I've been considering how wargaming affected the beginnings of our hobby and how it affected how we approach the game today. This all started from my almost virulent reaction to the 1st edition TSR supplement - "Dungeon Master's Design Kit". The kit codifies a "railroad" approach to adventure writing, and provides forms, tables and suggestions. As a possible toolkit, for my way of gaming, it stinks. I can find some possible adventure hooks, and it gives me some bits to think about - but as an adventure or world building guide, it's nothing that I need or want.
I'm going to write up a review of the DMKit later, but I wanted to talk more about "sandboxes". So I typed up a big long post and realized it was complete rubbish. Garbage. It deserved a "SHUT UP CHGOWIZ!" response... so here's my second attempt.
What I wanted to say essentially came down to a simple statement: Wargamers play "what-if" without plots or railroads. They explore a war or part of a war, but without limits or predetermined plot points. That's what the early D&D campaigns, written by wargamers, looked like.
I think that is why I have enjoyed sandbox campaigns so much. I like seeing my players do "what-if" without them worrying if they're on the railroad or not. Their exploration IS the plot and once they grok to that, I see a lot of excitement - as well as accepting responsibility for moving their own game forward in the direction they want.
I think something was/is lost when the emphasis became on plots and "have to do A to get to B", like the DMKit from 1988 codified. I would really like to see the DM Kit redone to support a sandbox. There have been bits and pieces done in Fight On! and in the blogs. Perhaps that should be the next "carnival" or "book" - Game Referee's Sandbox Design Kit.
TWO DAYS ARE LEFT! Sharpen your pencils, get out the graph paper and enter the One Page Dungeon Contest! A "metric ton" of awesome prizes awaits those who dare! Contest ends May 14th.