View Full Version : Adventure module idea (Cista Harena, let's say)

12-03-2011, 04:04 AM
Yesterday, while falling asleep, I suddenly had an idea for a grand sand-boxy adventure module for role-playing. Now I'd like a few opinions on the idea, and possibly some suggestions for where I could go to develop it further (forums or something where I could sound board the concept a bit more, etc.,).

Imagine having a module based not so much on a specific story but on a relatively small setting, say the Valley of Sannomme, which has been snowed in by unseasonable and early snows. The core of the module is a detailed map with travel times (possibly even hex-gridded) and a detailed adventure calendar with time-triggered events (the heavy snows, the false spring, the rumbling of the Great Ice, the wintery earth quake, the raiding of the hungry goblins, the first village runs out of food, the baron steals the peasants food, etc.) and a weather forecast per-day for the whole module.

The premise, let's say, is that Father Frost has been slain by the Ice Queen, gripping the lands in an ever-deepening winter. The module starts out with the players assuming it's a simple dungeon delve, or something, at the start of winter, but then the winter starts to bite harder and harder and everyone begins to realise that something is wrong. Then the module becomes a race against time to stop the Ice Queen and bring spring back to the Valley before everyone literally starves and freezes to death.

Every time the players travel from one location to another, the ticker progresses. Every time they rest, time goes forward. The longer the winter lasts, the worse the terrain gets. The longer the winter lasts the more ridiculous prices for food get and the more abandoned villages they find. The module thus becomes something of an endless winter simulator, with NPCs dying off as things get worse and worse, and the only thing the DM needs to do to keep changing the world is marking off the days.

Probably a good idea would then be to have several different maps - one for the start of winter, when the Solmont pass is snowed over, blocking access to the rest of the Kingdom of Majeane to the south, then another for the first heavy snows, then one for the harsh freezing wasteland ...

Has this kind of stuff been done before? I just don't know. :S

12-03-2011, 04:35 AM
Yesterday, while falling asleep, I suddenly had an idea for a grand sand-boxy adventure module for role-playing. Now I'd like a few opinions on the idea, and possibly some suggestions for where I could go to develop it further (forums or something where I could sound board the concept a bit more, etc.,).

Has this kind of stuff been done before? I just don't know. :S


Depending if this module/concept is for OD&D/Classic/1E/2E I'd recommend searching over at

DragonsFoot (http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/index.php),
Knights & Knaves (http://www.knights-n-knaves.com/phpbb3/).

Naturally, if its for 3E + then
Enworld (www.enworld.org/)

However, if your looking for suggestions on a Sandbox itself, I can humbly suggest the section of my blog on sandbox design: Sandbox (http://bloatedblowfish.blogspot.com/search/label/Sandbox%20Design) and Bat in the Attic:
Howtomakefantasysandboxl (http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2009/08/how-to-make-fantasy-sandbox.html)

The concept isn't new per say - that is while I've not seen a module devoted to this specific design - I have known a few DM's (myself included), that have set sequences in motion that follow the same sort of concept.

The only point I'd like you to consider is since its a Sandbox, then ensure there are multiple paths for the players to take - so that it avoids the railroady sort of step-by-step design that traditional modules take. Not that there is anything bad with them mind you - just that I firmly believe the point of a sandbox is to give the players tons of freedom, while keeping the front end work to a minimum for the DM. Only when they decide on a path does the DM need to expand a specific concept beyond the basics.

Whatever you decide, I'd simply ask you post a WIP/or even finished design for those interested in this style.

Best of luck,


12-03-2011, 07:13 AM
Thanks for the links Silverleaf. Yes, this is basically an expansion of how we play with my players. The world is a sandbox and they create their own adventures for themselves, pretty much, I just provide the follow thru.

I haven't yet decided on the game system I'll try to write it up for (we play with a simplified devolution of 4th edition without levelling ourselves) ... possibly for 3.5 edition or something, since that is the system I'm most familiar with. I'd love to do it system-neutral - but that might make it unattractive to potential DMs. Or not. Dunno. :S I'll probably set up a blog to chart it's development, it shouldn't be too hard to do, since I already run a few on blogspot.

12-03-2011, 10:04 PM
Sandboxy approaches are great and I think your idea can work. I'm currently running similar (though instead of a snowed in valley, it's an archipelago). I think one important thing to do is to make sure that the players can acquire something solid that ties them to the region (in my campaign, one of the players has actually acquired a village). This gives them more of a vested interest in the area that you're detailing.

But keep in mind that no matter how detailed you make your locations, the party will just skip stuff or not look at it. Sometimes it can be disappointing, especially if you've come up with something particularly creative or interesting, but it happens. By the same token though, sometimes they will look at it and it can be incredibly satisfying for all parties when they do. =P

Also multiple paths are important, or lots of plothooks. Depending on how much is going on, it's very important to keep notes. I've had players bring up an incidental merchant I've thrown in before. Suddenly I've had to consider their history and background and stuff! But occasionally a party will need nudging in the direction of something. It's not railroading though as long as they have a choice in the matter, but it is needed sometimes.

12-04-2011, 10:31 AM
Of course, tying the players in is important. To an extent, that depends on the gaming group. I'm fortunate that in my group I have one player (usually playing fighters) who is happy to go in swinging his mace, picking low INT characters and not caring for much else, while I have another player who just starts tying his character in on his own and takes over the lion's share of the world-building that makes the characters click (he literally invents taverns, quests, locations, foes, possible twists, hooks - and I just steal those ideas I like and run with them). That way, while I retain authorial control of the world, the characters are in a sense pre-inserted ... example: they come into a town ravaged by a dragon, and his necromancer nods wisely and says, "indeed, that is the dragon we enraged when we tried to steal his blood to make a love philter for that siren that will otherwise not wed me. It is obviously coming for us and we must stop it." The daemon summoner is of course enthusiastic about using the dragon's wing membranes to make a light armor for himself, the ice wizard comes along because, well, it's his town, and the fighter is just happy to be fighting a dragon :D. I'm not sure about the dwarf's motivation, I think he wanted to eat a dragon steak, so he could boast to other dwarfs. Dwarfs are strange in my setting ... almost as strange as elves (nasty changeling shapeshifter basterds).

I just think the best way to get the players invested is to discuss things with them and be pretty open about what they can get out of a region (love, money, castles, mills, titles, whatever). As a DM I personally don't care how much non-tangible (i.e. not related to in-game mechanics) power a player character accumulates, since they can't take that into a dungeon anyway. Also, I run my games pretty hard-core, so I've often had players happily retire their characters from adventuring once they bought a nice inn, married a princess or other things ... better to become a living legend in your little fantasy town than another tombstone in the Valley of Heroes.

Sorry for the excursion ...

1. Locations - I've always found that locations can easily be recycled. For a sandbox area, you don't need all the locations. You need some locations - and then place them as needed. Other locations (if you run out or something) can be declared destroyed, snowed in, inhabited by something too dangerous, whatever. Basically, locations are modules which, unless they're relevant to the main story, you slot together with modular opponents and modular treasures. That also lets you actively recycle "on the fly" ... I'll try to explain better as I prepare the module.

2. Multiple paths - absolutely. And multiple outcomes. I plan to create a time-line of events that happen. Now, some of the events (e.g. weather, earthquakes, invading forces, whatever) are external and out of the players' control. Others are player-decision dependant. If they talked the lord out of stealing all the peasants' food, the peasants don't starve, bandits don't start appearing, etc. If the lord went and stole from another lord, you get a war starting. If the players do nothing and all hell breaks out, with the peasants barricading themselves in, you start getting undead ice-wights and what not roaming around the land due to the surfeit of unburied and unsanctified corpses. Etc. etc. I plan to create just hints of the main story at the beginning, then offer different potential outcomes for the players - from defeating the villain, just escaping the valley and leaving it to its fate to joining forces with the arch-villain, possibly becoming ice-wights themselves, etc. - which will just mean there's a lot of potential options for the next cycle of adventures! :)

I'm often a very anti-rail-roady DM :)

*though instant death traps are fun :D

12-06-2011, 11:12 AM
Anyway, I've set up a little blog for my own reference on the project. Here it is:

http://bloodybass.blogspot.com/. It will also cover some of my game rules, code-named BASS (as in the fish).

12-11-2011, 04:07 AM
So ... I ran the first session yesterday and it was a blast. One thing in particular that I learned: preparing weather and terrain conditions in advance is very, very useful, since it makes setting the mood much easier.

Grant Taylor
12-12-2011, 08:36 AM
I just wanted to let you know that I love this idea. I really want to try doing something like this. I hope your campaign goes well.

12-12-2011, 09:35 AM
So far it's going great. I'm running a second part tomorrow, to see how it goes. I'm thinking of eventually preparing a couple of modular dungeon elements that can be used as needed. I've got about 40 various opponents and monsters already prepared, about 30 NPCs, two major plotlines ... so it's looking ok. :)

Let's see how well I get around to posting this stuff on the blog as well!

12-13-2011, 04:56 PM
For weather, I made a regional weather chart that I roll on at the beginning of each in game day (initially when I started doing this, I'd forget sometimes, but overtime, the players have just started asking me what the weather is like when their characters wake up so that means one less thing for me to remember). Often, it's doesn't matter much as it's "clear skies, gentle breeze" or "clear skies, very warm" and the like. But when it's raining or stormy or there's severe winds, and it wasn't expected, it can set the mood or even change some scenes quite a bit.

* On an unrelated note, did you make that petrified purple worm map in your blog? Because it's pretty awesome.