Abandoning the Sandbox

The so-called “sandbox method” of gaming has always appealed to me. In theory, at least.

I think the write-up of time management in the 1e DMG is what got me wanting an open-style game back in the day and the West Marches write-ups really fired my desire to pull off a grand campaign in a similar vein.

But I’ve never really been able to make it happen. I blame myself, mostly, for this. I think my desire to “do it the way I’ve always wanted to do it” has meant we haven’t done much of anything at all. The perfect being the enemy of the good, and all that.

A prime issue has been gaming time. Or the lack thereof. If we were able to get in a few hours once or twice a week, I can see things taking off after a half-dozen or dozen sessions. But I don’t know that we’ve got in six or ten sessions in the past YEAR. There’s no way that an open world the way I envision it will ever take root in anyone’s mind at that rate.

And, sadly, the fact that the world hasn’t taken root in anyone’s mind is probably a contributing factor to our sporadic gaming. No one seems real fired up about it, and that includes me.

So I’m going to dump the “sandbox” approach and play it more like we did back in the day:

  • Players will have a number of PCs available
  • The DM will design “an adventure” and recommend classes/levels to the players
  • The players at the table will pick an appropriate PC from their collection
  • The gaming will begin

When “the adventure” is over, PCs go back into the folder and I’ll start work on another adventure. Or we’ll play a module or one-page or other pre-written scenario. The connection from adventure to adventure will be loose at best.

The key is that we’ll be playing. The elusive “sandbox world” I imagine may happen someday, and this new non-sandbox approach may even morph into a sandbox-like world at some point. But for the time being I’m going to ditch my efforts to make it happen.

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