John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

More On the Sandbox

After some further thought on the high-level sandbox topic, I started writing a rough outline of the current general situation in Brindol (the main city of Elsir Vale and de facto home base for the heroes, at least for now), which has undergone some dramatic changes while the heroes were away at the Hammerfist Holds. I essentially wrote down a list of several bullet points that looked something like this (again using the Rivendell motif from the last post to avoid spoilers for my players):

  1. Rivendell has been beset by trolls marching en masse across the Bruinen out of the Trollshaws; however, the trolls are merely a diversionary force for a larger warband of orcs, wargs, and goblins who are massing in the Misty Mountains in and around Goblin-Town

  2. Elladan, Elrohir, and Aragorn have been making forays against the trolls, and have noticed that they seem strangely organized. Unfortunately, during one of their forays, Elrohir got separated from his brother and Aragorn and was captured by trolls

  3. Glorfindel has heard about the wargs from the giant eagles, and suspects there may be more going on than meets the eye

  4. Elrond is distracted by his son's capture (remembering all too well the fate of Celebrian) and has become fixated on that; Arwen has stepped forward to organize the "bigger picture" of Rivendell's defenses

From that list, I came up with a handful of obvious potential quest lines: investigating the movements of the wargs, which in turn leads to scouting into Goblin-Town and finding the troops amassed there; rescuing Elrohir; aiding Arwen's organizational efforts, including possibly riding out to find Wandering Companies and call them home as reinforcements.

For each of those potential quest lines, I then started writing up just some interesting-sounding encounter names, not knowing anything about the actual encounters themselves (some are combat, some are probably skill challenges, some are pure RP):

Glorfindel: Investigating the Wargs
  • Word of the Eagles

  • Tracking Irontooth

  • Down, Down to Goblin-Town

  • Escape From Goblin-Town

  • The Despair of Elrond

Aragorn: Elrohir's Rescue
  • Troll Raiders

  • Finding Bigguns Cave

  • Bigguns Warren

  • The Cold Pool

  • Chief Biggun's Throne Room

Arwen: Search for the Wandering Companies
  • Into the Wild

  • Galadhalion's Company: Ghosts of Weathertop

  • Melfaeren's Company: Defending the Forsaken Inn

  • Gildor's Company: The River-Daughter's Madness

  • Return to Rivendell: Attack of the Warg-Riders

Suddenly, without knowing any of the specifics, I at least have some potentially neat ideas brewing, and I can see an overall plot taking shape even though it's still "sandboxey" in its own way. "The Despair of Elrond" at the end of the Glorfindel line suggests that perhaps the capture of Elrohir happens concurrently with the characters' trip to Goblin-Town, giving the heroes the option when they return of choosing between Aragorn's quests or Arwen's. (Of course, being heroes, they're likely to do them all eventually.)

All of this could then be followed up with a multi-stage "Battle of Rivendell" scenario, with victory conditions that vary depending on how the characters fared in the earlier quests. If they botched things so badly that Elrohir bought the farm and none of the Wandering Companies made it back, Rivendell could be in real trouble.

The only problem is that I've now got fifteen encounters to write up. O.o But individual encounters, for the most part, are fairly easy ... you choose your XP budget, you pick (or write up) some level-appropriate foes, and go. The titles can even suggest the relative difficulty of the various encounters -- most should be around Average, but "Word of the Eagles" is probably a mostly-RP encounter and Easy, whereas "Chief Bigguns' Throne Room" is almost certainly Challenging or Hard. Some of the others might not be single encounters at all, but rather smallish dungeon-crawls, particularly Goblin-Town or the troll warrens.

Anyway, it's been a fun exercise so far, and I think it will work well. The hardest part is keeping myself from thinking about it too much while I'm at work. ;P

-The Gneech
Tags: dungeons and dragons, gaming, pathfinder
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