Hi all, finally catching up.
In game 5 they traveled the rutted track, not really a road towards the big castle 100 miles away to deliver Gamdar's body, collect the bounty, and learn more about the cult of Orcus. This is:
-D'yu cleric of St Ygg with the war domain,
-Gemlia the 1/2ling rogue bounty hunter (she is perfect because she took "outlander/ bounty hunter as her background" so she can navigate the wild. I gave her a rough map of the trip with a few things thrown in since she had made the trip before),
- Shavan the 1/2 elven cthulu warlock ( I have no innate feel for cthulu, but I am developing one.
-Freelik the elf fighter (Barrowmaze pregen) who is Dara's 1/2 brother and seeks her. She went missing.
-Jasper the human bard. He has the +1 club from the hidden temple in the BM. I am happy to say that he finally got himself a little armor.
Every one is level 2.
My goal for this game was to give them some simple combat and some treasure; and to not distract them from learning more about the cult of orcus. This game has taught me something about when to transition from a sandbox to a trail that leads to something...you guys probably already know this, but I just learned it. They had lots of step one's, but not enough step two's, so I am not distracting much from the cult until it really feels like the time. Of course, they can change course if they want.
Fist they dingled around in Helix like they always do. Shavan had rolled a weird result on some carousing table and ended up sponsoring the local orphanage. She has morphed from an insane ex-pirate to an empathetic do-gooder. Anyway, she was approached by an woman who's husband was a torch-bearer for the boon companions. The man had told his wife where the boon companions stashed their stuff, (room 16). She drew a map and sold it to Shavan for 50gp to support her fatherless children. So now they have a treasure map to the BM, but they decided to carry on to Dragonspear castle.
They had the option to join a caravan, but chose against it. They went to Ironguard Motte, which was on the way, and BS'd with the Boon Companions, but did not tell them about the treasure map. It will be fun seeing if they do rip off the Boon Companions, who have always treated them pretty well. I play Tordik the elf as a kind of surfer dude, who is altruistic and doesn't worry about much except fighting evil. If you say "fight evil" like Jeff Spicoli would say it then you have Tordik. He is one of my favorite NPC's. He offered to help Freelik find his sister if they ever get a clue where she is. (She is stuck in a sex cult with the picts in the swamp, seeking a vision)
On the road, I'm running wandering monsters with traces and spores, or whatever it is. The first night they encountered spore of the soon-to-be fleeing-for-their-lives drovers. The next day I rolled snake eyes and they encountered two black dragon wyrmlings hunting at a distance, which was fun. Towards evening they came on the ruined caravan, recently wiped out by bandits, and pteranodons scavenging the bodies. That was a good quick fight, and the sole survivor of the caravan, his guts hanging out, told them about how the bandits took all the good stuff and went up the hill.
I used a map from the web for a ruined church on the hill. It is from a 3rd edition WOC book. The bandits were dead when they got there, killed by ogres. So now the party faces two ogres, but lots of treasure from the looted caravan. There were mine shafts about, which, you know, you often have around a ruined church. They tried to lure one of the ogres out and trick it into falling into a shaft. So there was combat, and sneaking, and using the environment, and treasure.
The ogre treasure includes a live parrot in a cage and a note with a hand drawn picture of the characters saying "kill these people" with lots of red and back paint, hand dipped in tea, and all that crap...the players were happy, you could see because they were out of sandbox and into some kind of a plot. I will add a picture of the drawing when I get one. So my mission was 1/2 accomplished.
Next game: in graveyard, all overgrown, that first statue will be St Ygg and if the Cleric interacts with it, then Ygg will speak with him and command him to spend the night outside on his knees doing penance for eating human flesh ("war is coming! The goat! The serpent!") Then the Jermlaine will come to tease and torment him a little and the other players can deal with it. I think the way to do it is describe how the jermlaine treat him and let the player decide if he wants to get up or not, rather than making Wisdom saves or whatever to tolerate it. If he makes it he should get some kind of boon from St Ygg. I am totally open to suggestions for a good boon for a 3rd level cleric of St Ygg.
Wandering monster table is 1) small, medium, and large evil dogs attracted by all the dead bodies, or 2)rangers getting out of the rain with news about something I don't know yet, or/and 3) those two black dragon wyrmlings.
One more thing. I went online seeking a map of Homlett for the next town, and instead found the full pdf of TOE. Reading Homlett for the first time was really interesting having just read BM. So, Homlett will be the next town and Lareth is an acolyte of Orcus. He gathers "recruits" and supplies for the important work in the Barrowmaze.
This is by far the longest social media post I have ever written. Please don't throw fruit at me.
I do love your (short) posts! You are rolling along nicely.
A few suggestions:
make Lareth a double-agent---give him some depth. He's a classy villain, don't let him be one-dimensional.
keep throwing tangents at the party---to me, that's the essence of a sandbox (not hex crawling), because they are conflicted on which plot-thread to follow and make choices that will delight and surprise you. Having many layers of simultaneous activity will make things come alive and distinguish your campaign from any and all pre-written adventures.
Melan made a masterful insight in this post---always have a frontier into the deeper unknown on the edges of your maps and at the bottom of your dungeons. Mystery, wonder, and fear are essential. Vague name-dropping and hints at dark places are really exciting, even if they aren't fleshed out.
Have some NPC adventurers with their own agenda that periodically cross paths with the party.
Our campaign has gotten really tangled up in region politics---like Cerebus in "High Society" (way old obscure comic book reference). It's easy at this point to wax nostalgic for the simpler and freer "beginnings", when it was just a handful of low-level PC nobodies, wandering around a sketchy world, and poking their noses into rando stuff. Man! It's a great game.
Hey man, I've been using this Barrow Mist chart to keep track of visibility and to keep people on their toes while grave-robbing out on the Moors. It's got a bunch of 3.5 crunch that might need some tweaking to your system of choice. Anyway, lemme know if you like it!
it has been ages since I posted. Things have been kind of nuts. Anyway, the barrowmaze group left Helix to learn more about the Cult of Orcus. I ran them through an encounter with a holy statue of St Ygg and a bunch of Jermlaine. The priest of St Ygg loved it, like I knew he would, but one of the other players was having a bad day and just attacked the Jermelaine and the group got a bunch of their treasure stolen. It was a good study in watching players learn to not just attack everything. The next game they walked into Homlett, spoke with some NPCs, and leveled up to 3rd level. I settled on 2 xp each gp of treasure for 5E dnd.
They have trouble with situations that are not clearly telegraphed. If I could revise the Jermlaine encounter now, I would add a Jermlaine wizard with a wand of paralysis or sleep or something that could disarm a murder hobo and inject some humor without forcing the whole party into a fight they don't all want. In other words, one player should be able to make a mistake or ill considered move without consigning the whole group to 30 minutes or more of cleaning up the mess. Then of course they could still all attack if they really want to.
The cleric of Ygg failed his quest and has a small curse. At first he just feels like he has a hair in his mouth. he will lose his ability to act in a round under high stress situations on a 1 in 12. It will slowly worsen over time until it happens on a 1 in 4. Depending on how things go he might develop all kinds of tics and vocalizations; I just don't want to offend anyone in the group. The player will love it. I have this theory that the game needs more sensory effects that players can imagine, and fewer or simpler mechanical effects that gets them staring at their sheets and worrying about math.
The group is heading for a nearby castle for which I am using Stone hell, but with much less humanoid and more demons. So the fire beetle will be a glowing beetle like demon, etc etc.
Only the game is on hiatus because half the group cant or don't want to play online for various reasons. When we resume I will start a new thread called Stone hell or something.
@Mage Hand : I think you raised two very good points here. First---considering non-lethal means a way to de-escalate a situation in Adventure Design, the second about sensor fodder for their mental molars to chew.