Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Do You Sandbox, and if so, By How Much?

Sandboxing as a campaign style is not absolute. Some campaigns leave the players to develop their own plot hooks, some drop in plot seeds for the PCs to pick through, some wall of their sandboxes for a limited area of exploration and others leave their world wide open. There are other variations, kinda like the Heinz 57 Varieties of Ketchup.

Me, I'm looking at a walled off sandbox with seeds that will lead to a wide open sandbox as the players develop their own plot hooks.

So, how do you sandbox, or do you not sandbox at all?


  1. I treat the Flanaess as a big sandbox. There is a plot going on, but they can do what they want. I have a few adventures planned in different areas if they go there, and between sessions I try to populate areas they are approaching or find modules that fit.

  2. Just finished a 4E sandbox hexcrawl. The basic premise was exploration of a new land. Each hex had a dungeon in it along with 4-5 other interesting things the characters could find. There was a history to the place (naga once ruled the land but fought Chaos beings and were driven out) but anything that happened "now" was a result of characters actions (how would they interact with the former slaves of the naga? would they reawaken the chaos beings?).

    So yes, the setting was "fixed in place" but the characters could change it as they undertook their exploration.

  3. I tend to start with an sandbox full of open ended choice and then refine them as the character help develop the story line. 90% sandbox at the beginning, more likely 50% or less as the campaign gets defined. I try to avoid railroading at all cost. When choice and subsequent impact are eliminated for characters one has to wonder why they bother.

  4. I run one-shots of adventures I created, and sometimes ones I buy and modify. But when I run regular campaign games, ongoing from session to session, I almost always run as sandbox style play and the players can go where they please.

  5. I am currently running a wall-off sandbox.


    All the action takes place in the Xanthus River Valley. PCs can leave, but they have to cross mountain ranges or go the long way around. This is a first level sandbox so far, but I expect them to venture out as they level up.

  6. I use to run very story driven games with my old crew for years and years. But that group fell to the wayside as life went on. Then I found my current crew, and they are not the best with story driven games. They will do the dumbest shit if they feel the game is getting boring, even with xp advancement and treasure awards for advancing the plot. I eventually grew tired of putting in all the time and effort on writing story to have the party run amok with it all the time. I even had a player consistently ask every session, "Can we just move this along at the speed of plot?" They just wanted to get to the dungeon and fight the BBEG. So, with extensive discussion and feedback I decided to convert to a completely sandbox based campaign where they decide what they want to do when they want to do it (a la Ben Robbins' West Marches). The only pre-written plot point I did was discuss with them the first adventure based upon what the players were interested in doing at the start of the game. And we have been having a blast! Surprisingly enough they have been RPing more and interacting with the setting more than ever before. They simply can't get enough of finding more adventure seeds and discovering new things on the map. I really don't have a walled sandbox. The setting map I drew up is pretty freaking huge. I use a very simple gradation of combat rating with encounter/hazard tables based on locale/terrain along with pockets of high difficulty in places that are far away from civilization. I also keep track of the party's rations and water supply to ramp up the survival factor. It sounds like a lot of boring book-keeping but it isn't, and it is very simple. So far so good, the current group loves it! Looking forward to playin' in the sandbox as long as possible.

  7. I prefer to run regional sandboxes, but my regular gaming group doesn't get together as often as we used to. So I have been tending to run location based adventures instead.

    Actually at this rate my Google Hangout group is becoming my regular group. There we use a more open sandbox.


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