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84

What you are trying to create in a sand box is player agency. My definition of this is: Players making informed decisions that have reasonable consequences It is important to remember that there is an inherent information imbalance in RPG: you have it, they don't. It is your job as DM to give them information that is relevant, reasonable and ...


56

Let them fail - miserably! But don't kill them... A lot of good stories start out like this: You have a bunch of over confident wanna-be heroes who want to kill the evil general with a stupid plan. So of course it is doomed to fail, they will never kill them and they will surely get caught. But why should they all be killed? The evil general probably has ...


27

Let's simplify this scenario to what it amounts to: there's a button, and the players want to push it, and they're not sure what will happen, but you alone know that if they push it they die. Right now, you only see the option that they die. It is inescapable that character death tends to suck. You could explain they had no way of finding out — that ...


25

there was a spy present at the meeting where the plan was hatched and discussed If you want to warn the players off their plan in a plausible way, the existence of this spy offers some options to do that. Have the spy change allegiance and come to the players with a warning, for a price. "Get me/my family/and a sack of jewels out of the war zone and ...


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

Some of my rules of running a sandbox: It is better to spoil surprises than to appear unfair. Do you best to ensure you have given them all the information they should have. When things do go wrong, provide opportunities for retreat. While you know more than the players, you also know more than the NPCs. The NPCs aren’t perfect, and their countermeasures ...


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 ...


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 ...


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

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 ...


9

While life is a sandbox you can still inject direction What you're looking for here is a lifeline for your players so they don't all get themselves brutally murdered. What you also know the players need is more information about their enemy, in the great tradition of unknown unknowns what the players don't know is the most dangerous thing about a sandbox, ...


8

Whose plan is this, really? Do the characters have a plan that will get them killed? Or do your players have a plan that will get their characters killed? There's a subtle difference, and your response should hinge on which of the two it is. The players made a terrible plan Players only have fairly limited information about the world and are often not as ...


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

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 ...


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

When the players come up with a bad plan, I would look at their character sheets, and see if the bad plan is in character or not. I'd start by looking for relevant special talents. Any character who is supposedly a talented spy or tactician would detect any clear problems, and have a chance (I'd roll) to detect less obvious problems. I'd pass a note (or ...


5

Capture them alive, rather than killing them. The assassination fails, but the target has a reason to want to keep the PCs around. They wake up in prison. Of course, the daily logistics of prison life does not make for a very fun RPG, so you need to offer the PCs some opportunities to get out. The simplest option is to just have their captor use them in a ...


5

You don't need to change the world, you just need to change the outcome. Depending on your players just letting them all die might be a valuable lesson. For many groups though that would not go down well, so a better approach is to give them advance warning that their plan is flawed through in-game agency. In fact you have the perfect case here. There was ...


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 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

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 ...


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

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 ...


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 ...


2

I use timed challenges and consequence maps. The players know it is a sandbox, but I also provide a time element along with the main plot. Nothing too restrictive, but something to keep them mindful of their actions. I also craft the main story in such a way that the players can approach it from multiple different angles. They have a set of things 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

It sounds like your players are inexperienced with sandboxing. Instead of letting them march to their deaths, divert them. A terrible rain comes up, and a nearby river goes out of its banks. The Evil General moves his camp a half-mile to higher ground. "Well, if you can start your plan, but first you'll have to wade 200' through mud up to your hips while ...



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