There’s a discussion about whether random encounter tables are necessary for a sandbox. People are sometimes distracted by the geographical features of almost all sandbox games, so much so that they believe the defining characteristic of a sandbox is geographical freedom (“We can go to the castle, or we can go to the swamp, or we can go to the desert.”) But having geographical freedom is meaningless if the GM still controls the sequence of encounters. It is absolutely critical in sandbox play that encounters are tied to specific geographical locations beforehand, so that geographical choices matter, or, if the encounter can occur anywhere, the GM’s decision is truly arbitrary.
And if you aren’t using dice or some other randomizer to select what happens next, how do you do that?
You can do it with a fixed list of encounters written up beforehand. When an encounter is needed, the next encounter on the list is used. This does mean that the list can’t be in a logical order, arranged according to plot concerns, increasing/decreasing monster strength, or similar concerns. Alphabetical by landmark, object, class of NPC, or name of monster would be better. Each region can have its own list, perhaps more than one, categorized by season, or by encounter type. For example, in the wilderness, you can travel a road or path, look for shelter, look for food, or look for water, among other things. You could write four lists of things that happen when performing each action. Or, perhaps, eight lists, two for each: one of good results, one of bad results, with the specific list being chosen based on circumstances.
Written with StackEdit.