View Full Version : DM Help Making a small sandbox for 1st level characters

2016-10-24, 07:58 AM
I am currently working on an LotFP (B/X) campaign and got a good number of ideas for adventures, but I am struggling with stuff to do at 1st and 2nd level.

I've already decided to use 2d6+6 for abilities, maximum hp at first level, permanently losing 1 Constitution instead of dying at 0 hp, and make any nameless background NPCs level 0 characters. This already makes first level characters reasonably tough and a first level fighter might be able to take on three or four guards or bandits all by himself.
But that's still not very tough and considerably weaker than almost any monsters and so I want to go with something more about exploration and mystery.

What I want to do is a small town on the frontier where the party soon notices that something strange is going on. Then they are left free to poke around were they want in the nearby caves and ruins and ask the locals whatever they want to know. Basically a very small sandbox with only one or two settlements and four or so exploration sites. When the players think their work is done and there's probably nothing left for them to do, they'll move on to the next town somewhere else in the campaign world.

As the big main attraction I want to use the old adventure module Against the Cult of the Reptile God. Basically it's about a creature in a cave that mind controls people to kidnap other villagers and bring them to the lair to be mind controlled as well. The biggest flaw of the module is that the creature itself is very tough and deadly and since I want to avoid making the players feel like they are playing green noobs but rather veteran badasses, I think I'll replace it with an ancient idol that can't directly attack or pursue the party.

But that's only the big primary thing that's going on. I want to expand on that by adding other locations to the surroundings to explore, having the cultists conspiring to do something in the village, and adding some other groups than the cult who are also planning things that might help or cause additional problems for the players. I don't want to do a plot, just a starting situation and people working towards a goal. If the party rides off into the night with the village in flames and everyone dead I'd still consider that a successful conclusion.

Any ideas for stuff that could be going on in the village and nearby places worth exploring by the party?

2016-10-24, 09:23 AM
The classic "B2:Keep on the Borderlands" module was meant to be a sandbox for 1st (to 3rd) level characters. You met at the Keep, and quested in the "Caves of Chaos". There was at least one false priest in the Keep who might steer you horribly wrong.

It sounds like there should be some sort of politics in the village between those that are afraid to do anything (especially something that might cause a reprisal from the unknown), and those wondering who is stealing the villagers (probably made of those who lost kinfolk). There can be an extra political wiles between factions trying to use these motives to stay on top/get on top.

There are presumably other issues lying around: B2 had a mad hermit and other encounters not part of the Cave system. If players need high (well mid-)level divine magic you could always plunk down a small shrine, this shouldn't be connected to the village nor have enough members to leave the shrine (although you might get a level 0/1 novice if your party needs it).

I think B2 was updated for 5e and included in the beta. I'm not sure WOTC ever did anything with it afterwards. It seems like a waste to update such a great quest and then bury it.

2016-10-24, 10:01 AM
Having the village chief and the shaman fighting each other about something unrelated should be a good start. By making the shaman a bit unfriendly the players are likely to get suspicious.
A child of the chief could be a leader of the cult who does things that make the chief look suspicious as well.

Perhaps the cult could target primarily people in good standing with the shaman, so it looks as if the chief is trying to plot against his rival. The shaman would probably be the most dangerous to the cult, so getting the chief to take care of that would benefit them a lot.

And thinking about orcs and goblins, maybe the cult has taken some of them as well and they believe the cult temple belongs to the village. If they know where the temple is but don't dare to make a frontal assault, this could be one way the players could learn about its location.
Which doesn't mean these warriors have to be good people who only want to live in peace. They can still be bandits.

Some nice ideas to consider.