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Best Published Setting for "Sandbox" Campaign?

crazy_monkey1956

First Post
First, I'm not terribly concerned with what edition the setting was or is published for, game mechanics are something of a secondary concern (though it should preferably be something published for any edition of D&D or Pathfinder).

What published setting is best for just dumping the PCs into and letting them meander at their own pace and direction?

I'm also looking for a setting that either a) doesn't have much published for it beyond the core material and/or b) doesn't require much more than the core material to play in.
 

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howandwhy99

Adventurer
I'm partial to the '80 World of Greyhawk folio or the '83 World of Greyhawk box set.

Gygax's Dangerous Journey's system had The Epic of Aerth.

SSS's Scarred Lands had a couple good setting books. Ghelspad & Termana

Arcanis by Paradigm Concepts is very well done and broad and indescript enough to be a campaign setting.

I would avoid licensed stuff or novelized campaign settings, if only because the players can then claim authority over what is published about the world instead of learning through play. A canon lawyer so to speak. I've seen this happen quite a bit in Star Wars games.
 


havard

Explorer
Blackmoor! Get the D20 Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Sourcebook, the 4E version, or good old DA1 as starting point and you are pretty much set. Good if you want a bit of weirdness thrown in, even if you can easily ignore that aspect of Blackmoor too.

-Havard
 

Banestorm is pretty good. There's opportunity for a wide variety of styles. Also, part of the theme is that it's possible to literally be 'dumped into' the setting.

GURPS Banestorm

The book isn't very mechanics heavy, so it would be pretty easily to pull the material into a different game system if that's what you want.



I also have fond memories of the Greyhawk Gazetteer and Ptolus.
 

mattcolville

First Post
First, I'm not terribly concerned with what edition the setting was or is published for, game mechanics are something of a secondary concern (though it should preferably be something published for any edition of D&D or Pathfinder).

What published setting is best for just dumping the PCs into and letting them meander at their own pace and direction?

I'm also looking for a setting that either a) doesn't have much published for it beyond the core material and/or b) doesn't require much more than the core material to play in.

I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but I think something like Temple of Elemental Evil is your best bet.

You've got Hommlet, which has lots of detail, and a nice map of the surrounding area. Come up with a selection of adventures to dot the llandscape with, some secrets, some bad guys with motivations. Give the players some rumors, some accurate some not, and drop them in town.

There are a couple of adventures that work well for this, Against the Cult of the Reptile God is another one that has a nicely detailed town and local environs.

A campaign setting is overkill, I think. Are your players starting at high level? Can they get to all these different places? Probably not. Focus on what they know, and the immediate world beyond.
 

I'll add to what I've previously said by saying you need not even use the whole book of Banestorm. It would be completely possible to pick out one of the many places detailed and build what you want around it. Caithness could easily be carved from the map and placed into just about any setting by simply changing a few small details.
 


olshanski

First Post
Not actually a setting, but the two somewhat larger adventures, "Lost City of Barakus" and "Vault of Larin Karr" are both really good sandbox adventures, and by placing the two adjacent to each other, you'll end up with an awesome sandbox.
 

darjr

I crit!
The Star Ship Warden from Metamorphosis Alpha. A giant generation ship with different levels that are like small worlds unto themselves.
 

DaveMage

Slumbering in Tsar
Wilderlands Box Set from Necromancer Games is easily #1, IMO.

Though on a smaller scale, Ptolus could be considered a great sandbox-style product as well. Lots of keyed locations of varied encounters.
 


rounser

First Post
Thunder Rift is perfect for your needs. It has one 32 page sourcebook, a bunch of adventures (which are best used as loose inspiration and rewritten if you use them at all, I don't really rate them)....and that's it.

The things which make it good as a sandbox is that it is extremely small (about 25 miles across, by about double that top to bottom), it has borders (the rift is surrounded by very high cliffs on all sides) and has all the classic D&D setting cliches present, which is all you need for a whole campaign. It was originally intended for levels 1-3 of BECMI, but it can easily support a campaign all the way up to high level play if you detail it in a sandbox style - there's a lot of exploration to do if you made every mile count.

Another suggestion is the Korinn Archipelago from N1 Treasure Hunt. It is a very small setting of many islands, so you can control the flow of the sandbox from island to island (e.g. this island challenges levels 4-6 etc.). It got dumped into the Forgotten Realms as part of the Moonshae Isles, but was originally supposed to be dumped anywhere you want, so whether you use it in the pre-4e realms or not is up to you. (I suspect 4E FR has turfed it, but 4E FR isn't FR for me anyway, so meh.)
 
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Ghostwind

First Post
Wilderlands of Fantasy is a great choice but I'm also gonna say Oathbound: Domains of the Forge is a good sandbox setting to play with. There wasn't a lot produced for it and you can do a lot, especially if you don't mind the fantasy aspect ramped up a little bit. :)
 

Vorpal Puppy

First Post
Ruins of Adventure, a 2nd edition D&D adventure based on the Pool of Radiance computer game that came out long, long ago. The plot is that hordes of monsters under a mysterious general conquered the city of Phlan 50 years ago. They still linger today, but they're disorganized and merchants who hope to use the city as a base for trade have gained a toehold there. The PCs show up and basically do whatever they want, using 'civilized Phlan' as a base. A sort of wild, wild west of fantasy.

The module itself is not exactly slickly produced, but it gives you everything you really need and the setting is my all-time favorite sandbox.
 

Hussar

Legend
Put in a vote for World's Largest Dungeon. Everything you need in one box.

What about Ptolus? Should be a sandbox in there somewhere.
 


Mark Hope

Adventurer
Best wilderness setting: Wilderlands of High Fantasy
Best City: Ptolus (although City-State of the Invincible Overlord is almost as good, and maybe a bit more sandboxy than Ptolus)
Best Dungeon: Rappan Athuk
 

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