Monday, April 12, 2010

Can Newbs Start With a Sandbox

Z's comment on Grognardia's Dungeonworld post asked about Sandbox D&D post by Gabe over at Penny Arcade.

Like I replied in Grognardia's comments I believe Gabe has discovered the key to sandboxes --
I sit down at the table with no idea what they will do or where they will go that night. The adventure ends up being just as much a surprise to me as it is to them.
I wanted to discuss and see what my readers had to say about this quote --
I honestly think that I could not have started out running this type of game. I think having a year of running more structured adventures under my belt gave me the skills I needed to open the world up like this. I think the same could be said for my players as well.
I'm guessing that is true of most people. Whether it's inherent in our psychology or we've been accustomed by books, movies, other playstyles to storypaths is moot. I certainly see it with new players.  Ignoring play style just being comfortable with the rules and your role (DM, player) can take time.  I see inklings of in myself, when running new systems/settings I don't wing it or run the game nearly as well as when I'm intimately familiar (that might be just cause I'm a suckass DM).

It's an interesting point for those of us actively trying to grow and popularize sandbox style gaming. Maybe we need to do a little more hand holding in the beginning, or even run hybrid style.  The Western Marches, in retrospect, seems if not a hybrid at least a sandbox with some structure and direction.  Instead of 100% open.  Western Marches have big ol' signs "the stuff, it's over there". And there are aides to direct and motivate players; table map, competition with other groups, the increasing danger "bands".

Maybe we should suggest that new DM's get a year of one-shots, running modules, etc. under their belts before they dive into the sandbox? I'm more or less doing that with Labyrinth Lord.

What say you all?

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