I have had thoughts in the past of running my own campaign, but would love to run it as a more open-world campaign that has a kind of free free-roaming nature to it.

Having said that, what would be some clearly defined differences and examples(resources?) to building a "linear" campaign versus building a "dynamic" campaign?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the sort of question that can't be properly answered except in an entire book (or, in practice, in some hundreds of blog posts scattered across the internet), which is our heuristic for judging when a question is too broad to be on-topic here. Can you narrow it down? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 19 '14 at 20:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have edited the content of the question, but I do not see how I could narrow it much further. \$\endgroup\$ – JBeck Jan 19 '14 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is your goal with this question to be able to build a dynamic (sandbox) campaign or do you want an illustration of the (probably huge) list of differences between sandbox- and railroad-style games? The latter I would vote to close as "too broad" along the same lines as d7 said above. The former, though, I would not. By the way, welcome to the site! \$\endgroup\$ – LitheOhm Jan 19 '14 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose the former would be more applicable to my goals of having this question answered. The latter I have a pretty good idea of already, but I would definitely like resources showing example campaigns that are sandbox. Also thank you for the warm welcome! \$\endgroup\$ – JBeck Jan 19 '14 at 21:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might check out the sandbox-tagged questions, more specifically this and this then edit your question to reflect your specific curiosities. Thank you for working with our site's format; It took me some time to learn it as well. Checking out the tour would help too, as in my experience each StackExchange site changes theirs to suit specific needs. \$\endgroup\$ – LitheOhm Jan 19 '14 at 21:40

For me, one of the main differences is

Plot-based campaigns vs Location-based campaigns

A plot-based, linear campaign is primarily based on a story that the party experiences. Usually, there is one main arc, and while there are side-quests, it is generally clear for the players what the main arc is.

As a DM, you will take care that the party is involved in the major plot points of that story, either as actors or as spectators (or they get told about it if they manage to miss it). If they party manages to stray off the railroad, the DM might move scenes or bend they story so the players still experience most of it.

A good examples for this kind of campaign are almost all pathfinder adventures paths.

A open-world campaign is less concerned with an overarching story than with simulating a world; not necessarily mechanically, but the world is expected to go on and stuff happens without the players being privy to it.

As a DM, you might prepare a few locations and NPCs, but since there is no set main story, it's much more easy to improvise; the party doesn't need to do action X and then Y in order for the world to move forward. Its also easier to shuffle things depending on what signals you as a DM get from the party. If they are really interested in a specific NPC or quest, you can easier grow it without worrying about the plot, as long as the world stays (reasonably) consistent.

A good example for this kind of campaign is the LotFP free rpg day adventure Better than any Man.

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