It will be nice to try a sandbox style campaign for when I create a D&D campaign, because in almost all the D&D or AD&D campaigns I have run, I have always had the big, bad, over-riding evil force. I know the Greyhawk campaign had Tharizdun as its C’Thulhu clone, but I was always trying to find a way to actually shoehorn C’Thulhu into Greyhawk. Actually, the last campaign I was working had a HUGE, overarching plot, that lead through a whole RAFT of adventures, taking characters from 1st level to very high levels, all in trying to present an evil cult from basically bringing C’Thulhu into Greyhawk. I had this massive plotline, with a whole mess of interconnected modules that I shoehorned in to Greyhawk, that would have sent the party chasing after both the cult and the source of their activities, that would have ended up in a huge showdown to see if C’Thulhu started munching on Oerik or not. However, in retrospect, while the idea is still kinda cool, now that I look at what I was doing, it’s TOTALLY railroady, so I don’t think I would do this campaign. Not without doing a lot of rethinking first.
Thinking about this made me wonder, though… why do I need to have an over-arching Evil Dude in my campaign? I think I could probably come up with enough “very bad things” if I just use smaller bad guys. I guess the theory is, as character advance in levels, then they need a commensurate threat, hence the “Big Baddie”. I think it would be much more interesting to try and run a sandbox game without the one gigantic threat looming in the distance, and just see if a whole bunch of smaller threats, when taken together, could cause the same level of consternation as one evil mastermind directing the puppets. What say you?