Plot Your Sandbox in Under a Minute with Player Magnets

Here’s how I plot out an old school sandbox in pretty much under a minute.

In the Wizard of Adventure members area, we got to chatting about how to use Campaign Logger in conjunction with the The Plot Compass technique.

The Plot Compass technique is something I shared with Wizards of Adventure recently. It boils down to:

Pin the locations of cool treasure and rewards on your map first.

The items will draw your players to those locations like orcs to a BOGO sale at the Great Axe Emporium.

Instant adventure hooks.

You need only point in the right direction and your players will be grabbing their 10 foot poles and hustling to your adventure’s hex.

Why would you do this first, though? Why before factions, history, settlements, and stuff?

Before I dig into the answer, here’s something @ExileInParadise said in the chat:

“And you can also drop in legendary people like the Oracle of Delphi, or wonders of the world … player magnets come in all shapes and sizes.”

I love that expression: player magnets. Yoink! Thanks Exile!

So treasure and rewards pull irresistibly on the characters. They become irresistible Player Magnets. Now we need the gotcha. Because if the rewards were easy to get, someone would’ve gotten them by now. Therefore, the characters will have to work for it….

Which brings us back to why I put treasure toppings on my sandbox pizza first, before even rolling for any pepperoni.

For each treasure pin on the map, I ask what guards it. What’s stopping casual looters, clever tomb robbers, and cunning pirates from a big payday?

For my Basilica campaign, the answer is most often monsters. Dragons, necromancers, death knights, mind flayers, and flumphs protect their lairs, which just so happen to contain the precious baubles and wondrous marvels your players very much want.

Some monsters seized the Player Magnets for themselves. Some just happened to have the rewards fall in their lap. It’s all the same to the treasure-hungry PCs, though.

So, it only takes a few moments to pick spots on the map where your best treasure awaits. Then stack a monster and lair on top. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.

Do this a few times and you suddenly have a plotted sandbox on your hands. You’ve got a map with legendary loot and lairs sprinkled throughout!

To finish, I then ask these adventure-launching questions:

  • Who knows about Treasure X?
  • What are they doing to get it?
  • How do these plans and actions cross path with the party?

Answers set up instant villains and rivals, adventures, and hooks.

In this way, each Player Magnet becomes true north for your Plot Compass.

Have more fun at every game!

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