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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. ...


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 ...


17

You could present the game in a more reactive fashion. If the players do not appear to be making any kind of indications of the sort of actions that they would like to take then you could simply present low-importance information back to them and again prompt them for action. For instance: The players would like a means of entering a city and have their ...


10

Descriptions Provide Focus and Options If you never describe what is in your world, your players will never know what's in it. Whatever you present in the world will also be the focus of their attention. The blog post by the Angry DM here goes into more detail about it. Basically, you'll rarely get players who go off exploring when an objective is obviously ...


10

Make them stumble upon and want to bite the hook. Expecially in a homebrew campaign, players will want to get their bearings: take a look around, see what the locals are like etc. This is where you come in: They hit the tavern? Have the innkeeper talk about how it's not been going well lately because for some reason less visitors drop by for drinks and ...


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, ...


8

Do not introduce hooks, introduce situations The main difference between a campaign and a sandbox is that campaigns have a well-defined plot, while sandboxes have a well-defined premise. Think of it as a ballistic approach to storytelling. You set up your guns, load, elevation etc. and you fire. Where the projectile will land is then in the hands of gods, ...


8

When I read this I thought: Just don't. In "the real world" there is so much more random stuff that happens than meaningful stuff towards some goal that its the decision of the people on place to decide which dungeon to crawl and which to ignore. If one wants to explore every single house in every street then in how many of that houses you will find ...


8

In very broad terms, the CR of a creature is based on three factors: Numbers. Attack bonuses and AC, save DCs and saving throws, etc. etc. Requirements. Magic weapons for overcoming DR/magic. Flight, or ways of dealing with others having it. Teleporting, or again ways of dealing with it. Protection from various status effects (e.g. those things that ...


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 ...


5

One of the problems tabletop rpgs wrestle with all the time is the divide between decorative description vs. functional description. You describe the tower and broadly describe the city: the players know for sure the tower is where they have to go, but they don't know if the city has any value at all - so they skip it. Just as much as in videogames where ...


5

The magic item effect on CR will become significant around level 7, when significant bonuses would be expected out of weapons/stat buff items and a wide variety of wondrous items are affordable. Below level 7, there is an effect (especially with taken-for-granted utility items like the CLW wand used to top everyone up between combats) but it's not magic ...


5

One option would be to back the "crunch" level down a notch. Even if flight is central to the characters and campaign (S&R, bush flying, or similar, I'd presume, if a C172 is in play as opposed to a T-38 Talon or similar), it should be reasonable to presume that icing conditions, IFR vs. VFR, and other considerations that affect real-life flight would ...


4

The essence of sandbox play is following where the players lead, and it sounds like you're already doing that. What adding randomness does is make the world feel more alive and larger than the thread that the PCs are pursuing/creating, allowing the players to make informed decisions about where they want to drive the game. You don't need to be constantly ...


4

First, I will echo the comments left: Electronic Communication during the week if possible, and Keep it Interesting. That said, session length need not have a major effect on the quality of play. Each session can build right where the last left off, with perhaps a minute of recap. Questions and clarifications could ideally be done over email/instant messages ...


4

You're trying to give them options by withholding options. You want them to explore the verisimilitude of the world by not describing the world. I can understand this makes sense in your head, but it doesn't at the table. Particularly with new players. They're new players, so they need to get their bearings. They may have no idea what kind of options there ...


4

Character generation, world creation I read this on a series of sandbox articles, but don't remember where. Don't create all the world before the characters. Let empty space to be filled later. Then, when creating the characters, allow them to create part of the world. Example: A player creates a character who was raised by a cult who worship a powerful ...


3

Having written a number of hexcrawls you should go with a hex grid 30 hex columns by 20 hex rows. When you export it with hexographer choose resize and export as png and go with 3 hexes per inch. The 600 odd hexes will allow you place between 50 to 100 entries. At 5 miles per hex this will create a region large enough to contain the initial adventures. The ...


3

Prep Amount Can there be too much prep? Absolutely. Too much info becomes a pain to navigate - you have to scan through your notes to find the stuff that's relevant. If you invest too much time into some things, you find yourself "protecting" them, that is, either an event or thing becomes something you block the players from avoiding, working around, ...


3

Present them with options I have a city where a major distinguishing feature is a huge tower, which is also my party's quest target. I didn't give the party a list of other locations inside the city, instead hoping for them to explore themselves and find the potion shop being sacked and the wretched dabbler necromancer in the ruined basement. In the ...


2

Some of these are contentious points with some people, but work for me. Listen Find out what they are interested in. Look at what they pay attention to in a session. Work out ways to either connect those things to the plot you have, or write some new stuff. Talk to them after a session, too, find out what they're planning. If they won't say for fear of ...


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 you're best just using the METAR data from the real world, after all that's what the PCs would be using. It's easily available via the web (I use skyvector.com to find stations) and if they move a long way quickly you can get the data from the new location much more quickly from a laptop or tablet than you could generate realistic weather with dice. ...


1

You could try applying the following ideas to your sandbox: Mapping Use a 'small' physical map: this can give the impression that play is slightly restricted, especially if you implement some of the following... Include distinct map items: use roads and towns without any other features - this can give more control over what's going to happen and where ...


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

According to the PCs knowledge, current goals and the game pace, you can use the empty spaces to either: Point the group towards important locations. Convey and strengthen the theme and atmosphere of the game. Control the game's difficulty by forcing them to use resources or allowing them to replenish them (or gain access to new ones). You can plan ...


1

Short answer: Make a series of random tables based on 1: Terrain, 2: World themes, and 3: PC motivations. Long answer: First things first, you'll want to identify: What do you want to achieve with these encounters? From your post, I believe that your priorities are: 1: They should be random (I assume, so that you don't have to plan out the whole ...


1

How much prep is too much is something that's going to vary from GM to GM. You say you're terrible at it, but there are parts of the game you'll find you can get away with improvising. I don't need maps. They don't add much to my games and it doesn't make a difference if I draw them on the spot or in advance. But I can't do description. I'll imagine a ...



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