Sunday, April 22, 2012

Attempt at a sandbox model for LotFP.

After my first attempt at running a sandbox campaign for LotFP, I have thought about what din't work in my setup and I have come up with a draft for creating a LotFP sandbox.

Note that I don't know if my model is fun or functional, I hope so, but I have not tested it and I don't consider myself a experimented referee.

What I am trying to address here is that in my first LotFP sandbox the weird was too isolated in locations set away from the civilized world. So doing anything in the civilized world was not very interesting.

One solution is to move entirely away from the civilized world to run a wilderness campaign like Weird New World, so you don't have to care about the civilized world. Weird New World seem fun and functional and I hope to try it someday. But still, I wanted to see if I was able to come up with something interesting for a sandbox mainly set in civilized lands.

In my sandbox model the weird come from outside civilization, but infiltrate and hide in the civilized lands. So the PC can encounter weird elements in the civilized land and follow their trails up to their source of origin. While doing so they can investigate contaminated locations or explore normal locations and settlements to gain useful resources. My goal is to create a playable sandbox. I want the sandbox to be playable in itself instead of just being a area that connect different adventuring locations together.

(Note: the weird is taken in the sense of the supernatural, magic, horror, alien, strange science, etc).

The Sandbox.

We have:
  • The civilized lands: a normal civilized setting.
  • Normal locations: normal locations and settlements that can be explored to gain resources.
  • Source of Weird: outside source of weird that seed a point of weird in the civilized lands.
  • Seed of Weird: point of weird that contaminate the civilized lands.
  • Zone of weird contamination: each zone have it own flavor of weird encounters.
  • Mix points: place where different weird element mix with each other.
Seeds of weird come from a source of weird set outside civilization, once in civilized lands they "radiate" weirdness that contaminate normal elements and generate weird's ones. Those weird elements can mix together to create new weird elements. This create a net of trails that can be investigated and followed up to their source.

Here is a schematic map of the sandbox (click to enlarge):

The grey zones are zones of weird encounters. Each zone reflect the influence of the weird seed at it center. So the weird encounters of each zone can provide clues about it weird seed, trails to follow, etc.

Some normal locations or settlements will be outside the weird zones and their weird influence. Some other will be in contact with the weird and be influenced by it. Most settlement will contain a resources that the player characters can use to investigate or explore the weird.

So when you explore a normal location or settlement you can:
1) Try to gain access to the settlement resource.
2) Try to find information about other settlement resources.
3) Encounter and investigate clues or marks left by the weird.
4) Encounter and investigate weird activity and influence.

In some places, weird elements from different seed of weird will encounter each other to mix and to create new interesting situations to explore. This will also provide trails that lead to different sources of weird.

The sources of weird are set outside the civilized lands and can be explored by daring adventures. There the weird presence and influence can be more direct if wanted since the weird don't have to be secret or hidden.

Generating the sandbox.

1) Generate 3 sources of weird.

The sources of weird can be a weird location or a location with something weird in it. It have to be something that the group can eventually explore.

Since the nature of the sandbox, it is important to have sources of weird that can generate more weird. This can be done through servitors, spawns, family, influence, corruption, contamination, fallout, cults, possession, etc.

Something most come out of the source of weird and install itself in the civilized lands to become a seed of weird.

Note that the source of weird only need to generate a seed once.

To generate the sources of weird, you can (try to use a different approach for each source):
  1. Take a classic fantasy OSR threat and just twist a little something.
  2. Take a classic fantasy OSR threat and rewrite it into something unfamiliar.
  3. Take something from a other game, rewrite it and import it in your setting.
  4. Take something from a other media, rewrite it and import it in your setting.
  5. Take something from you or something from around you and use it for inspiration.
  6. Create anything you wish.
Maybe it is interesting to avoid creating 3 sources of weird that are threatening.
Like you could create:
  • One that attract things to itself, like something miraculous, seducing or fabulous.
  • One that is sleeping, death or inactive.
  • One that is threatening, active and aggressive.
You can also roll a alignment to use for inspiration (naturally use your own definitions):
  1. Lawful: crafted, artificial, perfect, imposing the will of the gods, fate, etc.
  2. Neutral: something natural, primordial, instinctive, etc.
  3. Chaotic: magical, eldritch, faery, sorcerous, corrupted, demonic, out of this world, etc.
Naturally there is many different ways to create the sources of weird.

2) Generate the seeds of weird.

Each seed will come from a source of weird and will be placed in the civilized lands.

Like it source of weird, each seed must be able to generate weirdness. But unlike a source of weird, a seed must be able to generate weirdness more then once to create encounters, spread it influence, mix with other weird elements, etc.

A seed can be something animate (character, creature, entity, group, etc) or something inanimate (artifact, magical item, location, etc).

For inspiration you can roll a d6 to determine the seed relation to it source:
  1. the seed is the spawn, children or creation of the source.
  2. the seed is the servitor, slave, henchman or apprentice of the source.
  3. the seed is the worshiper, priest or cult of the source.
  4. the seed is someone or something unwillingly tainted by the source power.
  5. the seed is a rival, splinter or exiled faction of the source.
  6. the seed is a broken or damaged part or duplicate.
(note that any result can represent a group or a single entity)

3) Create weird encounters.

For each seed, create some weird encounters. Those encounters can be weird elements themselves or normal elements tainted or influenced by the weird. The goal of those encounters is to provide clues about the seeds of weird and trails to follow or to investigate.

Some of those weird or tainted elements can be monsters, NPC, artifact, magic items, locations, etc...

Use those weird elements and encounters to create random encounters, place rumors, react at the player characters actions, antagonises them, etc.

4) Mix some of those weird elements together.

Mix some weird elements together to create interesting situations or new hybrid elements.

The goal is to create a fork in the trail that the PC are following.

Mixing element can create: hybrid elements, situations, factions, activity, etc.

For inspiration you can roll a d6 when weird elements from two seed mix together:
  1. They merge as something new.
  2. They form a alliance and work for a same goal and become a new faction.
  3. They maintain a uneasy truce.
  4. They hinder and sabotage each other goal.
  5. One manipulate or use the other.
  6. They hunt, predate or fight each other.

5) Create normal locations and settlement.

Create normal ordinary locations and settlements, then give them a disposition, a resource and a attitude toward the weird (if they are in the zone of influence of a seed of weird). You can also use the settlements table from the referee book to add more details.

The goal here is to make it interesting to visit the settlement. Since the game is about exploring the weird, to be interesting a normal location will provide resources to explore the weird or weird trails to follow and to investigate.

Roll the location disposition toward adventurers:
  • 1-2: Hinder, block or oppose through "normal" means. (using it resource is a challenge and can create enemies)
  • 3-5: Neutral. (using it resource cost something)
  • 6: Are open and helpful. (using it resource is free, but create ties & relations)
Roll to determine the resources of a location:
  1. Patronage. Provide financing, give quest, etc.
  2. Information, lore, knowledge, research, divination, omen or clues.
  3. Military or fighting strength. Mercenary, henchmen or allies.
  4. Expertise, training, special skills. Alchemist, master smith, guide, legendary artisan, etc.
  5. Protection, healing, blessing or warding. (The resource is fixed in it location and can't move or be moved).
  6. Exotic resources or contacts coming from demi-human, distant lands, ancient origin, etc.
If the location is in a weird zone, roll it attitude toward the weird:
  1. Resist, oppose, hate, foes.
  2. Ignore, fear, deny, avoid. Talking about the weird is bad.
  3. Ally for mutual gain.
  4. Don't like it, but hide and protect the weird in secret. Provide safe house, etc.
  5. Control and use the weird for personal gain or goal.
  6. Influenced, controlled or corrupted by the weird.
Note that not everyone in a location or settlement know about the weird influence or activities, only some factions do.

Conflicted factions: if you roll 1-2 on a d6, the location members are conflicted about the weird, roll twice on the table. Each result represent a faction of the settlement or location.


  1. (sorry for the reposting, I was making some corrections)

  2. Thanks. This is a lot to think about. I'm glad you're writing about this, and I hope you try another old-school sandbox.

  3. Well I tried generating a trail sandbox with my procedures, and I note that they really need a lot of reworking. But it ok, it was a first try. :)