I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Monday, October 24, 2022

Sandbox quest

So I have started a new sandbox campaign. Something in the style of West Marches. The PCs are explorers from a distant land, that arrived recently by ship. I've written some lore and things look interesting... Jungles, pirates, many cultures, castles, factions, lost civilizations, shades of gray... Will share with you later as we go. 

I'm using Dark Fantasy Basic with a few changes.

I have a nice overview of the setting, and I've been looking for cool dungeons, ruins and encounters to scatter into my sandbox. 

Well, it's a lot harder than I expected. 

First, let me tell you of some past campaigns...

I liked CoS and ToA despite the terrible organization. They have BOTH a coherent "narrative" and a sandbox setting, (mostly) railroad-free. They are, however, too verbose and extensive (and somewhat flawed). Interesting nonetheless.

I ran the entirety of Tales of the Demon Lord, each adventure is about 2-4 pages. It works well, but it lacks some coherence and the sandbox aspect. 

Before that, I've ran a couple of campaigns I created, but they were mostly GoT-style intrigue.

Now I want to build my own thing. Start with a home base (in my setting, the "Seven Castles" in the shoreline of a mostly unknown continent) and let PCs explore, interact, etc. I really like that setup for several reasons I might explain later. BTW, the PCs are now in a tropical jungle area, which makes me rule out some modules I've found (e.g., deserts, snow...) - or at least save them for later.

Since I cannot find any other big campaigns that interests me in the OSR sphere (except megadungeons), I thought I'd start looking for good OSR adventures and go from there.

Well, all I could find until now is rooms and rooms full of orcs, skeletons and giant bees in succession, with little rime or reason. 

So: I'm going through all my PDFs to find stuff I can use. Mini-dungeons, ruins, villages, locations, and even full hex-crawl modules that are portable enough (and not dominated by orcs and goblins).

Yes, I'd like recommendations, especially if free. But, for now, I'm taking a quick look at a few PDFs to see if they fit the bill. I'll also go through some recommendations I already got online, and whether I'll pursue them or not. Anything that looks good goes to my sandbox folder...

I'll say I'm not particularly interested in:

* Megadungeons.
* Orcs, goblins, etc., and skeletons living in random rooms for no reason (unless it is an undead-themed place, for example).
* Generators to create my own setting (I'm doing that already and I already have plenty of B/X random tables).

I'll also note that I've written my own OSR adventure, The Wretched Hive (currently on sale). I already ran it with this group. It contains the stuff I find important in these modules: coherence, different monsters, variety, etc. If your tastes are similar to mine, check it out!

Anyway, here is the first bunch:

* Qelong: this module is pretty cool, it has everything I wanted - coherence, creativity, a sandbox aspect, terseness, a decent size... and some jungles. Alas, we've already played it. If you haven't, it is worth checking out. So, nope, but maybe check for unused encounters.

* Monkey Business - a jungle hexcrawl by my friend Jens (The Disoriented Ranger). This is more "toolbox" (lots of procedures, random tables, etc.) than a finished piece that I can add to my setting. It is full of interesting ideas and weird encounters, however. It has a very gonzo vibe and relies mostly on intelligent monkeys - which I'm not sure I want to add to my setting (but I can easily replace for something else). I can certainly use some jungle encounters and tables (not to mention mushrooms, aliens, villages, tribes, etc.), so... Yes!

B2 The Keep on the Borderlands - A classic. Decided to skip for now because of the description: "The Caves of Chaos themselves showed off the introductory nature of B2 in another way: They're pretty much a who's who of the humanoids you could meet in Basic D&D, with separate caverns inhabited by kobolds, orcs, goblins, ogres, hobgoblins, bugbears, gnolls, and even a minotaur. Gygax later admitted that the result wasn't "ecologically correct," but that wasn't really the point.".". No, not what I'm looking for right now. Nope.

*  The Towers of the Weretoads - A very small location, very terse, PWYW, cool monsters, no orcs... It is free and could fit anywhere. Yes!

Wreck on the Reef - A blog post (from https://clericswearringmail.blogspot.com/search/label/maps and adventures) describing a wrecked ship. It has some authentic "wrecked ship" feel - with a decent amount of empty space, which I like. Too many monsters (although they are fitting - sharks, giant crabs, etc.), which I can edit out. Fits my theme perfectly (the PCs are currently on a ship and the campaign is partly coastal). Yes!

N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God - this one seems perfect. Theme, size... also a classic. I haven't bought and I have hundreds of unread modules... but it looks enticing and not expensive, so... Maybe?

Next: maybe some BFRPG, DCC, and One-page Dungeon stuff. Plus, give me your suggestions!

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  1. Thanks for the shout-out! As for other great resources, you might want to check out the Basic Fantasy home page (tons and tons of free resources), I've also heard good things about "The Fall of Whitecliff Mountain" and "The Manse on Murder Hill" got good reviews back then as well! "The Sepulchre of Seven" is free and looks good, you could mine "The Ultraviolet Grasslands" for material (there is a free introduction on dtrpg), "A Little Bit of Thievery" and "Jaunt: Blood in the Snow" are free and nice to have (Jaunt, at least, has great material) and you could check out "Murcanto's Lair" while you are at it (good reviews, free). And if you don't have "The Dreams of Ruin", need to get that as well. It's all kinds of epic and awesome and the best free LL product out there, by a long shot. "The fungus Forest" is also PWYW and something easily dropped in a sandbox. "Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine" is also free, as well as "The Towers of the Weretoads" and "GL-1: Taglar's Tomb (Revised)" and "The Ancient Academy" and "Adventure Module BL1-2: The Ruined Hamlet/Terror in the Gloaming" and "Blackmarsh" and (finally, as that's the extent of my online library) "PA1 Vault of the Faceless Giants" are all free at DTRPG ... Just realized I have some reading to do myself, as I didn't even remember I actually had a lot of those :D

    1. Thanks! BFRPG is definitely in the radar. I have multiple DCC modules too, and will check all free stuff that I can. This is only my first expedition into my RPG folder!


  2. I ran monkey business with hidden shrine of tamoachan.

    1. That needs to be one of the most beautiful sentences the English language ever rendered :D I hope it brought you and your players joy!