An Example

The 3 x 3:

Creature Clue: Siolim’s conversation is important in determining what happened to the residents of this land prior to Port Havenholde – he mentions something of the “Maddening” and the Hag’s hurt on the northern edge of the swamp.

Treasure Clue: The PCs find a black dragon idol – it appears to be made from the time of humans and its name is written in Draconic on it with a phrase. “Hail the Lord of the Bog, Syvestrix, for he has spared us from his wrath. May this idol show our gratitude, sitting majestically on our doorstep.”

Journal Clue: The PCs find an ancient journal. It appears to be the warden of this prison’s personal journal. The journal is intact, and is probably quite valuable as a historical archive. The date on the journal is 486 A.E. – whatever that means. It is written by an apparent human named Reginald Balkstaff IV. Mostly, the journal details daily happenings and various criminals admitted here. (PCs can roll History checks pertaining to criminals of the ancient Human realm).

1. It appears this land was once a verdant pasture. Since the coming of the black dragon, however, this place has sunken into a wretched marsh. The lord of this region has kneeled before the dragon at the behest of his captains and myself. He wishes all nobles to place idols on their doorstep to show our gratitude for the beast’s mercy. If I had the backing, I would travel to its lair past the once great Lake Genevene (now a lake of mud) and slay it myself. Argh! Damned the lord and this wretched land. I have applied for transfer to command a company on the warfront with the Dwarves of the North.

2. A very infamous criminal, Sedrick the Butcher, has been recently incarcerated. The captain confiscated his weapon of legend and has hidden it in a secret room detailed on the map of the prison. (Unfortunately, this weapon has already been looted… It is now in the hands of a dragonborn prince. The glass case it was in has been smashed and is covered in mold and the felt has been ripped.)

3. Later in the journal, the warden mentions prisoners and guards starting to “lose their mind” and exhibit irrational behavior, even ones he would normally consider some of his best guards and most behaved inmates. The last few entries in the journal appear to be erratic and nonsensical.


3 x 3 History Clues

This has been the hardest (and most time consuming) aspect of the game for me. Fleshing out the history of the world and distributing clues for the PCs to gather and understand it. I have an idea to help me with it.

I read about a method for crafting adventures and plotlines some time ago called the 5 x 5 method. Basically, you takes 5 quest ideas and interweave them all together to create this rich and interlocking tale. I’ve decided that I want to use a similar method to weave my world into my history. Instead of 5, I’m going to use 3.

Here’s how it works: I pick a location (you can certainly use the location your PCs are next going to…) and at that location I want to plant 3 clues that lead to 3 other locations on my DM map. These clues can be vague or direct, but ultimately need to get the PCs wheels turning and set them in motion toward some other objective outside the current adventure locale.

I haven’t exactly began this process, but I intend to do this very shortly and I’ll be posting some examples when I hash out a couple ideas.

Oh No! A Magic Item

Two sessions ago I broke a cardinal rule of mine, and I placed in the treasure a … magic item.

This created a stunning situation in a five-player party; they simply couldn’t handle it. They went nuts trying to figure out who should get it, how they person should repay the others, what about magic items that have no clear benefit for one person, what about a magic item that clearly does but that person has no way to repay the others… It created a slew of problems.

I realized then that keeping magic items out of the equation is a very good decision I made early. Instead, giving them incredibly valuable treasure piece worth X level magic item they can split evenly seems to be the best solution.

Am I going to get rid of magic items out there totally? No. No I am not. I’ve decided to add some more flair to the world, in trying to give my world some more history. Each region I’ve decided is going to have one powerful relic, artifact. This is going to more of a plot point, a reason for the party to go exploring a certain location than anything else. But, as far as magic items go, that’s about it. I’ll still throw consumables out there, but Magic Sword +1 ain’t gonna make the cut.

So, be forewarned 4th Edition West Marches DMs – with a varying group of members with very different play styles in their own home campaigns about dividing magic items, be careful what you give out.

More On Treasure

In an earlier post, I noted how I didn’t want characters to be able to buy magic items. I’ve since rescinded that ruling and have allowed players to buy magic items (albeit at a 40% markup like anything else in the town). This allows players to have options to purchase items they generally need for their characters [in 4th Edition, some magic items are assumed – armor, weapon, amulet, etc…], but also gives them the ability to forgo the markup with Enchant Magic Item rituals.

Last night, I played with my new random treasure tables, and they definitely need tweaking. Right now, the chance of getting consumables seems very high and although I want them in the mix, I don’t want that to be the ONLY thing the PCs find in treasure. Coins and treasure items should be more commonplace than flasks of alchemist acid.

In addition, I’ve realized there aren’t that many wondrous items. I’m considering adjusting my table to make the chance of getting a wondrous item even rarer – instead of having the chance of getting a wondrous item on a d6 roll of 6 on parcels 1 through 4, you’d only have a chance to get it on a roll of a 6 on parcels 1. Then, I’d roll a d4 to determine which level the item was (based on the parcel level).

It seems like this might be a LOT of rolls for determining treasure, but in practice it’s not. Roll d10, check result. Roll d6, check result. Roll d20, check result. That’s about it.

A Quick Map Update

I’ve been converting our paper map into a digital map, regularly adding things from what the players write on the map. This map mirrors my DM map somewhat, although on my map I have a grid and every location specifically placed. 🙂

Compare this with the paper, hand-drawn version.

Random Treasure

Random treasure gets the shaft in 4th Edition. In fact, it’s so frowned upon with the way treasure works in 4th Edition that the developers encourage DMs to actually request wishlists from their players that detail items they want for their characters.

How I’ve Been Doing It

For Port Havenholde, I’ve changed up the way treasure is allocated quite a bit. I’m still working on integrating “history” into the treasure I hand out, but it’s slow going. I’ve spent so much work developing the gears and mechanics of the world, that I’ve neglected the fluff. It’s sorely missed so far, especially when my players want to roll History checks and whatnot and I’m scratching my head like, “I don’t know – I’ll get with you on the forums.” Part of this is lack of planning, and part of it is that I simply don’t know and I’m making it up as I go. That’s not so good with the sandbox style, and it’s something I plan to remedy soon.

For now though, I’m working on dealing with this treasure issue. I’ve learned early on that I do not want to hand out magical items. Quite simply, I don’t want PCs fighting over who gets what item and how to deal with that. So for this purpose, I hand out gold and treasure PCs can sell for gold. I’ve literally handed out one traditional magic item – a suit of +1 eldritch serpent chainmail that was lost due to a TPK. Instead, I’ve opted to hand out gold, a few potions here and there, and treasure items that are significantly valuable. Typically, when I decided a parcel that would normally be a “Magic Item of Level X” comes up, instead I hand out an art object equal to the value of that magical item. So, instead of handing out Magic Item Level 4, I hand out an art object worth 840 gp.

A couple things:

1) This allows the PCs to sell those items for an evenly distributable amount of gold – and a significant amount above a normal parcel of gold. That gold can then be used to purchase or create magic items.
2) This keeps PCs from having to figure out who actually gets the +1 armor while everyone else gets shafted. Because of the nature of the constantly changing party-makeup, I like that at the end of the adventure everyone can evenly distribute that loot instead of “owing somebody next time”.
3) These extra valuable treasure items also double as the “historical” items of my campaign world – these still need to be fleshed out. After all, when I say, “you find a ceremonial headdress made of platinum and gems, it’s easily worth 2600 gp” you pay attention and then I insert my historical clue/tidbit like Ben Robbins suggests.
4) I don’t have to worry about studying your character’s sheet and trying to figure out which items to place in the damned treasure parcels. I also don’t have to ask you what you want and break the mystery and suspense of finding treasure.
5) I also don’t have to worry about neglecting one player’s character… “Wait? A sword? So, Nathaniel the Fighter gets ANOTHER item and us Wizards don’t get anything??? It’s useless to me, so I guess we give it to him.”

Now… This is how I have been doing it.

How I’m Going To Start Doing It

Tomorrow, we’re playing another session of my Port Havenholde campaign. Today, I’ve worked a lot on fleshing out the method I have been using and adding some more details and randomness (like the old days of D&D) to treasure. I’m keeping the same basic principle, magic items that PCs generally need for their characters to be effective in 4th Edition will be purchased with gold they gather from treasure and treasure item parcels that replace the normal magical item parcels. This means, you are still more likely to get a ceremonial silver-plated sword worth 1000 gp than you are a +1 magic sword. This way, each person in the party gets 200 gp to put toward whatever magic item they want to buy.

There is one small catch to this. Wondrous Items.

I’ve inserted a chance (albeit small) that something unique, cool, interesting, and most importantly actually magical will be found among treasure out in the dungeons. I am going to use wondrous items. These are items that can generally be used by anyone. This basically solves two problems with my former method. First, it adds some magic back into the treasure. Second, it is things usable by anyone so I don’t have to worry about fitting it to particular classes or characters, and in addition it’s usable by any party most likely. My players have come upon a method of “sharing” potions and other consumables. They’ve determined that a basket should be placed in the Admiral’s Rest (Port Havenholde’s adventurer inn) and when a party comes back from adventuring, you put any consumables found as treasure in the basket for all to use. Any adventurer who goes out to adventure can take whatever they want out of the basket, so long as they bring it back if they don’t use it up. Give a potion, take a potion. They came up with this on their own! Awesome idea!

I don’t know if this will follow-on to the wondrous items they might find, but the reason they are there in the first place is because of that sharing basket.

Now, remember, it’s only a small chance the party will find a wondrous item – these also double as history items, but if they don’t find a wondrous item, they still find a treasure item valued at what the magic item would have been worth.

The other thing I changed is the non-magical item parcels. In the DMG, a parcel looks like this:

2 Magic Item, level 2

or, like this…

6 180 gp, or one 100 gp gem + 80 gp, or one potion of healing + 130 gp

That’s easy enough right? Simply choose a parcel (there are 10 examples, 4 with magic items and 6 with gold, gems or potions of healing) and a variation, and bam! You got loot.

I’ve already talked about how I ditched the 4 magic item parcels pretty much entirely. Instead, I’ve changed the parcels to look like this:

1 (1-5) 1000 gp in coin or treasure, (6) or a level 5 wondrous item

It reads like this – if I roll a 1 to determine this parcel is selected, I then roll a d6. On a 1 through 5 result, the PCs get 1000 gp in coin or a treasure item (like a silver-plated ceremonial blade or something) worth 1000 gp. On a result of 6, they get a random wondrous item (I then roll randomly among that level of available wondrous items and whatever comes up is inserted into the loot).

You may have noticed a couple things in there I haven’t discussed – notably the randomness of this system. Well, basically, I have a series of rolls that determine which parcel to use, and then within that parcel which variation to use. It’s quite simple. I’ve kept the 10 different parcels the DMG offers (of course I’ve changed the them to represent my new system). So, I roll a d10 to determine which parcel is inserted into the loot (typically 1 parcel per encounter – if I want the loot to be all at the end of a dungeon, like a hoard, I’ll just put it all there and roll numerous times). Once I’ve determined which parcel to use, I roll a d6 to determine which variation to use. For the magic item parcels, it’s easy; 1-5 you get gold or treasure, 6 you get a wondrous item.

Following me?

Now, the next thing I wanted to change (besides treasure or wondrous items instead of magic items, and adding randomness) is the other 6 parcels. Basically, it kind of drove me nuts that the only potion offered in the DMG parcels was potion of healing. I wanted to change that. So, I had to customize the parcels a bit. I took all the consumable items in the Compendium and ordered them in terms of their value. I then took those values and added them into the parcels. So, instead of getting a “potion of healing”, you will get one random consumable valued at 50 gp. From the same table as above, check it out:

8 (1-2) 120 gp in coin or treasure, (3) one 120 gp consumable (4) one 100 gp consumable and 20 gp in coin (5) one 75 or 80 gp consumable and one 40 gp consumable, or (6) two 50 gp consumables and 20 gp in coin

You can see this is quite different from the 1st level number 8 parcel in the DMG… The first thing I did was get rid of “or gem”. Let’s face it, PCs don’t care if you give them 100 gold coins or a 100 gp value gem. They want cool treasure items or straight up gold. I don’t need to be told to differentiate gold coins from gems. If I want to add gems to the loot, I just convert the gold coins straight up.

Secondly, I’ve added in more variations AND instead of just potions of healing, I’ve given a wide range of possible consumables that the PCs can get in the loot. These all add up to the total amount of GP they should be getting for that parcel, but sometimes they’ll get interesting consumables instead of treasure or gold.

Again, I roll a d10 to determine which parcel is given (1-4 are treasure items or wondrous items and 5-10 are consumables and/or gold coins). Then, I roll a d6 to determine which variation of that parcel is given – on a 1-2, coins and then 3, 4, 5, or 6 gets a variation of consumables and coins.

So this is what a full table looks like:

Level 1 Encounters
1. (1-5) 1000 gp in coin or treasure, (6) or a level 5 wondrous item
2. (1-5) 840 gp in coin or treasure, (6) or a level 4 wondrous item
3. (1-5) 680 gp in coin or treasure, (6) or a level 3 wondrous item
4. (1-5) 520 gp in coin or treasure, (6) or a level 2 wondrous item
5. (1-5) 360 gp in coin or treasure, (6) or a level 1 wondrous item
6. (1-2) 200 gp in coin or treasure, (3) one 160 or 200 gp consumable (4) two 100 gp consumables (5) one 75 or 80 gp consumable, one 20 gp consumable and 150 gp in coin, or (6) three 50 gp consumables and 50 gp in coin
7. (1-2) 180 gp in coin or treasure, (3) one 150 or 160 gp consumable and 20 gp in coin (4) one 120 or 125 gp consumable and 55 gp in coin (5) one 100 gp consumable, one 50 gp consumable and 30 gp in coin, or (6) two 50 gp consumables, one 20 gp consumable and 60 gp in coin
8. (1-2) 120 gp in coin or treasure, (3) one 120 gp consumable (4) one 100 gp consumable and 20 gp in coin (5) one 75 or 80 gp consumable and one 40 gp consumable, or (6) two 50 gp consumables and 20 gp in coin
9. (1-2) 60 gp in coin or treasure, (3) one 50 gp consumable and 10 gp in coin (4) one 40 gp consumable and one 20 gp consumable, (5) two 30 gp consumables, or (6) one 25 gp consumable and 35 gp in coin
10. (1-2) 40 gp in coin or treasure, (3) one 40 gp consumable, (4) one 30 gp consumable and 10 gp in coin, (5) one 25 gp consumable and 15 gp in coin, or (6) two 20 gp consumables

Again, I roll a d10 to determine the parcel. Then, I roll a d6 to determine which variation of the parcel.

Does this mean that a party may in fact get lucky and find several very valuable treasure items? Well, yes and no.

Yes, that is entirely possible. Such is the nature of sandbox gaming. One party might find a hoard of treasure items and another find a few coins and consumables in the same amount of game time.

But, there are some other things to factor. For one, treasure items and wondrous items will generally NOT be found on random encounters. These parcels are reserved for dungeons. Most of the time, monsters will not bring their treasure out into the “field” with them. So because of this, when rolling to determine treasure for random encounters, I roll a d10 as normal, but if the result is 5 or less, I add 5 to the score. If I roll a 3 for example, that would actually be parcel 8.

Secondly, there may not be treasure at all. In most cases, I will roll a d20 to determine whether treasure is available in the first place. On a 10 or better, the PCs get loot. On a 9 or lower, they get nothing.

The exception to this rule is of course “bosses” and certain dungeons where I want there to be certain treasure items. In these instances, I’m not rolling for random treasure, but I’ve already pre-planned the treasure.

Anyways, that’s how I’ve done it. This is a brand-new system and I’m sure I’ll tweak it. In the meantime, comments are welcome!


I’ve been running a lot of games of Port Havenholde for some time now. The popularity of the game has expanded immensely, with several waves of new players entering the fold. Unfortunately, with that, we’ve also lost some players (for now anyways) that I typically play with. I’m not sure if they’ve just been preoccupied or what, but they haven’t played in some time. Nearly all of the new players, with the exception of maybe one, has really enjoyed themselves and keep coming back for more.

One thing I don’t think they are enjoying is PC death that seems to happen regularly! I’ve been keeping a wiki online to track player characters and in-game information about the town and whatnot. I keep a list of characters there; the living and the fallen. Here’s a snapshot of our current characters:

The Adventurers of Port Havenholde

Llewellenar – Female Elf Seeker – 3rd Level

Jhintoth – Male Kobold Paladin (Bahamut) – 3rd Level
Nathaniel – Male Human Fighter – 3rd Level
Alin – Male Human Fighter – 1st Level
Jabronicus – Male Eladrin Swordmage – 1st Level
Grundle Grimhammer – Male Dwarf Fighter – 1st Level
Harbek – Male Dwarf Warden – 1st Level

Gwyer Rose – Male Human Bard – 1st Level
Trey Dradul – Male Human Artificer – 1st Level

Leucis – Male Tiefling Rogue – 1st Level
Olo Nimblefoot – Male Halfling Rogue – 1st Level

And, now a snapshot of who has died:

Tariq – Male Deva Cleric (Tymora) – 3rd Level
Garuph – Male Dwarven Ranger – 2nd Level
Aelar – Male Elf Assassin – 1st Level
Burell – Male Eladrin Avenger – 1st Level
Darvin Bersk – Male Human Bard – 1st Level
Garoon – Male Shifter Cleric (Melora) – 1st Level
Kalasta – Male Dragonborn Paladin (The Silver Flame) – 1st Level
Lu – Female Human Paladin (Kord) – 1st Level
Minharath – Male Kalashtar Cleric (Ioun) – 1st Level
R’gile – Male Dwarven Artificer – 1st Level
Talamonde – Male Human Wizard – 1st Level
Xuli – Female Drow Sorceress – 1st Level

As you can see, the list of “fallen” adventurers is substantial. In fact, many players are on their third characters. I believe there is only one player who is still on his first, and that’s a battlerager fighter, who seem to be nigh indestructible with their temporary hit points. I say “nigh” because during the last session, he very nearly bit the dust.

Because of all this, I’ve acquired the title of “His Bloodythirstyness”. Yikes. I keep reminding the players that a lot of the deaths are centered around being less-than-cautious, tactical errors and bad luck. Afterall, I’m only playing the pre-determined encounters as they happen… I try to play the monsters as ‘realistic’ as possible. Most intelligent creatures don’t go after downed PCs, while animals and bloodthirsty creatures might take a bite out of an unconscious PC. Most of the encounters are pre-determined via random encounter tables and pre-planning dungeons. So, I do feel good about being an arbiter, or judge, more so than a challenger, an enemy of the players.

On the other hand, there’s a secret to this that I should divulge. For one, I like that Port Havenholde has a reputation for being the deadliest campaign most of these guys have played. I like how cautious and empowered the players who reach level 2 and 3 feel; the sense of accomplishment I can see on their faces. Don’t get me wrong, I would love for these guys to level up and quickly so they can get to exploring all these higher level areas I’m itching to unveil. But, I also like the sense of dread players have when they realize they are in an area well out of their league. It’s intense, and very suspenseful to see if they survive.

Part of this “degree of difficulty” is by design. I’m designing nearly every encounter around the idea that there are 5 PCs in the party. This basically means, if you have less than 5 PCs, you are at a disadvantage, even against encounters equal to your level. If you are silly enough to adventure with 3 PCs, you are even further behind the curve (and I believe most people have learned to try and get 4 PCs at least!). In addition, my random encounter tables are designed with a bell-curve grade of difficulty. Meaning, you have a chance of encountering those standard budget encounters, or… you might face off against something much easier – or much more difficult.

I roll to randomly determine the situation (whether one side is aware, or both) based on the stealthiness of the party, so if you do happen upon a harder encounter that you are unaware of, the decision to fight them might not be in your hands.

Most dungeons are of a level equal to the region. If I have a 1st level forest, most dungeons will be 1st level in there. Meaning, you are almost better off finding a dungeon and delving than you are roaming around aimlessly. After all, you will most likely encounter level 1 encounters in a level 1 dungeon.

The exception to this rule is, of course, the “pocket of danger” the original West Marches campaign detailed. I’ve spread several “high-danger” areas in each region, and in some cases, each dungeon. The PCs have encountered one of these areas in my 1st Level Forest (an island set in the center of an undead lake) and unfortunately they also happened upon one area and the first “dungeon” they happened upon was a pocket of danger… This was where the aforementioned battlerager nearly died. Let’s hope they avoid that area for a while.

Next time, I’m talking about turning the standard treasure parcel tables into random treasure tables.

Long Time

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog. That’s my bad.

A lot of real world stuff has been keeping me preoccupied (work woes), but that hasn’t stopped me from DMing many sessions of the Port Havenholde Campaign. In fact, we just had a 3 sessions in one week marathon that saw the first characters to get past 1st level (and see those higher levels in action) since we began. In fact, four players are now 3rd Level (as of the end of the last session). I’ve been using a combination of my random encounter tables, published dungeons, and home-brewed encounters/dungeons. So far, it’s working out great.

I’m having a couple worries about characters getting higher level. The four PCs that just reached 3rd Level really haven’t ventured out past the 1st Level Areas and I’m worried about them continuing to adventure in the 1st Level Areas and exploit the fact that they are quite powerful compared to them now. I’m hoping that they see that while they are safe, they aren’t getting as much XP as they could be by venturing into harder areas. As long as everyone is having fun, I don’t care honestly. And, they seem to be. At least the players who’ve been playing.

I’ve had some issues with a few players not stepping up to the plate and playing. Two players have all but dropped off the map, and one player is iffy at best having troubles with rides and other absenteeism issues. On the other hand, the game has blossomed somewhat since I last spoke – in the last week or so we’ve had 4 brand new players express interest and I think next week we should see them getting their characters into their first gaming sessions.

I’m interested to see how they respond to the higher level, more experienced characters, and I’m looking forward to seeing those higher level characters showboating and showing off their hard work and dedication to the game. After all, almost everyone (except two players), has lost a few characters to the wilds [note: I find this ironic because most people consider 4th Edition to be too “easy” and catering to players – it’s not.]

I’ve decided my encounter tables need to be expanded and fleshed out with more non-combat encounters. I’d like to see more clues on there, perhaps with a chance of rolling an encounter or some area descriptor instead of an encounter or nothing…

Customizing loot and adding in historic relics has been an issue as well. I’m still struggling to define the history of the world and conveying that in loot. Right now, it appears that a group of elves lived in this area once. Kobolds have taken up residence in their woods and bullywugs in the bog to the east. The hills to the north have been unexplored so far. There is also an area with high-level sahuagin in very close proximity. A group of players encountered them, but ran quickly when they realized their power. Most of the ruins appear to be elven in make and the PCs have found coins that bear the emblem of some elven profile. There is also an elven tree city somewhere in the forest (a group actually found it, but was TPK’d there). This city will possibly hold some clues to the history and of what’s beyond.

The map is starting to come along nicely with the players starting to check and double check their findings, refining the map and so forth. I’m planning to upload a copy of this map for the players to look at on our wiki

Ultimately, I think the players are having a blast and I’m having fun as well. I’m hoping in the next couple post I’ll focus on refining my encounter tables, plotting some more areas within my low level ones that are higher level, and working on the history a bit more.

Two Sessions In

We completed our second session Wednesday, September 2nd. It was actually my birthday and foregoing a celebration, I decided to play D&D Port Havenholde instead. Heh.

We decided that this campaign would best be suited to a public location, so we’ve been scouting a lot of possibilities; local game shops, restaurants, etc… We settled on Gattiland (for those unfortunate enough to never experience Gattiland, it’s a pizza/salad bar buffet that also has games and whatnot – they also have ‘meeting rooms’ they reserve for free) and it proved to be a very nice location to play and they even let me borrow some glass cleaner for my battle mat. At $8.27 a head, the unlimited food and drink proved to be excellent for our group (some more than others). The players consisted of our normal group with two significant additions, an old player that we actually kicked out of our former campaign who was gracious enough to play with us again and a completely new player recruited off the web. Our first session started out well enough. I had the PCs arrive in Port Havenholde, describing the ominous walls encircling the town, and be greeted by the Duke’s lackey who in turn showed them the way to the Admiral’s Rest, the only tavern/inn in town.

Immediately, I noticed a need/want from the players to speak with this fellow and try to get a quest or something out of him. I knew this might happen, which is why I didn’t want to have the Duke himself meet them. He promptly ended the conversation and left them on the porch of the inn. It’s obvious that no adventurer’s have been to this place in a while (the inn is strictly for adventurers) and they take up a seat at one of the many empty tables. This is where I injected the first kick in the butt out of the city gates. I decided to use the treasure map approach Ben talked about in his blog and even directly stole the table map idea directly from the West Marches, with hopes to emulate the various PCs adding to it as time went on.

This worked. The PCs were out of the Black Gate before they knew it and on the ancient cobblestone road that led to the forest out there. I made one significant mistake during the first session that I later retconned when the second session rolled around. I had my map drawn up (thanks to my wife’s artistry skills), but I had yet to put a scale on the map for myself to determine distances. I made one up at the last minute and suffice to say it was WAY too large of a scale. It took the first party a whole day just to reach the forest. I didn’t like that at all. For the second session, I adjusted the scale and I’m happy to say the second session was much better in this respect.

With this I’ll say my group has adopted a forum as our default method of discussion and it’s proven popular. I’ve used this to put out info, discuss various concerns, and even explain my retconning of the map. I feel like these discussions give the players more investment in the game world and they’ve offered a lot to the world considering we’ve only played two sessions.

Travel was somewhat glossed over during the first session as A) I didn’t have the rules fixed yet, and B) I wanted to get the PCs out into the wilderness and to a cool location. The first location I decided would be a ruined tower in the woods marked on their map with a “here lies treasure” and an X. While the actual rules for navigating were glossed over, I did roll for random encounters and sure enough, the PCs did see some things. Up until this point, I’ve been giving the PCs the option to engage in the random encounters. They’ll either see clues, or the creatures in the distance. I find this tactic a good one because it gives the PCs more choice over whether they engage. In the future though, I’m sure I’ll throw in an ambush or two (especially now that one of the kobolds escaped their encounter during the second session).

The PCs eventually found the tower and killed the creatures inhabiting the outside of it. By this time though, the first session was running low on time and they decided to return to town. This prompted a series of questions on the forums the following day about one party doing work to find the dungeon and then another party coming in and looting it and taking all the treasure. Suffice to say this was a lengthy debate, but I think I diminished it by simply explaining that this is exactly the kind of thing that drives player motivation to play again. Do you want to play next session and get in on that ruined tower you found last session, or let someone else take the loot?

Feedback after the first session was excellent and I definitely got the sense that the players enjoyed themselves and would come back for more. And they did.

The second session had two returning players from the first and two new players, my nephew (and long time player for me) and another new recruit off the internet. The group seemed to mesh well and after a brief introduction back at the Admiral’s Rest, we were off on adventure again. The ranger from the first session led the party back to the tower (after inserting and using the new Navigation rules), not before ambushing some kobolds traveling through the wilderness and having a lengthy battle. They picked up right where the first party left off and entered the tower. The next battle was where the first character death of Port Havenholde would happen. It just so happened to be my wife’s character (and I always sleep on the couch when that happens), but in the interest of maintaining the passive role of DM and letting the environment be active, she unfortunately fell to negative hit points and a ghoul leaped on her and ripped her throat out. The rest of the party managed to survive but barely. They returned back to town afterward with the body of their fallen defender in tow. I think they realize now – this is a dangerous world.

Our first two sessions happened during weekdays and I’m really hoping to start getting more weekend sessions going for a number of reasons. The 4th Edition system has lengthier encounters (our second session had two total encounters and they lasted roughly 1-1/2 hours per battle) and as players are still adjusting to new characters and for some a new system, our battles have been very slow. I’d rather not instill a time rule during combat so that players feel rushed, so I’m hoping as time goes on they get more comfortable with their powers and whatnot so we can speed up combat. Playing during the week has allowed us around 3.5 to 4 hours of gameplay. A weekend session would extend that to 5 or 6 hours. So, I’m hoping players will catch on and realize more game time = more adventure time = more XP and loot.

For now, I’ve been letting players track XP on their own. They also have been tracking loot, but I haven’t really heard any discussion about how to divide it – even from the first session, but I’ve decided to take a completely hands off approach when it comes to player issues like that.

I need to talk about making a calendar and further use of treasure to tell a story and get the PCs to other places.

Note: I didn’t have time to update the 1st session in a single post due to a work influx and moving at home. Sorry about that.

1st Session

Just finished up our first session! It was a success, but learned some things! Will update tomorrow!