Forbidden City Sandbox

I’ve decided to scratch something that’s been itching me for more than two decades.

I’ve really been wanting to get something going with the new Swords & Wizardry White Box rules set. The short and simple system, a retro-clone of the three original LBBs without material from the supplements, shouts “sword and sorcery” to me, and I’ve been trying to decide exactly how to approach it.

I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City by Dave Cook (1981, TSR)

I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City by Dave Cook (1981, TSR)

My decision is that I’m going to launch a sandbox-style campaign with the old AD&D module I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City. This was the first module we ever played, and my brother sent me through it in about 1983 or 1984. (I’m not 100% certain, but I believe this may have been the first time I played an NPC from my campaign named Kilgore as my own player character.)

The module itself provides a rather intriguing setting and a number of encounters. Beyond that, there’s not a lot to it, and that’s what I’ve always liked about it. The basic hook in the module is that the adventurers are on a mission to see who has been interfering with trade caravans (it turns out to be the yuan ti in the city, the first appearance of these popular creatures), but given the size of the place and the excellent map, the surface of the setting’s potential is barely even scratched. I’ve long wanted to change that, and now I’m going to.

My basic plan is to map out some of the surrounding territory and provide some interesting encounters in the wilderness. I’ve already begun keying every building in the city. I the map into the computer and numbered every building, and I’m using 3×5 index cards for notes. I figure I can write up each building in as much (or as little) detail as needed, pull the card when required, and make changes or write up an entirely new card when actions by the player characters alter things. I’ll probably use cards for wilderness hexes, as well.

Those that own or have played the module know that the overwhelming majority of the buildings in the city are uninhabited and basically empty. Rest assured that this will not be the case in my Forbidden City. In addition, I am working on several ideas regarding the sewer network mentioned in the module, a megadungeon-type labyrinth with at least one entrance somewhere in the city, and a number of other ideas to greatly expand the possibilities. The setting (dense jungle, ancient ruined city) and the inhabitants (demonic snakemen, degenerate human-animal mongrels, native tribesmen) are just screaming for the old-school swords and sorcery treatment.

My hope is to have an ongoing setting where the majority of the adventuring takes place in or under the Forbidden City itself, but there’s plenty of room to explore the surrounding wilderness (and run into some surprises I’ve got in mind while doing so). Also, things like that Egyptian-style pyramid and the temple-looking building with two winged demons flanking the entrance aren’t going to be there just for looks any longer. I’m developing a bit of backstory and the inhabitants of the city are not completely isolated. Rather, the city is part of the larger world, and caravan raiding is not the only contact between those in the city and those outside.

Eventually, I think there will plenty be room enough for at least one main campaign and additional smaller groups running simultaneously. (Oh, for only enough time and enough players to make something like that happen!) I’ll probably also have some one-shot scenarios set in the region for pick-up play if needed.

Now that I’ve decided on this, I’m pretty excited about it. I’ll be writing about some of this as I develop it. If I can get even half of my grand ideas into action, it’s going to be good times in the old jungle!

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2 Responses to Forbidden City Sandbox

  1. bat says:

    This sounds awesome, I hope you keep us updated.

  2. Pingback: That’s not a Statue?!? « Lord Kilgore

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