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Sandbox Adventures / Setting Design

Expand Your Setting

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 133
The PCs might start at their home base, but their adventures will take them into the unknown. Now it’s time to flesh out what lies beyond. Surround the PCs’ home base with a handful of discrete locations, such as regions, planets, or universes, depending on the scope of your setting. If the PCs have a method of long distance travel, such as a starship, these locations don’t need to be nearby, they just have to stand out as worthy of exploration. It’s important to make these locations distinct from one another, as clearly identifiable attributes help the PCs make informed choices about which locations they’d like to visit. Consider varying the biomes of these locations to make them distinct, adjusting other attributes when the locations have similar biomes. For example, if you have two volcanic regions, one might have high magic and the other low magic. Some of these locations should be obviously and especially dangerous, and a few of them might even be out of reach, at least for low-level characters. Players often identify these hard-to-reach areas as goals—sites to explore when their characters are higher level and have access to more powerful abilities and gear, like teleportation or resistance to high radiation.
Add specific adventure locales inside the regions you have created. Each of these adventure locations should be a miniature sandbox nested within the larger sandbox that is your setting. Your adventure sites should vary in size and be clearly distinguishable from each other. For example, one might be the lair of a single creature, while another might be an abandoned mining complex that stretches for miles underground. The PCs could easily explore the lair in one play session, but the mining complex could take many such sessions to investigate. You can find more details on how to create sandbox adventure locations on page 136.
Depending on the home base you design, you might want to add some additional safe spots in your setting, such as settlements or hideouts outside of your PC’s home base, where they can rest and prepare. These safe spots allow the PCs to explore locations far away from their home base. You can use the NPC Toolbox on page 148 and the Settlement Toolbox on page 150 to generate details for these safe spots and some of the NPCs who live there. These safe spots should contrast with the PCs’ home base; change their cultural attributes and spotlight new species, factions, and deities to make them feel distinct. Note that these safe spots aren’t necessary if the PCs have means to easily return to their home base whenever they want, such as a starship.