Back in the old 1st and 2nd edition days I was almost always the DM. I'd been doing it long and often enough I had large numbers of monsters memorized and could basically make things up as I went along. I had enough supplementary materials (adventure modules and what not) that I could pull out if I needed a cool map or a better NPC name. They were definitely sandbox campaigns as I usually had only a couple plot ideas in mind and so the game often wandered down paths that I never expected.
Can this be done anymore? One bonus I've heard about 4E is that it is much easier for DMs to make stuff up on the fly. In 3.x this is really hard to do. Maybe its just because I rather DM anymore, or because I have other things to do with my time then memorize hundreds of monsters, but with things so much more complicated and detailed I'm not sure it could really happen anymore. I suppose you could keep a stack of premade NPCs that you could throw in when you need them and a bunch of maps but its much harder then it used to be do come up with new things in a smooth way.
I think this is why the adventure path has come to dominate our 3.x games. That pirate campaign with drow and pirates would be much much harder to run today then it was 10 years ago. With the APs you can still make minor tweaks like dropping or modifying encounters but most of the work is already done.
Could a sandbox game be run in 3.x without a ton of prework?
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