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36

Make the players invested in the history of the world. This depends on the system you're using. However, generally, you want the players to come up with a backstory, yes? Well, nudge them to tie their character's backstory in with the rest of the world. That way, when something happens in the world, they'll be emotionally invested in its outcome. Hence, ...


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 ...


14

Sandbox - to - Railroad is a spectrum, not either or. Games are not either sandbox or railroaded, rather they exist on a spectrum between heavily railroaded where players mostly handle tactics and the GM handles the story over to wide open sandboxes where players drive most of the story and (especially in narrativists games) perhaps even create large ...


13

Either they simply don't like sandboxes, or they have trained themselves to wait for GM Plot to railroad them. Consequently, you either give up on playing sandboxes with this group, or (in the case they do like sandboxes) you help them by training them out of their inertia. Giving up is easy, but sad-making. Training is harder, but provides the hope it'll ...


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 ...


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

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

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, ...


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. ...


6

Make Building Motivation Part of Campaign Setup The easiest way to make sure the PCs have things to do in the setting is to create the characters and the setting together. That way you know there'll be relevant stuff for the PCs to do, since you are creating both elements together with the express purpose of making them interlock. A great time to do this ...


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

Even a sandbox needs railroads. I've just answered a related question here; basically, I feel that you need to apply 'the railroad' when the players are stuck or not self-motivated. It's much easier for humans to improvise when there are some constraints. What do you want to do now? is really hard to answer for the players when they are stuck, or ...


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

You don't need to give the players direction. You need to take the direction they provide and give them the chance to run with it. I do this in two ways. The first is with backstory. I've long ago given up on requiring backstory, but I do strongly encourage it. When the players give me their character's history I read over it with a highlighter and ...


4

First of all, know your players. Know what excites them in the game. Some players love the thrill of combat, others enjoy exploring, others like tinkering with rules and min/maxing equipment to making their character more powerful. Others prefer interactive roleplaying, some like problem solving, and still others could be characterized as builders. Many ...


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

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 ...


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 ...


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

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

It sounds to me like your PCs (and therefore your players) are basically suffering from ennui: en·nui /änˈwē/ noun a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement. Essentially, you've given your players a world where they can do anything they want, but where they have no particular reason ...


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 ...



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