New campaign - risks on editing the map while playing?

Hey all, I am writing up a new world setting for a potential campaign. I love running sandboxes, but I am not sure if this is too open.

I have created so far:
1. A map of continents with some continental drift (randomly chosen by me), from which logically follows where the mountain ranges are. From mountains run rivers which create plains. This created an overall map sketch of the world's continents.
2. A set of important locations (about 15), scattered through the world. These are just dots on the world map with a name. No details yet. Most likely these are (ruins of) capital cities.
3. A detailed map of 4 villages near one of these capitals, where the adventure will start.
4. Even more details of the village where the PCs will be living at the start of session 1. The village has a detailed map, and a set of NPCs. I will create at least one plot hook here.
5. Decision that the pantheon is the standard Forgotten Realms pantheon (cannot be bothered to design my own).
6. Decision that there are vast areas dominated by undead. Undead have crushed most empires and the "living lands" inhabited by non-undead are actually a minority now.
7. Some mechanics (homebrew) how undead act, where they rise and some background why there are so many.

What I don't have:
1. A final decision on the main plot for the players. Not sure if I want them to defeat all undead, only create a safe area or even just escape to a safe area that they may discover. I want to listen to the players what they'd like to do. I'll have NPCs ask them what they want to do, and throw challenges at them that force decisions (fight or flight).
2. I have only one or two plot hooks that will force the adventurers to enter the lands of the undead. After that I don't know what will happen.
3. A decision how many sessions we can play in this setting.
4. (Whatever I overlooked or forgot)?

Of course, I will start with a proper "session zero" to explain my players what is the setting, what general knowledge they have (they will get limited maps of the local area, description of the village where they all live, and info up front that they will be dealing with hordes of undead), so they can make an informed decision on the class/race they will play. Obviously some classes may be better than others in this campaign.

Any risks in starting a campaign with so much (maps, plot) open for editing during the campaign? Can you advise on anything that I overlooked, or that I may leave out?
 

Coroc

Adventurer
Hey all, I am writing up a new world setting for a potential campaign. I love running sandboxes, but I am not sure if this is too open.

I have created so far:
1. A map of continents with some continental drift (randomly chosen by me), from which logically follows where the mountain ranges are. From mountains run rivers which create plains. This created an overall map sketch of the world's continents.
2. A set of important locations (about 15), scattered through the world. These are just dots on the world map with a name. No details yet. Most likely these are (ruins of) capital cities.
3. A detailed map of 4 villages near one of these capitals, where the adventure will start.
4. Even more details of the village where the PCs will be living at the start of session 1. The village has a detailed map, and a set of NPCs. I will create at least one plot hook here.
5. Decision that the pantheon is the standard Forgotten Realms pantheon (cannot be bothered to design my own).
6. Decision that there are vast areas dominated by undead. Undead have crushed most empires and the "living lands" inhabited by non-undead are actually a minority now.
7. Some mechanics (homebrew) how undead act, where they rise and some background why there are so many.

What I don't have:
1. A final decision on the main plot for the players. Not sure if I want them to defeat all undead, only create a safe area or even just escape to a safe area that they may discover. I want to listen to the players what they'd like to do. I'll have NPCs ask them what they want to do, and throw challenges at them that force decisions (fight or flight).
2. I have only one or two plot hooks that will force the adventurers to enter the lands of the undead. After that I don't know what will happen.
3. A decision how many sessions we can play in this setting.
4. (Whatever I overlooked or forgot)?

Of course, I will start with a proper "session zero" to explain my players what is the setting, what general knowledge they have (they will get limited maps of the local area, description of the village where they all live, and info up front that they will be dealing with hordes of undead), so they can make an informed decision on the class/race they will play. Obviously some classes may be better than others in this campaign.

Any risks in starting a campaign with so much (maps, plot) open for editing during the campaign? Can you advise on anything that I overlooked, or that I may leave out?
Well, how to start,
principally you did nothing wrong yet. Especially since points of interest seem to be ruins, so yu do not have to consider economics, relations etc. Let me see if I get the picture right:
This is fantasy land after a kind of zombie apocalypse, everything invaded except some small village (s)
Ok, now you worry if it will be difficult to set your tiles into the sandbox in an ongoing campaign.
No it will not, especially because the way your world is.
But you are missing some major items still:

Why did the cataclysm happen and is some force behind it?
If there is someone behind it, can he be confronted and what is needed for that?
Are there others near or far with the same motives as the players, or if there is a big bad allied with this one instead?
Why do the Zombies not overrun your safezones? Is it some effect like e.g. hallowed ground?
Or are they attacking but brave people in the villages drive them off?

I hope you see what I get at. One more though: to offer the standard FR panteon in a setting with big one deciding aspect,especially of that kind, is a bit of overkill. You could easily use a heaven earth hell (+1etheral/shadow plane) cosmology with single or two or three deities for that one.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
So you have determined how Undead behave and have a map that shows around 15 ruined cities, which I presume were over run by the undead?

FR cosmology so I assume the world has Clerics who can turn undead and other ways of fighting undead?

thats sounds great and ready to go, let the PCs decide how their going to respond to the set up IC, then let that guide how you are going to tailor the Undead motivation, major BBEGs and overall plot arc
 

NotAYakk

Adventurer
How about we assume there are many small pockets of survivors? That will permit you to have non-combat interactions when you are adventuring in the blasted lands.

Decide on some races that have survived. Maybe make a list and roll on it a bunch of times.

Now start building pocket civilizations. How are they holding back the undead? What kind of food/shelter do they live? Are they fortified, hidden, or mobile?

Just a few sentences for each.

Relics. Items of power left over from the last world. Write up 20+ of them. Some should be held by the above pocket civilizations. 3-10 sentences each.

Ruins. Locations of interest left over from the last world. Write up 20+ of them. Again, 3-10 sentences each.

Abominations. Extra-powerful/gross undead things that are out of the ordinary. Again, 3-10 sentences each.

This is intended not to all be used, but instead to provide some fertile ground on which to grow a plot.
 

aco175

Adventurer
I would plan more around the first couple adventures. The group starts in a village close enough to other villages and a city or larger town. These may all band together to fend off larger invasions of undead, but small roving bands of skeletons are up to the locals to deal. Similar to orc invasions in FR. There may be a loose tie to gathering all the parts of a McGruffin to purge the world of undead or a mystical safeplace heard far away (Think Waterworld without Kevin Costner).

At first you need some local things. Maybe the first event is a few undead wandering into town. Maybe this has not happened in years and the magic (or wall like in GOT) keeping them at bay is failing. This is a call to action for the PCs to save their home town. Create a dungeon with a few encounters that introduces the fact that all the safe place magic is failing and only the construction (or destruction) of something is needed.

Create something that the PCs can solve by level 5-6 with a cool climax and them thinking they saved the day. Then in Empire Strikes Back you meet the Emperor who is behind Darth Vader and the threat is bigger than first thought and it will take them to whatever level you want. This way if the game breaks up earlier you still have saved the day (mostly).
 
Guys, thanks for the feedback. I did pick up a few great tips. Also some tips were already on my mind but were left out of the OP because I didn't want to make the OP too long.

I will expand a bit on the first early adventures. I may also create a few lists of other random locations (safe zones as well as ruins) and some special monsters. It's good to have those ready in case the player characters decide to do something unexpected (which is to be expected :rolleyes: )...

I already have more info how the undead act, and why safe zones are safe, but it's a little long to explain in writing here. I haven't decided yet if there was a Great Cataclysm ™ that caused this, or if this has always been, like there has always been good and evil.

I deliberately will not look ahead beyond level 5, because I want to listen to the players. During roleplay, they will set goals for themselves (hopefully for the whole group and not on an individual basis) which can easily be developed into challenges and missions. Then I can connect that into the undead storyline and that should get me some happy players (also very smug players because they think they guessed correctly what my challenges were and don't know that instead I used their input).

Thanks all!
 

Advertisement

Top