One thing I’ve always struggled with is wilderness adventures.
Not sandboxes. That I can do in my sleep. Preset encounters sprinkled across a wilderness, with clues stretching from one place to another to point the PCs in the right direction. Let the PCs wander about and tug on the plot-threads that they will.
I’m talking about an actual adventure set in a wilderness, analogous to a dungeon adventure. Somehow, when I have the PCs in a wilderness, I can’t get out of sandbox mode, and subtly encourage them to go off in whatever direction suits their fancy. Even if I have something in mind that I would like them to do.
So tell me. How do you do non-sandbox wilderness adventures? What’s your carrot and your stick for keeping the PCs pointed in the right direction, rather than scampering off towards the nearest hillock looking for a barrow?