Not sure if a total open ended sandbox style setting would work or refine that to more of a linear 'story' but either way I always find it useful to put together a map with the various elements that I may use in either situation.
Below you'll find the map I created for the imaginary territory of Rosewood, located somewhere in the American southwest. Anyway, I populated the map with all manner of classic western elements that would be useful for whatever game I end up running.
|Click to embiggen and guess the inspiration.|
We have a federal presence with Fort Travis.
The tough mining town of Bronson run by Jedidiah Young, the Mormon silver mining magnet. Good luck trying to make a claim there.
The rough town of Rebel, founded by Harlow Cox, along the western stage road, north of which is Beggar's Canyon.
Further down the road we have the new prosperous town of Harlow Junction - best whores and whiskey in the territory. The land-baron Harlow Cox along with his political capital vies for making the Junction the new county seat.
South of Harlow Junction you'll find the county seat itself in quaint Rosewood. The town is kept in order by a no bull-shit sheriff Isaiah Courtright and his deputies and their no firearms ordinance.
We've got two feudin' families living in Eastwood and Garret always shootin' each other up 'cross county lines. I'm sure somewhere around there lives an old hermit as well.
The tiny Mexican village of Pico on the edge of the Mar Caliente desert.
Finally the town of San Juan, with it's Spanish style mission located on the ol' San Juan Trail.
There are plenty of mountains, trails, deserts and hills, bluffs and canyons for hideouts, outlaws and posses to carouse and homesteads to be carved out.
There should be plenty here to get started with, I think, no matter what ends up being run.
*A fella, a smart fella may notice that I based the map on one of the great old school campaign settings The Keep On The Borderlands.