Sunday, December 4, 2022

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XXIII

 Part XXII  Index Page

This is the twenty-third post in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. 

Today's post will cover steps 29 to 32. 

  1. Pick the 12 most important NPC or Monsters 
  2. Write a paragraph describing each and fully stat them. 
  3. Pick the most six common encounter type. (City Guard, Border Warders, Bloody Hand, Orcs) Write a paragraph and fully stat them.
  4. Scan your description for any regional organization and write a paragraph on them. Fully stat the most common encounters involved with them.

My choice of using a small example like the Isle of Piall constrains my choices of what to pick for important NPCs, Monsters, encounters, and organizations. It does illustrate an important point about making a sandbox, its scope. 

The details increase geometrically with the area covered by the setting. Piall is five hex columns by five hex rows and has about 27 entries. Blackmarsh has 27 hex columns and 19 hex rows and has 94 entries. Finally my upcoming "Into the Majestic Fantasy Realms" has four maps each with 31 hex columns 41 hex rows along with 200+ entries each. The amount of detail grows geometrically as the size of the map grows. Make the map twice the size in terms of hex rows and columns, and you will have to put in four times the work. 

If you pick a smaller number of locales to flesh out on a larger map this will mean more to make up as the campaign progresses. For your first sandbox make it a size that you feel comfortable with. The time estimate that accompanied the first posts of this series was based on an area the size of Blackmarsh, a map the size of a regular piece of paper, with about 100 entries total.

What to Detail?

The most important NPCs or monsters on the Isle of Piall should be the ones that the players are likely to interact with. Once you determined this list then describe their capabilities and/or plans in detail. Given the limited scope of the Isle of Piall I opted to describe 14 individuals and their associated organizations.

The NPCs of Piall

Jason Sholtis
They are in several broad groups. 

Those involved in the Barony of Piall

  • Valard the Yellow Mage
  • Sheriff Tomar Revan
  • Baron Argus Gorvon
  • Master Arven Rowe of the Order of Thoth. 

Each of these individuals is a significant person that will impact the characters as they adventure in and around Piall. For others mentioned in previous posts, the normal stat blocks and initial description should suffice. It is possible that players will decided to focus on interacting with one of these character in which case you will need to flesh them out.

Related to the above is the Thieves Guild of Piall which includes 

  • Stephen Clar of the House of Fish in Mikva the guildmaster, 
  • Moran Lodar of Carra a smuggler. 

Thieves Guild and criminal underworld have long been a staple of fantasy campaigns so the odds are high that these two and their followers will be a factor in the campaign. 

Finally, a pair of unrelated human antagonists are detailed

  • The imperial spies led by Sir Iago Dunth 
  • Captain Arvis Black and his ship the Red Revenge. 


The main source of adventure are the various undead haunted ruins left over from the time of the Dark Lord. And there are three primary antagonists that need to be fleshed out. 

  • Sir Avar the fallen Paladin of Bone Keep
  • The Rot Lord of Sable Port, 
  • The Black Queen residing in the Fortress of the Lich Lord.

Another source of adventure is found under the waves.

  • The mermen of Aventis lead by King Touris 
  • Aventis is threatened by Sahuagin lead by Prince Xatharazzax 
  • Also the mermen suffer from factionalism caused by Prince Ormus.

Much of this information was written up in earlier posts but scattered among the descriptions of the different locales. This section pulls them together to paint an overview of how the region's inhabitants interact with each other and potentially with the PCs.

Below is a link to a PDF you can download with all the stat blocks for these NPCs. They are compatible with Swords and Wizardry, my Majestic Fantasy RPG, and many other classic editions including Old School Essentials. If you see a term that is not in your edition like viz or ritual casting then ignore it. The rest of the stat block will work just fine. 

Valard the Yellow Mage
(Southpoint, Hawath Hex 0105)
Valard is a full Wizard (9th level) who retired to the Isle of Piall after the death of the previous King of the Isle. He did not get along with the king's heir and left after his coronation. Valard is a free spirit who only served the royal court because of his personal friendship with the old king. As recognition for Valard's service, the new king awarded the lighthouse tower near Southpoint for the wizard's use. 

Valard is in his 50's and is intensely creative when it comes to magical constructs. He has been frustrated in recent years as his latest works have been sub-par. The Yellow Mage was most vexed when his latest project, an ebony hawk with yellow-gold stripes, failed and fell into the sea outside of Southpoint.

Reynard (Fighter 4th level) is Valard's friend and assistant and resides in the tower. He manages Valard's finances and works with the Dwarves of Hawth maintaining the tower and its lighthouse.

The Barony of Piall

For centuries the Kingdom of the Isles was a confederation of barons led by a king who was a first among equals. But the rise of the Empire of Po and its threat to the independence of the Isles has led to increasing royal control. 

Sheriff Tomar Revan
(Mikva, Hex 0403)
Sheriff Tomar Revan is a young portly man known for his brilliant intellect and jovial manner. He is a strong proponent of the king's new policies and has been sent to Piall to manage the royal properties namely the several herds of sheep whose wool have been particularly profitable in the past decade. The Sheriff is skilled enough to be considered a 4th level Fighter. 

Baron Argus Gervon
(Mikva, Hex 0403)
Baron Argus in his late 40s and known to be a pious adherent of Veritas the High Lord. He considers himself to be a patron of the church. He also is meticulous in his appearance and orders the latest fashions from the mainland. The Baron is very conscious of the legacy of the Gervon family and deeply resents the royal intrusion on his family's island.

Master Arven Rowe of the Order of Thoth
(Mikva, Hex 0403, #13 Resident Mage)
Arvin Rowe arrived in Piall as a journeyman of the Order of Thoth the dominant order of mages in the Kingdom of the Isle.  Piall is noted for its ruins dating back to just after the Cataclysm when the Dark Lord was consolidating his control over the newly made islands. Since the formation of the Kingdom of the Isles, the Order of Thoth has had sent a mage to reside on Piall to explore the ruins. Also to buy any information and artifact found about these ruins.

Arvin is one of the Baron friends. The two men found common ground in their shared faith in Veritas. Before discovering his talent with arcane magic, Arvin was a novice within the church. Currently, Arvin is trying to convince the Baron to join him on a climb to the peak of Mount Devon.  
The Thieves of Piall
Piall's small thieves had originated generations ago as an organization of smugglers defying the lich Tavaras. Even after the island was liberated, the smugglers continued to operate in order to evade tolls and fees levied by various empires and kingdoms. As the island is dependent on what the fishermen bring in there is only so much the Gevons are willing to do to curb their activities. 

Moran Lodar
(Carra, Hex 0404)
A big man with big ears and a violent temper, Moran Lodar rules the thieves guild of Piall with an iron grip. He is in his late 40s and still hasn't slowed down. Currently Moran's biggest problem is that the dispute between Sheriff Tomar and Baron Argushase created a lot of opportunities for deals by members of the guild. Moran disapproves of this knowing that eventually after things are sorted out that there will blowback from whoever comes out on top. So he constantly sends his enforcer, Orsin, to keep everybody in line. 

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Stephan Clar
(Mikva, Hex 0403, #17 The House of Fish)
Moran's lieutenant and proprietor of The House of Fish in Mikva. He is well aware of Moran's desire to keep things quiet while the dispute between the King's Sheriff and the Baron plays out. However he recently became aware of Fikki Firebeard, Mikva's dwarven weaponcrafter, inheriting a rare dwarven chess set made of onyx and white quartz and desires it for himself. Now is looking to put together a team for the job.

Dangerous Foes

Sir Iago Dunth
(Lairs, Hex 0201)
Sir Iago Dunth is a spy in the service of the Emperor of Po. He and 10 scouts landed on the north shore a fortnight ago and now planning to make their way south to map out the island and its defenses. 
A childhood friend of the Emperor, Sir Iago is a bit of a bravado looking for glory. This is the second island within the kingdom he is scouting. His men are a bit nervous as their exit from the previous island was messy as they had to slay two local yeomen before escaping to their boat.

Captain Arvis Black
(Random Encounters, Waters)
Growing up as a street rat in Vanderberg, the capital of the Ochre Empire,  Arvis Black was able to talk a captain into letting him join the crew of a ship. He proved to be adept as a sailor eventually working his way up to becoming a second mate. On one of his voyages, he learned he was a royal bastard of the Kingdom of the Isles. Always ambitious, he became obsessed with wresting the throne from his half brother. 

Sir Avar
(Bone Keep, Hex 0302)
Sir Avar was a paladin, a divine champion of Delaquain the Grey Maiden, the goddess of honor and justice. Unfortunately, he fell in love with a knight's daughter and she loved him back. Both devout followers of Delaquain, the two agree to remain chaste until the Grey Maiden released him from her service. But his enemies found out about his love and killed her in revenge.  In the depths of despair, he forsakes Delaquain and became a Chaos Knight. 

He preserved the body of his love and sealed in a glass coffin. He entered into the service of the Black Queen in order to have access to the ruins of Bone Keep. He believes if finds the shrine of Duke Barrandon, a legendary saint, he will be able to redeem himself and resurrect his lost love. 
Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

The Rot Lord
(Ruins of Sable Port, Hex 0402)
Once a king of a realm that existed prior to the Cataclysm, he swore his fealty and his realm to the service of the Dark Lord. He served his overlord well and when he died he was transformed into a wraith to continue his service. In the wake of the Crusade, he managed to rescue the Black Queen from the clutches of the Crusaders and fled with her deep into the Underearth. Since then he has served her as one of her most loyal lieutenants. 

Currently, he using his knowledge of necromancy to animate an army of zombie around Sable Port. He views it as yet one more task to be done capably and well as his honor and oath demands.

The Black Queen
(Fortress of the Lich Lord, Hex 0303)
A powerful sorceress who rose high in the service of the Dark Lord prior to the Cataclysm.  After the Cataclysm she was one of several of the Dark Lord's lieutenants assigned to explore the newly created Midland Sea. After the fall of the Dark Empire, she allied with the lich Tavaras on the isle of Piall. It was an uneasy alliance at best. 

When the Crusaders of the United Church arrived she was nearly killed alongside Tavaras. But thanks to the aid of the Rot Lord, she escaped the crusaders by fleeing into the Undereath. Now she has returned to Piall and slowly building up her power to seize the island as the start of her plans to re-forge the Dark Empire. She currently exists as a wraith-like creature still in possession of formidable skills as a magic user.

King Touris 
(Aventis Village, Hex 0401)
While getting on in his years, King Tuoris is slim and full of energy. His family and advisors are barely able to keep up with him. Especially when he focuses on the great love of his life, racing his sea-horses. When he was young his skill at riding allowed the young prince to lure a Sahaugin raiding party into an ambush that saved a fleet of fishing boats in the East Bay of Piall. Tuoris is a strong proponent of the alliance with the Gervons and is looking forward to their meeting next year. 

Prince Xatharazzax 
(Sahuagin Outpost, Hex 0505)
The Demons of the Deep never ceased to worship their demonic creators after the Dawn Wars. After the Demon's imprisonment within the Abyss they fled into the deepest ocean trenches to rebuild and somehow free the demonic lords they worship. With the creation of the Midland Sea after the Cataclysm hundreds of square miles of unclaimed sea floor awaited anybody with the strength to claim it. 

Prince Xatharazzax was sent by his father to prove his mettle in the Midland Sea by carving new realms for the Sahuagins to conquer and rule. Xatharazzax is a veteran of several campaigns and realm of Aventis ruled by King Touris is his latest target. He is a skilled tactician although his past successes have fueled his arrogance to the point where he believes he can overcome any challenge including personal ones. 

Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games

Prince Ormus
(Aventis Village, Hex 0401)
Quiet and studious, Tuoris youngest son, Ormus, thinks an alliance with the humans is a waste of time.  That it is one of the many things that makes his father and his older brothers too distracted to properly protect Aventis from the Sahaugins. He feels it would be better if his father properly supported his expeditions into the ruins littered along the sea floor. Study the artifacts that are uncovered and use magical knowledge gained to protect the kingdom.  From his own explorations, he learned enough to become a Magic User.

That is it for part XXIII next is Part XXIV where we wrap things up with rumors and random encounter charts.


Charles Saeger said...

Can I just say how glad I am to see more of this, and am hoping to see its conclusion and (maybe) some kind of final pass putting things together for consistency?

Robert Conley said...

Yup both are on the agenda sooner rather than later.