An Adaptive Sandbox

CirclesSandbox games or hex crawls give you a lot of freedom to explore and discover but without a lot of extra effort your characters aren’t going to make a true impact on the world. The sourcebooks – such as Carcosa – present a snapshot of encounters, places, kingdoms, countries, cities. It’s rare – if ever – that anything is built into it to account for the heroic deeds of the adventurers and the effect they might have.

I’ve long sung the praises of the social change mechanics in the old RPG Underground and it is from that seed of inspiration that I grew my GMless story game Colony: Moon.

I can see the potential to mix together elements from:

  • Traveller’s Universal World Profile
  • Hex Crawling
  • Underground’s ‘Make a difference’ mechanics

Mix that all together with a ‘web of influence’ and you might be on to something for an adaptive and reactive game world.

So, say you have a capital city, Aalberg, which rules over an area that includes the port towns of Balsport and Calder and Calder has influence over the villages of Delmar and Eegan.

The characters back a coup d’etat against the King in Aalberg and as a result the political stability of the capital nosedives as does its military strength. We assign it a 50% chance of having a knock on effect and roll.

Balsport doesn’t suffer, perhaps they were never too loyal in the first place.

Calder suffers political instability as a knock on effect. Perhaps it’s a hold-out for loyalists and they’re in open rebellion against the new government. We assign Calder a 33% chance of having a knock-on effect to its surrounding villages.

Delmar suffers, Eegan doesn’t. Rather than spread the instability further we decide that Calder is draining the coffers of the village to prepare for its war effort.

Some sort of program or spreadsheet and a ‘universal settlement profile’ would make this all a lot easier, but as a basic idea framework, I think this has some promise.