It’s impossible to plan for every white rabbit your party might chase. Faced with this daunting task, some DMs can fall into the trap of “railroading” their party through a series of encounters that hit certain narrative beats. This is not necessarily bad, but it can detract from player agency.
I think a big problem is that the game materials don’t really teach you how to sandbox. Most modules are presented in a linear fashion that naturally trains DMs to drag players through a story line. Sure, you’ve got tools to help sandboxing: random encounter tables, random loot tables, random weather tables. But these don’t create a cohesive picture unless you paint it on the fly.
How do you run a sandbox without being completely overwhelmed by the expansiveness? Let’s tackle this by dividing it into two sections: planning the sandbox and running the sandbox.
Planning for the Sandbox
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