Archives of Nethys

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Sandbox Adventures / Adventure And Encounter Design

Example: Alqet Adventures

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 138
Joan’s players will make a team of archaeologists for their characters, but that leaves a lot of latitude for individual concepts. They might be technical support, security guards, field agents, or mystics looking for traces of ancient alien gods. There’s a large ruin on Alqet V, which the PCs know about before the campaign begins. With a little investigation—and a poker game with Evan—the PCs can learn of traces of life on the toxic Alqet IV and a ruined starship in the rings of Alqet II. Each of these is a smaller sandbox adventure site nested inside the larger sandbox that is the Alqet system. The PCs are unlikely to investigate some of the other adventure sites in the system initially, either because they don’t know about them yet (the other planets in the system) or because the sites are too dangerous (the high-magic zone on Alqet II).
Joan begins with the big site on Alqet V, which she decides is in a swamp and includes nine crumbling pyramidlike structures. These buildings correspond to the nine planets in the system, and each building will have clues pointing to ruins on each corresponding world. Because the pyramids are in the open, half sunk into the marsh, the PCs can investigate them in any order and withdraw when they want to. But Joan knows some of the pyramids are more dangerous than others. She puts a shadowy cloud of necromantic energy around one of them to indicate it’s been taken over by a Necrotocracy team, buries a few pyramids deep into the marsh, and surrounds another pyramid with Interstellarium gun emplacements. PCs are more likely to explore easy sites before hard ones, and if some of the pyramids are difficult to get to, the PCs will most likely put off exploring them till later, at which time Joan can prepare them fully.
This still gives the PCs several pyramids to choose from, however, so Joan prepares a basic map she can show the players and gives the remaining pyramids distinguishing features. She’s decided one of the PCs will win this map in one of Evan’s poker games; with it, the PCs can decide which of the pyramids they intend to explore in their next session, and Joan can focus her efforts on developing the site they choose.