D&D General Not Railroad, Not Sandbox ... What else is there?

Railroading only occurs if the DM is removing player choice and forcing them down pathways, even if they are not aware of it through due to the illusion of choice being presented to them.
It's wrong because either sooner or later the players will realise it, or simply because the DM is deceiving the players. He knows that if they knew, they would feel railroaded.

Looking at a published adventure and saying that "this is basically a railroad." is almost always going to be the wrong way to look it it, since next to none of them forbid the players from giving up and doing something else in the middle, or even saying no to doing it in the first place. If the PCs go on that adventure, it's because they chose to do it. That's linear, not railroad.
Lots of them make blanket statements, or at least did in the past such as "the villain must escape at this point" or "if the players do X find a way to prevent them so the adventure can happen". These adventures are often described at railroads in reviews. You can argue the reviews shouldn't use the term if you like, but they will keep doing it anyway.

If you're definition doesn't account for common usage, then you're definition doesn't amount to much.
 

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estar

Adventurer
Okay...so what's the difference?
The difference is that I can choose to place my character under orders or in circumstances that limit my future reasonable actions to essentially a linear sequence of events. Note the reasonable. There is always a choice. Many linear situations in reality that the alternative is so unpleasant or so not fun that it is ruled out.

The other way that gave rise to the term in the first place is imposed by out-of-game fiat.


It shouldn't be a different style simply because players are happy about it.
The group can happily choose to play a campaign that they know is going to be a linear series of events because they agree beforehand not to stray from the "path".

The difference is not whether one is happy about it, it is about whether it happens because of out-of-game fiat or whether it is something choosen by the player acting as their character in the campaign.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The difference is that I can choose to place my character under orders or in circumstances that limit my future reasonable actions to essentially a linear sequence of events. Note the reasonable. There is always a choice. Many linear situations in reality that the alternative is so unpleasant or so not fun that it is ruled out.

The other way that gave rise to the term in the first place is imposed by out-of-game fiat.


The group can happily choose to play a campaign that they know is going to be a linear series of events because they agree beforehand not to stray from the "path".
I disagree here, in that linearity has to be enforced -- it is not a required result. This is because there are no required results in fiction. You can come up with any number of things that come next from a pattern of prior fictional events. So, no, linearity has to be something that is decided on, and in this example, something the GM is deciding on.
The difference is not whether one is happy about it, it is about whether it happens because of out-of-game fiat or whether it is something choosen by the player acting as their character in the campaign.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It's wrong because either sooner or later the players will realise it, or simply because the DM is deceiving the players. He knows that if they knew, they would feel railroaded.
Sometimes. It's not always apparent and some DMs are very good at hiding it.
Lots of them make blanket statements, or at least did in the past such as "the villain must escape at this point" or "if the players do X find a way to prevent them so the adventure can happen". These adventures are often described at railroads in reviews. You can argue the reviews shouldn't use the term if you like, but they will keep doing it anyway.
You can have an instance of railroading without the adventure being a railroad. I don't agree with even an instance of it, but if reviewers are saying the adventure is a railroad because of an instance where the villain must escape, then they are wrong.
If you're definition doesn't account for common usage, then you're definition doesn't amount to much.
Around all the forums, the definitions online, and in person, the vast majority of people use the definition that I'm using, and most of the rest conflate linear for railroading like this thread does.
 

Linear campaigns do offer choices. Choice #1: Do we engage the line at all. In a railroad you are forced to engage. Choice #2: We've Gone from A to B to C to D to E, but no longer want to continue on to F-N. We can do that. We can leave the line. The line only exists as steps for the adventure. In a railroad, you are forced down the line no matter what you want.

Linear = adventure with a line.
Railroad = forced down the line no matter what the players decide.
That...doesn't make any sense to me.

If the players can choose not to keep walking the line, it's not actually a linear campaign. It's just something that happens to be a line at the moment. It could be any shape, it just happens to be a line right now.

If it's actually linear, then it can't be any shape OTHER THAN a line. There is no choice as to whether you can keep going on the line, or end the line and do some other thing instead. There is only the choice to keep playing or end the campaign. Which...is what a railroad is.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That...doesn't make any sense to me.

If the players can choose not to keep walking the line, it's not actually a linear campaign. It's just something that happens to be a line at the moment. It could be any shape, it just happens to be a line right now.
This is wrong. It's not about what the players choose. It's about the set up of the adventure. If you have to go to A, then to B, then C, then D, etc. in order to get to the next step, the adventure is progressing in a line. It's a linear adventure. Contrast that with an adventure like Isle of Dread, which you can finish in many different orders and without going to every spot to be done with the adventure.
If it's actually linear, then it can't be any shape OTHER THAN a line.
It isn't any shape other than a line. It's literally A-Z in a line. It's the only way the players can finish it. If they decide to finish it.
 

The difference is that I can choose to place my character under orders or in circumstances that limit my future reasonable actions to essentially a linear sequence of events. Note the reasonable. There is always a choice. Many linear situations in reality that the alternative is so unpleasant or so not fun that it is ruled out.

The other way that gave rise to the term in the first place is imposed by out-of-game fiat.
Whether players have fun with a style should not be the determining factor of whether it is a different style or not.

The group can happily choose to play a campaign that they know is going to be a linear series of events because they agree beforehand not to stray from the "path".

The difference is not whether one is happy about it, it is about whether it happens because of out-of-game fiat or whether it is something choosen by the player acting as their character in the campaign.
Whether the players are on board for it or not should not be the determining factor of whether it is a different style or not.

These are just more refined ways of saying the players are happy about it. In the previous section, it is whether the players find it reasonable (meaning, they accept the justifications; they would balk, aka be not happy, if the justifications were insufficient). In this section, it is whether the players have consented to it or not...which means they're having fun, which means they're happy.

Like...you are literally saying that it's a different style based on whether the group is on board, vs not on board. That's not a stylistic difference. That's a question of group acceptance.

Now, you could argue that "railroad" is supposed to be a term only for badly-handled linear campaigns/modules/etc. That's not presenting "linear" and "railroad" as completely different things, but rather saying that railroads are a (poor-quality) subset of linear campaigns/etc. And the main rebuttal would simply be that it doesn't really matter whether that's what the term was "supposed" to be for, because people actually use it to describe what you call "linear" campaigns/etc. all the time: campaigns/etc. that require that players be willing to not make choices that point outside of the pre-planned content. And others understand it similarly.

Of course it's true that "railroad" has some...baggage, shall we say. But it's also a useful metaphor. Sort of like how WoW-type MMOs are often called "theme park" games, because it's like going to Disneyland or whatever. You can only ride the rides so many times (on a given trip, anyway) before you've basically seen and done it all. Yet millions of people go to them all the time (pandemics notwithstanding), while the contrasting option (not-so-coincidentally also called "sandbox") is metaphorically a dime a dozen unless the people playing therein bring something special, or the sandbox itself offers something that can't be had elsewhere (e.g. Minecraft, though it's not really an "MMO" proper.)

This is wrong. It's not about what the players choose. It's about the set up of the adventure. If you have to go to A, then to B, then C, then D, etc. in order to get to the next step, the adventure is progressing in a line. It's a linear adventure. Contrast that with an adventure like Isle of Dread, which you can finish in many different orders and without going to every spot to be done with the adventure.

It isn't any shape other than a line. It's literally A-Z in a line. It's the only way the players can finish it. If they decide to finish it.
...then what makes it different from a railroad?

You're literally saying that the only choice the players have is to stop playing the game. That's literally the one and only choice offered by a railroad. It's not like the DM can somehow trap the players in her house for each session!
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
...then what makes it different from a railroad?
I already spelled that out for you very clearly.

Player choice.

A railroad removes all player choice. The players have no choice in whether or not they go on the adventure. And they have no choice in whether they complete it or not. They are forced to do what the DM wants, regardless of what they want.

If the DM is removing player choice, it's a railroad. If he isn't, it isn't. It's really that simple. Even your example of the adventure reviews use that model. The example of the railroad was the villain escaping no matter what. Nothing the players can do about it, even if they should be able to do something about it. It's the removal of choice that makes that a railroad, not the linear aspect of the module.
You're literally saying that the only choice the players have is to stop playing the game.
How the hell did you get there? :unsure:

No. That's not even close to what I said. I said that they could stop that adventure.

Players: "So, um.......we're going to let other heroes handle Tiamat and go look for adventure in the ruins of Garth. I hear the brooks are beautiful there."

The game doesn't end. Just that one portion of it.
That's literally the one and only choice offered by a railroad.
Yes. Quitting is the only choice offered by a railroad, which is why linear isn't a railroad. ;)
 

Players: "So, um.......we're going to let other heroes handle Tiamat and go look for adventure in the ruins of Garth. I hear the brooks are beautiful there."
And I'm telling you that specific thing is what makes it not linear. You can choose to do something else. You can depart from the line.

If you cannot depart from the line, it's a railroad. And if you can depart from the line, it was never linear to begin with.
 

Torranocca

Villager
Looking for a word usage in literature is the usual means of determining its contemporary usage. Lots of real ink spilled about play in the '80s, but not textual evidence of "sandbox" being used. Let's say your claim is correct -- ypu experienced widespread use of the term in the '80s. Trouble is, you have no evidence other than your say. @estar at least has contemporary evidence for their claim.

You can say @estar's claim is wrong, but available evidence means it's just your say against actual evidence.

Not to be argumentative, or anything.
I need no evidence, this is neither an argument nor a legal proceeding. I am simply conferring first person experience. Was there, used those labels, had a common understanding what they meant, witnessed said terms used by many others. I am not sure why any of this is an issue unless someone is trying to claim they invented the concept or terminology. If that is the case then I simply state they are incorrect. I have no dog in that fight, just telling it like it is.😁
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
And I'm telling you that specific thing is what makes it not linear.
And you are wrong. What makes THE ADVENTURE linear is that it exists in a manner that can only be completed in a line.
You can choose to do something else. You can depart from the line.
Departing from the line doesn't mean that the adventure itself isn't linear. It means that you are no longer a part of that particular adventure unless you get back in line again.
If you cannot depart from the line, it's a railroad. And if you can depart from the line, it was never linear to begin with.
No. That's not what linear adventure and railroad mean. It's entirely about choice. Google it man. It's all about forcing the PCs and removing choice from them.
 

The sentences are easily rectifiable when you notice, at no time did I say it was problematic. This is what free play means. Was I happy about the player losing his character to terrible choices? Of course not. The players “job” is to make their own decisions and figure out how to navigate the consequences for good or ill. The DMs “ job” is the create an internally consistent game settings and make it fun and exciting. ( hopefully)
I present it the way I do because I have experienced many DMs who will distort game world reality and logic to save players from themselves. Not a problem either but a DM doing that tends to destroy suspension of disbelief and ruins the challenges the game is presenting

You absolutely did say it was problematic. You shared the story about the player of the paladin and his quest to get a holy avenger as being an example of the problem with too much freedom. You said that sandbox play is counterproductive to what RPGs should be.

So my question is… since it seems that you also think it’s problematic for the GM to direct things … how do you solve that problem?

How do you limit player freedom without directing things?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I need no evidence, this is neither an argument nor a legal proceeding. I am simply conferring first person experience. Was there, used those labels, had a common understanding what they meant, witnessed said terms used by many others. I am not sure why any of this is an issue unless someone is trying to claim they invented the concept or terminology. If that is the case then I simply state they are incorrect. I have no dog in that fight, just telling it like it is.😁
Well, people on the internet can say whatever they want, it's having some kind of evidence that backs it up. The reading I've done very clearly puts the use of sandbox as coming from the video game world (they are way further advanced in analysis of techniques) and being adopted into use by the TTRPG community. If you claim you used it, ok, but it's pretty clear that your observance was of a small corner of the hobby and that such usage wasn't at all widespread. If it were, we'd see it's use in the contemporary writings, of which there are many and that focus largely around topics where "sandbox" would be a useful term. It's not there, so it wasn't in wide use in the hobby. You essentially have the hipster claim of "I was doing that before it was cool." Bully, but not distinguishable from an internet tall tale.

Let's not forget that this whole side trek was initiated by you telling @estar they were wrong. That doesn't align to your claimed goals here.
 
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Torranocca

Villager
Well, people on the internet can say whatever they want, it's having some kind of evidence that backs it up. The reading I've done very clearly puts the use of sandbox as coming from the video game world (they are way further advanced in analysis of techniques) and being adopted into use by the TTRPG community. If you claim you used it, ok, but it's pretty clear that your observance was of a small corner of the hobby and that such usage wasn't at all widespread. If it were, we'd see it's use in the contemporary writings, of which there are many and that focus largely around topics where "sandbox" would be a useful term. It's not there, so it wasn't in wide use in the hobby. You essentially have the hipster claim of "I was doing that before it was cool." Bully, but not distinguishable from an internet tall tale.

Let's not forget that this whole side trek was initiated by you telling @estar they were wrong. That doesn't align to your claimed goals here.
If you are looking for an argument, please move along. As I said, I have no dog in the fight. I simply don’t give weight to the claims as I know them to fail to mesh with reality. One can certainly claim their own understanding of events they were part of, that I can certainly grant to you. But to claim to know a thing to be true in a place and time you were not present is baffling. To claim to know what others thought or understood of a concept before you, is vacuous. Anyone is free to claim what ever credit they think is their due. Just leaves me unconvinced as I have experienced something completely different. Choose to die on that hill if it suits you but it is just shadow boxing an imagined opponent who is not there.Truth does not change, only perception. It’s all good! No harm no foul👍🙏
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
If you are looking for an argument, please move along. As I said, I have no dog in the fight. I simply don’t believe the claims as I know them to fail to mesh with reality. Anyone is free to claim what ever credit they think is theirs. Just leaves me unconvinced as I have experienced something completely different. Choose to die on that hill if it suits you but it is just shadow boxing. Truth does not change only perception. It’s all go👍🙏
And I'm saying the same thing to you -- your claims fail to mesh with reality. I don't understand why you seem to claim the privilege while telling me I shouldn't.

As far as free to claim whatever, yes. But in this discussion, there is evidence to support @estar's claim, and evidence that cuts against your claim. Since their useful discussion song the use and origin of the term "sandbox", a claim to that that has evidence holds more value than a claim that has evidence against it. You very well may have used the term, but that would have been idiosyncratic to your sliver if the hobby and it did not grow from there. We can tell because none of the print shows its use until the early aughts. If it was widespread, you need to find a theory that explains why a widespread term was avoided in writing.
 

Torranocca

Villager
And I'm saying the same thing to you -- your claims fail to mesh with reality. I don't understand why you seem to claim the privilege while telling me I shouldn't.

As far as free to claim whatever, yes. But in this discussion, there is evidence to support @estar's claim, and evidence that cuts against your claim. Since their useful discussion song the use and origin of the term "sandbox", a claim to that that has evidence holds more value than a claim that has evidence against it. You very well may have used the term, but that would have been idiosyncratic to your sliver if the hobby and it did not grow from there. We can tell because none of the print shows its use until the early aughts. If it was widespread, you need to find a theory that explains why a widespread term was avoided in writing.
Oh boy( face palm) this has slipped into the twilight zone. I claim no privileges or credit for anything. I did not invent the concepts or the labels for them, they were in common usage with the players I knew, myself and the circles I traveled in…. In the 1980s.Wave your banners and plant your flags if that is what brings you happiness. It is not a problem for me. I make no claim to fame. Apparently you do. I don’t, for the life of me, understand why you care if my experiences match with yours or not. Throw a parade for yourself, it is all good. You don’t get to change mine or anyone else’s experiences. Move on, please👍 I have nothing new to add, finished, done, complete….. good day then.😁
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Oh boy( face palm) this has slipped into the twilight zone. I claim no privileges or credit for anything. I did not invent the concepts or the labels for them, they were in common usage with the players I knew, myself and the circles I traveled in…. In the 1980s.Wave your banners and plant your flags if that is what brings you happiness. It is not a problem for me. I make no claim to fame. Apparently you do. I don’t, for the life of me, understand why you care if my experiences match with yours or not. Throw a parade for yourself, it is all good. You don’t get to change mine or anyone else’s experiences. Move on, please👍 I have nothing new to add, finished, done, complete….. good day then.😁
So long as you stop using your claims to tell others they are wrong while demanding you are insulated from the same, happy to oblige.
 

Torranocca

Villager
So long as you stop using your claims to tell others they are wrong while demanding you are insulated from the same, happy to oblige.
I mean this in the nicest way you can possibly interpret it. Move along. This discussion is a moot point. My experiences don’t change and your claim have no validity to me. Nor is it important to me in any case. I in no way invalidate your claims to you or others. Those are your experiences. Time to move on to more interesting discussions, yes?👍
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I mean this in the nicest way you can possibly interpret it. Move along. This discussion is a moot point. My experiences don’t change and your claim have no validity to me. Nor is it important to me in any case. I in no way invalidate your claims to you or others. Those are your experiences. Time to move on to more interesting discussions, yes?👍
So long as we're agreed that you don't plan on calling others' wrong for presenting evidence of their claims, we're good, like I said last post.
 

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