Solo Sandbox

I had an idea to create a series of adventure seeds that can be used to stitch together a campaign.  Since I always have trouble with my mind wandering ahead of a solo storyline, I thought that taking a more sandbox or hex crawl style approach may be best.  Below are my first thoughts, but I’ll try to keep the updated Solo Sandbox document here.  What do you think?

Solo Sandbox

The Solo Sandbox is meant to be the basic skeleton of a world to explore in solo RPG play with every new adventure giving just enough info to build your own connections between scenarios into a larger campaign if you so desire.  Each adventure Thread has a difficulty rating (on a scale of 1 to 5) that may make tackling a nearby mission very difficult until you have explored other places to gain knowledge, power, and experience.  You also gain Reputation points equal to the difficulty rating of the Thread.  Upon completing any Thread, there are lasting effects upon the realm that can color future interactions and adventures.

With no pre-scripted over-arching plot tying all the threads together, you can take the sandbox play in any direction you want.  You can treat it as an explorative hex crawl where you seek out adventure just to see what’s there, or you can dig deeper to find a connecting Filament between the Threads.  Is there an undead lich making a power play for the kingdom, or could it be a slowly infiltrating kingdom from beyond the borders of your realm?

The World

This is a high fantasy, medieval world with an extremely low incidence of exceptionalism (magical, combat, or otherwise) since the Age of Wonders passed several hundred years ago.  For the most part, life is mainly about making sure that there is food on the table for the next meal.  Life expectancy is relatively low, diseases can ravage whole population centers, and stark class divides make the feudal system function while keeping the general populace down.  Other races beyond human may or may not be a part of this world as you see fit.  (Note to self: I need a map!)

After the collapse of all civilization at the end of the Age of Wonders, society has only slowly spread back out from the capital due to the monsters and beasts that roam the wild, and because of this, travel is a dangerous thing.  Trade caravans must hire many guards to ensure their goods arrive to their intended destination.  Few people try to live isolated from others and instead rely on each other to survive in this untamed world.  Occasionally, the ruins of some great fort or tower left over from the Age of Wonders are found abandoned and reclaimed by the wild, but almost no one is willing to explore these lost relics of the past.  “Better a lowly meal than a lofty ideal,” as the saying goes.

Magic Exceptionalism

Magic is a known and accepted thing that permeates all of society.  Many people exhibit small, magical knacks for mundane things like helping plants just a little faster and stronger or cutting wood just a little straighter, but these abilities are just known as talents.  True magic, or what is known as true magic, the magic that twists the energies of the world into new and unusual things, is extremely rare.  Most people would go their whole lives without seeing any true magic performed.  King Jahron rules the land mostly benevolently from the capital city, and even at the pinnacle of power in this realm of Harkan, he only has a few true magicians who serve him led by the powerful Archmagus Sephya Tirel.  Some say she is one of the most powerful magicians to ever live.

If your character wields magic, it is a rare thing.  If people knew of your magical skills, they may press you to deeds of service that you may or may not be able to perform.  However, one thing is sure.  You will not be able to meet everyone’s expectations of with your magic, and when you fail just once, the general population will turn against you for not caring about the everyman.

Military Exceptionalism

The royal guard is supplied with sharp swords and well-crafted armor.  Much like with magic, there are those who just seem to have a natural talent with the bow or blade, but no one would consider this magical in the realm of Harkan.  They just happen to hit with a little more accuracy and a little more power than most.  There are few true champions who can perform combat maneuvers that appear to defy the laws of physics.  The captain of the royal guard, Deegan Wollensburrow, is one such individual.

If your character performs exceptional feats of combat, they may be held in awe and feared, but they will also be sought after to help secure homes, businesses, or roads.  Even with exceptional use of a blade, you can’t be everyplace at once.  At some point, the general population will resent that you weren’t there to stop one attack or another.

Mental Exceptionalism

Innovative inventors are rare in Harkan.  Few people have the diplomatic capacity to bring a swift peace between two rival nobles.  Fewer still are the wise counselors who seem to know exactly the right thing to say or do at exactly the right moment.  King Jahron does employ two such minds: Gimple Grensdum, the Royal Tinkerer, and Rubin Tallow, the King’s Sage.

Gathering a reputation for being a smooth-talker or quick-thinker is not necessarily difficult, but again, since exceptionalism is so rare, this gift will also be highly sought after.  Farmer Ragor will want you to cut the best deal for his stock while the merchant Aramia will want you to broker a more favorable trade deal for her.  Eventually, some naysayer will start shouting that you’re just charming your way up the ladder while stepping on all those beneath you.

Reputation Score

Your reputation score is a measure of how well known you are and how well liked you are.  At the end of each Thread, you gain either positive or negative Reputation points.  Track these two sets of points separately and add them together to find out how well-known you are in the region of your influence.  If you have more positive Reputation points than negative, you are generally viewed favorably and vice versa.  You can purposefully convert 5 positive Reputation points into 5 negative Reputation points to buy a favor from someone.  You can also purposefully lose 5 positive and 5 negative Reputation points by staying out of the limelight for a significant amount of time.

The Reputation points are meant to be a role-playing device, so feel free to fail.  Remember what a short, wise and green puppet once said, “Failure, the greatest teacher it is.”  Having a net negative Reputation score may even help drive more conflict which is the heart of any good story or game.

See the chart below for more details on the effects of Reputation points.

Total Reputation Points General Effect
0 – 10 Some people in the local region recognize you or have heard of you.
11 – 30 Most people in the local region recognize you and have heard of you.
31 – 60 You have earned the local respect and/or fear of most of the population in the region.
61 – 100 Some people outside of the local region have heard of you.
100+ You have reached a celebrity status across the realm.


Small Village Start:

(I am thinking that I may put in different starting places that could eventually connect, but thought I’d start with the small back-water village.) 

You never set out to be an adventurer.  In a village this small, you can’t help but be a well-known part of the community, and you’re known as a regular person with a mundane part in the village.  Sure this area is ruled by the king, but he lives far away in a fancy palace.  No royal guards or even messengers ever make it out this far from the capital.  It’s a simple life out here.  There’s a smithy shop, the tanner’s place, a textile mill, woodworker/lumber yard, a gathering place affectionately referred to as “The Public House” that rents out a room or two to the occasional traveler, and several homestead farmers spreading out in a rough circle away from the trading post which is in the dead center.

What is the name of the village?

What are you trained at (farming, blacksmith, tanner, etc.)?  Put another way, what is your day job?

Why do you start adventuring on the side (financial security, upward social mobility, the thrill of it, etc.)?

From here, you can begin picking Threads to explore as you wish.  Feel free to use the threads below (and in later posts) or use an oracle to generate quest seeds.

Thread 1:

Oralie Couci was warned about setting up a homestead so far away from the village proper.  Each night for the past three nights, a cow has been killed and devoured.  Losing anymore will mean he and his family have no more meat to trade before this winter.  For solving his problem, Oralie is willing to give a large case of eggs and some of the feed he won’t be needing anymore that can be sold or bartered.

Difficulty: 1 (low)

Connections: Is a beast specifically targeting the Couci family or only a cow rather than other livestock they have on the farm?  If so, who or what is the intelligence behind these attacks?

Lasting Effects of Success: Now that the area is safer, Oralie may convince a family member who needs to move from a neighboring village to set up his own homestead near here.  If that family member goes deeper into the wild, there could be future complications.

Lasting Effects of Failure: The Couci family may lose a member either during the upcoming winter or on the road as they travel further to drum up new trade to replace their losses.  Oralie will blame you for this loss.

Questions for Afterward: Remember that completing the Thread need not be a binary thing between success and failure.  You may succeed at a cost or fail with a glimmer of hope.

  • How did the world change based on your outcome?
  • What happened to your personal circumstances as a result of you taking time off to adventure?

More threads to come!  Ideally I would put out 2-3 at a time much like the “Just Three Hexes” idea, but it’s late and my brain needs a break!

Edit: Here’s the beginnings of a map.