Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sandbox vs. Story

There's been a bit of a discussion going on the past few days that started with a post on the Mule Abides, and was picked up on Grognardia and Monsters & Manuals.  It seems that Tracy Hickman's penchant for story based games was something that he actually enumerated, as displayed in the original printing of his "Pharoah" scenario.

I work in the video games industry, at Bioware to be exact.  Bioware is known for story based RPGs.  These games are some of my favorites (Mass Effect 2 in particular).  The other big name in western RPGs is Bethesda.  They make the Elder Scrolls series and Fallout 3 (for the record, Skyrim was the best game I played in the past year).  These are generally considered "sandbox" games.  Both styles of game work extremely well, though they deliver a very different type of experience. If you have a preference, that's great, but neither one is better than the other, when done well.

On the tabletop, I think things are a little different though.  The computer RPGs I mentioned are all single player games. Try developing story in a multi-player computer game.  It's a much more difficult proposition.  If you are going to run a story based tabletop RPG, all of the players must be willing participants in the story.  The better option, in my opinion, is to let the story develop out the actions of the characters and the world around them.  If you create a rich world for the characters to exist in, the story will write itself. As a player, I'd much rather play a game in which the story cam about because of things that or my group wanted to accomplish, rather than a game where the DM had some grand vision of some "meaningful" plot.

As a side note, I loved the Dragonlance novels when I was in 7th and 8th grade.  I found the modules to be unplayable.  They ended up in the same pile as the Indiana Jones RPG.

1 comment:

  1. You right when both are done well , there is little to choose between them .

    Interesting blog ;-)