The 1e AD&D sandbox known today as Benchleydale And Beyond (or B&B, for short,) was designed for both the running of a classic GDQ1-7 campaign and a separate (but equally important) lighthearted / gonzo / whimsical / zany campaign. I knew that our name of the sandbox ought to reflect both sides of the coin.
Whilst reading JAWS eight years ago (a novel set in Long Island, written by Peter Benchley,) I was frightened out of my wits! What a dangerous tale that is, and how very different from the film of the same name.
I had also seen the Cheese Shop sketch during that same time period (Monty Python’s Flying Circus.) It’s still a favorite Python sketch of mine. Michael Palin’s character is named Wensleydale (“It’s quite runny actually.”) John Cleese’s character is named Mousebender (“Shut that bloody bouzouki up!”)
Hence, the Benchleydale name was born, by combining the name Benchley together with the name Wensleydale; reflecting both the dark/dangerous GDQ1-7 campaign and the separate (but equally important) silly-buggers campaign.
Some of the more important NPCs in the Benchleydale sandbox are also a nod to the Cheese Shop sketch. Examples include his majesty the King Asiago, princess Provolone, chancellor Pecorino, admiral Bleu, quartermaster Camem Bert, and the royal stablemasters – the Jack brothers (Monterey, Colby, and Pepper.) There’s even a circus in South Benchleydale known as Monkey Siphon’s Flywheel Circus. Proper winks to the Cheese Shop sketch, one and all.
Fun protagonist NPCs also include Oafy the chaos moppet (think a 6-foot tall yeti, blue fur, loves chaos, adores baked goods, and enjoys being a 4th level Fighter with blink powers, in that exact order,) Chuggy (lager-drinking champion of Lightningfoot,) General Jorj Joshington and the Founding d4Fathers (Ben Spanklin, “Mad” Anthony Pain, Alexandyr Slamilton, Tefferson, Goratio Hates, Jancock, and Maul Severe,) Gone Henley and the “Seagulls” (a roving band of halfling adventurers from Backseat Devil that includes Sven Frey, Whoa Jalsh, Randi Meisnah, Lernie Beddon, Fonn Delder, and Bimmothy T. Slitt,) Sir Arandell of Longbridge, a suitor for the princess Provolone’s hand in marriage, and as fine an archer as ever there was. Thuba Vokuunen, a much-older gentleman who runs a Bazaar near Thunder Lake in the mystical Land o’ Seven Forests. The White Mamba, runaway noble, aspiring archer. Okarr the Magnificent, a powerful wizard and good friend of King Asiago’s, who often helps keep the peace near Branamor’s Bog and Nihilrage. Harald Skarvalla, barbarian chieftain, who oversees the barbarian “city” of Hrofsbyrig, in the southern Frostlands. King Ayabig, ruler of South Benchleydale, who has traveled north into Benchleydale proper, in an effort to help vanquish the hill giants and such. Goose Bronze and Feefee Bronze (the Bronze Brothers,) who travel around with Smacks Rockatansky, smiting evil and thwarting heinous machinations at every turn. Ralf Horn, age 7, gifted apprentice wizard, learning magic from Okarr the Magnificent, a powerful MU. Alexis the Shadowmistress, another powerful MU, helps with the refugee camps near King Asiago’s royal castle, when she isn’t inside the Great Dome of Darkness, or visiting with a certain blue dragon up high in the Noj Crags. Glimm is here too, yet another powerful MU, loyal to King Asiago, and dwells in his ice tower (visitors must make DEX checks ascending the ice stairs, or lose HP.) Gill Oteen, commander of the King’s Fist, stationed at Fort Bellwood, loyal to King Asiago, and yet he is also a childhood friend of King Ayabig’s. Fonkin Hoddypeak is here too, a halfling entrepreneur and Benchleydale’s greatest maker of sausages, whose usage of a secret ingredient (snoo) has endeared him to King Asiago. There’s also jolly old Olaf, the proprietor of Olaf’s Outfitters, now with two locations (Silverleaf and Urseid.)
What about the antagonists, you ask? What’s a fantasy medieval 1e AD&D sandbox without villains? Lord Ginormous and his naughty bandits have recently run roughshod over the town of Mokin, occupying much of the upper areas of a ruined castle nearby, and plundering much of the booze from miles around. Duke Voorhees has reportedly gone missing near Lake Crystal, coinciding with a recent rash of grisly nocturnal slayings in nearby campgrounds. Zsazoopi (the ogre king) has left Nihilrage, seething mad, and gone into Branamor’s Bog, hunting the hunters, and woe be unto all who stand in his way. Shank Finatra and Mean Dartin have been stirring up trouble at Wyrm’s Roost again. Fumf, the degenerate wizard, is imprisoned in Voodok, but for how much longer? Lady Vokuunen evaded the King’s justice, hid in Tomb Town for a while, then Fortress Badabaskor, before joining Baba Yaga in the Djoosi Jungle, where she’ll learn the dark arts from this powerful witch. A lesser witch, Terrible Tess, dwells deep in Branamor’s Bog, in a hut of skulls, where she beckons careless adventurers, charms them, and makes them unwillingly pull cards from her customized 26-card Deck of Woe (basically a Deck of Many Things, minus all of the good cards.) Captain Clambeard and his naughty pirate flotilla have been wreaking havoc along the coastlines of Taboo Island, helping themselves to countless merchant ships and their consignments on board. Cragen the Unslain is marshaling his bloodthirsty thieves at Fortress Badabaskor, together with his bastard son’s fearsome cavalry (the Silver Sons,) as they prepare for an assault on the good King Ayabig in Polpoti.
It’s important to note that evil-aligned characters are only allowable for NPCs here. The DM alone gets to do all of that, and there’s a very good reason for this. For our campaigns to be as magical, as meaningful, and as memorable as they are, evil PCs are forbbiden. The adventures in our sandbox are meant to have a distinctly heroic flavor, so they do, and never is heard a discouraging word.
Campaigns in our B&B sandbox usually flow like this. PCs begin in the employ of good King Asiago, accepting some mission or quest, then going out to complete the mission or quest, getting sidetracked along the way, completing the mission or quest, getting sidetracked during their return to the King’s royal castle afterwards. PCs are usually presented with three choices of mission or quest. One time, the PCs were presented with ten choices. Never really knowing which way the PCs will go next is all just part of the fun for the DM too. We don’t know where we’ll end up next. Together we’ll find out. Together we’ll build the world.
The Benchleydale sandbox made its public debut in February 2013, to rave reviews from all participants. Just one hand-drawn/painted 11 x 14″ posterboard map existed for it at the time; a map which later became known as “Benchleydale proper,” or “the little map that could.” The classic G1 adventure module began for us here. Later, we would see the Frostlands expansion map come into being (for G2,) and the Firelands expansion map (for G3.)
Today, our sandbox includes a baker’s dozen hand-drawn expansion maps. With more than a hundred classic TSR and Judges Guild adventure modules (and places-of-interest) from the 1970s and 1980s to be found-and-explored on these maps, there’s a lifetime’s worth of tabletop RPG fun to be enjoyed in the B&B sandbox, and our players are the richer for it.
The bonus situation.
The awarding of bonus XP to hobbyists is hardly a necessity. Some would have you believe that it’s enough to simply just enjoy the hobby without bonuses being given out. Perhaps it is. Awarding bonus XP to players is still healthy for morale, any way you slice it, and it sure is a fun way to keep younger hobbyists interested. It also doesn’t cheapen or dilute the campaigns. In fact, we’ve found that it enhances the adventures.
Ideas for fun stuff that a DM can award bonus XP for:
– Bringing snacks to a hobby session, for all at the table to share.
– Liking/sharing/commenting on hobby-related posts on social media.
– Coloring any of the MANY hobby-related b/w drawings that float around.
– Inviting a friend to come try the hobby with the group.
– Writing a short poem, summarizing in brief, what transpired at the previous hobby session.
– Painting a minifig for your henchman.
– Wearing a hat or a shirt that let’s others know that you’re a tabletop RPG hobbyist.
– Using only one certain color of dice (color chosen by the DM, and all players informed of the color ahead of time.)
– Wearing a fake mustache.
Double XP Day is a nice treat for the players. We do that twice a year.
Double Damage Day is plenty of fun too. We also do that twice a year.
What we haven’t done yet is Double Dice Day, and I’d really like to try that sometime. Perhaps even during this month of October. Here’s how Double Dice Day goes. Each player at the session is allowed to double one die roll at that session (and yes, even a percentile roll.) The caveat is, players shan’t have a 10 become a 20 on a d20 roll to-hit, and be calling it a natural 20.
Part Three of Long Island Sandbox comes next week, in which we’ll shine a spotlight at Achievement Cards, and how they can give your tabletop RPG adventures a boost.
Thanks for reading! Let the good times role.