Thursday, January 31, 2013

Second Thoughts on Sandboxing

Join the Forces of Evil (the pay is really good)!!

At long last we managed to get the group together for next saturday. Now it's time to prepare the setting and formulate more basic ideas how to present it (Part 1 of this is here). The forces of evil will be very strong, but I'm not aiming for Ravenloft or something like that. Let's say the scale is tipped towards chaos, but law still holds it's ground. Open warfare is happening, but mostly it's a cold war with a lot of paranoia, betrayal and conspiracy. And, yeah, I'm talking about the players, too.

A world at war is a fun thing to have...*

...especially with magic as part of the powerplay. Every historic world empire cracked because of size. Alexander the Great, the Romans, Napoleon, they all failed because they couldn't controll ALL of it (both sides of the border). They also got old, decadent and weak. But take a fantasy setting. Gods, demons, magic, powerfull races, immortallity is possible, undead are the perfect soldiers and evil is a way of life very well established in D&D. So if evil wins (see the next best mid-level module for ideas in world domination), they have a good chance to win it all.

There is no "We" in evil

Whatever apocalypse I intend to throw at my players, will have happened some decades ago. There will be no current maps of the setting, only old ones showing the long gone glory of former civilisations. And a lot of rumors about what became of that.

Evil will rule the world, but is not united. More like a colorful tapestry of powerstructures oriented on the Kleinstaaterei during the Holy Roman Empire (source: Wikipedia). Important bit:
"Kleinstaaterei is a German word, mainly used to denote the territorial fragmentation in Germany and neighbouring regions during the Holy Roman Empire (especially after the end of the Thirty Years' War) and during the German Confederation in the first half of the 19th century.[1] It refers to the large number of virtually sovereign medium and small secular and ecclesiastical principalities and Free Imperial cities, some of which were little larger than a single town or the grounds of the monastery of an Imperial abbey. Estimates of the total number of German states at any given time during the 18th century varies, ranging from 294 to 348,[2] to more.

The Kleinstaaterei effect was compounded by the fact that, among that plethora of German states, quite a few were actually made of two or more non-contiguous parts. Few states did not have at least one or two enclaves or exclaves, and sometimes considerably more.
On the eve of the French Revolution, travellers leaving Brunswick, capital of the Duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, for Paris would still need to enter and exit six duchies, four bishoprics and one Free City before reaching France.[3]"
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The few immortals that are left (we use the Rules Encyclopedia, after all) hold together what remains of the Known World. Shrines and temples will play a very important part in this. Either as a bastion against evil or to reclaim what was lost during the times of the cataclysm. Pilgrims and holy knights might roam the countryside to test their faith. Evil will play it's part to undermine and destroy what is good and holy. The ugly is where I intent to use the weird, a third power that threatens it all: Lovecraftian horrors that spawn uncontrolled and without a pattern all over the setting. And whatever group of misfits the players or the DM (that would be me) will decide to create, will be around, looking for scraps, tipping the scale into any direction their ill decisions might lead.

Ruins and Dungeons

Give humanity a few decades to work against a hostile environment and they'll burrow away like happy moles. At least that's what I'm thinking (and it happened a lot during the Dark Ages...). A dead rich mans bunker (traps or no traps) makes a happy adventurer every other day (and a dead one the rest of the time...). Cities are only half populateted, the rest is in ruins and most of the time dangerous to explore. Knowledge about the world before the big catastrophe becomes most valuable and might give new ideas where to go next.

Where to start and what to do is totally up to the players. A true sandbox, so to say. To get this engine running is part of another post (or more).

*And I mean in a fantasy setting. Really. Just to be clear.

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