"I tell my children that I don't deal in reward or punishment; I only deal in consequences. Reward and punishment are matters of opinion; the edict 'If you eat everything on your plate, I will give you a bowl of peas and you will have to eat them all' is a reward if you like peas, and 'If you eat everything on your plate, I will give you a bowl of ice cream and you will have to eat it all' is a punishment if you're too full to eat any more. Consequences, on the other hand, are a matter of fact, and I make it clear to them that I am a broker of consequences. If you do X, I will do Y; whether or not you choose to interpret Y as punishment is up to you."I'm not sure if it's particularly good parenting advice; upon further examination, I'm left a little unsure of the intent in that arena. It certainly seems reasonable DMing advice, though, where the source of punitive intent (say, a king who has been offended) is (or should be) divorced from the agent responsible for enforcing consequence (the DM). The DM does not punish; the DM administers the logical consequences an action within the world. And hey, if you needed to end up in the royal dungeons to ask a political prisoner some questions about where you can meet his conspirators to bring his plot to fruition and you have a good escape plan, it might not be a punishment. But save versus death to avoid contracting some unpleasant malady from the filthy dungeon bedding... (consequences!)
Anyway, I thought "broker of consequences" was a wonderful turn of phrase for describing the role of a sandbox DM.