I’ve been noodling some more about running Planescape as a sandbox, and since my copy of the boxed set isn’t here yet I decided to pull stuff off my shelves that seemed like it might be a good fit.
Important safety tip, Egon
This is dangerous! This is how ideas collapse under their own weight! But I only have two speeds, OFF and TURBO ZOOM, so I can’t not think about it.
I’m not reading, or rereading, these before I dig into the Planescape core set (paid link), and if you’re thinking about running a PS sandbox I’m not suggesting that you do, either. But these are Cool Things, and they’re shaping my thinking, so here we are.
Calgon, take me away!
The stuff in that photo falls into two categories: things that seem like a good fit for a Planescape sandbox, and things I’ve used to good effect while co-GMing a Dresden Files sandbox with no session prep. Here they are in alphabetical order:
- The Dresden Files RPG, Volume 1: Our Story (paid link): The city creation system in DFRPG is stellar, and while Sigil already exists and doesn’t need to be created, Dresden’s toolkit still sounds like a good match. It involves identifying themes, threats, locations, and faces (key NPCs), and then — and this is important! — using those ingredients before creating others. That’s awesome for sandbox play.
- Fever-Dreaming Marlinko (paid link): I wrote about why Marlinko is awesome here on Yore, but the bits I’m thinking might mesh well with Sigil are the carousing rules and the Chaos Index. The latter is a simple way to track how the stuff the PCs and others are doing affects how weird the city of Marlinko is, which — based on my half-baked, haven’t-read-the-books-yet understanding of Sigil — sounds like it’d play nice with Planescape.
- Fire on the Velvet Horizon (paid link): I really need to write about this monster book here sometime, but in brief it’s 1) weird as hell, 2) amazing, 3) strange in ways that make me think of Planescape. I like monsters that confound my players’ expectations, and that’s this book in a nutshell.
- The Harrow Deck (paid link): This is basically a reskinned Tarot deck for Pathfinder, and it’s awesome for improv GMing. I draw a spread of cards, usually three, and either use them to come up with something specific or just keep them in front of me for those moments where I go “Uuuuuuuhhhhhhh what the fuck is going to happen now?” They go really well with the Story Cubes (below).
- Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, issue #3 (paid link): Another thing I’ve written about here, but in this case just one thing from one issue: “The Heist.” PCs are always stealing shit, or hoping someone will pay them to steal shit, and this heist adventure toolkit is fantastic for dealing with that on the fly. It includes patrons, marks, heat, and loot, and rolling up a heist is stupidly easy. In a city full of factions, it seems like a good fit.
- Planarch Codex: Dark Heart of the Dreamer: This tiny book is more or less solely responsible for making me wonder whether Dungeon World (paid link) might not be a better option for the style of game I have in mind. Either way, though, it includes a system-neutral job generator for planar freebooters which, like the Ur-Hadad heist generator, looks like it’d drop seamlessly into Sigil.
- Red Tide (paid link): I own most (all?) of Kevin Crawford’s books, but Red Tide remains my favorite. It includes great systems for generating locations and other sandbox elements, it’s excellent imagination fuel, and the output is lean and mean — it makes stuff that’s actually useful in play. There’s nothing Planescape-y about it, but the guts line up pretty well.
- Rory’s Story Cubes (paid link): I have umpty-doodle sets of these, and I love them. I use them when I’m winging things, and in Dresden they paired well with the Harrow Deck. I grab a random handful whenever I need to make or decide something I hadn’t thought about before, like NPCs in whom my players take a sudden interest. Not all the sets are perfect for this, but most of them are.
I’m probably forgetting a bunch of other stuff I shouldn’t be forgetting, but that’s what’s rattling around in my brain at the moment.
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
7 replies on “Raiding the larder for Planescape sandbox ingredients”
The campaign I ran all through high school was Planescape based. I see one of the most important bits missing – hard-line factions with strangely basic philosophical ideas.
I think the game could benefit highly from a faction turn, perhaps like Stars Without Number.
Great suggestion! I’ve played SWN, but not run it; our GM seemed to really enjoy the faction turns.
That sounds like a perfect fit.
The faction system is the reason I would recommend An Echo Resounding. I includes the system from S.W.N. skinned jn a more D&D adjacent fashion.
Makes sense! I’ll need to take a longer look at AER, too.
I didn’t realize it used the SWN faction stuff whole cloth.
He bolted on some extra domain game and waregamey bits, but it’s basically his later faction stuff back ported for Red Tide and Labyrinth Lord.
Still thinking about Faction Turn stuff – the game Sig (based on Spark) has an interesting faction turn that involves the players (one describing a faction agenda which succeeds, the next describing a faction agenda which fails, and the third describing an NPC affected by both of these)
Oh, I like that. The Spark system doesn’t interest me, but that certainly does.