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Box Theory! -Toybox, Sandbox, Storybox.

This is a shameless repost from Google+ 

+Christopher Helton , Well, It’s not like +James Raggi recent blog post, in that it is a more grand/high level of play. Where I’d call what he was discussing as adventure level ‘Mousetrap/Rube Goldberg’ play. I’ve been cogitating on a blog post about it, so I’ll hash out the high points here.. I see it as the main thrust of my game.

Some of the stuff I have been reading about Sandbox play in OSR games is part of what helped me codify it, it also contrasts with Story Games focus.

It was touched on in Mystic Empyrean rather directly.
"Central to this shared collaborative world-building is the discussion of Ownership. from the text, pg 19 of the PDF
"The World of Empyrean is like a play set that all of the players share. Each player at the table has his own individual toys, but all play together in the same environment. The player’s may borrow one another’s creations to further their own stories, but when the owner demands that their creations be used in a certain way or left alone by other, those wishes should be respected."

To codify more, ‘Toybox’ play to me would feature Troupe-style play focused on shared world-building. The World/settings created by the players would be the most important character. Character’s would be loosely coupled to players, and there could be more focus on larger organizations/entities and grand storytelling. Noble Houses, Heritage play, along the lines of say Pendragon, or Ars Magica style Covenant, etc.
Or it could be more ‘toy’ focused, with players designing indvidual Career/Lifepath type characters, Knights of Temelke, for instance. (Think of mini’s game type stuff, but player designed, tightly coupled to setting.) Or it could feature vehicle designs, or powers and magic design. Maybe someone wants to create a unique magic system, say something like Mistborns Allomancy. or whatever. Exploring the cool bits, and speculative elements of another world. Think grand setting shots in sci-fi/fantasy movies, etc.
That is, it focuses on setting/world elements, created by the players, that are directly introduced into play for setting exploration, set-piece mini-games, what have you. These setting elements are designed and curated/owned by Individual players, or are shared by all. With all players having equal input on what gets focused on in play, or introduced.

In contrast to sandbox play. Which usually focuses on character driven simulationist-immersionist play in an ‘indifferent clock-work universe’, in that it has it’s own detailed background and operations, but this detail is usually buried in setting details. Setting details either curated by the game via supplements, or in the GM’s notes/prep. THe players may never see a lot of it, on account of following their character’s meanderings. It is also opaque in that it is buried in huge ‘setting info-dumps’, which the players may never absorb/read/remember all of.

In contrast to ‘Storybox’ story-game type play, character’s are focused on situation/conflict, with usually a minimum of setting/background exploration. It is all about following the character’s story arc, and shooting for satisfying beginnings/middles/ends.


So, ‘Toybox’ play features world/setting as character with equal input/creation by all players. ‘Sandbox’ play features tightly-coupled simulation-immersionist play in a persistent world. Storygame play features situation/conflict based play, where background/setting fall more into backdrops on a stage, as I see it.

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