM have made the Rebels. A group of good folk opposed to the evil baron..as a plot path thread. It's kind of ''obvious'' to get help from the rebels, and also smart. BUT if the players really want to just ignore the rebels they can (it's not a good idea, but they can do it.) Now the average DM (and the Casual/Lazy DM) only make up maybe two or three plot path threads (the bad DM only makes one) . The good Dm makes up around 10 to 20.

    Now, for any DM except the Good DM as it is rare for it to happen to a good DM, it's possible for the players to think of something the DM did not think of ''to do'' to get to the end of the plot. And very often it will even be something the DM did not even make. So the average DM will have a bit of a struggle trying to improv and make stuff up. The casual/lazy DM ''likes'' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they ''don't think things up'', but it's possible for the casual DM, sometimes, to be good at just ''whipping stuff up''. The Bad DM does not have the skill, desire or ability to think beyond their one plot path they have made, and will want to do that, no matter what.

    Now the players can NEVER just wish stuff to happen. They can't just say ''oh the baron has a daughter and she is walking alone in the woods and we grab her and hold her for ransom and force the baron to surrender and we loot his stuff''. But, if the DM says the baron does have a daughter, the players can try to find her and grab her with their characters in normal game play. Though even if the characters do grab her and hold her for ransom there is not a guarantee it will work out exactly as the players wish (after all the evil baron might just say ''bah, kill her!", for example)

    So as you can see the game has Freedom (the so called sandbox) and Structure (the linear plot)
    Dude. Is it possible for you to debate without trying to insult people?

    I'm also not sure why you mention "Now the players can NEVER just wish stuff to happen", since no one has mentioned anything of the sort in regards to sandbox or linear games.

    There is something I'm confused about with your description which makes it hard for me to place it exactly in regards to the spectrum of sandbox to linear, Number 2. Am I correct in understanding that this examination of the details by the players/choice of the players in regards to what plot-point they want to do is before play rather than during play?

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    DU is still basically correct. Letīs not use normal as a term, that's misleading, let's say a non-storytelling game, as that's more fitting in contrast to classic rpgs.
    What? I very much disagree whether or not storytelling has anything to do with whether a game is linear or not, or sandbox or not.

    The GMs job in any classic game is to provide the content, from world to locations, npc to encounters, the whole shebang. You either create and prep that, or you train up your skills to come up with high quality content on the fly, no difference, basically all content is gm-made. It doesn't make much of a difference whether that's used for a linear or non-linear game, most of it will be created to be fun for the players to encounter and explore in one way or the other, why else would it be included when not?

    That's what's so annoying when people say stuff like "the world is my sandbox".
    In my view, how the content is made has nothing to do with whether something is sandbox or not.... You are sort of arguing against points that I haven't made....
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Personally, I've never run a published linear module as a GM, and never really wanted to. They seemed incredibly pointless to me from the start -- why not just play a video game if you're on the rails anyway?

    IMO, much of the appeal of the TTRPG run by and played by people sitting around together at a table or wherever was always the wide-open range of possibilities and imagination. See also, why I dislike classes and class-like character build mechanics.
    One way to utilize published linear modules is as options for the players to pursue. One of many things going on. You can literally drop one in a sandbox world, and if the players don't bite, let its plot advance on the "without the PCs" path. Linear adventures do tend to spell out what the bad guys are trying to accomplish. It doesn't take much - especially for a GM running sandboxes preferentially - to reason out how the bad guys' plans working would impact the setting.

    It's also possible to take a linear adventure and run it like a sandbox. It might go way off the rails, but you know the setup and status and it gives enough information for a GM to improvise if he wants to.

    Well, assuming it's a GOOD linear module, and not one where the PCs are so on rails that they may as well not be present. I'm still looking at you, Witchfire Trilogy.
    Last edited by Segev; 2018-02-12 at 05:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Witchfire Trilogy.
    Oh, that was a crass one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Florian View Post
    Oh, that was a crass one.
    I know!


    ...for those unfamiliar with it, the PCs are literally superfluous to the module. They do not make a difference. If they succeed at everything and make the "right" choices, they will have a front-row seat and a favored place as the destined NPC sweeps to victory. If they fail, they miss out on seeing parts of the plot surrounding the NPC unfold. If they succeed but make the "wrong" choice, they get a third-row seat to watching the NPC sweep to victory and get to "enjoy" being on that NPC's crap-list. Said NPC is a vengeful sort. In fact, 3/4 of the NPC's motivation in the module is revenge.

    I'm not exaggerating. The players' choices only determine how much of the action they get to observe. There are dungeon crawls, and in theory mysteries to uncover, but solving the mysteries only gets you to the cutscene, and doing the dungeon crawls gets you to the next cutscene. Failing at them means you miss the cutscene. It doesn't actually matter if you're there or not; plot progresses the same way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I know!


    ...for those unfamiliar with it, the PCs are literally superfluous to the module. They do not make a difference. If they succeed at everything and make the "right" choices, they will have a front-row seat and a favored place as the destined NPC sweeps to victory. If they fail, they miss out on seeing parts of the plot surrounding the NPC unfold. If they succeed but make the "wrong" choice, they get a third-row seat to watching the NPC sweep to victory and get to "enjoy" being on that NPC's crap-list. Said NPC is a vengeful sort. In fact, 3/4 of the NPC's motivation in the module is revenge.

    I'm not exaggerating. The players' choices only determine how much of the action they get to observe. There are dungeon crawls, and in theory mysteries to uncover, but solving the mysteries only gets you to the cutscene, and doing the dungeon crawls gets you to the next cutscene. Failing at them means you miss the cutscene. It doesn't actually matter if you're there or not; plot progresses the same way.
    What...

    Was this at least a bad attempt to modulize some novel attached to the game? Or was it actually from scratch? I mean, that's on the Mass Effect 3 level of bad design... just wow.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I know!


    ...for those unfamiliar with it, the PCs are literally superfluous to the module. They do not make a difference. If they succeed at everything and make the "right" choices, they will have a front-row seat and a favored place as the destined NPC sweeps to victory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I know!


    ...for those unfamiliar with it, the PCs are literally superfluous to the module. They do not make a difference. If they succeed at everything and make the "right" choices, they will have a front-row seat and a favored place as the destined NPC sweeps to victory. If they fail, they miss out on seeing parts of the plot surrounding the NPC unfold. If they succeed but make the "wrong" choice, they get a third-row seat to watching the NPC sweep to victory and get to "enjoy" being on that NPC's crap-list. Said NPC is a vengeful sort. In fact, 3/4 of the NPC's motivation in the module is revenge.

    I'm not exaggerating. The players' choices only determine how much of the action they get to observe. There are dungeon crawls, and in theory mysteries to uncover, but solving the mysteries only gets you to the cutscene, and doing the dungeon crawls gets you to the next cutscene. Failing at them means you miss the cutscene. It doesn't actually matter if you're there or not; plot progresses the same way.
    Sound almost as bad as the Times of Troubles or Avatar Wars as it's also called in Forgotten Realms. There you get to play second fiddle and watch the awesome NPC's from the books...Cyric, Kelemvor and Midnight (Mystra) become Gods. And of course Elminster makes an appearance just to tell you how awesome he is. If you are a DM that likes to play DMPC's that adventure trilogy is going to arouse you to new heights.
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    Default Re: Why 'Sandbox' is a meaningless phrase

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    What...

    Was this at least a bad attempt to modulize some novel attached to the game? Or was it actually from scratch? I mean, that's on the Mass Effect 3 level of bad design... just wow.
    Witchfire, Curse of the Azure Bonds and such are good examples when somebody wants to tell a "tight" story to such an extend that the actual role-playing moves to the background of it. I think you can say that modules like these gave linear modules the bad rep they have in some circles..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wasteomana View Post
    Is there a reason why you label people good and bad DM's seemingly at random? Like, nobody is turning this into a 'you are a good or bad dm' but you.
    Well, the labels are not at random. If you do X, your a Bad DM; if you do Y you are a Good DM. For example, if a DM makes an adventure with only one path and then demands and forces the players down that One Path, that DM is a Bad DM. See how that works?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wasteomana View Post
    "The casual/lazy DM 'likes' to pretend to be surprised by the players so they 'don't think things up'...." Is there a purpose for that that isn't just being a troll? Serious question.
    A good number of DMs like to be surprised by the actions the players take in the game; this is fun for some DMs. But any Good or even just experienced DM will be hard to surprise as they will have already though of all the ways and actions that can be done to reach a goal. So, in order to be surprised, the DM needs to try and not think about all the details or at least try not to remember them. Then when the players do something, the DM can at least act surprised. It's Illusionism for DMs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I go for the non-linear, which is why I don't see any difference between "game world" and "setting"... there is no stage, there are no sets, and the entire world is the setting, because the players could in theory take the game anywhere their characters can get to.
    Odd, that I sort of agree with Max here.

    But it's not about linear...as if the game makes sense has any sort of meaningfully plot and story it has to be linear. I do think people get too caught up in the idea that linear=a tiny nitpicky railroad DM power trip detail, or something negative like that. Like it's bad to say ''linear'' as that high light and admits the DM is all powerful in the game. Or even more simply, again, Non-Linear=Cool.

    But linear events are not so specific, and are often vague. Like say the characters agree to help the king and to go rescue Princess Buttercup from imprisonment in the Dark Tower; this means in order to do this goal....the characters must go to the Dark Tower. And see, that is a linear progression of a plot. A=meet king---->B=Accept quest and C=characters go to the Dark Tower.

    Or like the characters want to kill a pack of werewolves living in Bunglewood. So this is vaguely A-characters want to kill a pack of werewolves living in Bunglewood to B-the characters MUST go to Bunglewood and at least interact (though most likely fight and kill) the werewolves. Now the players are free to have their characters try ''all most anything'', but they still must go from A to B.


    The Setting, is really more about DM Skill, Dedication, Experience and the dreaded Time Investment. The Time Investment is the easy one: a lot of DMs, and all Casual and Lazy DMs, don't have the ''time'' to invest in doing things for the game. This is the whole reason the RPGs have adventures: then the DM needs to only make up a very narrow chunk of the game world/setting. The DM does not need to make up 100 towns if the characters will spend the whole game in and around a single town.

    The DM Skill, Dedication, and Experience is all about how good the DM is. A good DM can seamlessly handle anything, so even if the players really make some sort of wild left turn, it utterly would not matter and the players would never even notice a slight bump. The good DM's game rolls on, no matter what happens, with the same level of quality. The Good DM's world has no ''sets'' or such; everything everywhere in the world is always perfectly made at the same level of quality.

    But, of course, Average or Bad DM's can't do this....and this is where you will get anything that is slightly off the rails will show that the setting is a bit of a 2D facade like an old movie set, a cartoon, or worst of all, a video game.

    But DM Skill, Dedication, Experience and the dreaded Time Investment...or if the DM is good, bad or just average, has nothing to do with the game being linear.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post

    The pure sandbox doesn't have the GM plan out the future events. Just the current state.
    But then your saying the pure sandbox game makes no sense and is just a random pile of nothing. Like:

    Normal Game: The evil cult plans to summon the demon at midnight on the last day of the year (a plan for a future event). The characters might or might not know that, either way they will try an take actions to stop it...and depending on what they do, and how successful they are, they might prevent, delay or stop the summoning.

    Sandbox Mess: The evil cult might do something sometime. The characters might or might not know that, either way they will simply do pointless random things.....and depending on what they do something might happen sometime.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post

    If the PCs get involved, all of that changes. The GM isn't making up something random, here, though, nor is he scrapping a whole campaign of preparation. He knows, now, what impact the PCs' actions have had, and how this changes the rebels' plans, and how this impacts the reactions of the Knights and Baron.
    This is just Being a good DM, and has nothing to do with the type of game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    But, to answer your quoted bit, you're describing more linear games. Lots of choice about which line to follow, from your "good GM," but still linear because, once they've picked it, you've planned out "lots of details" on a particular path they must pursue or give up and return to another hook to try a different tactic. You have lots of paths planned. That's a ton of work! If your "good GM" is sufficiently talented at planning paths and reading his players, it may be indistinguishable from their perspective from a sandbox; the GM has accounted for literally everything they'd think to try and want to do. But it's possible to run a true sandbox without that much planning ahead. It's not even that the sandbox is superior; if players want to pursue a specific plot to topple the evil Baron and are happy with interesting hooks that provide clear quest objectives along the way, established by the GM via his NPCs, that's a great game.
    Of course, being a Good DM is a lot of work. Really being a Good Anything, takes a lot of work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Milo v3 View Post
    Dude. Is it possible for you to debate without trying to insult people? ....
    I follow the advice of Yoda, I don't ''try'' to do anything.


    Quote Originally Posted by Milo v3 View Post
    There is something I'm confused about with your description which makes it hard for me to place it exactly in regards to the spectrum of sandbox to linear, Number 2. Am I correct in understanding that this examination of the details by the players/choice of the players in regards to what plot-point they want to do is before play rather than during play?
    I'm not sure what your asking here.

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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.

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    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.

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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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    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.

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    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."

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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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    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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