DM Tips: Narratives in a Sandbox - Threads or Railroads?

Watch the original video for context.

From LordStJohn-nq4np on YouTube:

This feels too much like a narrative railroad for my style of sandbox. “You WILL interact with this plot thread OR ELSE.” For me, the narrative plot emerges as a result of play and player agency and is not fed into the sandbox as a fully formed arc by the referee, demanding to be interacted with. If one creates a plot hook and the players decide not to interact with it, the chances are that it isn’t something that interests them particularly and I wouldn’t push that any further. Provided I have created some interesting locales, some elements that the players choose to interact with and then pursue the resultant leads, then there shouldn’t be a particular need to go heavy-handed on feeding THE BIG PLOT hooks. If players are lost for what to do next in a sandbox, the chances are that I haven’t provided them with enough interesting locales and choices to take a proactive decision to follow or the players themselves are lacking in confidence and adventurous spirit (which begs the question why their characters became adventurers in the first place!).

So, in conclusion, referee-driven narrative plot hooks should never be necessary in a sandbox setting; the players with their agency should be the drivers of the kind of adventures that they want to experience. The plot/story is then the natural product of those adventures and experiences.