Digging in the Sandbox

If things go as planned then I should be playing some Fate this weekend as well as continuing my Keep on the Borderland campaign as it segues into the Temple of Elemental Evil. We’ll see what happens.

For now I want to talk a bit about the Fate game which, as I’ve already mentioned, I want to set in the world of Hyperborea from the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea game. The Gazetteer of Hyperborea is by no means exhaustive, but it contains a wealth of interesting locales and adventure hooks, which is pretty much exactly what I was looking for. This is going to be somewhat new territory for me. Typically when I run a game I have a good idea about some plot points that I want to hit and/or I have a dungeon key or a module or something to that effect that should at some point feature in the game play. For this game I’m going in with as little preparation as possible; no mapped out mega-dungeons and no preconceived over-arching story lines.

My plan is simple. I’m going to find out what the players want to do, and that’s what the game will be about. Sounds simple, right? That’s what the game is suppose to be like, right? Most good games are like that to some extent, but if you’ve purchased a module or put a fair amount of time into stocking your own dungeon then it’s a fair assumption that the action is going to lead there at some point. If your good at what you do then there is a lot of room for flexibility on how you get there and what happens when you arrive, but you’re probably going to get there. Either that or your going to be making up a bunch of stuff on the spot after you wasted a lot of time on that other stuff (I’m sure it wasn’t a waste; it will probably be used in some capacity at some point).

Here is the only thing I know: whatever the PCs want to do there is someone or something that is in direct opposition to that. That’s it; that’s the plan. These could be shadowy assassins, a merchant’s guild, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men… I don’t know the details yet. If they decide they’ve heard about some ancient ruins they’d like to explore then someone else has heard about them too and wants to get there first. If they want to be merchant marines there will be some other merchant who isn’t keen on any new competitors entering the market (where will also probably definitely be pirates). I plan to shamelessly steal ideas from previous adventures, characters myself and others have played, novels, television shows, cereal boxes – wherever I find inspiration to propel the plot in interesting ways.

I’ve never really ran a game quite this way before; I’ve never done the whole sandbox thing. I imagine things will be a little shaky at first, but I feel like once a few things are established that other things will start to fall into place. Either that or the whole thing will be an unmitigated disaster and I’ll be forced to slam a “mass extinction” asteroid into this particular fantasy planet and head back to the drawing board.


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