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Author Topic: Genres of D&D modules  (Read 1608 times)

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Genres of D&D modules
« Reply #30 on: November 22, 2022, 07:00:45 AM »
Sandbox and railroad are not polar opposites.  It's true that there is a heavy correlation between "sandbox" and "not railroad", and vice versa.  Still, there are distinctions between "sandbox" and "not railroad".  It's possible, for example, to have a heavily linear adventure that isn't a railroad.  There just has to be the opportunity to get off the train while pursuing the adventure. 

"Railroad" is a GM technique when the GM lacks the opportunity to use more flexible techniques.  (This could be for a variety of reasons, some temporary, such as whipping together a quick hack when the GM is too tired to be more engaged.).  Sandbox is not a technique, but an environment.  True, it's an environment that calls on a lot more techniques to use well, and is also a training ground for learning them, and doesn't work when the GM fails to do that.  The problem is not with the "sandbox" term.  Rather, the problem is there isn't any really good term for the "highly linear, "closed" environment that is its opposite.

Eric Diaz

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Re: Genres of D&D modules
« Reply #31 on: November 22, 2022, 09:35:38 AM »
Agreed, and you can even do railroad in a sandbox.

It is a complex issue, but basically if PCs can go to hexes A, B, or C, and they will find the same ogre wherever they go, this is both a sandbox and a railroad. Similarly, there are three doors, etc.

However, this is very rare in published adventures (which is why I sometimes say that writing stuff in advance is a PROTECTION against railroading).

FWIW here are some of my posts about the subject:

https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2020/10/railroads-and-some-sandboxes.html
https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2022/01/improvisation-railroading-illusionism.html

Also, I think we need a word for "natural railroads" like dungeons, because this is not the same as railroad: railroading is forcing BY THE GM, not by the environment. Dungeons are acceptable, railroading by DMs is rarely useful or acceptable (and it is barely role-playing because RPGs necessarily require meaningful choice IMO).
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jhkim

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Re: Genres of D&D modules
« Reply #32 on: November 22, 2022, 09:32:45 PM »
In general, I try to avoid the use of the term "sandbox" - because it means different things to different people. It's used as contrast to "railroad", but that leaves a lot of room for variation.

Hmm. You can use a different term, but I think you do need a comprehensible term for "lots of unconnected adventure sites scattered over a map". Calling them adventure paths or dungeon crawls seems like a bad idea to me.
Checking my 4e DMG, it calls them "Super Adventures" - you can't do worse than that!  ;D The 1e Dungeoneer's Survival Guide calls sandbox campaigns "Open Campaigns", I guess you could call the sandbox adventures "Open Exploration Adventures" or similar.

Yes, I agree that it is different than the terms I gave so far.

I suggested "multiple quest modules" for adventures with multiple unconnected adventure sites scattered over the map. I'm not sure if this is the same as an anthology adventure series, like Candlekeep Mysteries - which is unconnected adventures that are slightly longer than the quests of Icespire Peak.

I wonder if discussion of the term "sandbox" as a term should be a separate thread.

3catcircus

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Re: Genres of D&D modules
« Reply #33 on: November 23, 2022, 05:38:02 PM »
Something that would be extremely useful, refreshed of genre, would be to have a cross reference of how every published adventure can interact with the others.

Goodman Games did this to a small degree with their world of aereth boxed set where they listed out how to turn shine of their adventures in to a complete adventure path - giving 5 different paths.  However, I'm thinking more along the lines of how individually they can be woven into the others via plot holes or crossing of plot paths.  This would allow lazy GMs (or those without enough time) to make a sandbox a bit more structured when needed.