The Ever Expanding Sandbox project is actually a hybrid of two separate gaming activities that I had been working on over the last year or so. The first is the development of the sandbox for the PbP game I was running over at Unseen Servant. I had sketched out ideas for the sandbox, including concepts for the starting city and a map I had made using Hexographer as well as a few working titles for adventures. I wanted to create a small sandbox that would allow for different adventuring 'experiences' within a reasonable distance for the party.
I wanted a jungle setting, an Underdark setting (probably minus the drow), a desert setting, a Barsoom-like 'broken land', a big city, and many small, unique islands for the players to explore. I will talk in more detail in later blog entries (hopefully) as I try and flesh out each of these, but the point for now is that I was looking to create a sandbox with areas or places with distinct 'themes'. I had decided that there wouldn't be any kobolds, goblins, or hobgoblins, and I didn't want orcs, but orks. The latter was to be a much more violent, ruthless, berserker version of the usual orc. In short, my sandbox was a place where a dungeon like Stonehell wouldn't fit in.
Now the second component that's behind the creation of the EES is my first foray into solo-gaming. As I mentioned in the first post, I have been heavily inspired by the supercool solo play concept and rules of John Yorio of Tabletop Diversions. I think what John is doing is fantastic and I really enjoy reading his blog and following the development of his Ever Expanding Dungeon. I am still tweaking and adjusting the basic chassis of his random dungeon generation methodology to fit what I'm trying to accomplish, but I'm not there yet, although getting closer. But as I tested the waters of solo play, I wanted to try an existing adventure so I could focus on how the question resolution system worked and indeed see if solo play was something for me at all.
For me to enjoy DMing, whether it be the (very) rare occasion at the table, PbP gaming, and certainly solo play, there needs to be an element of randomness to the game so that there are always unexpected twists and turns. In selecting the centerpiece adventure for my solo play game, I wanted to use one that was anything but linear, one that allowed for many choices. So I chose Stonehell. I must admit that I really like this dungeon and thought it would be the perfect 'tentpole dungeon' for my soloplay game.
So the party had already made two forays into Stonehell in my solo play game when I made the decision to start the Ever Expanding Sandbox project. Now I had a dilemma - toss the story so far in favor of creating the sandbox from scratch and according to the original idea, or keep Stonehell and adjust slightly the original idea for the flavor of my sandbox. And I chose the latter.