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D&D General Let's talk about sandboxes, open worlds and hexcrawling

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Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
For those of you who extend the time of rests; how do you square the Elf's Trance ability (they mediate 4 hours a night and get full long rest)?

For those of you who extend the time of rests; how do you square the Elf's Trance ability (they mediate 4 hours a night and get full long rest)?

The need for sleep and time for a Long Rest are distinct by rules anyway. Default rules is a Long Rest is a period of time at least 8 hours. If an Elf Trances for 4 hours, they still need 8 hours of downtime in order to take a Long Rest.

So, when extending Long Rest times, the time for a Long Rest requirement changes, but it does not otherwise interact with sleep requirements.


A suffusion of yellow
I like to run my sandboxes as 'zones' rather than pre populated maps with each zone given a d20 list of possible encounters. For instance an island might feature

6 coral reef5 cliff upland desert4 swamp lands zone,
7 Geothermal pools9 mountain zone3 forest
8 volcanic badlands1 Village zone,2 deep cove -

As the PCs enter a zone Ill roll to see what they find 'in zone' which might include sites of interest, wandering monsters, plothooks, NPCs and resources.

I find that making sure the PCs have a base or stronghold of their own is fantastically helpful in a sandbox game. For one thing, it anchors the sandbox around a fixed point, providing a soft constraint on the size of the sandbox. For another, it provides built-in motivation for the PCs as they seek to protect and upgrade their home, increasing the variety of adventure types beyond just "which plot hook should we bite on this week?" It can also provide more strategic depth to the campaign by forcing the PCs to weigh the risk of leaving their stronghold undefended if they venture far afield in pursuit of other goals. And activies such as overseeing new construction, training new hirelings, or taking advantage of stronghold facilities (e.g. research in the library, gear upgrades at the forge, spell development in the lab) gives the PCs a reason to stay put occasionally, which naturally weaves downtime into the game.

and absolutely support this, PCs need to be tied to something they have to unvest time and effort into while not robbing tombs and murdering goblins


I totally agree with you on downtime.

Having downtime activities and actions can really make a sandbox campaign come alive. Especially, when downtime activities can be used to inject exposition or provide information about the world. Downtime can also create hooks and interactions between factions and NPCs. I also find it imparts a sort of 'realness' to the campaign. Player's can form connections and invest in the settlement. It helps transition from murderhobo to productive member of society.

I have recently backed On Downtime and Demenses on Kickstarter. I just gave my players a copy of the pdf. The idea is they can pick something they want their characters to do and the book has guidance on how their downtime activities can impact the world and provide them benefits in an objective and tangible way.


I think I appreciate sandboxes more than my players, probably because I like worldbuilding. Fact is tho, my players work better with a medium-to-heavy railroad. I may add more sidequest for them to do if I have the time, but they wont come up with ''wants and needs'' for their own character. But, they are ok with that, so so I'm I.
My group seems to have gotten in this rut of being led around with whatever adventure is presented. I think some of this is my fault and that I can only write so fast and they are fine with playing what I wrote. I would think I'm open to moving to what the group is investigating, but they are fine waiting to see what opens.

My next campaign should be the Essentials box with more options and most written already. I think I will change some things and may add some more personal quests. Hopefully this will start getting them to have more personal ideas on where to go.




Mod Squad
Staff member
Elves don't get a long rest after trancing, they get this: "After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep."

A long rest is "a period of extended downtime, at least 8 hours long, during which a character sleeps or performs light activity: reading, talking, eating, or standing watch for no more than 2 hours. "

So, for a human, the benefit of 8 hours of sleep is.. a long rest. Ergo...

Doug McCrae

One sandbox principle I've heard about but never really put into practice is that everything is connected in multiple ways. So if there's a group of gorbel bandits called The Rolling Raiders, one of them will secretly be a member of the loathsome Cult of the Empty Orbit, and the leader will have a map showing the location of The Concentric Catacombs. The Rolling Raiders are opposed by The Globular Militia, a force of rogue modrons. Etc.

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