One of the best (and clearest) statements on the principles, practice, limitations and possibilities of “sandbox” is found in Stars Without Number. Here we find something of a manifesto that seems to encapsulate the very core of what OD&D, its offspring (thanks Erik) and derivatives do well. In effect, OD&D (OSR fantasy) and sandbox seem destined for each other.
But let me digress. Regardless of my thoughts on OSR, if as David Macauley argues “Broadly defined, the OSR is an online community centred on amateur publishing that has taken advantage of the OGL and SRD to produce TSR D&D compatible gaming materials”, then nothing I have to say about either ‘offspring’ or other systems seems worthwhile. But if, as David also suggests (I think?) that the “OSR was all about getting old school games into the mainstream and getting people playing them” then there may be some virtue in considering other older games, even if the system was different and the corporate logo the same. Maybe?
Having enjoyed JimLotFP 2008 posting “Is this how D&D is supposed to be played?” (http://lotfp.blogspot.ca/2008/05/is-this-how-d-is-supposed-to-be-played.html), I’ve begun re-reading some of the early non-D&D TSR material with the question broadened to: Is this how these OS RPGs are supposed to be played?
So far, I’m struck by the ways in which such notions such as D&D as template, Sandbox/Storyline and “game balance” (in the Matthew Fitch “Primer sense”) germinated and evolved. Based on the reading of early TSR non-D&D line, namely Top Secret and Gangbusters, I will explore the ways in which these notions changed over time.