Posted by: markfender | June 23, 2015

Why Sandbox?

I am very bad at plotting.

lego2n-7-webIt might explain why I don’t write fiction. It might also explain why the games I tend to run are sandbox.

Plots are hard, apparently. People need motivation and scenes to advance their stories and I never seem to be able to put together the beginning of a character and where the end of that character should be. It turns out that my process for plotting is a lot more organic than that, leaping from moment to moment until the whole thing is done and I’m not even sure how I got there.

Which might explain why more sandbox ideas appeal to me. There’s the faint hint of a larger story, but no one, not even the GM, knows exactly how it will play out. It also works around the fact that RPGs tend to not be great vehicles for dramatic stories either (Because there generally aren’t four main characters, each of which needs their own sweeping plot arc, in a story).

I don’t think RPGs excel at telling “traditional” stories. But, that’s okay. An epic poem is different from a novel is different from a movie, in terms of story. Every medium develops its own methods of telling satisfying stories. And, as RPGs are more about making sure that the players are having a good time (versus making sure the characters are having one), a broader sandbox tends to work a little better. Of course, it does rely upon motivated players to explore.

Weirdly, I dislike sandbox video games. I need a ‘story’ pushing me in a direction, or I just feel the game is aimless (I need goals, damn it). Which can certainly be a problem in RPG sandboxes as well. But that’s where my meager plot-making abilities can work, tying in some disparate sandbox stuff into a somewhat coherent plot.


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