Between running a solo campaign for @jegillus I also have another B/X campaign going on which is a bit more sandboxy.
The thing is, sandbox campaigns are quite foreign to me: I’m more at home making shit up as I go, improvizing and asking my players for potential story ideas, so the idea of a campaign built entirely around a wide open ready-made sandbox for the players to play around in required some getting used to. Keeping these things in mind has made the adjustment a lot less painful:
Only prepare as much as you need. I’m paraphrasing the great Kevin Crawford who laid out this piece of advice in his fantastic Red Tide, and I’m certain it’s popped up in his other works as well. Now, I could’ve gone and painstakingly prepped each of the various dungeons I had on the map along with all the other minor adventuring locations I’d set up. Instead, to begin with I only wrote down a couple of small dungeons (that are not really the main attraction on the map but something for the players to discover should they be willing to explore) and the very first level of the big dwarven fortress that acts as the centerpiece of the tiny slice of the setting I’ve set the game in, and even that turned out to be enough to carry me through two full sessions. This means that while I do have a wizard’s tower and a ruined fortress on an island in the middle of the lake on the map I’ve yet to fully flesh them out since I know my players don’t have the means to explore them yet. Which leads to the next point…
Signpost the shit out of everything. Even though you want to encourage exploration in a sandbox you don’t want to have a situation where your players find themselves in way over their heads through no fault of their own. Short of actually writing “You must be this tall to ride this dungeon” on your campaign map, you can use various other means to signpost the various challenges your players are about to face: the aforementioned ruined wizard’s tower has many rumors surrounding the fact that it’s still guarded by the wizard’s magical creations (i.e. gargoyles and shit) so my players know that they have no business going there until they’ve all got magic weapons and hopefully someone who can cast protection from evil. The island, on the other hand, I haven’t drawn my players’ explicit attention towards yet, but should my players ask about it I intend to draw their attention to the fact that absolutely no one is willing to give them a ride there on their boat, meaning that it’s effectively out of bounds for them until they can afford a boat or find some other means to traverse over water.
Always stay one step ahead of your players. This relates to point the first: so that you don’t end up prepping more than you actually need you should always have a clear idea of what you’re players are going to be doing next session. The easiest way to do this is to simply ask them. As long as you’ve already given them multiple potential paths to explore they can probably think ahead and decide in advance which of them they want to explore. However, this should not mean that you completely neglect all the potential paths they can explore: while you should focus your prep towards the one path your players are most likely to take, should they find themselves overwhelmed in the direction they decided to explore you should have at least some content prepped in each direction of the campaign map. And related to that…
Be ready to think on your feet. If your players do surprise you and head in an unexpected direction and you have absolutely nothing prepped there, don’t panic! As long as you have a rough outline of what lies in that direction (whether it’s a cursed graveyard, a dragon’s lair, or a wasteland that houses the ruins of an ancient giant empire with warring tribes of giants vying for dominance) you should be able to make up something on the spot. Then, after the session is over, take what you made up for that session, flesh it out into a fully realized location and add to it so that there’s more for your players to explore should they wish to do so.
What’s Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow’s problem with original comic book characters? They literally killed them or ignored them and made new OCs characters to fill their shoes!
1. Black Canary (Dinah Laurel Lance): Arrow made Sara Lance and Tina Boland who magically became Dinah Drake!
2. White Canary (unknown identity like Joker): Sara Lance again!
3. Vixen (Mari Jiwe McCabe): Legends of Tomorrow totally made up a grandmother Vixen with Amaya Jiwe!
4. Mister Terrific (Michael Holt): Arrow has Curtis Holt!
5. Wild dog (Jack Wheeler): Arrow made Rene Ramirez. Yup!
6. Artemis (Artemis Crock): On Arrow, we have Evelyn Crawford who has her own comic book alias as Starling, but they changed her into Evelyn Crawford Sharp who became the imposter BC and later Artemis! It’s organic!!!
7. Speedy (Mia Dearden): Thea Dearden Queen
Meanwhile, on The Flash, all characters are who they are supposed to be. Arrow is actually based on DC superhero aliases used by OCs!
“[An] extremely troubled teenager, John ‘Plato’ Crawford, who has been brought to the station by his ultimately powerless nanny, is offered Jim’s dark brown jacket to keep warm, but refuses it (a foreshadowing of a different response in a similar scene in the film’s climax.)“
For extraordinary reasons such as needing to eat and pay bills, Jacob Frye decided to apply for a job as assistant,-not secretary, he won’t use that word. Nothing bad with it, but he likes to think that assistant has a better ring to it, even if he will be answering the phone and fetching coffee. Evie rolls her eyes. He ignores her- answering to a job vacant that opened just days ago in Abstergo, the multi-billionaire corporation with big glass buildings and posh businessmen and women. He snorts. Fucking place would pass as a modeling company any day.
What Jacob Frye didn’t expect was to find so few people applying for the job.
Turns out everyone was scared of the boss, Crawford Starrick.
Who looked like a prick with a stick up their arse that had fired four people in the last week.
Repeating to himself he needs the money, think of the money, you don’t even need to like this job god fucking dammit, Jacob manages to pass the week trial. So far so good. He had managed to do better than the others and that had to count as something, right?
His relationship with his boss, though…Well, that’s why we’re here, hmm? It started rocky but it improved as soon as he learnt to have the tea on time - any time, and coffee was a big no-no.- and keep timetables and telephone calls organized. He wouldn’t lie, flirting with that guy at Management -Roth, was it?- helped a lot to secure his position and learn all the little tips he needed to know quickly.
Which brought the attention of Crawford Starrick himself. That, and the fact that he didn’t wear a suit for work like everyone else. (Rich people, everyone. Can you believe them?)
Him seducing his boss wasn’t the plan. It wasn’t his work ethics to flirt with the man when he was doing extra hours at night via taking his reading glasses and smirking at the perplexed but curious cat like look the older man delivered him. It wasn’t his idea of sex to find himself straddling his boss’ lap after getting dumped by his (ex) boyfriend Freddy -“It’s not you, it’s me” being the worst bullshit in the history of mankind- and getting this as some sort of petty revenge.
It wasn’t his idea for it to happen again, or become an almost usual occurrence, or for it to start to mean something. But y'know, shit happens.
And that was the reason he woke up the day of his birthday, almost a year from that stupid stupid job interview to which he arrived five minutes late and almost got kicked out of, to find a barking puppy with a blue ribbon on his bed and Crawford Starrick, all wrinkled clothes and messy mustache, waving his happy exclamations off and saying he needed something to invest his energies on anyways.
It doesn’t matter. Jacob can see the pleased tilt in the corner of his lover-also-boss lips from here anyways.