As we continue to explore the art of sandbox preparation, I thought I would explore my own personal design process, as influenced by the elements listed in my previous post, and see what I could come up with. Before I get too far along here, though, I should probably list my goals for this particular thought experiment.
My Sandbox Preparation Goals
- Concise: I want a process that requires minimal effort to produce and is concise in its concept and details, so I can do just enough work to create a fun environment and then get to gaming. After all, if the players are waiting to game, no one (except perhaps myself) is having any fun.
- Improv-Friendly: I want a process that creates enough material that it is friendly to my personal improv skills. I may not be able to do a lot of work between sessions, so some of my core tasks should be front-loaded.
- Quick: I want something that doesn't take me long to do, so that I can feel a sense of accomplishment from the creative effort and then get to gaming! (Note a recurring theme here?)
- Repeatable: I want a process that can be easily reproduced and repeated by others, over a wide range of ideas, without pidgeon-holing anyone into a variation of the same campaign setting duplicated over and over again as a by-product of the creation process.
- Documentation: I want a process that produces usable documentation, so that I can easily use the results in-game.
The following elements appear to be common to most implementations of a sandbox-designed campaign setting:
- Regional Map: This map should have evocative names and notations on the sites of interesting locales.
- Concept: The conceptual nature of the setting should be captured to some degree. This may range from a sentence to a page or more, but without a sense of the concept behind the setting, the world loses its potential for consistent richness.
- Home: The Referee should have at least a little information on the PC's base of operations.
- Adventure Material: The campaign at start should provide at least one session's worth of adventuring in each of at least three different locations near the base of operations.
- Random Encounter Tables (Optional): You can always use tables designed for another source, such as those found in your favorite monster manual or rules set. However, unique encounter tables do a lot for creating a distinctive flavor for a region, and thus makes your game richer. This may, of course, require you to create a few new monsters, which means you're essentially building a roster of foes, but you can just as easily use monsters that are already available in the tomes you own.
I think anything else you come up with for your sandbox setting beyond the elements above should be considered icing on the cake, at least when developing something you are going to use at your own gaming table. Over the next few posts, I hope to create a simply setting as an example. This will not be anything nearly worthy of publication, per se, but I'll at least have something to aid in our discussions of the material.