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So I've taken this discussion to heart. I've got a campaign I started a little while ago - essentially just a megadungeon near a city. I didn't really have a lot of ideas other than "go to dungeon, hack, return to city; repeat" when I first designed it.
I've gotten inspired to expand the game's scope WM style. I have a hexmap of the land and am working on the known surface ruins of the castle beneath which are the dungeon outpost areas of the megadungeon. Essentially the scope of the campaign will be around exploration of the dungeon zones but also other side quests available into the land.
To this point, over 4 game sessions of this campaign, the story and plot (such that there has been) has been driven by me as the GM. The only major hurdle I can forsee is putting this agency in the hands of the players as per the WM model. I've briefed the PCs via email but I still think the next session will be kind of a splash of cold water.
As far as my interpretation of the WM style: yes, I still think the classic West Marches in the article linked above seems a little simplistic. This colors my understanding of how villains and plots would be treated, if at all in such a game. However the contributors of this thread have provided enough evidence that a WM game can still be successful while employing more detailed BBEGs.
So that's what I'm trying now. I'm going to present my players a sandbox which on the surface seems like a lot of hexes to explore, but in fact hides the plots, schemes and machinizations of several greater forces. Unlike the classic WM game my campaign will include a city full of NPCs and just as much potential for urban gaming as exploration. It will be up to the PCs to forge their own path and figure out what's worth fighting against, and what's worth fighting for.
Great Mark, keep us posted of the progress and/or problems.
As for player driven play, the Alexandrian has lots of blog posts about a hexcrawl campaign, designing different mechanics to implement hexcrawls. He also talks about how new mechanics will drive playstyle in another post, highlighting how after he introduced encumbrance rules, players quickly wanted to keep track of such things. Yes i like that blog...
So maybe introducing some hexcrawl and random encounter (essential to a sandbox imho) rules will result in your players adopting a hexcrawl/sandbox frame of mind all by itself.