A Sandbox is Born over at RPG Snob

Thursday is GURPS-day, and +Jason Packer just threw down the gauntlet. In one paragraph, plus some short supporting details, he sketched out enough of a compelling sandbox game intro to make me want to start running this exact setting in a game of my own.

I love it. I love it so much that I will repost the first paragraph (with Jason’s permission) and make adulatory comments.

“By decree of King Krail II, all lands east of Frostharrow, from the Gray Marshes in the south to the Granite Halls in the north, and as far east as the Broken Coast are to be reclaimed and purged of bandits, brigands and any fell creatures of The Blight. Any person who can carve out a portion of this land for him or herself and hold it against the forces of chaos and predation for a period of one year shall be granted possession of that land, for him or herself and any future heirs, in perpetuity, with appropriate title bestowed by the will of the king, with all rights and responsibilities attached thereto.”

OK, why is this awesome?

  • It immediately sets the boundaries, geographically, of the campaign. The GM has just said “I’m going to give you a map of the area, and if you want to explore beyond it, you’re dumb.” The King has offered estates and title to anyone who can take and hold land in this area, but no other. There’s simply no reason to leave the sandbox. 
  • Part of the genre convention of DF is a very Munchkin-like “kill the bad guys and take their stuff.” This Royal Dispensation tells you that all brigands and foul creatures in this area are “Other” by law, and it’s not just genre convention but your Solemn Duty as a Subject of the Realm to kick ass and take names
  • It sets up that “Fell Creatures of the Blight” are involved. So, look, monsters exist, no surprise.
  • There’s built-in continuity. Once you take land, you have to hold it. 
Seriously: I want to run this.

18 thoughts on “A Sandbox is Born over at RPG Snob

    1. I agree. I even started some higher-level characters with castle and lands (mostly because I loved generating castles in AD&D). But yeah – "go North, and keep what you kill" (overt Riddick reference) works in almost any system.

    2. I'm in, let's play.

      And no reason for it to be endgame. "Clear some land, plant some crops, and it's yours" is how settler stories start, not end. It's a good place to start, and DF PCs are hard enough to start there, for sure.

  1. Also, I don't think you have to ask a blogger's permission to quote a paragraph of their stuff and then carry on about how awesome they are. Bloggers live for that stuff!

    1. True, true. It's the academic in me. Also, one of the pitfalls of this sort of thing is that some of the comment stream that might otherwise be directed to Jason will come to me. I don't know about you, but it's the commentary and discussion on posts that make this worthwhile. Asking permission was also a way of saying "Hey! Look to my site for commentary too!"

      Anyway: on topic! I still find the mini-sketch an evocative and compelling intro to a campaign.

    1. There's definitely an influence of Kingmaker in there – though I've never read or played in it, I've read the player intro guide to that adventure path. I thought it was a nice entree to taking the game from the sandbox wilderness adventure of "clearing hexes" to the more name-level AD&D play where retainers and followers are gathered and wizard towers and keeps are built.

    2. The second Kingmaker adventure (Rivers Run Red, I think) is all about building castles, colonizing territory, and running the government. The important thing the writers realized is that in D&D 3e, you don't need to be 9th level to set up a keep and control territory. Similarly, relatively low point GURPS characters can start carving a barony from the wilderness.

      The sad thing about that AP is that they held off the big war until the fifth adventure, when the characters are too personally powerful to be threatened by mobs of low level characters. GURPS characters don't achieve that kind of power in my opnion, and maybe a major war doesn't need to be part of the narrative.

  2. The number of people who want to play in a world that I initiated with a brief instant of inspiration is extremely gratifying. That said, I kinda hope that Doug is so fired up by it all that he decides to run it, so I can play instead. 🙂

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