Thanks for the interest :)
It would be set anywhere the players wanted it to be, and wherever the characters go. People could play in solo threads or create a group thread if their characters meet each other and adventure together, and then return to their solo threads when they part company.
Sandbox would mean plots and adventures are player-driven. From basic needs and desires to goals for the future, the character's background, personality, and choices would be the driving force in the directions his or her story would take. Future goals might include becoming captain of the Waterdeep guard, owning the most merchant ships on the Sword Coast, traveling around the world and writing a book about it (like Marco Polo), or founding a new chapter of the Thieve's Guild while taking over from the old one. In reaching for the sky, characters will probably reach the top of some pretty interesting mountains. You know how the original Conan stories were really just episodes in Conan's life? They were filled with adventure, to be sure, but it wasn't like Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, etc. where everybody was locked into an epic quest whether they liked it or not. The characters would have opportunities, not scripts.
Freeform would mean exactly that, no ruleset or game mechanics. Since Forgotten Realms normally is intimately bound up in the D20 ruleset and there won't be any rules, certain things would have to be addressed:
Characters would start out as concepts, the more developed the better. What is the character good at and bad at? A teenager leaving the farm in search of a better life? Fine. A veteran warrior released from service and looking for meaning? No problem. Characters would not be restricted to a particular 'level'. I want to get away from levels, hit points and other game mechanics and explore character development in the setting. At the same time, characters with godlike powers would have such an effect on the setting I want to stay away from that.
Character ability improvement would be handled through actions: Does your character want to learn the skills of the rogue? Then he or she has to get someone to teach them... and pay the price. How about heavy armor or mounted combat? Join the Army of Cormyr and serve the King. Learning these skills to any kind of proficiency would take quite a while. The story would be the journey, rather than the destination.
Combat and conflict: The character's abilities (the good at and bad at) would be taken into account by the GM/player and compared to the NPCs concepts. OOC cooperation and discussion would be highly encouraged. Veteran warrior takes on three average guardsmen? He'll probably win without breaking a sweat. The farm kid taking on the same guardsmen would probably go down with one punch to the gut. In cases where the character is evenly matched or in a bad situation, it'll depend on the creativity of the player to write him or her out of it, limited by being Realistic:
Realism: Forgotten Realms is high fantasy. There is so much magic that characters could spend their whole lives not sure if they're really who they think they are. People can get killed by falling dragon scales. All that is pretty much normal and realistic for the Forgotten Realms reality
. What I mean by realism... is suddenly more difficult to explain than I thought it would be
but I'll give it a try:
It's got to be internally consistent or, I guess, believable; a character who is honorable and dedicated to his duty isn't suddenly going to become corrupt for the sake of providing a convenient opponent for the player character. If a character is a treacherous scheming Drow priestess, she's not going to suddenly start keeping her word unless it's somehow worth it or furthers her web of treacherous schemes. People can change, but it needs to make sense. That farm kid isn't going to be able to leap from chandelier to chandelier with one hand while battling evil henchmen with a two handed sword in his other. The old innkeeper isn't going to suddenly have incredible magic powers because the GM decides the player characters need to stop smashing up his bar. A longbow arrow through the eye kills, instead of being a nuisance like in the ruleset. If things happen or are a certain way, they need to be that way for reasons which would believably exist in the setting and be relevant to that situation. Players need to accept the limitations of believability as they accept their characters' capabilities. As writers, it's up to us to turn defeat into a story opportunity. Forgotten Realms is filled with a variety of cultures and societies. I want to get as far away from present day contemporary modes of thinking and write from the point of view of characters immersed in their social fabric. They would care about they own society's rules and morals, and the great majority of values present day society holds would make absolutely no sense to them.
I ask myself how and why questions about settings, like how does the city of Waterdeep feed its people? What do dragons eat in their cold craggy mountains? What effects does the constant violence and physics-warping magic of the setting have on the people and their societies? How do people and societies react when gods are real, unpredictable, and horribly evil as often as they are benevolent? How does this affect the family? Do people even risk emotional attachments when those they love the most can be taken from them in an instant, or even turned against them by magic? I want to explore these kinds of themes, to have them woven into the setting with a writing partner(s) who finds this kind of stuff interesting.
My characters, alot of them, are complex people. I've never been able to play them, tabletop or on forums, for a variety of reasons, usually because candyass PG-13 forums can't handle them, people don't care about the character focused stories I'm interested in, or because the centrifugal force of the game mechanics inevitably draws the situation into revolving around getting experience points. It's like I never got to get off the leveling merry-go-round and explore a really interesting setting. No one else even wanted to.
I welcome everyone's thoughts and discussion.