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67

Powerful drama requires powerful motivations. When everyone at the table agrees that they want a Horror game, they must craft their characters around these motivations. If they don't buy in, then you get the kind of power-fantasy where the heroes do the quite sensible thing of feeding Cthulhu a couple cases of dynamite and legging it. That isn't horror, ...


31

Tell Them Your Goals If you haven't already, I would start by telling them essentially what you just said here. That there is no "one true plot". Tell them that introducing an evil person / problem does not make it the overriding campaign unless they want it to be. Tell them that you are willing to follow along with their character's background goals. ...


27

I think you're metagaming. You, the GM and player, know that continuing to pursue the truth will lead to madness. Your characters don't know that. They don't know the risks yet. Your characters are just finding out (possibly for the first time) that "magic" or something like it is real. If you, in real life, just found out that magic was real, wouldn't you ...


19

My suggestion? Don't. When I run sandbox games, I tend to divide the world into regions of general power; I start the players off in a low threat zone, full of mudcrabs, rattata, and the occasional goblin. Then, in universe, I tell the players what areas are safe. Rumors in the bar that the road to Harborhead has been having some bandit troubles. The city ...


15

In addition to the excellent answers already posted, let me suggest that you look at the kinds of protagonists that Lovecraft wrote about; police investigators ("The Call of Cthulhu", "The Horror at Red Hook"), artists looking for unique experiences ("Pickman's Model"), and people who actually wanted to find out more about the squiggly things under the bed ...


13

It's a good idea to make sure everyone in the group understands what the point of the game is about, so they can build appropriate characters. Sometimes people go in building "survivalist" characters, which means the motivations also don't fit the genre expectations. It's also important to remember that the key point of horror stories is some point of ...


10

D&D 5e is a finely-tuned machine for not caring in the least about keeping encounters static to the PCs' level. If you're coming from a game where keeping encounter difficulty matched to the PCs is critical, this might be somewhat alien, but it is true nonetheless. This is why there are no guidelines or rules for how to "level up" an encounter. (Well, I ...


9

How to run this, procedurally Consider this - every week, the players show up and they manage to improvise and play, without having to preplan every "if this happens, then I'll do this". They simply look at their character sheet and improvise based on a basic understanding of their character, right? As a GM, you can do that too. Set up your characters, ...


7

There are a variety of ways to do this: Focus on the prophesy itself. If you cast doubts on the validity of the prophesy, the players may be more likely to leave it alone. For example, well-respected representatives for the forces of good declare that some of the named parties in the prophesy couldn't possibly be involved in something nefarious like that. ...


7

Broadly speaking, don't plan the sandboxes encounters by level, plan them by the internal logic of the setting. Put the responsibility on finding a level-appropriate path through it on the players. Then just roll with it. If they're 6th level then let them enjoy being 6th level and steamrollering some 4th level opponents. If they encounter 10th level ...


2

While I agree with the general thrust of other answers i.e. if the PCs are stupid enough to go into "the deep dark mountains from which none have ever returned" before they are ready then the deserve what they get. But 5th edition provides plenty of guidance for scaling encounters - scaling monsters is not (necessarily) part of it (p.56-58 of the basic ...


2

I think it's best not to force anything. It seems unnecessary and ultimately undermines the logic of the situation and its dramatic effect and immersion. As a player, I would come up with clear understandable motivations that make sense and yet can get the character hooked into the scenario. Then I would discuss with the GM to see if the GM finds them ...


1

The simplest solution is to build them up over time and introduce them along with other conflicting requirements at the same time. For example my current sandbox campaign has a were-rat bad guy. He was only active on the full moon (at least at first) and I very deliberately never introduced him in person (they still haven't encountered him, although they ...


1

I would suggest a 5-by-5 method. Essentially, you create 5 major goals for the party, and for each goal, 5 requirements. This allows you to have a loose story, with set milestones for the players to strive for, but still gives them the ability improvise. Here is an example: Stop Dragon Invasion: Recover Tome of the Dragons Decipher Tome Find Chromatic ...



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