Robert Conley shared “Blackmarsh” with the online community–a great sandbox setting that I’ve looked over and thought about adapting. Good stuff!
Anyway, I was reading in the “Adventuring Advice” section, and ran across this:
After each session of the campaign, review what the players did. Look at your original timeline of events, see what impact their actions had, and make the needed changes. Sometimes the players’ actions will lead to a new and unexpected chain of events.
The creativity of the referee comes by not forcing his players to follow a predetermined story, but to develop new and interesting consequences based on the players’ actions. Use the NPC’s motivations and personalities to decide which consequences are the most likely and pick the most interesting.
The result is a campaign where the players feel they are forging their character’s destiny within a living, breathing world. It will not only be fun and adventurous, but also filed with surprises. Consequences will accumulate and spin the campaign into unexpected directions.
I agree with all this, absolutely. My caveat: this is only fun if your players can handle it. The unexpected consequences can trigger pouting and resentment.
Sometimes players use a sandbox like a catbox then complain of the smell.