Sandbox or Railroad?

Confession. Over the course of the past year, I began to listen to a lot of podcasts. [1. Mostly while doing layout and the like.]  Not just ones about RPGs, but about writing and all sorts of things. I especially find the ones at Nerdist quite good and believe many of you would enjoy them because, hey, overlapping demographics. Right? I especially dig The Indoor Kids because they talk about video games and the blurry area around them where culture, art, and philosophy all collide in a strange miasma of color and splendor.

What prompted me to mention this today was the fact episode 30 deals with movies and video games and they get into a discussion of sandbox versus railroad in the sense of broad playground versus tight narrative structure. I’m not talking in the RPG writ whole, but rather in the approach to adventures, worlds, what-have-you. This is a discussion which easily jumps beyond video games and more to their home in traditional tabletop RPGs. The discussion is, however, not invalid in either medium. You need rules and details in either sense. Assets in the development of such (in tabletop gaming) especially fall in the arena of time and how much is too much. You can also slide easily into the economics of the whole situation–the margins for tabletop gaming is a fraction of what can be had in the video game market. Not strange if you pause to think about it for more than a moment.

What I’d like you to do is set the assets and resources and other mundanities aside and focus on the fun. What do you like to see in your RPGS (be they traditional or video)? Do you like sandboxes? Railroads? What do you like to see in the way of support? It’s the first part of the New Year (still) and we’d love to hear you throw in your two cents, so sound off. Share it through your media outlets with those who’d chime in as well. Thanks in advance for your interest and support!

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!


P.S. If you have suggestions for any podcasts you think I’d dig, please share in the comments! :D

1 Note on “Sandbox or Railroad?”

  1. It depends, doesn’t it? I think miniatures and battlemats (especially if you’re going to use professionally-designed terrain) practically require railroading (or Plot Point campaigns, at the very least). When you’re just doing theater of the mind, sandbox play is the best. Heck, my solo campaigns with the wife barely even get any world-building prep; she just creates a character and I just wing it.

    That said, I’d like to see a Plot Point campaign in the new Ravaged Earth. Imagine something like Rippers’ grand tour of Victorian horror, bur featuring guest appearances by pastiches of Tarzan, Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, the Shadow, etc., etc.!

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