Monday, February 09, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox, Part 1

Well, the holidays are over, and I have come in from the wilderness to blessed civilisation. In other words, I can access the internet again.

In the interests of jumpstarting this blog, I'm bringing over a project that I started on the forums. Because I'm a lazy sod (and not particularly enthused about D&D at the moment) I'll be reposting my earlier work in daily installments, then resuming the project once I've exhausted all of my pre-prepared material.

So here's the thing - there's a little project I've been working on that I thought would be interesting to post about as I go through it. I'm currently reading through all the D&D books and magazines in some semblance of chronological order, and making notes on how to piece absolutely all of it together into a single campaign setting. Ridiculous? Absolutely. Impossible? That too. But it is fun, and by god I enjoy a fruitless endeavor as much as the next man.

So here's what I'm envisioning as the broad outline of the campaign (in terms of the rules). I plan to start things with Original D&D and Chainmail, and then gradually add new stuff as the campaign progresses. So after a few months, for example, Thieves will become available, and many of the changes from the Greyhawk supplement will trickle into the game. Eventually it will morph into AD&D, then AD&D 2nd Edition, then 3e, then 4e, and so on into the unknown future. I realise it's going to be impossible to mesh everything, but I have a bit of a hierarchical system going where the rulebooks trump the magazines, and rules used by certain authors only apply when in their campaign settings (Gygax = Greyhawk, Greenwood = Realms, Arneson = Blackmoor, Lakofka = Lendore Isles, etc.). I'll have to explain these rules changes in terms of the internal campaign world, but I think I've got a few ideas to sort that out.

In terms of the campaign setting itself, I'm planning to start things in the City of Greyhawk with a focus on delving into the nearby Castle and surrounding areas. I'm going to need a mechanism whereby new rules get introduced and arbitrary restrictions explained, so adventuring in the area will be strictly run by an Adventurer's Guild. So when I introduce, say, variable weapon damage, I can explain it as the Guild's trainers developing new techniques and such. I'll definitely be making said Guild a touch prejudiced against demihumans - I need a rationale for demihuman level and class limits, and also the lifting of them come 3e. It's a vast and futile mental exercise!

Here's how I envision breaking up the various eras of D&D:

Original D&D: Focussed around Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and various extraordinary locales like Mars. I'll also be trying to incorporate the third party materials such as those from Judges Guild. To this end I'm envisioning a strange unexplained stone portal in the Adventurers' Guild basement, surrounded by hundreds of keyholes. Find the right key, and the portal can take you to to that place. In terms of official TSR modules, I won't be specifically leading the PCs towards any of them at this point. The locations, however, will be there to be explored should the PCs find them.

AD&D/Classic D&D: I'll be running these two systems in tandem, and the rules used will be dependent upon what world you are in. If you're in Greyhawk, AD&D rules will be in use. Travel to Karameikos/The Known World, though, and all of a sudden things will work like Classic. The modules used will be the monochrome ones as well as those with the windows on the front, with the redesigned cover style mods to come in after Unearthed Arcana, probably.

Holmes D&D is a weird beast, though. as it doesn't quite fit in with either AD&D or Classic. What I'm considering doing is using it as the introduction of the AD&D era, much as the Holmes rules try to present themselves. At the end of the OD&D era the Guild might have a push to go 'back-to-basics', and a lot of the OD&D rules cruft will be stripped away, leaving Holmes as the baseline. From there, I'll slowly build up into full-blown AD&D.

AD&D 2e: 1e will segue pretty seamlessly into 2e I feel, just with a few tweaks going on here and there. The big difference will be that by this time a lot of different campaign settings will have been discovered, and it's probable that the centre of the campaign will move away from Greyhawk. I'll no doubt need to explain the disappearance of Assassins and the like, but all things in due time.

D&D 3e: At this point some drastic campaign-altering event needs to take place, resulting in a big reshuffle of the laws of the universe. Otherwise, business as usual, with an attempt to incorporate every 3e-compatible professional product. Seems impossible, but I'm not worried; I'll never get this far.

D&D 4e: And now something even MORE drastically campaign-altering needs to occur. I'm envisioning a collapse of reality, resulting in everything being destroyed and recreated in differing ways. (Or not, since I loathe 4e. But I've set the parameters of the project, and should I get this far i intend to stick with them.)

So that's the plan. What I'll be doing here is tackling the books chronologically, section by section, and ruminating on how I plan to fit them in. Input and feedback is of course welcome - I wouldn't be posting here if that weren't the case. So, onward, excelsior, and all that jazz. First up? CHAINMAIL!


  1. Sounds interesting. Is this a fluff sort of thing you are doing? As in are you linking each of the editions and settings into the same continuity? Well good luck with the project.

  2. Yes, it's a fluff thing as well as a crunch thing. I got interested in reading the D&D books in order and tracking when stuff was introduced, and then I thought it might be fun to try and make a huge sandbox campaign out of it all.

  3. Wow. This is an ambitious, and fascinating project that you've undertaken. Looking forward to seeing where it leads...

  4. Anonymous4:59 PM PDT

    You should use the Chainmail System (2d6) and not the Alternate Combat System (d20) since rolling 13-20 is almost always a success in d20. Hero needs natural 12 to push back a dragon, but they need a 13 to kill which is impossible without a magic weapon in Chainmail System, but very possible in the Alternate Combat System. A kill in Chainmail means a hit in D&D rules. A push back is not a hit in D&D rules. Thus, a Ranger (Hero+1 in Chainmail or Swashbuckler [fifth level fighting-man] in D&D) or a Hero with a +1 magical sword is the minimum to damage a dragon.