I suck at maps, particularly dungeon maps. That's why I don't have Level One of the Caverns of Lakoma ready for posting today. Instead, I'm going to touch on another topic related to fantasy world-building and sandbox preparation. Sine Nomine Publishing, creator of the wonderful Stars Without Number, also published a fantasy setting called Red Tide, which offers a lot of resources for minimal prep work in running a sandbox fantasy campaign.
One of the resources I particularly enjoyed in Red Tide was the section that described twenty different NPC groups. Each group's description was a single page, on which was enough information to cover what you would need to use that particular group in your sandbox campaign with minimal effort. Each entry was formatted as follows:
- Illustration. A small eighth-of-a-page illustration of a typical member of the group appears in the upper left-hand corner of the page.
- Brief description. Under the illustration, there's a paragraph describing the NPC group in a nutshell.
- Three groups. In the final section on the first column, Mr Crawford provides three different groups of escalating power levels: Weak (levels 1-3), Average (levels 4-6) and Strong (levels 7-9). Each simply lists the members of such a group, and provides some basic treasure for the group.
- Stat Blocks. The top third to half of the second column contains a simplified list of monster stats for the different members of the groups defined previously.
- Complications Table. The bottom of the second column on the page is filled with a chart of 6 up to 12 different complications that add flavor to a given encounter (or series of encounters) with this NPC group.
In terms of group strength, I did a relatively quick analysis, and determined the following:
- Weak: Weak parties tend to cover a range of 5-13 HD (average of 7, median of 7), and possess 2d6x10 gp in coin and/or goods. (This assumes a gold standard.)
- Average: Average parties typically cover a range of 21-45 HD (average of 33, median of 34). Their treasure troves seem to average around 2d4x1000 gp, 1d3 Gems, 1d3 Jewelry, two consumable items (50% chance each), and one magic item (50% chance). Treasure may vary, but that seems to work well overall.
- Strong: Strong parties fill a range of 31-96 HD (average of 72, median of 74). Their treasure includes 2d6x1000 gp, 2d4 Gems, 1d4+1 Jewelry, one magic weapon (50% chance), one magic armor (50% chance), two magic items (50% chance each), and two consumables (50% chance each).
This is such an easy format to use, I'm surprised no one came up with this idea before. I could easily see putting together a selection of these encounters for my own campaigns, one for each group or organization in the setting. It reminds me in some ways of one of the Forgotten Realms books, Lords of Darkness, in which stats for members of an organization were given for levels 1 through 10, except Red Tide's approach works better from the perspective of minimalist prep. It's a lot less work to achieve what would effectively be the same gaming experience at the table.
For example, let's say I wanted to create a One-Pager for an organization in the Hammersong’s Legacy Campaign Setting. Looking through the book, I easily see that I'm going to need to define some encounters for the Shadow Syndicate. Here's what I came up with...
Since this is a personal project, I don't feel the need to add an illustration to my One-Pager. If I did, though, it would probably be that of a highly tattooed vagabond skulking in an alleyway with a dagger in hand.
New to the city of Fellgorge, the Shadow Syndicate is a brotherhood of thieves that is moving in on the territories formerly controlled by Fellgorge's native rogues’ guilds. Little is known of these mysterious intruders, although rumors run rampant with speculation. Whatever their origins, the Shadow Syndicate is well funded and operating with purpose and direction. Members of the Shadow Syndicate are organized in Pacts, who are led by Overseers. Pacts are grouped under a specific Lord of the Syndicate as Families, and Overseers form small councils that advice the Lord of the Family. The Lords form the governing body of the Shadow Syndicate called the Court of Shadows, who make policy decisions and settle disputes between various members. All that is known of the Syndicate's goals is that the Shadow Syndicate seeks to control all illicit activity in Fellgorge, and is not above intimidation, coercion, assault and even assassination to accomplish their goals. Their efforts are opposed by the local law enforcement as well as the local rogues’ guilds that are being displaced from their neighborhoods.
- Weak: 5 Common Thugs, 1 Overseer. 2d6x10 silver in coin and/or goods. (I use a silver standard in my campaigns.)
- Average: 15 Common Thugs, 5 Overseers, 1 Master Overseer. 2d4x1000 gp, 1d3 Gems, 1d3 Jewelry, two consumable items (50% chance each), and one magic item (50% chance).
- Strong: 30 Common Thugs, 10 Overseers, 2 Master Overseers, 1 Lord's Man. 2d6x1000 gp, 2d4 Gems, 1d4+1 Jewelry, one magic weapon (50% chance), one magic armor (50% chance), two magic items (50% chance each), and two consumables (50% chance each).
- Common Thug: AC 8 ; HD 1d6 hp; Atk: by weapon (1d6); ST: 18; SP: double damage with surprise; MV: 12; CL/XP: 1/15.
- Overseer: AC 7 ; HD 2; Atk: by weapon (1d6); ST: 16; SP: double damage with surprise; MV: 12; CL/XP: 3/60.
- Master Overseer: AC 6 ; HD 5; Atk: by weapon (1d6); ST: 12; SP: triple damage with surprise; MV: 12; CL/XP: 6/400.
- Lord's Man: AC 4 ; HD 8; Atk: by weapon (1d6); ST: 8; SP: triple damage with surprise; MV: 12; CL/XP: 9/1,100.
1d6 Complication 1 This band of Syndicate members is seeking to capture potential slaves to sell in distant markets. They already have 1d6 (Weak), 2d6 (Average) or 3d6 (Strong) prisoners. 2 This band of Syndicate members are pushing a protection racket, and looking for people to turn into examples. 3 This band of Syndicate members are smuggling items of great importance, and don’t want to leave behind any witnesses. 4 The Master Overseer of this group is actually a Manasan infiltrator (use the stats from the Hammersong’s Legacy Campaign Setting book. 5 This band of Syndicate members has been acting against a local Rogues’ guild, and will appear in the encounter in some form or fashion. 6 In the midst of an encounter with this band of Syndicate members, the local city guard will arrive and mistake the party for members of the Syndicate as well.
Hope This Helps,