Last year I posted about my own little Caves of Chaos, just as the group was starting to explore it. I don't believe that most folk's games can be described fairly in just one the game tropes. I suppose mine is story/plot driven which routes through mini sandbox to mini sandbox. I have an over arching story, or more accurately, a series of parallel and over lapping plots, which have stop over points where the party can make some choices and go off in whatever direction they wish for a time. After a while, one of the over arching story elements entices them back on the plot driven train. My own little caves section is one of those sandboxes.
As noted last time, they came here with a mission, but had the latitude for a short time to be themselves. I purposefully made the area a complicated web of relationships. Every action, for good or ill, changes the balance and could have unpredictable results. The party correctly perceived the situation and has been somewhat cautious in taking actions. Of course, they could have ignored the potential complications and just plowed head first into whatever took their fancy. I am happy to have the world respond in kind, and the adventure continues.
They were successful in finding and retrieving the artifact, a two hand sword named Gray Razor. The plot train calls, and they are carefully calculating the time they have left to 'make some things right' before boarding the plot train. Since no plan survives contact with the enemy it is interesting to watch them balance contingencies against the 'oh, hell we are heroic let us just do this'. Without saying too much (and my players read the blog), I do find it fascinating they are leaning towards saving one fairly anonymous NPC of which they know almost nothing of his background, though granted it is one of the few with which they had any personal contact. It is quite typical though, it is a good party and this is an obvious and personal affront to their sensibilities and ethics. I am quite looking forward to the rescue encounter.
The characters will leave Spireholm, the plot train will move on, and the adventure will continue. The memory of the place will linger and grow, and at the proper time the plot train will pass this way again and they will have another chance to 'make things right'. Or, when I give them free time between plot driven adventures, they may choose to come back and 'save' Spireholm. Either way, I am please how it all worked out, and though outwardly Spireholm bears little resemblance to the Caves of Chaos, those caves were the seed that long ago sparked my imagination to create this sandbox.
The dice never lie. Cheers!