Litterboxes: Tell us about your crappy Sandbox experiences
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  1. #1

    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)

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    Litterboxes: Tell us about your crappy Sandbox experiences

    A "litterbox" is a sandbox gone wrong. Maybe the players go tharn, unable or unwilling to act. Maybe the referee's setting is so bland that it's best described by the flavor of something before the vanilla is added.

    What are your crappy sandbox experiences?

    Mine was a Traveller referee who made no effort to tie his random encounters to anything else in the setting. We encountered a group of chasers on a world that tried to eat our crew. After we dispatched the alien beasts, we decided to backtrack them to their lair - maybe we could capture the young and sell them, we reasoned. Nope, no young, no lair, and indeed, no tracks leading anywhere. This was where they lived, they never went anywhere else, and they didn't have a lair - they just sat their waiting for things to come by, then attack them.

    Later we encountered were engaged by space pirates in a Type S scout/courier. We outgunned them two turrets to one, and they had a single pulse laser to our batteries of triple sandcasters, twin missle lanchers, and a beam laser. We knocked out their ship in short order with a couple of missles while their laser pulses were stopped by our sandcasters. Whe we boarded the now derelict ship, the whole crew was dead, the cargo bay was empty, and there were no records at all of where the ship came from or where it was going. It didn't even have a name.

    When pressed, the referee admitted it was a random encounter rolled from the tables, and he never gave any thought to random encounters being anything other than stuff that just appeared with a die roll.


    ADDENDUM: While I appreciate the experience point, let me be clear that "litterbox" is NOT my coining. It appeared independently twice on rpg.net, from two different users in completely different threads.
    Last edited by The Shaman; Monday, 7th November, 2011 at 12:20 AM.

  2. #2

    Lama (Lvl 13)



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    I had one of these. I made the mistake of giving next to no direction. The players, left to their own devices, set a direction of murder and extortion. They also engaged in a fair amount of turtling. I did not have very much fun with that.

  3. #3
    Litterbox is perhaps the best new (at least to me) gaming term I've heard in months.

    The worst I've ever played in was a GM who dropped us on an island and proceeded to explain that the island was divided into zones by level of difficulty and we could challenge ourselves however we wanted. There was no plot, no adventure, and no point. We could just wander into different zones and face level 2 or level 4 or whatever level challenge we wanted.

    The second worst was a GURPS game set in the equivalent of Midgard. The session began with the ominous phrase "Go and explore the world." There was no structure or primer--we literally knew nothing of the world other than that it was Midgard-esque. The GM had the belief that she would create best organically responding to us but really was just using this as a blanket to hide the fact that she wasn't prepared. Four hours later, I had bought a hat and someone else had, I kid you not, failed to buy a floppy disk.

  4. #4

    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)

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    Quote Originally Posted by AeroDm View Post
    Four hours later, I had bought a hat and someone else had, I kid you not, failed to buy a floppy disk.

    "Some days you get the bear, some days you fail to get the floppy disk." - Yoshiro Nakamatsu

  5. #5
    I ran a Westmarches style campaign for about six months about three years ago. It started off strong, but then the few players who initiated a lot of the activity left the group (they moved away).

    Most of the remaining players just didn't get the point that I wasn't going to lead them around by the nose, and that nothing would happen uniess they initiated a session.

    So the campaign fell apart.

  6. #6

    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)



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    I've yet to have a sandbox game go bad, perhaps because the GMs who run that type of campaign have really understood what it takes to run one successfully. All of the bad campaigns I've played in were ones where the GM really wanted us on rails and the players wanted to do something different.

  7. #7

    Superhero (Lvl 15)



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    Quote Originally Posted by AeroDm
    Four hours later, I had bought a hat and someone else had, I kid you not, failed to buy a floppy disk.
    That made me laugh a little. Rare for me to actually laugh out loud. Nice.

    When I first started transitioning over to sandbox-style play, it was painful. I really don't feel the DMG has good enough advice on it (at all), and the only other GM I had played with was my brother. He's a great GM, but he usually has a strong hook for the campaign, and the expectation that we follow through with exploring it (and, as it's usually interesting, we usually do). He rarely runs sandbox, but my favorite character came from a sandbox game he ran.

    Aaaanyways, I was used to him running the game, and he's more into "this is the adventure." So I had little idea of how to run a good sandbox game. My game (also my first time GMing....) consisted of no map, no town names, nothing. Just the two PCs in a city, and the order to "go." My god was that ever so terrible looking back, even if they had fun with it. It was a good learning experience though (this is what you don't do).

    Sometimes I look back and wonder how I ever got so far as a GM. Then I run my game, and the pure joy my players have at playing shows me why: they're easily satisfied, and just happy to play. Lucky me, I guess. The only downside is, they'll basically only play for me or my brother (who's stationed in Texas for now), and no one ever runs anything, so I'm the eternal GM...

    Um, long story cut short: my first time running a game was a litterbox. Where an entire New York city block's worth of cats came to relieve themselves.

  8. #8

    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wiseblood View Post
    I made the mistake of giving next to no direction. The players, left to their own devices, set a direction of murder and extortion.
    Personally, I don't have a problem with that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wiseblood View Post
    They also engaged in a fair amount of turtling.
    Now THAT's a problem.

  9. #9

    TWILIGHT:2000.

    The last time I ran it the group I was with literally had no idea what to do. Should they flee western Poland? Should they attempt to scrape together an ad-hoc infantry and armor company and attack Soviet strongpoints? Should they (etc.)

    They had no idea what to do. I eventually gave up and put them on rails for the next few sessions, and the game ended shortly thereafter.

    The funny thing is if I'd thrown them into GREYHAWK or anywhere else it would have been a matter of minutes before they found "something" to do. The shattered Europe (and later United States) of TWILIGHT:2000 is essentially identical to any given fantasy world, particularly GREYHAWK. Both take place after a world-altering cataclysm, both feature caches of awesome, powerful devices scattered hither and yon, etc.

    Yet they just felt directionless.

    In the postmortem, they seemed sure that "someone" would come along and give them orders, but that's the whole point of TWILIGHT:2000 - it's military role-playing without the command structure so you can get your war on but without the players feeling that they're only in a situation because the higher-ups told them to go do it. Yet they just did not grok it at all. If I ever run it again I'm going to do it TWILIGHT:NIGHTMARES style with fantasy/horror elements thrown in to drive them from point A to B. Lots of room in the T2K setting for some genuine creepypasta, a bunch of which can be lifted almost completely intact from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - SHADOW OF CHERNOBYL, SECOND VARIETY (et al) by Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison and others.

    Ahem, so, yeah.

  10. #10
    My worst sandbox campaign was in a homebrew system where the GM doesn't explain the rules. Having played a few games with my first character, it seemed like playing a witch would be fun. I worked with the GM and rolled up a character. Towards the end, I rolled an unexplained d12 and got a 2. He frowned, made a note and I joined the campaign.

    Four months of play later, with a lot of effort spent trying to pick up arcane learning, I realized that I had been allowed to roll up a spell caster with an inborn absence of magical talent. It was "interesting", but not in a good way...

    Even so, that gameworld had a desert filled with 40-lb "sand flees" that could smell blood from miles away. I made use of that idea to good effect: the PCs in my game do not like desert travel...

    -KS

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