I’m not a fan of sandbox campaigns – I think plot and links between sessions make a campaign more fun, I don’t like wandering monsters and random encounters, and my experience of players’ attempts to navigate even small detail-rich worlds is that they flounder without a lot of guidance. However, at the end of my recent campaign, one of my players proposed essentially the whole outline for a follow-up campaign:
- We liquidate and then disguise ourselves (magically) as the inquisitors who are to be set on our tail.
- Disguised so, we seemingly proceed with the Church’s mission, gaining their aid in entering hell to rescue Cantrus and also collecting the amulet.
- On returning from hell, we sacrifice the Pope himself (ought to be worth a bob or two!) to the demon of knowledge for a ritual to magically fragment the amulet so we can all benefit and then reverse the area of effect on the amulet so instead of granting anyone wearing it immunity to us, it grants us immunity from everyone else ! This would leave us vulnerable only to each other’s attacks (but we’re a team right – non of us would pick off the other to be left an invulnerable ruler of all he surveyed right ? Right ?
- Cantrus for Pope !
This constitutes the entire plot of an ongoing campaign, set up by the players and very structured in its goals. All that remains for the DM to do is to fiddle around with the details of the challenges as set out above. In fact, I would argue that if the players told me they aimed to set out down this path, I would be very leery of changing the direction with ideas of my own unless I thought they were guaranteed to improve the players’ enjoyment of their own campaign. I’m not sure where this leaves the DM, who in this case has often complained about the hassle of creating a story for witless players but has never considered the possibility that the players would relegate him to the role of dice-roller and scene writer.
I’m not sure that many DMs have actually worked in this fashion that often – usually they’re the masters of their own world, after all. Such a campaign needs to be run in a way which maintains the challenge for the players but enables them to keep an eye on their own goals, and – if it offers different goals at all – offers new opportunities in a way which tests the players’ resolve without undermining their original scheme. I’m really eager to run such a campaign, but not so sure that it’s going to work out… we’ll see…