In the spirit of “write more about actual games instead about gaming in general” let me post two items.
First, I like how my sandbox game is progressing. The map is being explored. The game takes place in Dangerous Forest (the Lenap map of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy). Inspired by the four hexes that are described in the boxed set, I populated every hex with a lair of some sort. The players mid-term campaign goal is to drive the humans out of the forest. Now they’re trying to figure out who is who in order to identify some potential allies.
The second item on the list concerns XP. I’m trying a system with not a lot of XP for combat. Basically I’m using the level progression table suggested in the box (2000 for level 2, 6000 for level 3). Any sort of “progress” gives about party level × points, and each point is 300 XP, ie. right now with the party on second level, light combat is worth about 600 XP, a dangerous fight is worth 1200 XP, discovering a new lair and talking to the creatures living there is worth around 600 XP, etc.
Thus, the XP summary of my last game:
Talking to the swamp hag (2) and facing her crocodiles (2), fight against three giant wasps (4), talking to villagers in Forest Bight Fortress (2), talking to villagers in Boghra Little (2), getting beaten up by Ram “The Dog”, a troll (1), talking to Bernost (2), getting a job as bounty hunters for Purdell (2).
The second level characters of our five person party thus got 17 × 300 / 5 = 1020 XP each.
If you’re below average party level, you get 50% more; if you’re above average party level, you get 50% less. The first level characters therefore got 1530 XP each.
I find that much easier to calculate, and much easier to assign. I just go through everything that happened and think to myself: “Do I want to reward this?” If yes, I will assign points. “Was it ok?” If yes, I will assign party level points. If it was tough, I might assign up to twice as much.
Average character wealth be damned. I’ll just eyeball encounter levels, too, as I don’t plan to hand out as many magic items as the wealth guidelines suggest.