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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. ...


15

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

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

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 ...


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 ...


7

An underused approach is applying character expertise. When I GM, I give different information based on who's doing the asking and what they can see/observe. The fighters can make better judgments of how strong something is, and how well organized a group is in combat. The wizards can estimate levels of magic being thrown and whether something probably ...


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. ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


3

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 ...


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

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 ...


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, ...


2

First, as many other folks have mentioned, it's probably a good idea to have a good conversation with the group about what kind of game you run and what you're looking for. "I like to have an open world with a lot of stuff going on, but it's up to you pick your goals and directions within it." If that's not what the players want, there's nothing to do ...


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 ...


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

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

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 ...


1

My group loves an open-world, sandbox kind of game, so many of the games I run to them tend to be very open world, but they do, like you said, get bored just running about aimlessly. I tend to do one of two things. The first is that I'd prepare a short list of very broad plots based on what I think each one of my players will enjoy. Then I'd introduce ...


1

All DMs railroad at first. If you have to do it a bit, do it a bit. That said... the NPCs are your information dissemination tools. Roleplayers like interactions. Put a over-comical fellow in a tavern who's clearly drowning his sorrows, or a pretty young girl drying her eyes in the woods alone, or a very obvious priest attempting to break into a building ...


1

First, set up a Conflict Web. Start by setting up your factions that are involved, and why they are competing/conflicting. This is more to give you a set of motivations for any given group, leaders, etc. and allow you to simply improvise based on the group's needs/ambitions. The Conflict Web is not static, it's a starting point. So you may easily see ...


1

There shouldn't be 'major' or 'minor' plot points in a sandbox campaign, in my experience. Spread as much interesting information around as you can (keep a list somewhere) and then try to improvise something for whatever the players decide. You can make all the leads only point to a handful of major causes, which makes it easier to keep an overview of the ...



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