Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sandbox Steve Jackson (UK) Style

Reading through Warlock #5 I found "In Search of the Mungie's Gold", an article from Steve Jackson with a wilderness scenario for Fighting Fantasy. I thought this was mechanically unusual enough to justify a blogpost showing how SJ suggests a novice GM might run a wilderness/sandbox game.

The gorgeous John Blanche mono-and-spot-colour map is an 8x8 grid. Our PCs have arrived in the boat in the SE corner in search of the titular gold and are presented with the map - it's a player handout and doesn't really convey any information, just a great big slice of Blanchitsu Brit Old Skool Dungeonpunk atmosphere. I loves me some of that classic White Dwarf spot colour - a big nostalgia trip I'll freely admit.

The procedure is as follows. The scenario gives 16 encounters for the GM to place upon the map. Three of the encounters are with the Mungies (gold-hoarding gliding Apes - Warlock #5 has an "Out of the Pit" feature detailing the four dangerous Ape races of Mauristatia) and must be placed in adjacent squares. Other placings are just free. The GM therefore has a copy of this map (or just an 8x8 grid) with 16 marked locations. (Clever readers will note that this implies a ratio of 1 in 4 squares being keyed to encounters).

Each turn day consists of 4 Periods of Time, in which the party may move one square orthogonally. A little dial is included at the bottom of the map for handy reference.

Upon entering a square, the party may choose to Explore and will encounter the, err, encounter should one be present. Presumably nothing happens if they don't Explore so you only find trouble if you go looking for it. The scenario design works around this potential non-event of a gaming evening by requiring the party to Explore, not only to encounter the Mungies (and their gold) that they are after but also because three of the encounters can result in the party being told in which rough direction the Mungie lair lies. Presumably the party will Explore every square unless they are heading for home with the gold or with their tails between their legs.

Terrain type of the square seems totally irrelevant to the party's progress other than a note that Howl Cats live on the timberline and should be placed in appropriate terrain. (Howl Cats are Ape's with Lion's heads which means we are back in Citadel of Chaos Ape-Dog/Dog-Ape territory.)

At Night, there is a 2-in-6 chance of "Night Creatures", i.e. Wandering Monsters, the table of which is actually at reference 123 of The Shamutanti Hills (available under separate cover). If no night guard is placed, all players suffer the loss of 4 STAMINA points as they are attacked in their sleeping bags.

In the Night phase, any character who didn't eat a meal that day loses 3 STAMINA points.

If the party choose not to rest at Night, each character loses 2 STAMINA points.

(Direct translation to other rule systems is not that easy/clean but if you are not familiar with FF, characters are generated with STAMINA scores of 2d6+12, loss of a round of combat inflicts 2 STAMINA and Provisions heal 4 STAMINA).

If the GM has access to Warlock #2 and it's random table for Wilderness encounters, SJ suggests that each "non-keyed" square could have a 2-in-6 chance of a random encounter.

Note that Steve Jackson is still a swine with his concluding paragraph...

Yeah, thanks for that Mr. Starship Traveller Space and Time Coordinates.

Simple though it is, I'd love to play in something like this so long as it has a spot colour John Blanche map of that awesomeness.


  1. So that's where the mungies are from. I've always wondered.

  2. Hey nice post! This was always a fave of mine. Warren McGuire did a 200 paragraph solo version of Mungies' Gold (using the FF rules) which you can find here:



  3. Even in simple magazine illustrations, Blanche kicks ass. The manticore, the dirty-looking mountains, and even that little compass with the smug Sun are spot on.

    Is he still active? I haven't seen recent pieces of his.

  4. Amazing. This is a really nice mini FF campaign. I was happy with my little pile of Warlocks 6-13 until now, I'm going to have to complete my collection soon.

    The use of spot colour in White Dwarf was occasionally dreadful, there were whole articles rendered completely unreadable by the use of huge psychedelic backgrounds.

    @Melan - JB is the Art Director at Games Workshop, he's mostly in the roughs / concept development side of things than doing the final illustrations, but his work does appear in their books.

  5. @ Melan - There's some of his latest pieces at Tears of Envy's blog:

    Blanche has his off days of course, but the work is overwhelmingly superb, as far back as you care to go. I love the map too.

  6. Thanks for the link! Interesting; his style seems to have assimilated influences from Giger, but also Ian Miller for some reason. But the manticore-thing on the floating islet is pure Blanche.

  7. I remember this from primary school. I even ran it for a group of friends back then on the last day of term or something. I can' remember for the life of me how it went. Probably dreadfully.

    Awful art work.

  8. Saunders,

    I will be having words with Mr. Brewer and Mr. Hunter about your continual despoiling of my blog with your deliberate contrarian attitude.

  9. Anything I post here is unaffiliated with my workplace. Althought Mr. Hunter would agree.

    I'd love to be able to run this as a campaign now. I've been thinking about it today and would use something like Savage Worlds. It would be a bloody good laugh I imagine.

  10. Oh, that's grand, that map is. I might go so far as to quietly liberate that for personal use. The time-of-day compass rose is particularly funky.