Supplement Review: Toys for the Sandbox 1: The Apothecary’s Shop by Quinn A. Conklin from Occult Moon

Way back in January 2012 I started seeing supplements released by Occult Moon, a new small publishing outfit from The Crazy GM (aka Michael Garcia) and Quinn Conklin. Each short supplement in the “Toys for the sandbox” series features a map, as well as a handful of NPCs, rumors, encounters, and plot hooks related to the location described by the map. And for a buck or two, I thought this sounded like a great way of gaining a few quick locations to sprinkle in an existing campaign or to help hook larger modules together…

Recently I had an opportunity to pick up a few of these “toys” to check them out. I figured I wanted to start at the beginning, as that’s often the best place to start. Do you know what I discovered? My initial thought was right! (It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen occasionally – just ask my wife.)

Consisting of four pages – a title page and three pages of content in a landscaped 8 1/2″ x 11″ page size – Toys for the Sandbox 1: The Apothecary’s Shop offers a self-contained shop with its related bits, many of which I wondered why I hadn’t thought of before. For example, why wouldn’t an apothecary raise his own herbs and reagents in a garden? Duh!

The three pages of content correspond to – The Place, The Possibilities, and The People.

The Place offers a full-color map (with
squares, not hexes) along with a key identifying numbered locations, plus a sidebar that the GM could read verbatim describing the apothecary’s area to the players. The layout offers all three bits on a single page, which is great to get all the major bits in one chunk. The description includes some fun details such as a black cat in the shop and a group of window-shopping apprentice pages. And the map itself presents points of entry and exit, roads to/from other locations, and so on.

The next page offers “The Possibilities” with a collection of six plot twists from the typical FedEx quest where the apothecary needs something (a reagent or ingredient or something) gathered from a dangerous place to needing something from the apothecary to cure a disease in a local town… The fun part is that the plot ideas are great by themselves, but each offers three “twists” to keep things interesting if the party comes back. So the location can go from a one-shot spot to an integral plot point if the GM desires.

And lastly you have “The People” – here are the system-less descriptions for NPCs at the shop as well as random tables for encounters and rumors. Each description offers a list of physical traits as well as a bit about any stats or skills they may have. Each also includes some interesting tidbits that could lead to other story elements such as possible abuse of an apprentice by his master. The Encounter and Rumor tables include things like there being a sale at the shop or foreshadowing like “No travelers have come from the east in weeks.” Plenty of threads for a creative GM to pull into full adventures in their own rights.

Quite honestly, this is a great setup. Plenty of details and nuggets a GM can play multiple ways several times.

A few suggestions (and keep in mind this is the first “Toys” supplement and they’re in the mid-20s now)… The map needs some kind of a key to indicate how big each square is. Even if it’s the standard 5′ square, there’s plenty of room to indicate that somewhere. I would have put The People page directly after The Place so a GM could print those two pages double-sided and have a complete location sans plot hooks and have those bits on one page rather than two. But really those are both nit-picky little things and any good PDF viewer should allow the user to print individual pages in whatever order they wish.

Do you need an apothecary’s shop in your campaign? Toys for the Sandbox 1: The Apothecary’s Shop offers just the thing. And you can’t beat the price! Pick up a copy today at RPGNow.

For more about products and developments at Occult Moon, be sure to check out their website as well at

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