Sandbox vs Canned

Baalshamon
Baalshamon
edited January 2012 in General Discussion
Why do you prefer one or the other? What do you do to make your adventures memorable?

I personally can't stand running canned adventures though I do enjoy playing in one from time to time. "My current campaign":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/star-trek-late-night is a massive sandbox. The players make thier own destiny and choose the path they will take. I have a preset timeline that I use to have events ongoing in the background. The players actions may intersect with the timeline or may run paralel to it. I also utilize a game changing "drama deck":http://bit.ly/uL5Jor that allows the players to act like a producer for the movie and make changed to the script. These cards can have a major and unexpected inpact on a scene. This requires me to react and adjust quickly on the fly. I never know what to expect from the players from week to week so the adventures are often just as new to me as they are to the players. I know this style of play is chaotic, and requires alot of work on my part, but I love it and it is the style of play my team is use to.


-Steve
"Star Trek Late Night":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/star-trek-late-night
"Duskreign's CotM December 2011":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/wyrmshadow/wikis/122011
"CotM January 2012":http://blog.obsidianportal.com/star-trek-late-night-januarys-cotm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=star-trek-late-night-januarys-cotm

Comments

  • GamingMegaverse
    GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 2,969
    Sandbox all the way!! It gets the players involved, and that is what makes a fun campaign!
    killervp
    "A God...Rebuilt":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/a-god-rebuilt
    "Duskreign's First Ever COTM":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/wyrmshadow/wiki_pages/112011

    Just trying to help out.

  • TheMazeController
    TheMazeController
    Posts: 115
    Another for Sandbox - although what I am doing can be considered sandbox on steroids perhaps. The biggest challenge I am going to face is in the form of player initiative. Until they see fit to schedule games nothing will happen after our final scheduled session on Feb 4th. That's why I still have my recruiting hat on full-time. I have had people who claim to be interested but I have heard little to nothing from since they signed up. I know there is one or two who are going to be more active come the end of this month but others I suspect are dead to me.

    We shall see how many people I really have on the 28th. I know I have a solid core of about 6 so that is enough to get some antics going as we bring in more so not all is lost.

    I suspect you will see a lot of Sandbox GMs on OP since the tools OP gives you makes it easier for people who want to run a sandbox. - couple that with the fact that the poor GMs on here in the Portal pour so much creativity and energy into their campaigns that Sandboxes just seem like the default choice in my opinion.
  • Black_Vulmea
    Black_Vulmea
    Posts: 277
    My campaigns are sandboxes. I don't write adventures so much as I simply create the game-world and set it in motion. The adventurers interaction with the game-world creates conflict, and conflict drives the action.

    Mike aka Black Vulmea
    "_Le Ballet de l'Acier_":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/le-ballet-de-l-acier - swashbuckling adventures in the age of the Three Musketeers and Captain Alatriste
    Featured Campaign of the Month - August 2011
  • FrankSirmarco
    FrankSirmarco
    Posts: 250
    Hard to say.

    On one hand, the sandbox opens so many avenues for your players, while putting the burden of excessive prep work on the GM. On the other, canned adventures have a defined beginning, middle, and end, and require far less prep work for the GM.

    As a player, I prefer sandbox. As a GM, I prefer canned.

    That being said, If it weren't for canned adventures like Desert of Desolation, Ravenloft, The Keep on the Bordelands, and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, I'm not sure I would have ever continued with table-top RPGs. They left indelible marks...
  • Morrinn
    Morrinn
    Posts: 166
    I don't have a preference really, having played and run both types. I don't think one is inherently better than the other, it just depends on the story.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850 edited February 2012
    I'm with Frank on this one. Both adventure styles have their benefits and drawbacks. I think the adventures I remember the most and have the most fun running are those which emerge from the campaign itself. Part of that I think has to do with the fact that I've designed my own setting, so when players take an active interest in an area of that setting it inspires me to delve deeper into world building, and there is just something really rewarding about this. My _Age of Legends_ campaign was largely a sandbox, though I did write a few canned adventures of my own for this campaign.

    However, this is quite time-consuming and if you don't have the time to commit, pre-written adventures can come in really handy. Moreover, you can glean allot of good ideas from them. Also, they free you up to focus on other elements of DMing. My _Tales of Darkmoon Vale_ campaign was my first fore into professionally written adventures, and it worked really well with the group that I was playing with. So again, I think that both styles have their uses and a decision of which to choose ought to be made after taking into account such factors as (a) how much time you have to devote to the campaign, and (b) which style is the overall favored one amongst the group of friends you are playing with. My 2c anyway.

    *EDIT*: Also, here are some other discussions related to this topic: "Plot, or therefore lack of":http://forums.obsidianportal.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=1394 ; "How to whip up a planned/unplanned game in now time":http://forums.obsidianportal.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=1677


    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh
    Post edited by arsheesh on
  • Baalshamon
    Baalshamon
    Posts: 585
    It is true, some canned adventures are so good that even years later you want to revisit them. B-1 The Keep on the Boarderland, S-4 Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, I3-I5 The Desert of Desolation series, A1-A4 The Slavers Series, I6 Ravenloft, and many others are classics that are not likely to be repeated. I remember many of those early adventures like I played them last night. I remember running Ravenloft at Gencon and a dozen other conventions and every one of those revisits to the story had great success.

    As a new GM canned adventures were my bread and butter but I found that as the years moved on, the canned adventures only offered a framework for a sandbox style of play. The more experienced the players, the more often I discovered canned adventures failed to keep their interest.

    Both styles have merit and both are needed.
  • Savannah
    Savannah
    Posts: 188
    Define "canned". As I've always seen it used, "canned" = "published". 'Sandbox vs published adventures' is a meaningless question as they're different dimensions, not opposite ends of a single dimension.
  • CuRoi
    CuRoi
    Posts: 18
    If by canned you mean strictly following published adventures - I've never made it through one beginning to end without following the players off on some tangent either myself or they have created from the material. Plenty of times Ive sat down with a module in front of me as a starting point.

    My position is that a good DM knows when to lead people by the nose and also knows when to hand the players the reins. Its all about everyone having fun and creating an interesting story.
  • Baalshamon
    Baalshamon
    Posts: 585
    Canned: I consider a canned module a linear (published or not) module with few options to do things beyond the set parameters of the module itself. Many early dungeon crawls fit this category as do most tournament modules.

    Sandbox: I consider a sandbox any adventure, published or not, that allows the players alot of freedom to leave the track of the chosen adventure and to create their own adventure.
  • ednoria
    ednoria
    Posts: 17
    Canned: In our group we use the term "railroad tracks" -- an adventure that doesn't let you leave the storyline. And that's certainly not restricted to published adventures!

    As to what's better -- I like a mix. Give the players a chance to make their own adventures, but if you have something cool you want them to experience, it's ok to move them towards that. If you've got a half-decent group, they're usually curious about what you've got in store for them anyway.
  • Sorwen
    Posts: 64
    Yes.

    I have a story I'm trying to tell. However, I make sure that I build it so that the events can happen at any time I chose. I feel if you have it too open and rely too much on the players the game will often go no where. If you make it too rigid then they will end up fighting you each step of the way even if they don't mean to.

    I know where they will be and I know how to get them there no matter how much I let them play inbetween each event. If I need to get them into a bar fight for a scene I can come up with a way to get them there or get them to want to go there. I'm trying to be all about the Canned Sandbox (Cannedbox?) and for the most part it seems to work.
  • bluesguy
    bluesguy
    Posts: 127
    I have a 'canned' campaign world - one that I bought. But all the adventures are ones that I have written. Some are just side adventures which lead no where. Others are part of an overall epic - which the players are starting to see. The actions the players take also generate adventures. Those are the most fun IMO.
  • JaymesBolton
    JaymesBolton
    Posts: 278
    Most good games in my opinion start canned ( meet up do a couple quests/jobs/dungeons/etc together) then go onto a sandbox mode (letting the characters and players do what they feel is appropriate while the GM hints at the overall story behind the campaign) and then end canned (go kill the Big Bad Evil Guy and save the day). The world itself can be as confined and linear or spacious and free time as the GM wants as long as it does not hinder character growth. This allows character growth and still allows a GM to tell the story that he/she wants to experience with the players while not making the players feel like actors in a scripted movie with a director telling them exactly how to move and act.

    -Jaymes

    "Changing History":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/l5r-changing-history
  • Baalshamon
    Baalshamon
    Posts: 585
    I am running my group on "The Hidden Shrine of Tomachan":http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4alum/20110708 right now. I gotta tell ya, having technolgy in a module of this nature sure does give the adventurers an edge. A tricorder to see traps and mechanical things as well as being able to detect life forms is better than any spell.

    We shall see fi the party escapes the module alive as this is one canned module that has great possibilities. I found most of the old 1st edition D&D tournament modules were awesome.

    -Steve
    "Star Trek Late Night":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/star-trek-late-night
  • GamingMegaverse
    GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 2,969
    The Lord of the Snails comes to HBO... Steve, you really do take anything to throw in the soup, don't you? I love it.
    killervp
    "A God...Rebuilt":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/a-god-rebuilt
    "Duskreign's First Ever COTM":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/wyrmshadow/wiki_pages/112011

    Just trying to help out.

  • WolfLord
    WolfLord
    Posts: 276
    So my campaign is just now switching into sandbox and i am pretty nervous (this is my first campaign as DM so switching to sandbox is unexplored territory for me) and advice from other DM's? i am confident in my abilitites now with how well the campaign has gone but it is still a little nerve wracking haha :)

    "Avatar: Conquest of the Imperial Order":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/avatar_adventure
    "Duskreign’s Favorite CotM January 2012":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/wyrmshadow/wikis/012012
    "CotM November 2011":http://blog.obsidianportal.com/november-11-campaign-of-the-month-avatar-conquest-of-the-imperial-order/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=november-11-campaign-of-the-month-avatar-conquest-of-the-imperial-order
  • GamingMegaverse
    GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 2,969
    Tolsimir, you are a great gm/dm.... have no fear.... Players smell fear....
    killervp
    "A God...Rebuilt":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/a-god-rebuilt
    "Duskreign's First Ever COTM":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/wyrmshadow/wiki_pages/112011

    Just trying to help out.

  • WolfLord
    WolfLord
    Posts: 276
    hahaha, i shall harden myself for the battles to come!
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