Monday, January 7, 2013

On sandboxes and Wilderlands Part 1

Happy new year everyone!  I'm a week late but hey, holiday travel keeps you busy.  Before the holidays hit my last blog entry was about a decent hex grid I constructed in order to create campaign maps.  There was a particular purpose for this, which will be covered in new blog entries forthcoming.  For awhile there is going to be a running theme to my blog posts, mostly to do with campaign setting design.  Also, as a new years resolution, I want to bring write more reviews for the blog.  I have a large amount of gaming material I could review, some that I've used in my games and some I've just read through.  I actually have a review in the works I hope to push out very soon.  ANOTHER resolution is to try to make my blog posts shorter and cut them up across several smaller posts for easier digestion.  We will see if I can keep to that, I'm very long-winded.

Now that all that is out of the way let's get into the topic at hand.  Lately I've been into sandboxes.  In the OSR world and old-style play there is a good amount of focus on the sandbox.  I experienced it a long time ago but in the modern gaming scene railroading seems to be pretty prevalent.  I liken it to the MMORPG scene, where games like WOW and SWTOR feel very railroad-y (or in mmo terminology, amusement park style).  You go where the game expects you to go and everyone is along for the ride too.  Compared to say, the old Star Wars Galaxies MMO around first release (which I LOVED), which was a sandbox.  You went where you wanted, when you wanted, and the most important part: you made your own fun. 

When I think about the games I used to run when I was in high school and relatively new to the hobby, my adventures were very railroad-y.  This was okay, as my players were introduced to RPGs by me and it's all they knew.  A little structure helped them get their feet wet.  However, I didn't have much developed and had they wanted to go their own way I wouldn't have been able to do much.  There was a few occasions where I winged it, made up stats on the fly for things, but this was D&D 3.5 where things were supposed to be balanced.  Though those skills of crafting on the fly would help me today (throwing together HP, attack, and XP values), it didn't lend itself well to that system.

Paizo's Pathfinder Adventure Paths are pretty good railroad adventures.  Many of them allow for some sandboxing and working outside the rail-lines but there is always the overarching railroad.  Most published modules are like this, really.  There is an expectation of what is going to happen.  By contrast having a good sandbox developed means the world is at the player's feet and it is up to those players to 'make their own fun' and do what they want to do, not what you as the DM want them to.

Just some thoughts and for any grognard reading this I'm preaching to the choir, I know.  Long-winded again, but tune in next time when I talk a little more about sandboxes and one of the most famous old school settings in the hobby's history.

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