Tuesday, December 18, 2012


After my post about making the sandbox accessible I've been thinking more about ways you might do that.  I realized that it works in Morrowind because the assumption of an empire and civilization.  Knowing there will be an Imperial Cult shrine in the next town is the benefit of empire.  And soldiers keep the roads safe.  But empire is usually the opposite of wilderness.  And I want wilderness.

Well one way to do it is to make these routes the remnants of an empire, like a lot of post-apocalyptic D&D settings.  You have nice Roman-like roads with bridges.  These could be patrolled by locals.  This would allow for safe travel between close towns and, at least a faster route through the wilderness.

Then I started thinking about canals.  Has a D&D setting ever used them?  They would be perfect for a Western Marches style game.  You discover an oddly straight waterway, even though over grown, banks crumbling, and you know it will lead to something interesting.  Probably both ways. 
Canal going into a tunnel
Some canals will lead right underground.  Maybe through some rough, hilly territory. Or maybe into an underground city ruin.  I can't think of anything more D&D than finding one of those, loading up a narrowboat, and setting off into the dark.

Canals and locks leading over a mountain seem a perfect way to get over a mountain with horses and gear in a much safer way.  And a perfect reason to go into the mountain ruins: to try and get the locks and reservoirs working again.

Towpath cut into stone
Even if a canal functions pretty much as a river in the present of your setting it could have interesting features left over like tow paths and ruins along it.


  1. Good idea. I like how a canal feels different than a road or river. It gives the idea that there is or was an advanced civilization in the area, and that it connects to something that made it worth the effort to build. It's an immediate quest hook.

    Another possible benefit: if the characters take a boat along a canal, and it's stolen or destroyed before they get back to town, they could be stranded in a distant and dangerous area. Canals could be both higher risk and higher reward than roads, and this could factor into the party's decision about how to travel.

  2. Awesome idea! I like to use aqueduct as well for the added benefit of showing fancy architecture and that you can see them from afar and wonder where they lead to. works great as a landmark too. They really reinforce the idea that the antedeluvians were truly advanced. and since anything advanced is worth looting...

  3. Thanks, all. It's settled, I want at least a short run of canal somewhere in my starting sandbox.

  4. This is the post-industrial canal dungeon that I live 3 minutes walk from-


  5. Perfect, perfect. Thank you so much for sharing that and sorry I missed it the first time.