Here’s how I run my Swords and Wizardry campaign.
I don’t know how any of it turns out.
I don’t care what direction the players decide to go.
In practical terms, here’s how that works. I created a map. I created a rough history of the setting, a Yes/No list of what was in it, major NPC’s in the major towns and cities, place major monsters and locations of interest on the map, consider how the NPC’s desires conflict with one another and turn those into adventure hooks, decide where the PC’s start and what is going on around those parts (locations of interest, local NPC’s and their concerns, monsters etc) and then we play. I put the clockwork in place, wind up the spring and let it go.
I give the players the smallest possible amount of information on different opportunities to fulfill the desires of their characters and ask, “What do you do?” At that point it is up to them. I don’t care how it turns out. They can be heroes, villains, opportunists or whatever they want. The only thing they can’t be is passive. Passivity is not rewarded in my campaigns. You make things happen or things happen to you.
While my attitude sounds like I’m being casual or blasé about the game, this is not the case. What I want is to be entertained and surprised. I’m most entertained when I have no idea how the adventure or campaign is going to go. I enjoy having the surprise of the solutions the party comes up with to thwart the NPC’s or monsters or overcome the challenges in front of them. If I carefully constructed a “story” before we started, I would get none of that and the player’s choices wouldn’t matter very much. We might as well stay at home and read a book or play a video game.
Because I’ve decide to say, “Here’s the world, do you what you want,” I’ve not decided how I want the “story” to run so I don’t care what direction the players go or what they do because I have made an interesting campaign world that the players want to explore and learn more about. Because my campaign world is interesting, what ever it is the players do is likely to be interesting as well.
I don’t know. I don’t care.