Bonus Creativity: A Sandbox Pathfinder Setting

I’m an obsessive TTRPGer. When I’m not thinking about books, I’m thinking about games I’ve played, and especially games I want to run.

And one of my goal is to run a sandbox Pathfinder campaign.

For the uninitiated, a sandbox campaign is one in which the players, not the game master, take the initiative in deciding what the story will be. The GM manages the setting and prepares adventures based on what the players want to do, but ultimately it’s the players’ goals that drive the story.

What this means, in practical terms, is that there are quite a few tropes that can’t be put into play. No prophecies to be fulfilled, no apocalyptic wars between gods to win, nothing that the players can’t choose to ignore. The stakes can still be high, but if the players don’t want to get involved with a particular plot point, well, the show must go on.

It also means that the setting must accomodate a variety of activities. If the players want to explore, there must be some amount of terra incognita. If they want to play politics, there must be a theater for that. And there still must be villains to confront, monsters to slay, and so on.

The old AD&D settings were pretty good for that – the pre-Time of Troubles Forgotten Realms in particular had plenty of unexplored (read: unwritten) land to explore and a relative dearth of player-achievement-trivializing fiction. Modern settings, by contrast, tend to be less accomodating. Besides, where’s the fun in using someone else’s creation?

So, over the course of the next few months, I’ll be posting my design process as I create a new setting to play in. I’ll try to go light on actual game mechanics – it’s not really pertinent to the creation process and besides, I expect there’ll be a second edition of Pathfinder by the time I get around to actually playing in that setting. Instead, I’ll focus on the reasons for my design decisions rather than on the rules minutia.

So… in our next instalment: let’s draw a map.

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