These reports are going to become shorter, sharper, and shinier out of necessity. All refund requests to be submitted in triplicate to your nearest receptacle of rubbish.
- Clover, the Breggle Friar.
- Ebbli, the Mossling Squire of Lord Ramius.
- Shank, the Human Thief.
The party decide they should head back to Lankshorn again and sell the painting of the Princess. They decide to camp near the mound and have a run-in with capering, fire-breathing Woodgrues and get a tip off about a fairy door south-west of their current location. Somehow going that way might be faster than going north east to reach Odd, a village they hear keeps changing names, though the 'grues are characteristically round-about in their explanation of these matters. They otherwise return to town without issue.
In Lankshorn they wrestle with the realities of shlepping bulky valuables out of murderholes in the ground for fun and profit. They acquiesce to buying a wagon, two draft horses, and hire their first townsperson. I'm going to plug Gig Economy here: it's perfect for the style of games I run. They find Zabul: Undeserved confidence. “Nothing is impossible for the great Zabul!” They chat a bit with the matron of the local inn and learn about both a language scholar who boards in the attic, and her dalliance with Thrattlewhit. Lastly, Shank has reached second level, bringing him up to a nigh-impervious 6 HP.
They decide to cut a different course this time for variety, heading out by the southern road. The first attraction is the Aubrathony Animal Orchestra, a small milk farm-turned-shed-theatre. They proceed with suspicion but are treated to a surprisingly sonorous performance, and for a bit extra can meet the animal stars backstage and inspect a triptych showing scenes of a robed woman, three mirrors, and a giant snake with an inscription they can't decipher (but try to copy down for later).
They next come upon a roadside shrine to King Pusskin, and lacking milk or mice to offer, hunt for a spell and find a mouse to kill and leave to avoid ill fortune. As luck would have it, heading east into the woods now they chance upon a Grimalkin hunting rats emerge from a ring of mouse skulls. Though their efforts to assist were for nought, he manages to catch a few and is happy to share a bit about fairy. They start telling him they found a way to a frozen domain in that world and his ears perked right up, but they declined to let slip more, realising he was perhaps not of purest intentions.
They returned to the barrow of Sir Chyde, finding the stag skeleton and bucket now gone. Proceeding inside and down the stairs, they find themselves once more in that frosted glade. They discover the fallen skeleton and necklace (500gp) that fell down the crack earlier, and gingerly cross the frosted-over lack to reach the white marble castle. At the base they meet the doormen Griddlegrim atop Grimmlegridge, and we call it for the evening.
Hold on Lightly. In stark contrast to the other campaign I am running (the B series of play reports), this game has a much more sedate and slow-burning character. This is upheld by all participants, and part of playing the sandbox I feel is letting the players set the pace and agenda. Not every session will see much activity, but this way brings other pleasures of deepening immersion and strategic agency (opposed to the more tactical-agency of a more bounded scenario). As the session closed, one player wanted to clarify if what they were doing now was the intended 'main quest' of the game. I'm planning to discuss that at start of next session and confirm the intent for the world to have no such 'main plots.' Yet in a sense whatever they as players and characters choose to focus on will be necessity become the 'main story' we see through play.
Let the Stone Gather Some Moss. The green shoots of benefit from recurrent exploration of a small region are just starting to come through. I haven't usually dwelt upon the little things (food and drink, where to stable the horses, running a camp procedure each night) but there is a certain rhythm of living it produces that can nicely contrast the moments of magical wonder or murderous bloodshed. Focussing on the High Wold region for now with criss-crossing leads is allowing a richer sense of place to emerge. I'll note that though I run the hex-crawl behind the screen, the player-facing experience is more points of interest connected by paths. They are forming a mental model of the world in this more experiential way, rather than referring to a top-down map, and my understanding is this more reflects the style of Ben Robbins' West Marches. So far, I'm a fan!
Strict Time Records... I've whipped up a campaign calendar as a Google Doc to share with the players (then discovered Gavin has a nice PDF one on the website - what bother). It's early days, but based on our last long campaign together a couple of years ago (lasting 2+ years going level 1 to 20 in D&D 5E) keeping a player-facing calendar adds a lot to engagement in a fantasy world. A mixture of micro-journaling their exploits alongside current festivals and upcoming deadlines (such as needing to return to High Hankle to escort Berryld back to Castle Everdusk) is fire. Even better, Dolmenwood is bursting with feast days for each saint, which is a little detail to help further texture the passing of time.