Had an awesome session of my West Marches campaign last night. The players had gone to the edge of what I'd keyed already on the map in the previous session, but were on a mission to rescue the Rainbow Unicorn for Goldie the Fairy Princess (played by the daughter of a regular). So I'd spent some time turning a few simple notes on the location and creatures guarding the unicorn into a small dungeon. But I had a nagging suspicion that I should fill in some more hexes, so I spent part of the morning and part of the evening filling in some more regions just in case.
When the game started, Goldie's player decided not to join us, so they left the unicorn in duress until another session. Goldie is hoping to rescue it, befriend it, and have it as a mount, and I'm all for that, as collecting pets is what keeps her interested in the game.
Anyway, without Goldie, the players decided just to explore some more hexes and fill in some of the white space on the map. And I breathed a sigh of relief that I'd keyed more. But then they ended up exploring south-ish instead of north or further west, areas I'd keyed long ago.
They finally entered a hex of the Whitebeard Mountains, a region they knew was there, but weren't exactly sure where they started or ended. They found the northernmost point, and in it a giant animated face on the side of the mountain -- The Living Stone Sage. After much debate about what to ask (like the location of PCs zapped away by the Deck of Many Things), they settled on asking it how to best defeat the guardians of the Rainbow Unicorn, and received a cryptic but useful answer.
THEN they had a random encounter with some Stygian baboons. This is a creature that I think I got from the White Dwarf Creature Crucible book. Sort of an REH inspired souped up simian of a bygone age. They put them to sleep, slew three and tied up the fourth, hoping to use a recently acquired ring of animal control to have it do their bidding. I was waiting for them to try it, since the creature is more monster than animal (magic weapons needed to hit them) but when they did, I decided to allow it.
In another hex, they discovered gothic iron gates in the Brooding Forest. The gates were inscribed with the words "Von Zarovich" and passing through would transport them to Castle Ravenloft. They decided to control the baboon and send it in. And various comments like "Oh, it will probably return as a vampire baboon" and "Ah, the children of the night. What beautiful music they Ah! Crikey! Monkey!" make me think, well of COURSE! The baboon will be back some day.
Another highlight of the evening was a random encounter with a treant. Since this is the moody Brooding Forest, it was a very emo/goth treant. Queeg, the party's half-elf magic-user/thief, is also very emo and they got along splendidly, although lots of comments from other PCs like "Hey, keep your chin up, champ!" annoyed it to no end. They later encountered the treant again, and it pointed them in the direction of an area they'd been searching for for several months (real time and game time), a dragon burial ground. After defeating the skeletal dragon guardians (one of them one-shotted by Queeg with a crossbow bolt +1 undead slaying), they scooped up their treasure and moved on to find a desecrated chapel guarded by a demon, which they destroyed.
Finally, they holed up in a cozy little alpine bungalo they'd found to rest up.
Not much combat, but lots of exploring, lots of RP, a moderate amount of treasure recovered, and a ton of laughs during this session.
Also, after the session (this morning, actually, not right away) I shared my revised TSR house rules with the group. Waiting to see what people think of them.