Some sandbox tools

We have had a lot more serious hexcrawling and sandbox management in Coup than in my experience before. Some tools that are in use:

Random encounters

Not a surprise. The default seems to be a d6 table with five common encounters, and on a six, rarer encounters, with double six giving a special (previously met NPC, slavers from the adventures of the same name, etc.) The tables are specific to regions defined in terms of environment and culture. At some point we had an encounter check (1/6) typically per hex entered or for time. An adventure typically has its own microbiome and random encounter table, which we then use.

Foresters (such as rangers) might, with a good tracking roll, learn what inhabits the random encounter table. Mid-level foresters (maybe 4+ or 3+) get to test twice and choose an encounter from those when in a familiar environment. High level rangers might be able to enter the random encounter table themselves, but we have not seen any such in play yet, so this is speculative. That is, we have not developed or extensively discussed the rules yet, so we do not know how they are going to look like.

Random encounters have delayed expeditions, caused at least one failed quest, and often just been things to ignore. There are spotting rules and reaction rolls, so sometimes everyone passes by each other and sometimes there is diplomacy, sometimes combat.


We use a couple of different hex sizes, one for glossed or safe or downtime travelling, one for hexcrawling proper. Tests to not get lost, maybe probabilities for finding food and water. 1/6 base chance of finding something interesting in a hex when entering, and extra chances if searching the hex. A dungeon entrance might be such an interesting feature. There is also 10 experience per hex or 100 per interesting hex, which is a pittance, since it is divided among the characters and second level is 1000 to 3000, doubled per level.

Terrain affects movement speed, whether finding water is a problem, what kind of encounters one finds, how easy it is to find a good shelter, how easy finding food would be, etc., as one expects.

Mule counting

A beginning party does not have much money, but should their succeed at an adventure (survive, bring back significant treasure) they might have 100 or a few gp per person. This takes care of most of their expenses and living costs (awfully high 1 gp/level/day; adventurers live like the millionaires they are), so adventures become a matter of resources; how many people should we hire, where are we going? We would typically equip parties of ten to twenty people and pay for hiring costs, provisions, equipment, maybe river boats, and so on. This causes mule counting sessions. We typically round quite heavily to keep it manageable, something I or whoever is taking care of the logistics can easily handle.

Not everyone enjoys the mule counting sessions, which is fine.

We suspect that a mid-level party with at least five characters of levels 3+ and some at 5+, no longer benefits that much from hirelings, who succumb to any fireball or similar awful magic. We are yet to see this. Maybe soon.

Carrying capacity

We use real weights to the accuracy any given player wants to. It is strictly voluntary to care. Several do. I do not bother for lightly equipped characters, but after my thief bought plate mail, I will figure out how much it weighs and so on when the game is otherwise slow.

Water is also heavy; food also weighs some. The weight of water is a limiting factor for long expeditions and arid terrain.


We have had a storm keep characters huddled in questionable shelter, suffering potential cold damage (but our cleric managed a protection from elements ritual circle), a tree almost falling on them (an open die roll determined that not that time), and psychological damage due to cramped conditions and so on, alleviated by performance and story telling skills. The game masters have some kind of weather generator table thing for Greyhawk, I think.


We had the characters take a winter break, since many had struck rich and had money to spend. Season affects weather and has also affected river flow and thereby travelling speed. A character or two have also suffered minor injuries when rowing a bit much while unused to it.

There have been some long time processes, like lizardfolk eradicating some small settlements with 1/6 chance of the winter (was avoided), or a dryad in a cursed area becoming unseelie with a given chance of left to winter there (happened and we are dealing with her at the moment).


Monthly disease checks when we remember, with 1/20 chance per character; more if constitution is low or circumstances conductive to catching something, like the marshes we are now adventuring in. One important player character almost died of pneumonia when not letting their time-intensive task go, but made it to the end. (Such important dice rolls are obviously rolled in the open with open stakes.)

Rumours and adventures

Adventure locations (dungeons often) are placed on the map. There are a finite amount with rumours pointing to them, more low level ones than high level ones, and probably a bunch that are forgotten but that could be found by random chance and hexcrawling. We are running low on adventure locations in the starting operational theater of Selintan valley. To go for the scraps, follow the doubtless deadly higher level things, or move elsewhere? Or maybe we should actually use money on researching more adventuring possibilities.

Adventure sites have attracted other groups and there have been victories over and losses to them, including long-time rivalries.


3 responses to “Some sandbox tools”

  1. Use of stochastic procedure for finding dungeons

    Hi Tomi, thank you for sharing this experience. I have a very humble question: why the choice of a stochastic procedure, with a low probability, for the discovering of the entrance of a dungeon (exploring them seems to be one of the reason you play, or I am mistaken)?

    I suppose that the dungeons are pre-written, so 16,6% (when entering the Hex) to 27,8% (when exploring the Hex) seems very low to access to some prepped material. I deduce from your description that the GM does not "teleport" his dungeons (= prepped material) if they were not used, so any prepped dungeon attributed to this or that hex would be lost. I suppose you have a different procedure (not designing before it's found, etc.), but it's all assumption. 

    • I’m wondering the same thing.

      I'm wondering the same thing. What is the goal of play? Is it to simply explore the area? In that case, encountering a dungeon isn't necessary for enjoyable play. Or is it to dungeon crawl and hopefully increase in wealth and power and so on? If dungeon crawling is meant to be the main dish of the meal, then I am also confused why there's a low chance of encountering one. Why not make it automatic?

    • Hi both,

      Hi both,

      That probability is for finding a dungeon that is relatively hard to find when you happen to be travelling through the hex, or when searching the hex for points of interest.

      Some dungeons are not hard to find; to this ancient manor there leads an old road, so if you follow the old road, you get to the manor. Likewise, a high gleaming white wizard's (?) tower in the swamp is not that hard to find, you see it from far away.

      Some dungeons are well known, like everyone knows where Castle Greyhawk is. Others can be researched. Sometimes a local guide is a good idea and a local player character is almost always a power move. Knowledge of history, divine guidance, magical sensitivity, tracking skills, and so on; it is quite possible to find things.

      That said, dungeons are not really the point of play, either. Hexcrawling, urban adventures like thieves' intrigues and astral adventures are all things that have happened. Aside from hexcrawling, they tend to be on shakier basis than dungeoneering, since rpg culture has not been doing them quite as carefully, or has done them as railroads. But we can wargame them as well: make maneuvers trying to succeed, referee resolves those, continue until the scenario ends.

      Our astral travel was a hexcrawl, too. For urban stuff we have some mechanisation; four hour urban maneuver turns, costs for gathering information, that kind of stuff. The intrigue was done by players talking/saying what the character says or tries to communicate, social skills and social reading skills. Dungeons in Greyhawk do tend to have a fair amount of treasure to them and they are familiar, so we do roam them a fair bit. But more a default than the point.

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