Friday, August 11, 2023

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XXIV, the Last Post

 Part XXIII  Index Page

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

Today's post will cover steps 33 and 34. 

33. Make up a rumor chart with 10 to 20 items that feeds the players into the encounter and plots you created above. 

34. Identify major regions and create a random encounter chart for each (monsters, wildlife and NPCs) 

To do this post, I had to go back and collect all the previous posts and consolidate them into a single document detailing the Isle of Piall. 

Then I looked through the entries and picked out the following to be a list of true rumors that I can use when the players interact with the various NPCs on the island.

True Rumors

  • A secret passage beneath Bone Keep leads directly to the Fortress of the Lich Lord, bypassing many of the dangers on the surface.
  • The Black Queen, Lady of the Underearth, was once a powerful ally of Tavaras and has been amassing power in the Underearth for centuries.
  • The ancient Dwarven city of Southpoint is rumored to hold a powerful artifact that can help defeat the awakened evil lurking in the depths of the mines.
  • Sir Avar, once a revered paladin, has fallen from grace and allied himself with the Black Queen, now controlling much of Bone Keep.
  • The Sahuagin have been testing the strength of the island's defenses with raids, in preparation for a large-scale invasion.
  • The Empire of Po is seeking to absorb the Kingdom of the Isles, with the Isle of Piall as an early target for expansion.
  • The Baron and the King's Sheriff are at odds, creating tension and division among the people of the island.
  • The merman King Aventis is willing to forge an alliance with those who prove themselves friends to his people.
  • The Rot Lord, an agent of the Black Queen, is building a zombie army in Sable Port to seize control of the area.
  • A map detailing the locations of valuable treasures and artifacts in Sable Port can be found hidden in one of the abandoned buildings.
  • The Chalice of Healing, an ancient relic, is said to be hidden somewhere in Sable Port, and both the Baron and the Sheriff are vying for its possession.
  • A shrine dedicated to Duke Barradon, leader of the crusaders, lies hidden and forgotten within the depths of Bone Keep.

Then I came up with a list of false rumors. Keep in mind the best false rumors are those that contain an element of truth to make them seem plausible.

False Rumors

  • The Fortress of the Lich Lord is nothing more than an elaborate hoax, meant to scare away curious treasure hunters.
  • The Sahuagin are actually peaceful creatures, who have been framed for the recent shore raids by a nefarious third party.
  • The Black Queen is merely a myth, a story created by the inhabitants of the island to keep their children in line.
  • The Empire of Po has no interest in the Isle of Piall and is focused solely on internal affairs.
  • The Bone Knight, the skeleton warrior in control of Sable Port, is actually a noble and just ruler who seeks to restore the city to its former glory.
  • The merfolk and the sahuagin are actually allies, working together to drive the surface dwellers from the island.
  • The Baron and the King's Sheriff are secretly working together to consolidate power on the Isle of Piall.
  • A powerful dragon resides in the heart of Mount Devon, guarding a hoard of unimaginable wealth.
  • The ancient Dwarven city of Southpoint is nothing but a ruin, devoid of any treasures or valuable artifacts.
  • Sir Avar is secretly working to undermine the Black Queen's plans from within her inner circle.
  • The Chalice of Healing is a cursed object that brings misfortune and death to anyone who possesses it.
  • A giant kraken lives in the waters surrounding the Isle of Piall, waiting to drag unsuspecting ships to the depths.

Random Encounters

The last step is to make a series of random encounters.

 Doing this was never one of my strong points. For most of my campaigns, a simple table indexed by terrain or locale for cities was sufficient. Then I would take into account the circumstances and location of the party. Maybe roll a d6 to see how the encounter initially was set up. With 1 being the worst circumstance for the party and 6 being the best circumstance for the party. Then I riff off of that to come up with the actual encounter. 

For a long time, I thought if I just had the right table it would save a lot of work for me. But then I coded up the city random encounter tables from Midkemia Press' City supplement. For those of you not familiar it is a deeply nested set of random tables that generate random encounters for cities. It is very well done and full of flavor but impractical to use during the session because of how many different tables you have to traverse to generate a result. But the real kicker is that when I finished coding up the tables and started generating, the results were not much more helpful than the more simple tables I used in the past.

Then I ran Adventure in Middle Earth which had a Journey system to handle travel. I thought that was by far the best random encounter system I ever ran. What made it work is that each possible encounter was at just the right level of detail to be useful but generic enough to be easily tailored to the party's circumstance. The system also had you generate at most a handful of encounters that you then place along the route of the journey. Unfortunately, that system didn't survive the transition of AiME into Free League's Lord of the Rings RPG. But it did reappear in a standalone product called Uncharted Journeys for D&D 5e. However, like many 5e products, it was far more verbose than it needed to be. 

I am working on my own take for my Majestic Fantasy RPG. I plan to support three categories of encounters: journeys over lands, voyages over water, and trips across a city. Because this going to be an OSR project one common result will be a straight random encounter roll. You will be able to use your favorite table when this result is generated. I figure it would work better for folks who like to kitbash. Instead of completely throwing away whatever they used previously you will be able to merge my take in. 

But the travel rules will come with a set of random encounter tables for Blackmarsh. I really like the Monster Manual II system of rolling a d8 + d20 for a range of results from 2 to 20. What this does is create a plateau of equal odds in the center. For d8+d12 this is 9 to 13 as shown below. This also allowed TSR to make slots for very rare, rare, uncommon, and common encounters. 

Majestic Fantasy RPG, Travel Rules (rough draft)

I am going to go with a d4 + d8 for a 2 to 12 range for this post and my rules. I find eleven entries easier to manage. But I am not going to give just one table for the entire island (or Blackmarsh). Instead, I will divide the region into different areas that make sense. For the Isle of Piall, there are three major areas: the southern half of the island that mostly settled and cultivated. The northern half which is mostly wild, and the hex around Sable Port has a high frequency of undead.

Northern Wilderness (north of hex row 04)

(2) Very Rare: An ancient treant, upset about intruders on the island.

(3) Rare: A pack of Wereboars from the Amur Forest led by Spardion their leader

(4) Uncommon: A noble hunting party from Mikva out hunting deer.

(5) Common: A Giant Eagle on the hunt. Its nest is on Mount Devon

(6) Common: A small group of Dwarven miners from Hawth, in prospecting for minerals

(7) Common: A group of Halfling foragers from Sandpoint, gathering rare herbs

(8) Common: A wandering cougar, patrolling it's hunting ground.

(9) Common: A pack of Wolves stalking a prey, possibly the party

(10) Uncommon: A patrol of skeletons led by a Wraith from the Black Queen, foraging for viz and rare herbs.

(11) Rare: A roving band of sailors out on a hunting expedition from a ship anchored on the north shore.

(12) Very Rare: A Valard the Yellow Mage practicing magic, causing confusing sights and sounds

Southern Piall (includes hex row 04, and 05)

(2) Very Rare: An Earth Elemental lumbers across the party's path. It was awakened from its slumber by excessive farming activities

(3) Rare: A visiting noble from the Kingdom of the Isles, travelling with a full retinue of guards

(4) Uncommon: A group of thieves from Carra in a woodland camp, planning a crime.

(5) Common: Farmers searching for lost livestoc.

(6) Common: Patrol from Mikva, inspecting for any illegal activities

(7) Common: A group of farmers, crafters, or merchants heading towards Mikva for market day

(8) Common: A wandering Priest of Veritas making the rounds blessing the fields and the people

(9) Common: An enthusiastic group of local kids, playing at being adventurers

(10) Uncommon: A Bard from Mikva, collecting stories and songs from locals

(11) Rare: A runaway from justice is hiding out.

(12) Very Rare: A female Ghost of a former Lady of Piall is singing a lament, cursed to roam the lands

Sable Port (hex 0402)

(2) Very Rare: The Wraith of a deceased sailor, haunting the harbor and scaring the locals

(3) Rare: The Rot Lord's undead spy, observing and plotting against the living

(4) Uncommon: A ship from the Kingdom of the Isles, docked for resupply

(5) Common: Local fisherman, discussing a recent decrease in their catch

(6) Common: Bone Knight's skeletal patrol, maintaining the fragile order

(7) Common: An argument between two factions, escalating into a street fight

(8) Common: A homeless beggar who is actually an undercover agent of Sir Avar

(9) Common: A group of off-duty sailors from the Midland Sea, causing a ruckus at the local tavern

(10) Uncommon: A merchant trying to sell maps to the rumored treasure in the Fortress of the Lich Lord

(11) Rare: A secret meeting between King's men and the representatives from the Isle of Po

(12) Very Rare: The Black Rose, a notorious assassin, spotted in the shadows

Wrapping it up.

While it took me 14 years to complete the entire series of posts, I hope you found this useful. I am currently finishing up a final draft of a book where I combined and re-edited all 24 posts and plan to publish this. It will also contain a standalone description of the setting I used. I will keep folks posted as to when it will happen which will be soon. After talking about it with my editor I am going to rename the Isle of Piall to the Isle of Pyade (rhymes with fade). Piall dates back to when I was in the 8th grade and much worse at naming things. We tried pronouncing Piall and realize that Pyade would be a better choice. However it will remain the original Piall in these posts. 

Last, I figured out how to incorporate the background of the Kingdom of the Isle and the Isle of Pyade into my Majestic Fantasy Realms.  So that version will make an appearance in a future work. I will have a longer post next week about where I am at with my projects and how soon you should expect to see them including How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox.

Until next time

Fight On!