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Any good sandbox module published?

CapnZapp

Adventurer
Hello

I'm looking for a map and material of the old school sandboxy feel. Any recommendations, particularly ones published for Pathfinder?

Specifically:

You have a map of wilderness, with the usual ruins, marshes, abandoned towers, caves and what not. In one corner of the map there's the town that'll become the adventurers home base.

This is supported by descriptions of what you'll find at each location: the goblin tribes, the fearsome troll, the skeletons lurking in the abandoned graveyard, ideally complete with encounter maps of warrens and abandoned towers etc.

As you explore the map, you'll find leads to more adventure (quests) deeper within the wilderness. There might be suggestions for random encounters. Hopefully (for the PCs!) the deadliness starts low close to town, so they get a chance to level up before venturing to the farthest reaches of the map.

As an example from the computer world; Skyrim would have made for a *bloody excellent* sandbox ttrpg module.

I'm mainly asking for newer products, including from 3PPs. (The "classics" of AD&D and 3E, from Gygax, Necromancer Games etc I already have )
 

Zardnaar

Explorer
The 1st two Kingmaker adventures are quite good, it breaks down a bit after that. Stolen Lands for pt 1 the other one I can't recall off the top of my head.

They're also easy to convert to D&D.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
The 1st two Kingmaker adventures are quite good, it breaks down a bit after that. Stolen Lands for pt 1 the other one I can't recall off the top of my head.

They're also easy to convert to D&D.
Are you talking about adventures in a series? Doesn't that mean there's a red thread and a story?
 

Zardnaar

Explorer
Are you talking about adventures in a series? Doesn't that mean there's a red thread and a story?
Yes but the story issnt pushed that hard so the plot is fairly easy to ignore. It doesn't really turn up until the 4th module or so. You can also ignore the domain building aspect.
 

Aldarc

Explorer
I'm looking for a map and material of the old school sandboxy feel. Any recommendations, particularly ones published for Pathfinder?
I'm a fan of the Varisia region. That's probably the most sandboxy area of the game apart from the Riverlands (see Zardnaar's suggestion). Set Sandpoint as the initial homebase. The town of Sandpoint is well-documented and profiled. There are six adventure paths that deal with this region: Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne, Second Darkness, Jade Regent (though it leads to polar journey north to Golarion-Asia), Shattered Star, and Return of the Runelords. You can ignore the adventures entirely, but purely pull plothooks and issues from these paths.
 

amethal

Explorer
I'm not sure if it is counts as "Necromancer" but Frog God Game's Hex Crawl Chronicles are available in Pathfinder format. They are by John Stater, who certainly knows his way around a hex map. (I assume they were originally written for a more "old-school" system and converted, however.)

Over on the "Against the Wicked City" blog a number of Pathfinder adventure paths have been converted into hexcrawls, including Kingmaker. Anyone who is wondering how you convert a "hexcrawl" into an actual hexcrawl should check it out!

http://udan-adan.blogspot.com/2016/03/condensation-in-action-from-600-page-ap.html
 
In general, I think it's impossible to publish a sandbox module.

The reason is that I define a sandbox as "preparing far more material than you intend to use", and a module can't because of the limit of page counts and other economic reasons do that on its own.

So if you want a sandbox campaign, IMO you have to marry multiple modules together in the same setting and give the players options to pursue exploration in any one of several possible environments. You can do this in the context of modules or campaigns that have strong exploration components, but you can't do this in the context of a single adventure.

You mention admiration for Skyrim, and Skyrim is a case in point as Skyrim is actually a collection of fairly short and often barely related adventures occurring in close proximity to each other, together with a collection of short 'six room' type dungeons which again are not strongly related to each other.
 
Over on the "Against the Wicked City" blog a number of Pathfinder adventure paths have been converted into hexcrawls, including Kingmaker. Anyone who is wondering how you convert a "hexcrawl" into an actual hexcrawl should check it out!
It reads more like converting a hexcrawl into some vague ideas for a hexcrawl. I would need to convert this back into 600 pages before it would be of much use for anything.
 

amethal

Explorer
It reads more like converting a hexcrawl into some vague ideas for a hexcrawl. I would need to convert this back into 600 pages before it would be of much use for anything.
My unspoken assumption was that anyone running it in Pathfinder would already have Kingmaker, so already has the encounter details and Pathfinder stat blocks. I wasn't intending to imply that an entire Pathfinder adventure path in playable form could be had for free at that link.

The author's reference to 600 pages is an exaggeration, since the adventure part of each episode of Kingmaker isn't 100 pages - there's the fiction, bestiary etc. That aside, fleshing out an 8 x 10 hex grid into many, many pages (even if not 600) would be going overboard.
 

wakedown

Villager
If you want a mega sandbox, check out "Wilderlands of High Fantasy". If you want something more accessible, check out the "Vault of Larin Karr". You'd want PCs that are able to self-motivate in a true sandbox where they can freely choose to move from Point A to Point B on the map at any given time of their own free will.

I'll try to be spoiler-free here (any stuff here will be able to be picked up by aspiring players in the player's guide).

I've both played in and run Kingmaker. While Kingmaker is a bit railroady, it's "sandbox-like". The general premise is there's an unexplored stretch of land and the PCs are commissioned to explore it. Ultimately the PCs pick a hex for their capital and start their own nation. Content in the books contains events that will pop up in their capital city or outskirt hexes so this content would need to be ignored or adapted if the PCs aren't actually running a nation of their own but simply looking to travel between towns.

You could obviously toss this aside as a motivation and the PCs can decide that they want to be bandits and to start their own lair and raid the road depicted in the north but then you'll be mostly improvising from the map rather than using any of the content that are assigned to exist in hexes or as events triggered by the growth of the kingdom. A lot of the hexes in Kingmaker are self-contained and basically lie in stasis awaiting the party's arrival (like a spider nest). A lot of groups, under the mandate of founding the kingdom will "centipede" explore the hexes to check them off. There's not a lot of towns to visit between level 1 and 10 where there'd be a ton of NPCs to interact with as the swatch of land begins the campaign as essentially uninhabited. So if you're looking for any town crawls or NPCs pre-provided, there'll be a shortage of those.

I think Kingmaker is pretty good if you can jump onto the premise of "PCs running a nation" and do a little work to make the hex exploration less tedious and redundant. Kingmaker from a challenge perspective suffers from an encounter-a-day issue in 90% of the hexes and if your PCs are playing it like a explore-every-corner CRPG I almost would suggest hand-waving a lot of the mundane hex encounters just to get to the meaty stuff faster (which makes it less of a sandbox and more of a run-a-nation simulator).
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
In general, I think it's impossible to publish a sandbox module.
As young people say:

Cool story, bro



In other words, this is not the thread where we question the feasibility of sandbox modules :)

Hint: for the sake of this thread, assume they can be made... :cool:
 
As young people say:

Cool story, bro

In other words, this is not the thread where we question the feasibility of sandbox modules :)

Hint: for the sake of this thread, assume they can be made... :cool:
Err, "No." Just no.

This is a thread where we give the original poster (you) useful advice on running a Sandbox Campaign relying as heavily as possible on published material.

This is not a thread where we pretend that something impossible is impossible.

You can publish a Small World in a module, although those "modules" tend to be the sort of mega-modules that end up published in hardback like "Tomb of Annihilation", "Curse of Strahd", or "Lost City of Barakus" But these are not in fact Sandboxes. The reason is that they are designed such that the PC's can go anywhere provided that they want to go somewhere in the small world that is described, and they are often given some hard push to stay in the small world. They are actually more akin to classic megadungeons where you are free to go anywhere as long as you stay in the dungeon. That gives you seemingly a lot of agency and freedom as a player, but not as much as sandbox play where the players through their play pick the sort of game that they want to play and the things that they care about. In a small world or a megadungeon you can care about anything you want as long as what you want is exploring the megadungeon.

The issue that the publisher of an adventure has is that the classic module format is like 32, 48, or 64 pages. And that's just not enough space to put a full sandbox in except in very broad outline where the DM ultimately fills in all the details. An example would be the "one page" compressed sandbox that [MENTION=22784]amethal[/MENTION] linked to, or the old school "Wilderlands of High Fantasy". In both cases these are just the very basic bones of a world meant to spark the imagination. The more modern version of these is a campaign setting supplement where a region is described broadly, but none of the details - none of the modules - are detailed in any way but are left to the DM to invent. You can definitely run a sandbox in a campaign setting, but you will need to add the modules in order to do so either by placing them generously in the setting or by inventing your own (or both).

So yes, in terms of a module a sandbox is impossible. A sandbox is bigger than that. It's at minimum a campaign.

Again, the real defining aspect of a true sandbox is that there is more material than the DM will ever use. This might not seem obvious, but if the DM knows that all the material will certainly be used at some point, then we also know that the players never made any real choice about what to do beyond the order in which to do it. Instead of a sandbox, what you had was probably some sort of narrow, broad, narrow structure where you knew where the players started, knew where they ended, knew what they needed to do to get to the end, but didn't force a particular order on the middle. (The most classic example of this I can think of isn't an RPG, but the 2nd act (Rubacava) of Grim Fandango.) This is in fact the structure of an Adventure Path like Kingmaker, and it's as close as an Adventure Path can get to a Sandbox because to write an Adventure Path you have to have some sort of 'gates' that you know the party will eventually go through in order to know the 'vector' that the party is going to take and thus be able to publish the next module with content relevant to where the players ended the prior one. Several Paizo Adventure Path's have cool sections that are "narrow-broad-narrow" such as the outpost building minigame in the middle of Savage Tide, where you explore the Isle of Dread while building up resources to, as it will turn out, resist a pirate invasion.

In a true sandbox though, you don't know which gate the PC's are going to go through.

My advice to you was practical. Rather than trying to find a published Sandbox, make your own by combining multiple published products together. And this is very similar to [MENTION=5142]Aldarc[/MENTION]'s suggestion of using setting guides for places like Varisia and Sandpoint and then pulling in content from multiple modules to create a sandbox where there is more content available to the PCs than they can possibly consume and they get to choose their own hooks. If I could point out one problem with the specifics of Aldarc's approach, is that there is a good likelihood that the players will bite a hook and because all of those hooks lead to quite linear adventure paths, what may have started with the intention to be a Sandbox could morph to a very linear Adventure Path because all the hooks carry with them a lot of narrative force to continue down that path (someone has to "save the world", for example). Better would be to collect a bunch of quality modules that have a more episodic feel, or which are on much shorter adventure paths that will only take the party through a few levels.
 
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Now, bonus points for the interested student.

Is the Hexcrawl that [MENTION=22784]amethal[/MENTION] linked to actually a Sandbox? Explain what features that the Hexcrawl has suggest that it is or is not a Sandox. If it is not a Sandbox, explain what features could be added to it which would ensure that it played like a Sandbox.

I'll give my own answer to the question after anyone that cares (if anyone, and if no one cares, who cares) has some time to think about it.
 
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Aldarc

Explorer
My advice to you was practical. Rather than trying to find a published Sandbox, make your own by combining multiple published products together. And this is very similar to [MENTION=5142]Aldarc[/MENTION]'s suggestion of using setting guides for places like Varisia and Sandpoint and then pulling in content from multiple modules to create a sandbox where there is more content available to the PCs than they can possibly consume and they get to choose their own hooks. If I could point out one problem with the specifics of Aldarc's approach, is that there is a good likelihood that the players will bite a hook and because all of those hooks lead to quite linear adventure paths, what may have started with the intention to be a Sandbox could morph to a very linear Adventure Path because all the hooks carry with them a lot of narrative force to continue down that path (someone has to "save the world", for example). Better would be to collect a bunch of quality modules that have a more episodic feel, or which are on much shorter adventure paths that will only take the party through a few levels.
This is definitely a potential pitfall of my suggestion. That said, this sometimes only requires removing the tie-in hook at the beginning and end. I recall, for example, that the whole Foxglove chapter of Rise of the Runelords only felt loosely connected to the preceding and following chapters, more of an interlude with some plot hooks thrown in. Sometimes this requires only taking out a character or episode. For example, the goblins raid Sandpoint at the beginning of Rise of the Runelords connected to the aasimar Nualia. It serves as a call to action, but you can also remove it. This also leads to an episode where they confront a goblin hiding in the city and later the goblins at Thistletop. Remove the connecting strings and let the threats exist as independent modules, though sandboxes usually also require that players have a way to assess the relative danger of the threats/modules so they can make choices.
 
Reported for thread crapping!
Is it within the rules to tell people that you are reporting them?

In any event, if you feel that strongly about it, I'll happily bow out.

But it doesn't change the fact that you can't get a Sandbox from a 64 page published module alone. A sandbox can't be fit into such a small framework. I can't see how it is thread crapping to try to explain that to you.
 
This is definitely a potential pitfall of my suggestion. That said, this sometimes only requires removing the tie-in hook at the beginning and end. I recall, for example, that the whole Foxglove chapter of Rise of the Runelords only felt loosely connected to the preceding and following chapters, more of an interlude with some plot hooks thrown in. Sometimes this requires only taking out a character or episode. For example, the goblins raid Sandpoint at the beginning of Rise of the Runelords connected to the aasimar Nualia. It serves as a call to action, but you can also remove it. This also leads to an episode where they confront a goblin hiding in the city and later the goblins at Thistletop. Remove the connecting strings and let the threats exist as independent modules, though sandboxes usually also require that players have a way to assess the relative danger of the threats/modules so they can make choices.
It seems I've been asked by the OP to leave the thread, but yes, I do agree that it's not unusual for early modules in Pathfinder adventure paths to have only a loose connection to the larger plot, and that if you successfully cut the threads that push the party to the next step, those "call to actions" as you aptly name them, then you could avoid some of the problems. For example, "Whispering Cairn" makes a great stand alone module quite aside from the adventure path that follows. A really sophisticated strategy would be to change the motivations of the NPCs and give entirely different hooks which tie to things that aren't part of the AP. There is nothing really wrong with having hooks in a sandbox as long as biting them is optional and they don't lead to a rail that the party can't really get off of (which is going to happen any time "the fate of the world" is at stake).
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I can't see how it is thread crapping to try to explain that to you.
Telling me once was fine. Trying to take over the thread is not.

If you don't feel you have any meaningful suggestions, feel free to not post. Also feel free to start a new thread if you want to discuss how the terms "module" and "sandbox" interact or don't interact.

But please now respect that this thread is about asking for suggestions on sandbox modules. I do *not* wish to argue whether they can exist; I want fun and exciting suggestions.
 

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