The following developed out of a discussion on Google Reader regarding Rob Conley’s How to manage a sandbox campaign: The Box of Stuff. A friend started the discussion by saying more or less “I miss techniques that can help a GM improvise – except for random tables which have been discussed a lot. What other tools are there?” My reply turned into the following list of lists.
Random encounter tables have been discussed before. More generically, I prefer to organize my “stuff” in the form of lists. Keep these on index cards if you like. I keep meaning to do that, but I’m too lazy so all of this just ends up on pages upon pages in my little campaign notebooks or on my campaign wikis.
Here are the kinds of lists I keep. Usually these act as todo lists, not as tables to roll on.
- Lists of names and NPC traits in order to quickly improvise people. I also like to use a d6 for male/female and young/middle/old age. This works well if you run a game in a particular culture such as a 1001 Nights setting: Arabic Feminine Names, Arabic Male Names.
- A lists of relevant factions and their goal. In a hex crawl those can be the nearby tribes.
- A list of current events, rumors, contact people. These provide easy plot hooks. In one of my campaigns I keep two separate lists for the two locations the players like to return to; one basically provides lawful missions, the other provides chaotic missions.
- A list of drop-in events specific to particular players. These act as plot hooks, and they act as surprise fillers.
- A list of monsters, or drop-in encounters to place on random encounter tables or to be dropped in at low points.
- A list of nearby adventuring locales that have more preparation than just a few names of people and their jobs. I like to place entries from the One Page Dungeon Contest on my maps and adapt them on the fly, usually over the course of two or three sessions.
- A list of random gear (to roll on) for starting characters in order to inspire players to come up with a recent past. This is often silly stuff like random Headgear.
- After every session, go over the list of factions, events, rumors, contacts, and remove some, change some, add some. From preparation to postparation.
- After every session, go over the things players expressed an interest in game. They researched something, followed up on something, asked people about something. I think it is important to ignore players just talking about something because talk is cheap. This is how detail gets added to whatever players care about and nothing else.
Also, watch a lot of cheap movies and read a lot of science fiction and fantasy books.
Tags: RPG Old School Sandbox advice