It’s been a long while now since I GM’ed regularly, but when I did I tended towards big, wide-open sandbox campaigns. Sometimes it got me into trouble as a GM where the players would get carried away, but usually I had an amazing amount of fun trying to figure out how to react to the PC’s crazy actions. However, I was ALWAYS looking for quick little tools to help me if I got stuck. Inevitably many of those tools were random tables of names, behaviors, descriptions, and anything else I could find to help flesh out some of the things I came up with on the fly.
So when Richard LeBlanc reached out about a new product from New Big Dragon Games Unlimited that was entirely focused on helping sandbox GMs, I just had to say “YES!” to a review. And once I actually dove into the book, all I could say was “wow!” at not only the depth, but the breadth of the information presented. You could mine this book for YEARS and never hit bottom.
The d30 Sandbox Companion is the follow-up to the d30 DM Companion (which I will review separately) from New Big Dragon, dealing with above-ground adventuring details such as quick NPC traits, weather, adventures, temples, ruins, castles, and much much more. This thing is 56 pages long (48 pages of content, including a great one-page index) and includes some art, though the bulk of each page is stuffed with content in tables and lists. It’s designed for old school games like D&D, Labyrinth Lord, etc. – but can be used for darn near any fantasy RPG with little or no effort.
To get the most out of the book, I do recommend you have your d30 boulder-sized die ready (though there are options on page 3 you can use in a pinch using different dice and methods). My own big blue d30 has sat neglected in my dice box for far too long and it was nice to dust it off for a change!
The book starts with some worksheets for hex mapping, settlements, and NPCs. The “Wilderness Mapping Key” on page 6 is a fantastic resource, with examples of many of the most used wilderness icons all on one page. I wish there was something similar for the “Settlement Worksheet,” as it is sometimes difficult to tell a bush from a tree, a road from a river, etc., so a key would have offered some suggestions in that context as well. But that’s a minor nit since there are many different sources you can look to for inspiration (including Dyson Logos’ city and town maps here).
But the real meat of the book starts on page 10 with the tables. The “Adventure Generator Tables” – all 10 of them – offer a way to quickly get inspiration for your next game session. With a quick d30 roll, you can come up with an adventure goal, trigger, location, obstacle, villain, theme, and more. String them together to come up with complete story seeds or use just a table or two to help fill in the blanks.
After that, the amount of detail just gets ridiculous (in a very good way). Want the “Average Daily Temperature and Precipitation Class by Location and Time of Year”? There’s a table for that. Want to determine how far off course that weather might take the PCs? There’s a table for that. Need a ruin, temple, or castle in the middle of nowhere? There are tables for that. How about a random encounter on the road? Lots of tables for that.
There’s even a “Cult Generator” that will help you generate one of more than 24 million combinations to inspire your PC’s imminent demise. Who doesn’t need a good cult now and then?
Pretty much if you need to figure out some quality of something, you’ll probably find some table in this book to help you out. It makes me wonder what was covered in the FIRST book of the series and what might be covered in any follow-up products!
Bottom line, if you’re looking for a one-stop-shopping kind of resource for GM inspiration, I would add the d30 Sandbox Companion to your MUST HAVE list! At less than $6, this is literally a steal with millions upon millions of possible combinations of game fodder. How can you go wrong?
For more about New Big Dragon Games Unlimited and the d30 Sandbox Companion…
- … pick up a copy of the book at DriveThruRPG or RPGNow today!
- … visit the New Big Dragon Games Unlimited home page.
- … don’t believe me? Check out other reviews at Tenkar’s Tavern and Gaming Ballistic…