Mike Shea and Erik Scott De Bie talk sandbox gaming, specifically in Dungeons & Dragons 4e.
The Architect DM series has covered a lot of different aspects or tabletop RPGs ranging from details of a single encounter to the much larger task of planning out an entire game world. I’ve found myself tending to progress through that range from post to post instead of staying to one end or another for more than one or two posts in a row. With this in mind, today’s post comes from some of my more recent thoughts on Campaign planning and how to build towards running a mostly sandbox style game.
Not every D&D campaign or world map includes nations or regions that break the larger mass into more digestible pieces, but this is one of the features that I’m glad I chose to be a primary element of my current D&D campaign. Inspired by a 3rd Edition D&D campaign run by our friend Dennis (aka The Main Event) where the nationality of the PCs became one of the most memorable parts of the game for me and ended up factoring into the ongoing plots in interesting ways, I decided to present my players with a world divided into various nations each with a unique flair and often divided by racial distinctions. However, one of the elements that I failed to strongly present to my players and that I’m going to discuss today is the idea of giving a unique design and feel to each of those nations when it comes to locations and buildings.
As I introduced in my last post about improvisation, I believe that the key to being able to design a location (whether beforehand or on the fly) is grounded in what I’m calling your toolbox for design. The key is that once you have a well developed toolbox to pull ideas from, you can more readily and quickly design a location for your tabletop Roleplaying Games on the spot or adapt your planned locations to fit the developing needs of the game table. An underlying goal of this series of posts is to help you develop the toolbox required so that you will be able to accomplish this task with relative ease and a good amount of confidence.
So far the Architect DM series has focused primarily on locations and building design, but today and over the next few weeks I’m going to take a look at the larger scale idea of world building and some factors that play into designing a realistic and believable world to play your games in. As with many of the design aspects I’ve talked about previously, designing a realistic world can feel like one of the most intimidating and daunting tasks to undertake but in reality if you apply principles correctly it can make your efforts easier and better at the same time.