White Sandbox Rules
This is a scan of the art from the inside back cover of the 1974 Dungeons and Dragons Volume I: Men and Magic. The artist is uncredited; the image is copyright TSR/Wizards of the Coast.

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The following is a work-in-progress proposal for how we'll conduct our trips to the White Sandbox.

Rules for what happens in the game:

Red Box (Basic) D&D, modified by a house-rule retrofit to our ongoing interpretation of Chainmail!, the original '74 Dungeons & Dragons, and its supplements. Red Box is tons easier to find and read than these sources, and we all have a copy; everything in there is close enough to the truth of how the game works (spells, usually close; monsters, sometimes reliable) that it should be easy to track the changes that specifically affect your character and let the referee handle the rest.

Protocol for how we use the rules:

1. We fully imagine the PC's situation and the player's intention. Players point out everything about their character & the scene that would help them achieve their goal.
2. If the referee agrees that the action is possible, death is not on the line, and time is not of the essence, the character's intent succeeds. If not, the player (or referee, if necessary) rolls a twenty-sided dice and a six-sided dice.
3. Where possible, the referee will interpret the d20 as a roll to hit or a saving throw, and the d6 as damage or degree of success. The referee announces the modifiers applied to these rolls according to the rules and the situation, and declares the results of the player's action.
4. If no existing rule exists, the referee will announce a probability of success for the d20 roll; the d6 determines how severely the PC succeeds or fails.

Special rules for armor:

  • Armor has four classes - none (robes), light (leather), medium (chain mail), and heavy (plate mail). For first-level characters, the roll to hit each class is 10 for none, 12 for light, 14 for medium, and 16 for heavy.
  • To-hit rolls are adjusted by armor class according to the type of weapon used. Monster armor class is assigned to one of the four classes based on its nature, and may have additional modifiers to the attacker's roll to hit. Minotaurs have medium armor class, as they wear suits of chain mail, but their shaggy hides give the attacker a -2. Glass golems have heavy armor class, as they are especially vulnerable to maces and picks designed to puncture plate mail, but the glass golem's greater fragility gives the attacker a +4 to hit. The referee will announce opponent armor class and modifiers to the PC's attack roll, based on a chart of weapon vs. armor types known only to the referee. Clever players will do their best to use these modifiers to figure out the best weapon to use against each opponent, but the chart is always open to hidden revision according to factors the referee deems significant.
  • A defender wielding a shield can use it to defend against one attacker per round, giving the attacker a -2 penalty to hit. To-hit rolls by an second attacker on the defender's shield side suffer a -1 penalty to hit.

Special rules for weapon damage:

All weapon attacks do from 1 to 6 points of damage.

Exceptional strength and magic items may add bonus damage to this basic range of 1-6.

Moldvay's Red Box states that "if an attack hits, the DM must determine how much damage the attack has done." (B25). I think this is pretty awesome and surprising - keeping a running HP tally is a kind of good gamesmanship that totally pulls you out of your imagination - but I do think a character would have some sense of how solidly they connected. So in the case of weapon damage, the referee rolls another 1d6, which they use to interpret the d6 rolled by the player.

Short weapons (dagger, hand axe, mace), slings, and thrown weapons deal the lesser of the two rolls.
Medium and long single-handed weapons normally just use the player's roll, but if both dice are of doubles the referee may reward weapons that are especially well-suited to the situation. Example: a battle axe deals double damage vs. treants or zombies.
Two-handed weapons deal the higher of the two rolls, but the referee may use doubles to penalize unwieldy weapons that gain significant bonuses to hit vs. armor type. Example: a 2-handed sword rolls double 4's for damage. It deals 4 points of damage to the enemy, but may also deal 4 to an ally within the sword's swing, or have a 4 in 6 chance of biting into the opponent and becoming stuck.

Rules for how we play the game:

Age Level: 12 years and up. (Men and Magic, p.5)
Number of Players: At least one referee and from four to fifty players can be handled in any single campaign, but the referee to player ration should be about 1:20 or therabouts. (Men and Magic, p. 5)

Roles for Refereeing
OD&D uses a referee, the Wilderlands use a Judge, and Red Box uses a Dungeon Master. These roles are often handled by the same person, who must then work to keep them separate.
• Referee: Neutral arbiter of the rules. Impartially determines the outcome of contests between PCs and the world or the Dungeon Master's forces. The ego.
• Judge: Provides the referee and the players with rulings on how things work in the White Sandbox. The super-ego.
• Dungeon Master: Blood-thirsty marshal of the PC's competition and fiendish plotter of situations that will lure the PCs to their death. The id. Provides color commentary and entertainment.

Roles for Playing
Players can do any of all of these, according to inclination.
• Protagonist: Hero of their own story. Act to make it long and memorable, or if that fails, brief and entertaining.
• Creator: Author of whatever details are part of their character's background. Works with the DM to fill in the areas of the White Sandbox associated with that background.
• Caller: Empowered by agreement of the party to describe their coordinated actions to the referee.
• Rules lawyer: Help the judge correctly intrepret prior rulings and make good decisions. Encouraged to lobby for a stay of execution for their player characters. Rules lawyering is confined to the appropriate online channels, and can only guide future decisions; even if the judge later agrees that the referee made the wrong ruling, there's
• Mapper: Works with the DM to maintain maps of the party's travels, mostly online instead of during play.
• Archivist: Works with the DM to keep records of what happens in the game.

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