Thursday, May 18, 2017

Into the West Marches

As I mentioned in the previous post, I started my West Marches campaign last Sunday, with my son Flynn, Michael (who plays Oman-Won Shinobi in my Chanbara playtests, and Thorvald the Dwarf Sailor Tempest Cleric in Dean's Eberron game) and new player Richard.

Flynn had a Dragonborn Monk and Richard had a Human Monk. Michael came with three or four PCs prepared, and decided to play a High Elf Rogue.

After I explained a bit about the campaign concept (it's of course my own spin on the West Marches idea) and introduced the main points of interest in the home town. Rather than ask around at any of the locations I'd just described for information or leads, they headed straight across the bridge and into the Wilds for their first adventure.

While still in the first hex, they stumbled upon a baboon lair. While the more experienced players were content to just let them be, Flynn decided to sneak up behind one and pull its tail! And he succeeded on his rolls! Once he yanked the tail, of course it set to screaming and scrambled up atop its large pile of deadwood lair, along with all its companions, which started pelting the party with sticks and stones. Taking a bit of damage, they retreated back to town to heal up.

BTW, I'm doing 5E rests similarly to Dean. Rest up in town, and it's just like in the book. All hit points, hit dice, and abilities are back to full. Take a long rest in the wilds, and abilities refresh, as do half of your hit dice, but no hit points. I need there to be some risk/reward trade-off to continuing to explore vs. camping all the time.

They made a second expedition, and encountered some giant rats while crossing into their second hex. Not finding much of interest in the hex (there's stuff there, they just missed it due to rolls), they again went back to town to rest up after having been slightly wounded by the rats.

The third expedition was much more eventful. They managed to penetrate to a third hex and discovered a ruined "scorpion" temple with a bit of loot. They also fought kobolds on the way, scaring them off after getting the drop on them, killing one with an arrow and wounding another, plus taunts and threats to intimidate them. At the temple, they discovered some loot, as I mentioned, and had to fight some more giant rats. Exploring just a bit more, they encountered a pair of worgs, and Richard's monk was taken down to 0 hp.

BTW, the rules for surviving at 0 hp are pretty generous. You can make saving throws at DC 10 to stabilize, and need 3 successes before you get three failures (so 3 to 5 rounds). During that time, any healing magic, or a DC 10 Medicine check (or untrained...Wis? Int? check) stabilizes the companion.

Long story short, Richard's monk was stabilized by Michael's rogue, and they made it back to town without further incident. Richard was moaning that they'd need to spend their sparse hard earned loot to get him healed up, but I reminded him that he only needed to rest to get his HP back to max. PCs can get healing at the temple, but only need to pay for it if they're in a rush and want to get back out quickly, or need a Lesser Restoration or similar magic cast on them.

My thoughts? I've been sorta mixing in some BX hex crawling rules to use, but they don't really mesh that well with the players' expectations. Rather than wander through several hexes at a time, they were carefully exploring each hex. And some hexes are pretty much empty, and none so far have more than 2 non-random encounters in them. So I may need to redo my system for finding things in a hex. Instead of BX/BECMI style random rolls, I may instead leave it to the 5E skill system, where they can roll things like Nature, Survival, History, Perception, and the like to discover certain facets of the hex (ruins, monster lairs, resources that could be exploited, oddities).

Or maybe I'll do both. Random rolls for them to just stumble across something interesting, and if they call for the above rolls or describe their actions in a way that would seem to call for one, I can have them roll to also find whatever it is they're looking for.

Also, next session, I need to make sure they talk to some of the people in town. There are bits of information that may lead them to more profitable locations, and warnings of dangers...if they bother to ask.

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