Put together a sourcebook that details the whole region (Hope Cross will probably be the most detailed village - I don't want to put that kind of effort into Jacob's Cross' 1200 or so inhabitants, for example).
Detail areas like Hope Cross, the Marsh, the passes, the mountainous areas, Hag Island, Seven Stone Creek, etc. There's all kind of hamlets (is that the right word for tiny villages?) that I can get through pretty quickly (maybe with a hook or two for each?). Anyway, put together this larger document of setting - and then a second (or more) document of "story" if you will - adventure outlines that take place in the Jacob's Well region.
Darkness at hope cross becomes only about a three or four page "adventure" that connects to the Hope Cross, Southdowns and Temple of Darkness areas directly and possibly the Great Forest, Seven Stone Creek indirectly (if they can't find the Temple of Darkness, for example, they might wander all through the Great Forest - and bump up against the Goblin House or the wyvern's lair from A Question of Balance - all in the Great Forest area).
There's two things going on here - I want to put together a big region as a kind of a "sandbox" - but I want to seed it with all kind of hooks and adventures - many of which overlap in locale. Plus, I think it's really cool when looking for a lost ruin, the party happens on some other completely unrelated area - that has all kind of ramifications for them if they do this and that...
So, here's one thought. As I'm assembling this mega Sourcebook for the Jacob's Well region I'm thinking I'll put in the intended connections.
For example: The Wyvern's Lair (hex B18) - as the PCs approach (within 100') this cliffside cave, the area is heavy with unnatural silence - no animals, no insects, even the wind has silenced. This cavern is the lair of an ancient wyvern. Adventure Notes: A Question of Balance
Then go on to detail the lair and the surroundings...
In the Wandering Monster section it would say either
Wyvern (see hex B18)
Wyvern (hex B18/A Question of Balance)
So, if the party is wandering around looking for Goblin House, but they end up in this hex, the DM is free to, of course, allow them to explore the lair and defeat the wyvern. The DM can then look over the notes for A Question of Balance and see what some potential ramifications are now (maybe none, but maybe - in this case at least - some pretty serious ones).
Also, if they encounter the wyvern as a wandering monster and dispatch it, the DM will know that hex B18 is now unoccupied if the party goes there. The second wandering monster entry has the benefit of connecting the DM to both the hex lair and the adventure for hooks and ramifications (how long before the Goblins notice the wyvern is gone, for exmaple?)
So the idea is to provide some frameworks for "adventures" while maintaining the PC autonomy of goining wherever they want to.
So, to this end, I'm thinking about putting together the list of monsters and places that I want to have in the area (some will be Wandering Monsters but they'll have lairs detailed in the area - some as simple as a cave or a stand of trees, I think). So I need to know how many of what type of creature (especially humanoids, or in Daen Ral terms - the godless) and where they live, who the bandits are and where they hideout, undead, etc. Some just are all over (stirges, for example, don't need to have a "roost" though a giant eagle would). Not everything will be evil or attack the party, either.
So Jacob's Well Region is growing larger and more complicated, but I'm getting happier with the ideas I've got going here.