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There's no official sandbox for RPGSE, so I'm hoping it's cool to get my question refined here.

I run a homebrewed D&D 5e campaign for two players. We're fairly heavily into the roleplay side of the game and really enjoy all the storytelling aspects. This is my first time DMing so we've tried a couple different things along the way to see what we do/don't like. We tried a dungeon crawl and were not a fan at all (too grindy, limited chance for story, combat got too repetitive) and I've been haunted by the dungeon combat feel ever since.

I want to ask a question that basically boils down to how can I make combat more interesting for my players, but with the understanding that I'm looking for ways to make it interesting from a roleplay perspective.

Is this a good question? Is there some way I can refine it? As it stands I'm worried it'll get closed as too broad, subjective, or potentially a dupe if I don't explain myself well enough. There's plenty of questions about making combat more mechanically interesting, but I didn't find one about storytelling.

My ideal output is suggestions on both how to design a better encounter to give my players more options, and also possibly things I can be thinking about to keep my monster movements/choices more interesting.

Edited to add: Stepped away and came back, and I'm now wondering if the above is too broad, if I can instead try something like "How to show (not tell) my players that roleplay is always an option, even in combat". Ie, how to introduce roleplay elements naturally from my side to teach them that they too can choose to roleplay instead of just whacking it with a stick until it goes away.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Like rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/10225/… ? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 23 '17 at 12:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just for reference, it's definitely cool to workshop the question via its own meta question. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 23 '17 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was browsing through the site a bit and saw this post. For reference if you think a Sandbox might be a good idea on RPG.SE you can look at other sites such as WorldBuilding. Though it's not without problems and we are currently rethinking. CC @nitsua60 \$\endgroup\$ – Secespitus Jun 27 '17 at 8:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Secespitus I just created and threw a [sandbox] tag onto this question: it seems to me that something like that hits a lot of the functional requirements described in WB (collects them all together, makes them easy to follow) without engendering some of the difficulties (lots of manual work to maintain list with links and delete "graduated" answers to maintain visibility, won't suffer auto-protection). I wonder if tags of [sandbox] and [sandbox-graduated] might be the solution over there? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 27 '17 at 14:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm... come to think of it, a [sandbox] tag might be problematic here, as it's a play-mode that gets mentioned a lot so might create confusion. Will have to ponder.... \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jun 27 '17 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Monica already suggested something that in this discussion (inspired by shog9). If you ask me it introduces the problem that you don't have one post that you can link (or you make a different meta post that introduces user to search for a tag...) and it's more difficult to keep track of. I also think it's too big in the sense that some people will write big elaborate answers as suggestions and reading everything when you want to help new users is demanding more time from helpers. \$\endgroup\$ – Secespitus Jun 27 '17 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 But we are currently rethinking our Sandbox model. So yeah, it might work. I will regularly check back on how RPG handles it. Might be interesting to see. It currently looks like there is no "perfect" solution. PPCG uses a Sandbox like ours and just removed auto-protection from the whole Meta Site. As far as I can tell they are pretty happy. Maths uses something they call a Sandbox, but that's mainly for writing long answers that take time and having a place to dump them while working on them. So quite a bit different from our definition of "Sandbox". \$\endgroup\$ – Secespitus Jun 27 '17 at 14:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think for RPG the sandbox is to just ask it on main site. If it's not quite up to snuff, it'll get closed, we'll work on it in comments and revisions, and then it'll get reopened. ☺️ \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 27 '17 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener If I can interject a newbie's opinion here; I know to seasoned vets getting a question closed is nothing, but for newer guys it's pretty alarming. I'd much rather workshop in "private" - here in meta where votes don't affect my overall status - than endure downvotes from well meaning citizens that can majorly impact my ability to do things on this site. It just feels friendlier to work on meta first. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex Jun 27 '17 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Alex Thanks for offering that up, that's some useful perspective. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 27 '17 at 17:15
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I have an idea for an answer to this question, however, that, of itself, does not make the question not too broad or not too opinion based.

To avoid this you need to focus the question. You need to be very clear in:

  • what the problem is that the home brew is trying to solve,

  • what, within the rules or as home brew, you have tried (or thought of trying) and why this was inadequate,

  • what a solution would look like in general terms.

These sorts of things help answerers narrow their focus (minimizing "too broad") and direct their attention (minimizing "opinion based").

For example, are you looking for ways to avoid combat altogether, for role-play to occur during combat (and, if so, will it have a mechanical effect), for combat to transition to and from combat etc.

I would also avoid non-specific phrasing like "more interesting" - I find solving differential equations interesting but for some reason this is not considered interesting by some people.

Essentially, you are trying to make a good subjective question.

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You could make the question have a specific focus. For example, if you are looking to spice up combat then take a specific part of combat that doesn't work and ask a specific question on that aspect; an actual example were rules could help you out.

If you are looking for storytelling questions then yes, this would probably be closed as too "opinion based" - you might be better asking in a storytelling or worldbuilding forum. Afterall everyone has a different take on GMing and we couldn't look up rules or rulings to help you.

Based on the meta, I don't think this is the right place to ask.

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