Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sandpits to watch out for in your Sandbox.

Zachary talks about 'Organic Boundaries' here. I been running free-ranging campaigns for a while and learned to avoid a few of the sandpits that can occur with this style.

  1. Embed your characters into the setting. Giving them a background will give them a context in which to operate and help them manage the information. By having backgrounds that overlap provides natural reasons for the characters to get together and stay together.
  2. Remember that you are the only conduit of information. Be generous in your hints and tips.
  3. For long travel times you don't have to roll each and every encounter. Look at the odds and decide how many interesting encounters will occur along the trip and make it up accordingly. By all means use the tables if you don't have a good idea but they are a tool not an end. Tim at Gothridge Manor talks about it here.
Related to #2 A lot of people view encounters and locales like the below. Little distinct dots in a setting.

In reality they are more like below. Inkstains that spread across the landscape overlapping and intermixing.

In the upper right the orange could be the range of the Dragon Xartha. The next to it is the town Crendan (light Blue) who been subject to monthly raids by the dragon. Xartha supports the Orcs (Dark Green) who menaces the human village of Meradar (pink) and the elven forest of Ashenwood (purple). All three are thinking of petitioning the King Orden of Alamaigne for aid (Dark Blue) who has his own problems with Baron Darkeven (Dark Green) who is leader of a thieves guild and making a nice profit smuggling into Crendan. In the upper right the Dwarves of Granitestar (light green) have retreated into the fastness to ride out the troubles. If convinced to come out their aid could prove to be the tipping point leading to victory over Xartha.


Alex Schroeder said...

In my Wilderlands campaign I have a some sort of lair in every hex, and the random encounter tables favor the creatures in the current hex, plus adds the creatures of the surrounding hexes (and a dragon every now and then).

Zachary Houghton said...

That's a great illustration for that type of succesful play. Good advice!

Jonathan Jacobs said...

I don't usually pimp my own blog ... but this is dead on what I was talking about back when Grognardia first printed the whole Gygaxian Naturalism thing... see the two part posts below from TCM; maybe you find it worth reading.

Frank said...

One thing I used to do for encounter rolls on long treks was develop a chart that converted the probability of no encounter for so many intervals into a percentile chart that told you how many intervals until the next encounter. For example, if your encounter probability is 1 in 6, 01-17 is encounter in 1 interval, 18-31 is 2 intervals, 32-42 is 3 intervals (if my quicky calculations are correct).