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D&D 5E Do You Prefer Sandbox or Party Level Areas In Your Game World?

Sandbox or party?

  • Sandbox

    Votes: 149 66.8%
  • Party

    Votes: 74 33.2%

  • Total voters
    223
So these are two approaches that campaigns can (and do) use. They have various names, but I'm using these names. I've used both approaches in the past.

Obviously there is more nuance than the definitions below, but these are two possible extreme ends of the poll when voting feel free to choose whichever end you tend towards, or embellish in the comments.

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Sandbox -- each area on the world map has a set difficulty, and if you're a low level party and wander into a dangerous area, you're in trouble. The Shire is low level, Moria is high level. Those are 'absolute' values and aren't dependent on who's traveling through.

Party -- adventurers encounter challenges appropriate to their level wherever they are on the map. A low level party in Moria just meets a few goblins. A high level party meets a balrog!

Which do you prefer?
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey



payn

Hero
A few years ago id be firmly in the sandbox camp, but its eventually wore at my immersion and sense of narrative. I do like opportunities for the PCs to punch above their weight, but the PCs wandering into something they cant handle and getting TPK'd isn't terribly fun or interesting any longer.
 


turnip_farmer

Adventurer
So these are two approaches that campaigns can (and do) use. They have various names, but I'm using these names. I've used both approaches in the past.

Sandbox -- each area on the world map has a set difficulty, and if you're a low level party and wander into a dangerous area, you're in trouble. The Shire is low level, Moria is high level. Those are 'absolute' values and aren't dependent on who's traveling through.

Party -- adventurers encounter challenges appropriate to their level wherever they are on the map. A low level party in Moria just meets a few goblins. A high level party meets a balrog!

Which do you prefer?
Neither. Each area on the world map has a set difficulty and is thus somehow gated until the PCs are able to handle it. They cannot visit Moria at low levels.
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I do a mix. I set events in motion and the player's are always free to pursue or abandon whatever thread they want. On the other hand, I'll make it clear if they are biting off more than they can chew.

I also dangle plot hooks and events for them to choose from that are level appropriate. I don't have a problem if they need to do a valiant retreat now and then, but I also want them to get a sense of accomplishment.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
I actually do kinda both.

If I have setpieces, they'll be whatever level made sense when I created it. The Vampire is still CR 13 even if the party wants to challenge them at level 4.

But for stuff like random encounters or something I'm preparing a week or two in advance, I'll have things appropriately leveled so that the party doesn't randomly encounter the Elder Brain at level 1.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
So these are two approaches that campaigns can (and do) use. They have various names, but I'm using these names. I've used both approaches in the past.

Sandbox -- each area on the world map has a set difficulty, and if you're a low level party and wander into a dangerous area, you're in trouble. The Shire is low level, Moria is high level. Those are 'absolute' values and aren't dependent on who's traveling through.

Party -- adventurers encounter challenges appropriate to their level wherever they are on the map. A low level party in Moria just meets a few goblins. A high level party meets a balrog!

Which do you prefer?
Definitely sandbox, otherwise I'd rather just do the usual selection of adventures by level. But letting the PC wander randomly only to adjust the world around them is odd to my taste...
 

aco175

Legend
You ask what I prefer, which is a sandbox, but tend to play party. I tend to write and design only a week or two ahead of the party and where they want to go, so that tends to make me design for the party level.

Although if the PCs wanted to go directly to Moria from the Shire, it would likely take them several levels to get there and then the danger would be more something they can handle.
 




el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
A mix of both but leaning towards sandbox.

Basically, I make sure the players know that "here there be dragons. . ." (or some variation) might not just be a legend or a general warning, but a very specific one that you need to consider if you travel that way.

"Never think the DM won't put you up against something you can't handle, but do know that the DM won't do that without some kind of in-game warning."
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Party.

The adventuring area might have really powerful monsters in it, but if the party chooses to go there for whatever their reasons be, the powerful monster will be powerful in comparison to what level the party currently is. Otherwise it's nothing more than an adjective describing the area because the group will never actually go there. I might as well not have even bothered. And I don't like wasting my time creating encounters that the party will never actually encounter, I have better things to do.
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Party.

The adventuring area might have really powerful monsters in it, but if the party chooses to go there for whatever their reasons be, the powerful monster will be powerful in comparison to what level the party currently is. Otherwise it's nothing more than an adjective describing the area because the group will never actually go there. I might as well not have even bothered. And I don't like wasting my time creating encounters that the party will never actually encounter, I have better things to do.

What prep do you need to do beyond "dragons live there" (unless of course the foolish party goes there, and even then I am sure a session worth of tough-ish encounter with dragon minions run off the seat of your pants would tide you over til next time)?

I mean, any DM worth their salt has to be ready to improvise at any given time.
 

zarionofarabel

Adventurer
I played the Skyrim where the Imperial's were in charge. That game highlights why I detest both levels and a world where enemies level with the PC.

At the beginning of the game when traveling in the long civilized areas I would occasionally get attacked by bandits, this made sense. However, later in the game after becoming very powerful, as soon as I stepped outside the city I would be beset by demons and other extremely powerful foes. That didn't make any sense at all. It totally ruined the experience.

The simple aspect of leveling and having the difficulty of foes level with the PCs is the heart of why I dislike levels period. What's the point of having levels if the difficulty of encounters level with the PCs. The challenge of encounters never changes, something that absolutely makes no sense. Much better to have areas where high level PCs will absolutely wipe the floor with the opposition, and areas where low level PCs will get dead immediately.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
What prep do you need to do beyond "dragons live there" (unless of course the foolish party goes there, and even then I am sure a session worth of tough-ish encounter with dragon minions run off the seat of your pants would tide you over til next time)?

I mean, any DM worth their salt has to be ready to improvise at any given time.
The prep is stating what's there. If I'm going to say that "in that forest is a green dragon"... if and when it gets encountered it's going to be a green dragon that the party can actually encounter. That's why I wouldn't say "in that forest is an ancient green dragon", because I've just now detailed an area that is never going to be used. Which is a waste of my time.

And note... I say this as a DM whose games rarely get to 10th level, let alone go past it. So anything in the adventuring area will be level appropriate (either weaker, stronger, or on level) so that the party can choose to go there and actually encounter stuff without it being an automatic TPK. Because as a story-first DM... I find TPKs to be pointless. If the party fails (and they certainly can)... it'll be failure within the narrative, not within the board game.
 

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