Last night my Warhammer 3 campaign entered new territory. We finished the published starter module a month ago, and so now we’re moving into my traditional turf of me making the whole campaign up (not using published modules). I used the starter module to get used to the rules and to introduce people to the world, but now I want to explore the world and the system myself.
This time, however, I thought I’d try setting up a semi-sandbox style adventure, but I want it to be in a limited setting. I had already given the PCs a powerful lure to the southern city of Ubersreik, and the players have made a request of me (a very vague one that I’m not writing here in case they read this) for a certain outcome at some point along the campaign, so I decided to give them a campaign set in and around Ubersreik. But I don’t have a lot of ideas for the town, so I’m going to set up a semi-sandbox style campaign.
Because of the players’ request for a certain type of experience, there is a campaign story to incorporate into the town, but it isn’t very strong and it doesn’t have to be a full campaign story. However, the nature of their request precludes just dumping it willy-nilly into any point of any adventure. So, I’m building a small campaign story arc inside Ubersreik, which will culminate in them getting the experience they asked for. This story arc will essentially form a secret plot occurring in the background at Ubersreik while they’re there, and occasionally I’ll give them a chance to stumble on elements of the plot and investigate them. However, in the meantime I’m going to open up all of Ubersreik and the surrounding area for them to do what they want, and throw in rumours and events with no particular background purpose to give them story leads. Some of these will be related to the background story arc; others will be separate but probably I’ll work them in because I like complexity. It’ll be like an X-Files season, where the story arc pops up occasionally.
I think of this as a semi-sandbox, since the environment they’re operating in is very small (Ubersreik is not a big town, and much of the surrounding area is too dangerous for the PCs to venture into), and also because a lot of the sandboxy hints and rumours I drop will be connected to the central story the players asked for. This also means that, if I have prepared story material and they decide to do things I can’t handle, I can just drop that story material into whatever they are doing.
The big drawback
I’m not that experienced with full sandboxes (I think I ran one in 1990), so I suppose I don’t do them that well. But the big problem here is that the whole thing is happening in Japanese, and I don’t think on my feet very well when dealing with people in Japanese – I’m too busy struggling with the expression of my ideas to put a lot of time into the ideas themselves. This is potentially a big problem when you’re running a campaign based on adaptivity. However, I have a secondary reason for a sandbox, which is that I’m putting a lot of time into translating materials for the game, and I don’t want to take up even more time with extensive adventure preparations. So random generated stuff with improvisation gives me time to devote to preparing the system background, to enable the players to better enjoy the system.
Also, being not that familiar with the warhammer world, I want to explore it myself; but being not that familiar with the world, a situation where one has to make up one’s own material as one goes may mean that the world changes beyond the warhammer that people recognize. Which would kind of bely the point of playing Warhammer in the first place.
Let’s see how it goes…