Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Developing the sandbox hooks and doing a bit of hexcrawling.

The Hooks in practice.

In the previous post, I gave a list of names that I had keyed to the hex map for my sandbox. Now I’m going to outline some of the ideas that a few of those have generated.

I have already written up Skeleton Tower, an ideal introduction to the area for new players. I list below some ideas that have sprung to mind following the hooks that I listed above. Associated with that is the Shrine of the Silver Knight, which has links to Skeleton Tower but can be played as an entirely stand-alone adventure.

Redstone Ruins
Some great slaughter or combat at this location has left an evil legacy - the blood stained into the stone, and it's given the stones a taste for blood. Perhaps they've got some sort of sinister, malevolent intelligence, keen to see more killing, sending out suggestions to all and sundry that they ought to get their blades red. Illusion and mental manipulation will be the order of the day.

Burnt Man's Haunt - I thought that this could be a situation where a group of hunters/poachers/etc stumbled across a rift to the Elemental Plane of Fire and some were possessed by fire spirits, becoming Flame Zombies - a bit like the Harginn in MM2. They can only be doused, as it were, by holy water blessed by a sufficiently high level cleric. A party managed to seal them into the cave where the rift is by use of Move Earth or some such, but now a landslide has set them free and now we have burnt bodies littering the landscape. Maybe a fire-deity cleric seeks the rift to set free some serious fire elementals to run rampage.

Ogre's Point.
A big gang of ogres used to live here. They were regarded as stupid and slow-moving, the first port of call for any young blade that fancied a scrap. Then an ogre mage happened by and whipped the ogres into shape, so much so that they creamed a 3/4 level party and got the town panicked. Some tougher adventurers eventually killed the ogre mage and quite a few of his gang, and all fell quiet again. The ogres are now a sorry bunch, who hide in the forested hills, skulking in caves and fighting back only if they are pinned into a corner. But of course, someone might happen along again with thoughts of stirring them up. The ogre mage's skull and bones are now part of their shrine, deep in one of their caves.

The Grey Ravines
I’m still sketching this out, but I know that it will include rock and stone creatures, such as the boulder roller and galeb duhr from MM2 and a pack of gargoyles who pretend to be outcrops of stone during the day and swoop on unsuspecting parties at twilight. There is also some sort of dungeon there, with a trapped tiled floor in one of the rooms. On two or three of the tiles are some stone figures, in positions of horror. What happened was that a party of adventurers were crossing the floor when the leading female MU trod on a stone that polymorphed her into a medusa. Before she realised what had happened, she had turned to her party to see if they were okay - with obvious results. The ones that made their saves fled, and she was stuck with the knowledge that she was now a monster and had killed two/three (not sure how many) of her friends. She is now a bit bonkers.

Clawbriars – thickets with very sharp thorns, possibly some stirges that live there, or tiny creatures like jermlaine and pesties. Vampiric plants, all sorts of plant-based nasties. Yellow musk zombies.

No prizes for guessing what lives in Firebreath Forest.

Wandering Monsters for the Sandbox

Whilst looking at the A4 hex sandbox that I published in the previous post, I had an epiphany (albeit one that I suspect many other DMs have had). I suddenly realised that I should treat the whole thing as just one huge dungeon. Each hex is like a room in a dungeon, with its own static feature, either a monster, trap, trick or puzzle. The players can approach a hex from a variety of directions and feel their way across the map, hex by hex. Some hexes they might miss, others they might deem too strong to take on. Some they will clear out after a good fight, and then when their backs are turned, something nasty creeps back in, unless they are astute and work out some way of stopping it.

And then there are wandering monsters. Basically, either
a) the whole map,
b) a cluster of hexes or
c) each hex
has its particular wandering monster roll and whatever comes up is whatever is prowling that particular hex of the sandbox. It could be a really tough monster, in which case, run away! run away! (brave Sir Robin) or it could be remnants of something, bones, bodies, clues, NPC character classes, other adventurers (but only to 6th, methinks, at first), bandits, brigands, military personnel, crazy cultists, etc. Or it could be a bombardier beetle! Going through the MM, I realised that some monsters are static, some are peripatetic. The former can be used as feature creatures, the latter as wandering monsters. Some might fall between the two stools and be static but with a range of a couple of hexes.

I listed out every peripatetic monster that might conceivably be found in the wilderness, including the naturalistic but giant-sized animals and NPC parties up to 6th level, and interwove an equal number of No Encouner rolls, then scored it up and came out with 200 different possibilities.

Once a static monster has been deemed present by a die roll, it will be noted as present thereafter on the map unless the party has wiped out all that they encountered.

The wandering monster list is also useful for deciding what, if anything, might wander into a previously-cleared hex and decide to take up residence.

Once the march of civilisation has moved south, the hexes that have been cleared will be checked for on another table, that for semi-civilised lands. It is not guaranteed that there will be no hostile incursions, but their frequency will be much reduced.

Next time, I’ll be handing out another list of name hooks for your consideration and use, and making a start on the campaign history.


  1. Thanks, Narmer. I was half-tempted to post the wandering monster list but then I thought "It's 200 lines long and that's only the MM plus a few specials". I've yet to go through FF and MM2 and see if there are any worth adding to the list.

    I've tilted the odds towards encountering more humanoids by giving them two lines each in the table because, quite simply there will be more of them about.