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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 ...


12

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 ...


12

I usually love to do this kind of stories. I could give you some ideas, so you choose from them and combine them as you feel. NPCs In my experience, interesting NPCs can be an amazing way to show the players how interesting the world can be. They will find NPCs during their adventures, that's for sure, and if you make them have an interesting past, you can ...


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 ...


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 ...


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, ...


9

I recently just built a sand-box world for my players, and I have decided to handle the problem this way. First: Same Page. I had a talk with all of my players individually and collectively detailing what sort of campaign I was building. I told them that they can do anything that they want to and go anywhere they want to go. They understand that they are ...


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 ...


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

The biggest and most important part of this advice is the following: Talk to your players! If nothing else about this answer helps, remember that. Before you begin springing improvisation on your players, sit them down- all at the table before you begin your next session- and pose the question. "Hey guys, I think we're all pretty good roleplayers, and ...


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 ...


6

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

I'm a little bit surprised to see so many answers to this question without what I thought was the obvious one, so I'm going to put it out here. What you have here is an obvious disconnect between what the player thought the situation was, and what you, the GM thought the situation was. Very seldom do players actually do things that they believe are ...


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

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 ...


4

The way I did it was by showing the world map, but also by presenting a series of options. Essentially there were notice boards that various people had posted things they wanted doing on. Initially there were 5 or 6 missions for different important people. Doing those missions let the players explore the world and see what was there, gave them contacts, ...


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

I've run across this problem a number of time while playing as part of a group in an open ended game and it tends to come down to not really having a plan. The way to deal with this is to help your players put a plan together of what they are going to do, because they in all likelihood are being vague because they don't know their options. Questions that ...


3

Presenting the global map and history of their world is a good start. Have more in-depth descriptions of your world readily available in a notebook so you're prepared when your players do something unexpected or ask questions. Once players detect you're making up the world on the fly, suspension of disbelief may fade. The DM doesn't want to look like a hack ...


3

Focus your preparation on what you expect them to do, but have contingencies ready so that they can do other things if they choose. I run my current 4E Neverwinter campaign as a bit of a sandbox. I say "a bit" because everything is very time sensitive. This means that I don't have to worry about my party showing up and saying "hey, we've had a month to ...


2

Communication is your best weapon I think the obvious answer here is, as the divine godlike GM that you'll be to them; your best weapon is communication. TALK to them; your players. Their input is your best resource. Get them all together and provide them with a choice. Explain to them your ideas for a cooperative narration of planets, history, important ...


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. ...


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

The system and setting often contribute to my decisions in these cases. In a simulationist game with a deadly setting, you might intervene only as much to ask "Are you sure?" In pulpier, heroic games, you want to encourage your players to succeed; you may even incorporate their misconceptions to do so. I stole this idea from is 13th Age's One Unique Thing ...



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