Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sandboxes and Stories

When I floated the idea of going back to an earlier style of gaming with my last group, one of the hardcore "story games" partisans tended to shout me down each time I'd bring up the subject. One of the discussions that made a strong impression on me was when I'd described going back to the way I gamed as a youth. I described, generally, the idea of a sandbox, in which the referee/worldbuilder designs a setting with plot hooks, locations, and such, and the players interact with that setting to create their own story. Before I could note that this style was overshadowed at a fairly early stage by prepackaged stories, the story games guy began a diatribe about how nobody ever played that way, how it was "abusive" to players, and so on, and so on. I wasn't able to get a word in edgewise.

It didn't occur to me at the time to remember that he is several years younger than I am, and that therefore he might never have experienced what gaming was like before Dragonlance. This might be a major divide in gaming, with the older players having played in Judges' Guild-style settings under referees, and the younger players (by which I still mean people as old as their 30s or even 40s, depending on when they started gaming) having an impression of the "old school" as being railroad adventures with adversarial DMs playing "against" the players. That's the only way I can square his description of "old school" as being "abusive" with my experience of what I consider to be "old school" in gaming. Ah well, missed opportunities and all that.

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