Monday, April 11, 2011

Non-Traditional Sandbox Design

Campaign Background

Over the last few months I had been gathering steam on my own campaign setting, which would become a blend of existing information, maps, places, NPCs, from the last 35 years of playing and Dming 1st Edition AD&D. In that time, I investigated a slew of various options and systems, some of which sang in my ear for a short time, while others were quickly tossed to the side because they lacked ingenuity or anything I could use. Then, last summer I joined up with a local group of gamers known as the Foaming Flagons – who it turned out loved the classics of the genre; from Traveller and Call of Cthulhu to OD&D and the Forgotten Realms – these guys were like mirror images of myself.

Once it was determined I passed muster (and don't get me started on that whole “introduction to a new group/blending in phase – I could write a book) the question eventually came up as to what I wanted to run.

I had, and still consider MERP to be one of my favorite settings. As a certified geek of Tolkien, this system really contains everything one could want for the setting, and there is enough historical data (read – existing modules and published material) to give any confident DM and group a lifetime worth of imagination and excitement. The issue however came down to the character generation and the ideology that if I were going to run this the ring could not exist. So, MERP was pushed aside.

The Forgotten Realms. I'd be remiss not to mention my considerations for this setting, given it's legendary status at our table (1E) and how well known the land is. In many regards I know this world better than the one I live in, so Faerun will be used in part.

Next I turned to the most amazing setting that I've ever seen. Detail, maps to die for, a fevered group of fans whom create their own “fanon” and count them 2 companies developing material 28 years after the system's introduction. This means there is enough meat and (lack of potatoes) to fill any palette. (that is a pun for the unknowing – for somewhere in the annals of this world it became a fairy tale that potatoes don't exist)

Yes, I'm speaking of Harn. Most people talk about the maps, but for me its the little details in this world that absolutely slay me. From creating and running your own manor, to the misunderstanding that many have that Harn is a magic weak world. How inaccurate that is – for it is magic-rare. Odds are in your adventures you will encounter entire villages that have never seen an iota of magic in their entire life. The Shek-Pvar (the mages) tend to keep a stern eye on any outward displays of magic but the way I look at this system is that a PC is a hero, special in some regard, capable of retaining spell energy, or exceptional of heart. So, Harn's island has been dropped onto the globe – to sit alongside Faerun.

Lastly, I wanted to incorporate places and perhaps even NPCs from my favorite set of books and author; The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson. This set of works has inspired me like no other, and I've had the great fortune to meet him on several occasions.

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