Long Island Sandbox, Part Nine: Cherry-Picking

[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles by Chandra Reyer and Timothy Connolly examining the relevance of analog games in a digital world and the ninth in a series regarding the Long Island sandbox Timothy runs.]
ART BY MARK QUIRE

ART BY MARK QUIRE

Gaming began in our sandbox four years ago with “the little map that could.”  At the time, we knew that it would be rooted in the classic GDQ1-7 campaign.  What we didn’t know, was that there would be so much room for growth.  In this era of 24-hour news cycles and questionable attention spans, we knew that there could be, but none of us knew that there would be.

Twelve expansion maps later, we now have 50,050 square miles of sandbox to enjoy.  That sure is a lot of imaginary real estate.

Many areas in the sandbox are places of our own creation, with no connection to pre-existing adventure modules.  Examples include Branamor’s Bog, the Circle of Ancient Stones, the council town of Jobe, the abandoned/haunted Lakofka Lumber Mill, the Lammergeier Aviary, the party-town of Lightningfoot, the curious Thirteen Heads Zoo, the action-packed town of Silverleaf, the pleasant farm town of Crescent Moon, the popular coastal town of Urseid,  the enchanting Loot Lake, and the breathtaking Zooberus Mountains.

ZOOBERUS MOUNTAINS

ZOOBERUS MOUNTAINS

It is, after all, still a hobby first, and a game second.

Most areas in the sandbox are connected to classic Judges Guild and Tactical Studies Rules adventures from the 1970s and 1980s.  By the time our fourth expansion map had come along (the Djoosi Jungle,) it had become clear that we could give a wide variety of classic adventure modules a new lease on life.  In time, peppering our sandbox with these places-of-interest became our modus operandi.  Benchleydale And Beyond wasn’t always the “interactive tabletop rpg museum” that it eventually became.  In its humble beginnings, it was akin to the island of misfit toys.

Knowing that we had GDQ1-7 as our foundation from which to build upon, it was the Dark Tower and Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor adventure modules which were cherry-picked to be our next two modules for the sandbox; bringing our total of classic adventure modules to nine.  And there we would remain, for a good long time, whilst one group of higher-leveled adventurers (led by Bacara Mal’Doran and Folso the Wanderer) dealt with Nosnra the hill giant chief (G1,) and another group of midrange-leveled adventurers (led by Batsnake the Whipper) enjoyed a delve into the subterranean areas beneath the mysterious town of Mitra’s Fist (Dark Tower.)

Today, there are nearly two hundred places-of-interest in our sandbox, harvested from adventure modules, & magazine, Arduin Grimoire, Dragon magazine, Dragonsfoot, Dungeon magazine, Imagine magazine, Knockspell magazinePolyhedron newszine, White Dwarf magazine, and more.

We’ll always fondly remember the first nine adventure modules to appear in our sandbox though: a fellowship of the sandbox, as it were.  Tolkien would be proud.

The double-helix
Not unlike the double-helix of a DNA strand, the two aforementioned campaigns still continue today.  GDQ1-7 is presently at the early goings of the G3 module.  That’s our darker, more dangerous, traditional high-fantasy campaign.

What of the flipside of that coin?  Our gonzo zany campaigning?  There’s plenty of that too.  The Dark Tower of Set has become a distant memory for these other player characters – some of whom have passed into legend (such as Batsnake the Whipper,) as new player characters were woven into the tapestry of our tale.  These gonzo adventurers (including Smaxx Rockatansky) have since gone off in search of witches who were claiming to be the good King Asiago‘s biological mother (as absurd as that seems,) in search of the Night Drider and his devil-may-care pals, in search of Lord Ginormous and his naughty bandits at the surface ruins of the Castle of the Mad Archmage (as self-destructive as that seems,) in search of three stolen weapons beneath White Plume Mountain, working as security guards for a concert in the fortress town of Voodok (before walking out on the job, unable to resist the lure of Maure Castle, missing the concert entirely, and missing the rioting which occurred as a result of inadequate security, oh dear,) and finally penetrating the unopenable doors beneath Maure Castle (with more than a little help from Falx Templamut, a silver dragon created by Frank Mentzer; a good-aligned silver dragon who sees far more than his fair share of action in our adventures.)

Player characters have changed.  Meeting locations have changed.  And yet, the double-helix remains constant.  Actions of player characters in one of our two campaigns can affect the landscape of the sandbox, thus creating a ripple effect which may-or-may-not have an impact on player characters in the other of our two campaigns.  It cuts both ways.  Furthermore, it was decided that the player characters in one campaign will never encounter player characters from the other; forever destined to be “two ships passing in the night.”

The knowledge that we’d have two simultaneous campaigns at all times (one serious, one silly,) went a long way towards helping us to cherry-pick adventure modules, cherry-pick places-of-interest from said adventure modules, and where to vector them in our sandbox.

And so, just as a DNA strand is a building-block of life, it was our two campaigns (the double-helix) that propelled us forward to where we are now, and, in the process, shielded our DM from burnout.  If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s this.  When there’s enough silliness to balance the scales of seriousness, memorable yarns can be spun.

ART BY POUL KJAERHOLM

ART BY POUL KJAERHOLM

Glaring omissions
Whilst most of the classic adventure modules are represented in our sandbox, some haven’t been included yet; not so much “lost in the shuffle” as saved for a rainy day.  One example is the Slavers series of adventure modules (the A series.)  Another example is City State of the Invincible Overlord.  They’ll be shoehorned into the sandbox someday (perhaps into our expansion map affectionately called the Unknownlands because it hasn’t been illustrated yet – a blank 11×14″ posterboard sheet which player characters are certainly welcome to go adventuring in – to remain blank until then.)

In with the new
1st edition AD&D has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, with nostalgia at an all-time high, with the WotC reprints of the core books, and the staying power of the OSR.  There’s been no shortage of new 1e/OSRIC material for us to include in the sandbox alongside the classic material.  Black Blade Publishing, Eldritch Enterprises, Fail Squad Games, GP Adventures, and Maximum Mayhem Dungeons have each done their part to help fill our sandbox with plenty of adventure, and we’re always on the lookout for more.

What to choose
When wondering what to choose, listen to your muse.  Cherry-picking classic adventure modules for your own tabletop rpg sandbox is great fun.  Remember to keep an open mind, and always be ready to include more adventure locales as you continue to cobble your sandbox together (inspiration will often sprout from the unlikeliest of sources.)

ART BY JOHN BRETT

ART BY JOHN BRETT

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  You’ve been enjoying this latest installment of Long Island Sandbox.  Thank you so much for reading.  Join us again next week, when we’ll enjoy a thrilling look at our Eastern Waterways expansion map.  Until then, let the good times role.

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