Saturday, June 30, 2018

Terrinoth #2 - Setting up a Sandbox

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am planning to run part of this new campaign as a sandbox.

Specifically, I am using the Runebound map as the "sandbox". There are some differences between the Runebound map and the map of Terrinoth in the Realms of Terrinoth supplement, but for my purpose it will suffice. The Runebound map is also divided into hexes, each of which I estimate to be around 24 miles across, which is conveniently the distance a party travels in one day in D&D (and most fantasy rules).

Populating the sandbox was an easy task of marrying the strengths of the map and the supplement: I put a scanned copy of the map onto a cork board, and put red pins onto those hexes containing the landmarks and features described in the book.

I made a table of all these pinned sites with the description from the book, and then I went through my library of RPG modules to find suitable adventures for each of the sites.

For example, the text on Smokeblue Hills mentioned sorcerous cults, so it was a simple matter of finding a module that features cultists as the main antagonist, and then adapting it to fit the world, and then siting the adventure at the location. If the players decide to explore the Smokeblue Hills in the next session, I just pull out the module, revise myself on the story, prepare the required monster cards and miniatures, and we are good to go.

This somewhat duplicates the first phase of play for the Runebound game, where the player charactes wander around the board visiting quest sites and drawing quest cards from a deck.

The second phase of a Runebound game, which I also wish to duplicate, has a more "directed" quest, where there is a boss villain who is putting his plans into action, which will in time come to fruition if the players do not stop him before a certain number of turns have elapsed. This "main quest" also generates a number of related "side quests", which give the players a chance to throw a spanner in the works of the villain's plans - or not, if they choose to ignore the plot hooks presented to them.

This is the basic plan for the mixed sandbox-directed play.

There is of course another option, which is to let the sandbox proceed at a more "organic" fashion. I described this approach thus on a thread on rpgnet forum discussing sandbox play:

"So let's say there is this "Swamps of Fear" somewhere on the map. You then have to decide what challenge to put there. How about a hag? That's pretty standard, right? Then you think about what a hag might be up to, or just go to rpgnow or adventurelookup and search for a module that features a hag. You don't need a full-length module, just a mini-dungeon as others have suggested will do. Remember, you want the session to be self-contained. Once you have found a mini-module you like and read, you plonk the adventure there and then think about the rumours. Usually the modules come with a table for rumours - if so, when the players ask you what's at the Swamps of Fear you just make a roll and give them the rumour, and they then decide whether to go there.
For the second stage I like to introduce the overarching metaplot of the setting. This can be something you plan from the outset, or something that evolves organically. Say the hag that your PCs fought was particularly memorable and they looted something neat from her. You can then play on this and either have her return as an undead, or have her sisters in the coven find her looted lair and decide to take revenge on the PCs (and take back the looted item!). You can further expand it by deciding that these sisters were part of a collective of covens which are planning to bring about some Bad Event, and the item was part of the plan (maybe each hag was supposed to bring their item to the meeting place on such and such a date to participate in a ritual to bring about the Bad Event).Over the next few sessions the PCs continue to explore interesting spots on the map, but find themselves attacked again and again by the hags or their agents, until eventually they learn about their plans and the importance of the item, and must decide what to do."

It is of course still too early to say which approach I will eventually take with this campaign, but I am excited by the possibilities.

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