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Sandbox Campaigns – Ep86

Some sandbox games turn towards the awesome and some wind up filled with cat turds.

A very popular style of game, in video gaming, is the concept of playing in an open world or sandbox. This gives players the freedom to play the established in-game story or to pursue their own interests. In a lot of ways table-top RPGs were made for this type of gaming, but the term scares the hell out of a lot of GMs.


We take a look at this style of gaming that is becoming more and more popular with the table-top gaming community.


If you have some input on this, leave a comment here, via email or on our Facebook page.


Thanks to Thymen for giving us this topic to work with.


Cast – Eric, Mike, Dan, Mark, Jayson and Shawn


Intro: Mike

Outro: Eric


Items Mentioned:

Sandlot, Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, Red Dead Redemption, Pathfinder, Dragon Age, Star Trek, Dresden Files, Shadowrun, Godfather, LA Noir, Hunter the Vigil, All Flesh Must be Eaten


  1. Pizza Karin
    Pizza Karin December 4, 2012

    I’ve been playing in a game of Aberrant that is very sandboxy. Cannon has been tweaked and we started the game as Novas that errupt on N-day and the campaign pretty much followed how we reacted to the cannon big powers that come in as well as how we shape the world.

    I think you’re absolutely right that a sandbox game requires a level of investment that an on-rails game does not.

  2. Toju Xinshu
    Toju Xinshu December 4, 2012

    Sandbox games definitely take more investment from both the GM and the players.

    I ran a long-term (8 year + ) classic World of Darkness game and we all put a lot of work into it.

    From a GM perspective, I needed to both absorb everything that the players were telling me, as well as thinking ahead and determining likely outcomes for their actions. We also did a lot of “between-game” gaming, where players would email me, call me or come over to my place and we’d work on different aspects of their character, their actions and their machinations. It ended up being a really fun game for us.

    From a player perspective, I also tend to prefer sandbox games to railroady adventures, but it requires more collaboration and clear communication between each player and the GM to ensure that the sandbox game doesn’t devolve into chaos.

    As for zombie apocalypse games, I highly recommend Year of the Zombie by Tim Willard ( It’s written as a gritty D20 Modern supplement with a militaristic angle, but the majority of the book could be used for almost any zombie apocalypse game. It provides a really good breakdown of what would happen from Hour Zero through to several years into a zombie apocalypse, with plenty of campaign options.


  3. hopeless
    hopeless December 5, 2012

    Been trying something like this with a Traveller game however only one of my players actually bothered to invest anything in the game and had an argument with one player who got annoyed because he couldn’t alter the game system to match his character idea!
    Currently have a legend game also running with the same group using Pathfinder scenarios set in a post apocalyptic future earth using Mongoose’s Legend game system which they’re dealing with better possibly because they put more thought into their characters that they apparently couldn’t using an email version of the Traveller character generation system!
    Actually expected this episode to be longer guess I’ve been spoiled by your recent episodes!

  4. Brian Scott
    Brian Scott December 5, 2012

    I was going to make a point about V:TM, and already noticed some white wolf comments ahead of me. Truth be told, early WOD games were very sandbox style for most people. The design for Vampire was often such that you always had some unforeseen political force that you would end up tripping over by mistake. I’ve always felt the best sandbox was one where you were actually within some far boundry and yet completely unaware of it. The importance is DOCUMENTATION of your EFFECT on the environment. The key to a good sandbox is actual interesting reaction to the player’s choices. CONSEQUENCE is the amusement then. I actually want the police to come after me, to know that what I did had an effect outside of the scene itself.

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