I'm a bit of a sandbox extremist and trust to the oracular power of the dice. If they want to throw ten ogres at a first level party, who am I to stop them? If they decide that the Staff of the Magi is in that hoard being guarded by a pack of kobolds, then that's the way it is. I sketch out dungeons in very sparse detail, improvise on the fly, guided by the decisions of the party. And that's the way it should be.
But recently, one of my young players wants to go on a quest to seek out a Holy Avenger, him being a Paladin and all. And I'm torn; do I yield to his enthusiasm and do a Quest, complete with clues, guidelines and...(gulp)...a Story Path or do I respond to his earnest entreaties with a scowl and the words "If it comes up on a treasure roll then it's yours"?
It's by no means impossible. There's a 1% chance on the Swords table for the Avenger to appear; it isn't even the highest XP value sword on the table so it's not even in gamebreaker territory. 4K of XP for a 4th level paladin isn't what I'd call Monty Haul.
So, guided quest (with deliberately placed treasure) or let the dice decide? Or is there a middle way that will keep everybody happy?
Infinite Possibilities -
6 minutes ago