2008-09-11 Sandbox Games

Jonathan over at The Core Mechanic asks Defining SANDBOX Gaming: What's it to you? My Alder King is going to be such a game! And it will be taking place in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

I think the microlight variant of a Sandbox game is the most explicit about it:

  1. Take a hex map.
  2. Pick a hex in the middle. This is where the game starts. Put a safe haven there (city, village, inn).
  3. Pick or write a cool little adventures for every adjoining empty hex.
  4. Jot down some interconnections between your material (goblin caves contain a treasure map to the lonely mountain, wizard in his remote tower is friends with yeti warriors in the next hex).
  5. When the players move into a hex, go back to #3.

In my particular game, I’ve started with a hex map from the campaign setting, and I’m basically using the info for the various hexes as starting points. I plan to put a cool little adventure in every hex.

As for players, I gave my players an initial mission: Drive away the humans from the forest. And I told them that the campaign will end somewhere between level nine and twelve. Other than that, I’m going to leave it to them. If they don’t want to drive away the humans, if they want to ally themselves with the humans, if they want to take over the forest, or travel and see the world, I want to take it, twist it, and roll with it.

I think jamused provided an excellent comment on RPG Diehard’s post Sandbox Play vs. Quicksand ... Box Play:

I’d suggest that it helps to give your character a goal that he’s actively working towards. Not just “When I get powerful and rich enough to retire, I’ll build a stronghold for my deity” but “I’m going to start scouting out a suitable place for the stronghold right now, make alliances with the locals, recruit people to my cause, amass wealth, get whatever dispensations I need from my church. As I get money I’ll start by building a road-side chapel, then I’ll add a round tower nearby to serve as home base and to protect the surrounding area from goblins” etc etc. Then, as you go on adventures and level-up (if it’s that kind of game) you can keep returning to advance your plans.

That’s much better than “I just want to hang out with some other adventurers and kick some ass” or “I want to bring balance to the force.” If one of the players has a strong in-game goal, it will automatically start dominating the campaign. That can be good or bad, depending on your players. I like it.



Many months later, Michael Shorten aka. Chgowiz writes Dispelling a myth - Sandbox prep and discusses his six principles:

  1. Just in time preparation
  2. One page dungeon levels
  3. Write it down - play it on game day
  4. Let the players flesh things out
  5. Broad brushstrokes to events and plots
  6. Don’t overprepare

I approve. :)

AlexSchroeder 2009-06-25 22:20 UTC

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