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What Can We Learn from Computer RPGS?

I remembered one thing I like from video game settings, they tend to cut out anything they are not going to use other than mere references so if you not going to use dwarves for anything they flat out are dead or never existed.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
The term 'sandbox' was popularised by computer games, but it was in use long before any computer game, and the implementation when it did happen was inspired by RPGs. Aside from a mode of RPG play, which was well established in the 1970s, there were campaign books published which supported sandbox play, they were just called, generally, "Wilderness" adventures. Griffin Mountain (1981) was an early example for RuneQuest.
You are welcome to show me a citation that this meaning "sandbox" predates its usage in video games. I'll note the obvious point that if they were called "wilderness adventures," then they weren't called "sandboxes."

I can find, however, a citation here on the origin of the term sandbox on RPG Stack Exchange:
The term originated in computer games and it's meant to describe a game where its playing field is wide open for the player to do what they want. Around 2005 with the release of Necromancer Game's Wilderlands of High Fantasy Boxed Set, its authors—I am one of them—used it to describe to people what made the Wilderlands different from other settings. It was designed to make it easy for the referee to adjudicate his players roaming freely across the map.

Later still, the term got attached to a specific playstyle as mentioned by mxyzplk. However this is beyond what myself and other Wilderland authors intended. The problem is that people take the hard-core simulation of wandering the map too literally. This often results in frustration as many PC groups feel rudderless and the game feels without direction. In fact, if you read through various forums posts, such as on ENWorld, you see these campaigns fail more than succeed.

The trick to overcome this is "World in Motion." You work with the characters to give them a background they like in the setting. This provides a framework in which the players can make their initial choices. This background can incorporate what some consider railroad elements, like being members of a noble household, a guild, a temple, etc. But the key difference is that the players are free to leave or ignore those elements, as long as they are willing to suffer the consequences.

Along with this you develop a timeline revolving around NPCs and events. This timeline is created with the idea that this is what happens if the players didn't exist in the campaign. This timeline becomes your plan. It gets altered as a result of the consequences of the players' actions. At some point the campaign will become self-driving as the consequences of the consequences start propelling the players forward.

Again the Sandbox was meant to describe a type of setting, not a playstyle. But you can't control how these things go on the internet, so hence the confusion.

People often get confused due to the prior use of Sandbox in campaign. The term "Sandbox" was used for RPGs prior to the development of the Wilderlands Boxed but for other aspect of gaming than a type of campaign and setting. Some examples include:

Dragon #25, Tim Kask

"He still clings to the shibboleth that wargamers are classic cases of arrested development, never having gotten out of the sandbox and toy soldiers syndrome of childhood."

Dragon #247, Page 123

"Grubb has a phrase for working with existing games, settings, and characters: playing in other people's sandboxes."

Later in the issue

"Having gone freelance three years ago, Grubb has explored new sandboxes. I worked on Mag Force 7's Wing Commander and Star Trek (original series) trading card games, ..."

In this issue "sandbox" was used interchangeably with how most roleplaying gamers use campaign.
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
You are welcome to show me a citation that this meaning "sandbox" predates its usage in video games. I'll note the obvious point that if they were called "wilderness adventures," then they weren't called "sandboxes."

I can find, however, a citation here on the origin of the term sandbox on RPG Stack Exchange:
I am sorry, but you need to do some more research into tabletop RPGs if you think computer games invented that mode of play. Even your own link demonstrates this.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I am sorry, but you need to do some more research into tabletop RPGs if you think computer games invented that mode of play. Even your own link demonstrates this.
I said that the term "sandbox" originates in computer games not that they invented this mode of play, which you can hopefully read clearly in the part of my post that you originally quoted. Have a nice day.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Lessons learned:
Horizon Zero Dawn: my games need more gigantic, mechanical murder-bots. (Especially if they have weaknesses and can be commandeered.)
Hellblade: imaginary opponents are just as good as real ones. There's always a blind spot behind the (human) combatant. The GM -is- the PC's senses, so feel free to get creative.
 

Lessons learned:
Horizon Zero Dawn: my games need more gigantic, mechanical murder-bots. (Especially if they have weaknesses and can be commandeered.)
Hellblade: imaginary opponents are just as good as real ones. There's always a blind spot behind the (human) combatant. The GM -is- the PC's senses, so feel free to get creative.
monsters with knowable weaknesses reward brains over raw build power and should be the standard.
 

I am sorry, but you need to do some more research into tabletop RPGs if you think computer games invented that mode of play.
This is a bit irrelevant too the argument. The OP is asking "what can we learn from CRPGs?" If CRPGs popularize something that was already invented, that is definitely something we can learn from. So regardless of whether CRPGs invented sandbox play, the fact that they made it popular is something wee learned from them.

I'd also echo the "gradual introduction" that some have mentioned. I'd argue we could do a much better job of it too. Too many TTRPGs require you to know about rules and options that you don't need at the start of a campaign, in order to make a fun character that will work as you expect when you get to that later stage. The concept of power and feat "trees" is something I'm seeing more of in TTRPGS. They allow players to pick something early on from a smaller list, with confidence that later on they can expand and improve that area of their character -- without them needing to learn all about it up front.

But at least we have learned that designs like D&D 3.5's Prestige Classes, where your choices at level 8 could be determined by one point differences in stat choices at character creation, are a terrible plan.
 

MGibster

Legend
I'd also echo the "gradual introduction" that some have mentioned. I'd argue we could do a much better job of it too. Too many TTRPGs require you to know about rules and options that you don't need at the start of a campaign, in order to make a fun character that will work as you expect when you get to that later stage. The concept of power and feat "trees" is something I'm seeing more of in TTRPGS.
You know, it might be kind of cool to have a tutorial level in an RPG. You just start out with a mostly blank character sheet, perhaps with the minimum in statistics and skills, and go from there. Your character just rolls whatever skill/stat that's relevant during game play and you get a good idea of how things work by the time you're done with the session. I don't know how practical that might be but it sure sounds cool.

I borrowed from tutorial levels by promising two things to my players: At the end of the first session you are free to make any changes you want to your character. You will not die during the first session no matter how well I roll or how poorly you roll. This gives them a chance to see how things work. I know I'm not good at making characters until I get a chance to see how things actually work.
 

Aldarc

Legend
You know, it might be kind of cool to have a tutorial level in an RPG. You just start out with a mostly blank character sheet, perhaps with the minimum in statistics and skills, and go from there. Your character just rolls whatever skill/stat that's relevant during game play and you get a good idea of how things work by the time you're done with the session. I don't know how practical that might be but it sure sounds cool.

I borrowed from tutorial levels by promising two things to my players: At the end of the first session you are free to make any changes you want to your character. You will not die during the first session no matter how well I roll or how poorly you roll. This gives them a chance to see how things work. I know I'm not good at making characters until I get a chance to see how things actually work.
Shadow of the Demon Lord starts characters at level 0, which is basically just their ancestry and a profession, which may provide a boon to relevant challenges. Survive to level 1 and you proceed to one of four Novice paths: magician, priest, rogue, warrior. Expert paths come later and are more specialized in terms of archetype and mechanics. Then finally Master paths.

The game still has a lot of non-class mechanics that could potentially be thrown at you (e.g., corruption, combat rules, insanity, etc.), but the game does feel like it tries to make some player-facing things a bit more gradual.
 

Yora

Legend
I said that the term "sandbox" originates in computer games not that they invented this mode of play, which you can hopefully read clearly in the part of my post that you originally quoted. Have a nice day.
Well, it really comes from wargames, where they used a box full of sand as adjustable terrain for different battlefields.
 

You know, it might be kind of cool to have a tutorial level in an RPG. You just start out with a mostly blank character sheet, perhaps with the minimum in statistics and skills, and go from there. Your character just rolls whatever skill/stat that's relevant during game play and you get a good idea of how things work by the time you're done with the session. I don't know how practical that might be but it sure sounds cool.
Modiphius put mechanical support for that in both Dune and Star Trek Adventures.
The Dune Starter Box will probably also be that mode.

FFG's starter boxes include the first XP spends on a fully pregen, but take a step-by-Step instructional mode the same as Modiphius' offerings.
 

You know, it might be kind of cool to have a tutorial level in an RPG. You just start out with a mostly blank character sheet, perhaps with the minimum in statistics and skills, and go from there. Your character just rolls whatever skill/stat that's relevant during game play and you get a good idea of how things work by the time you're done with the session. I don't know how practical that might be but it sure sounds cool.

I just started a very crunchy Fate game (Mindjammer) where characters have 7 aspects, culture, genotype, 3 stunts, 5 fate points, skill pyramid, and buy a host of equipment with a point buy system. It was a lot, so I did exactly as you suggest!

I asked people to describe their core concept as an aspect, and ran a scene with just that. People had not even defined a profession or culture (unless its was part of their core). Then we added two more aspects and ran scenes for each of them (as they got together). After that we defined skills and played for another 90 mins or so, then added some more aspects and some equipment. At the end of the session I recapped how much of their character sheet was still undefined and most of them filled it, some left it till during the next session.

I've done something similar before in GUMSHOE. I actually think it'd work fine in most systems and it may be SOP for me now!
 

Aldarc

Legend
I just started a very crunchy Fate game (Mindjammer) where characters have 7 aspects, culture, genotype, 3 stunts, 5 fate points, skill pyramid, and buy a host of equipment with a point buy system. It was a lot, so I did exactly as you suggest!

I asked people to describe their core concept as an aspect, and ran a scene with just that. People had not even defined a profession or culture (unless its was part of their core). Then we added two more aspects and ran scenes for each of them (as they got together). After that we defined skills and played for another 90 mins or so, then added some more aspects and some equipment. At the end of the session I recapped how much of their character sheet was still undefined and most of them filled it, some left it till during the next session.

I've done something similar before in GUMSHOE. I actually think it'd work fine in most systems and it may be SOP for me now!
When running Fate, I generally tell players to pick a High Concept, a Trouble, maybe one more Aspect (if they already have an idea), and one stunt. The rest can be filled in as we go along and they get a better sense of their characters.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Adding more to this thread:

I'll just say that I would like to see TTRPGs that take more open inspiration from JRPGs. The tone for every fantasy adventure TTRPG doesn't have to be 50 Shades of Conan, Lord of the Rings, or even D&D brand fantasy, and it's okay for Western TTRPGs to draw influence of tone, style, and stories from JRPGs. Also, many of these games often have fun engaging turn-based party combat because every character usually has interesting abilities to use on their turn. It doesn't require a giant spellbook of abilities stuck to one character to achieve. Just enough so that everyone has something they can do.

Almost needless to say, one American TTRPG that seemed similar to a JRPG was actually 4e D&D, which reminded me a bit of Final Fantasy Tactics. The Lancer RPG seems to be in a similar vein. And obviously Ryuutama, a Japanese TTRPG, shows clear JRPG influences.
 

Also, many of these games often have fun engaging turn-based party combat because every character usually has interesting abilities to use on their turn. It doesn't require a giant spellbook of abilities stuck to one character to achieve. Just enough so that everyone has something they can do.
While perhaps not suited for all genres, Sentinel Comics even has an ability for your character to use when pounded out of the action... So even when down and dying, you still have a power you can use, and can influence the situation.
 

Aldarc

Legend
While perhaps not suited for all genres, Sentinel Comics even has an ability for your character to use when pounded out of the action... So even when down and dying, you still have a power you can use, and can influence the situation.
Guild Wars 2 has a downed/dying state. You have a new, limited set of profession-appropriate skills you can use as your health deteriorates in this downed state. If you can make a kill while downed, you can rally up to partial health. Your allies can also help rally you in this state. (The more, the quicker.) But foes can still cause damage or even finish you off this way too.
 


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