UPDATE: This post has been updated and included in the recently released book, How to Play a Character & Other Essays, available for purchase from the Lulu marketplace.
My blog passed half a million page views yesterday, so thank you everyone. In appreciation, I'd like to offer you this 'module.'
This is for all the DMs who claim that when they've tried to run a sandbox campaign, they've had players sitting around without anything to do. This is for those DMs who are unhappy because they have to create hooks to get people interested, or paint road signs, or club their parties over the head to get them going. This is for those DM's who use that as proof positive that sandboxes simply don't work, no matter how good an idea they are.
The next time your players are sitting around without anything to do, say this to them:
"Gentlemen ... Ladies ... May I say that I recognize that things may seem uncertain and unclear for the moment, but might I suggest a few things to start you thinking in a positive direction.
"To begin with, I have chosen to make you utterly free persons. You owe no responsibility, no fealty, no loyalty, to any given person anywhere in my world. You are completely and utterly apart from the heirarchical structure, no force or entity knows anything of your existence, you have a completely clean slate from which to start.
"You may do, therefore, anything you wish. If you wish to participate in a hack and slash campaign, then after all remember that this is D&D. You know where the monsters are - you do not need me to tell you. The monsters are in the wilderness, they are in the mountains and hills, they are at the bottoms of lakes and lagoons, they are in caves and at the bottoms of ravines, they are in the sewers of the largest cities ... and well you know, where there are monsters, there will be treasure.
"If you prefer to play something more 'civilized,' let me remind you there is an entire world of crime open to you. Become murderers, become arsonists, become racketeers or smugglers, examine for yourselves all the dark arts of flouting the law and living fast on your feet for fun and profit! Or if that seems immoral and undesirable, consider the possibilities to be found in catching criminals. Bounty hunters are always in short supply and the act takes courage and inventiveness.
"Then again, perhaps collecting other things strikes your imaginations better - rare objects, books, art, magic items, what have you. Create a library, create a zoo, travel the world wide gathering together all you need to make it the greatest ever. If you seem in short supply of ideas, there are always mages aching to make your acquaintance, to pay you hard coin for things they know they need and know where to find.
"Or travel for its own sake. If this part of the world isn't your cup of tea, strike out for warmer seas, or jungles, or deserts, or polar climes. There are always wandering monsters, always people needing brave souls to defend their villages, always opportunities for meeting strangers and making them either friends or piles of meat. It is up to you.
"Together, your party represents something rare and wonderful in the world. Imaginative, ambitious persons, completely loyal to one another, ready to unite in a single cause, ready to break the spine of any enemy, bring down the evil house of any ruling family, raise edifices of grandeur, raise a religion of your choosing, unleash hell upon earth or raze the power structure to the ground. All you need do is decide upon your course of action, raise wealth however satisfies you, take it upon yourselves to apply that wealth to your goals and succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
"I'm prepared to run any sort of game you wish. Talk among yourselves. Ask any questions, I shall do my best to answer them. Take your time deciding. Come to an agreement. I will be in the kitchen getting myself a cup of coffee."