"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Northern Marches - Session two

A group of five players and myself met for a second session of the Northern Marches last night. All of the players were present at the initial session last week. It was fun and everyone seemed very eager to get together.

The party returned to Castle Hareth. They were able to explore a good portion of the first level of the castle. A few observations that I find really neat and that give a great old school vibe:

1) the focus on exploration - the party thought through the best ways to explore new areas. They kept in mind paths for retreat, where was the best defensible positions and strove to discover what was in the unknown sections of the level.
2) They put their map to good use - they looked at the map to try to discover areas that they had not explored, to find areas that appeared unusual and to find gaps where secret doors might be present.
3) Learning from their previous foray, they stuck to the first level - They have learned that the further you get from the first level the more dangerous things get.
4) They ran - While ransacking a barracks room, they attracted a wraith from a nearby room. This showed two things: 1st - that even on the first level there are things that will kill you, and 2nd - that their plans and preparations about how they explored the dungeon paid off when they were able to flee (however, not before the wraith killed the elf and zapped the cleric down to 0-level).
5) They hired a bunch of retainers - the more help the better. However, one PC is getting a bit of a reputation in town about the poor treatment of his hirelings. However, this also gives an important lesson in that their actions do impact the world.
6) The magic-user is finding his place - We are using the B/X rules for magic-user spellbooks. He hired a shield-bearer and a guard dog. He has also been trying to get an audience with the local, mysterious mage. This allowed my to try out a little sub-system I put together using the B/X reaction tables and the Barbarian Prince tables for gaining audiences (I love sub-systems!).
7) They are making plans! - They are getting the sandbox nature of the campaign. They are making plans that will allow them to interact wit the wider world and pursue their own goals. I love it.


  1. One concern I have with using monsters of my own creation is that players don't come into the game with enough information to make good decisions about which monsters are too tough for the party. And there's often only one way to find out.

    One solution, I guess, is to give hints that a monster is a relative juggernaut, but I flinch at that kind of "hit points above the head" metagaming.

  2. Hi ya Scott...

    I just love reading recaps of games, and yours sounds like a great one indeed.

    Regarding your home brewed monsters... I am running my wife and two daughters through a sandbox game and none of them have much (if any) experience with the game at all. You can of course see the issue; they just don't know when to run vs. when to stick around.

    So one of the methods I've taken up using is what I call "sign posts". I'm sure this isn't in any way new or groundbreaking, but so far it seems to work well.

    A signpost is something like the sudden drop in temperature around a powerful undead, the claw marks high on a tree in Owlbear territory, the piles of bones surrounding a troll's den, etc. They usually pick up on things like this, and are cognizant to the fact that some things are meant to be dealt with in other ways than straight up combat.

    Oh, and a tactic that seems to work well for them so far is to utilize archers as their first line of attack, when and if it's possible. They can usually get a pretty decent idea of what they're getting mixed up in after the first fussilade.

    Hope that helps...

  3. I used a "sign post" last night with the wraith. The magic-users guard dog gave them warning that something bad was coming. The dog started barking and then started to whimper and tried to pull its way out of the room. This gave the players a round or two to decide what to do. By the time the wraith came through the wall, most of the party was already headed out the door.

  4. Great recap! I'm DMing my own sandbox fantasy campaign (using Savage Worlds) and I'm also a player in Chgowiz's Dark Ages campaign (we're using OSRIC). Always great to read about good old-school play. Sounds like you have a motivated group that "gets it" in terms of the playstyle that you're trying to create.