Practicing the art and skill of building worlds.

Averald: A Fantasy Sandbox, part 4

The following was originally posted on my old blog on October 5, 2011. I have since commandeered that blog for private use, and have decided to move my campaign development ramblings over here. They are presented here in their entirety, though they may be reformatted to be easier to see on this blog’s color scheme. Thanks for reading!


Now is the time to decide how many adventures we want in our little sandbox. If you wanted to, you could just go with whatever you decided or rolled in Step 3, but a bunch of unrelated one-shot encounters just isn’t very satisfying sometimes. So let’s take a couple of these and make some bigger adventures.

Just for the record, I’ve got 41 map objects on my map of northeastern Lorthera. I’ve separated them into:

  • 21[1]Settlements (this includes any settled area that is not immediately hostile toward the PCs.)
    • 1 City
    • 6 Towns
    • 8 (marked) Villages — villages are small settlements, usually not marked on the map. The ones that are marked are the ones that have inns[2], or possibly something interesting going on.
    • 7 Miscellaneous Settlements (including hermits, fortifications, religious settlements like monasteries, etc.)
  • 5 Ruins (probably infested with monsters.)
  • 9 Monster/Enemy Locations (either in lairs or wandering; this includes any place whose denizens are immediately hostile toward the party — monsters, bandits, etc.)
  • 6 Miscellaneous Locales (natural resources, odd patches of wilderness, bad weather, etc.)

So, that brings us to…

Step 5:
Decide how many adventures you want to lace your sandbox with, and decide how big you want them to be. Using the resources you’ve already built (maps, history, list of encounters), put related encounters into groups of about five each.

I find a spreadsheet to be very helpful at this point, though if you’re allergic to them, notecards would work as well. Take all of those things you generated randomly in Step 3 and group them according to subject, proximity, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Here are a few ideas:

1. Take a group of encounters that seem related and arrange them in the order they appear on the map, from one point to another in the order they’d be traveled through. As you go, jot down notes about why the PCs might go from one of those encounters to the other.

Example:
06024: Lorhaven – adventure starts here.
09024: Fortress – ore stolen from mine nearby.
10024: Natural Resource – investigate mine.
11022: Encampment – track thieves to their camp.
15019: Fort – follow map to bandits’ lair.

You might notice that I don’t have a “11022: Encampment” on my map — remember that it’s fine to add or alter things as you go! Also notice that the outline doesn’t have to be detailed at this point — it just has to get from one point to another, we can add details later.

2. Take a few encounters that are in the same area and think about how they are affecting one another. Put them in the logical order in which the PCs would encounter them, and jot down notes about why the PCs might go from one of those encounters to the other.

Example:
05020: Village – adventure starts here.
06018: Village – investigate monster attacks.
09019: Poison Glade – hazard in the forest on the way to…
08019: Spider Pit – dungeon with tunnels leading to…
10019: Ruined Tower – boss monster (spider queen.)

Once again, remember that these don’t have to be detailed yet. We can work that out later. I try to put about five encounters per adventure, but sometimes encounters are optional, like the Poison Glade in this example.

3. Take a few encounters with a similar theme, even if they’re far away from each other, and decide how they relate to each other. Then put them in a logical order and — surprise, surprise — jot down notes about why the PCs might go from one of those encounters to the other.

Example:
07022: Ferry – the adventure starts here.
06017: Fellwick[3] – take a boat to investigate…
07016: Shipwreck – find some artifacts from…
10006: Cult of the Water God – get map to…
08014: Lost Temple – boss monster and treasure.

Looks like there will be a lot of water travel in this adventure.

After we’ve done this for most of the encounters on the map — leaving a few that aren’t related to anything else is fine, just as long as there’s a hook to them somewhere — it’s time to start turning those little outlines into real adventures.

[1] This seems like a lot, I’m sure — just over half of all the objects on the map — but I enjoy a lot of roleplaying in my games, and I like adventures to take place in towns as well as the wilderness, so that may be why. I like to give players opportunities to roleplay and use non-combat skills, so I want to develop at least a few adventures that don’t involve a lot of combat. Also keep in mind that a lot of adventures start in towns, even if it’s just as a rumor of an unexplored dungeon in the area.

[2] A lot of gamers seem to take it for granted that everywhere they go, there will be an inn for them to stay at and some shops to buy stuff. Many villages do not have inns, or even many stores. For somewhere to stay the night, they will have to rely on the kindness of strangers, and for things to buy, they will have to find the right people to barter with or wait for a market day.

[3] I should mention, at this point, that the town of Fellwick (06017) on the map is intended to be the Fellwick for which I drew a map a few years back. It was drawn with the intention of being a hub for a roleplaying game, and I’ve never used it, so I figure I might as well now. It has a little bit of history that I can tie in quite nicely with the rest of this little setting.

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2 responses

  1. October

    The Fellwick map looks great! What program did you use?

    I’m looking forward to getting to where I can start planning scenarios and encounters like you have. When I get my geography situated and my settlements (and Cauldrons) placed, I’ll have to start thinking about that sort of thing.

    You’ve done a good job of connecting your locations in the examples. The shipwreck/Cult of the Water God brings to mind Deep Ones and Dagon or Cthulhu. Could the Lost Temple be the fantasy-world equivalent of R’yleh? 😉

    May 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

    • For the Fellwick map, I used Photoshop. I think it was my first attempt to use layer styles and it ended up working really well (after a whole lot of faffing about while I was figuring out what the heck I was doing, heh!) I think.

      I’m looking forward to that, too. Salorica is fascinating! By contrast, Averald is pretty mundane, as far as fantasy worlds go — for now! I can’t wait until I get to races and monsters, but that’s not until my next series of posts….

      Thanks! Yeah, some sort of sinister unholy terror lurking beneath the water is definitely where I want to go with that one. I started (a little too late for the Cartographers’ Guild contest, but fun nonetheless) a one-page-dungeon for the “Abandoned Monastery” in Fellwick that ties in quite nicely. I’m going to finish that up tomorrow, and I might post that Thursday or Friday as a little extra. I’m beginning to wish that was the adventure I decided to elaborate in the next post, but I had ideas for that little cluster of encounters in example 2.

      I love to work a creepy, horrorish overtone into a lot of my adventures. Averald was started with “typical fantasy setting” in mind, but more and more I find my self leaning toward dark fantasy, which is just fine with me. I’ll just need to make sure I add in some lovely things, as well as horrible ones. (After all, what is one without the other?)

      May 15, 2012 at 1:35 am

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