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.


4 Responses to “Long Time”

  1. 1 p_armstrong December 1, 2009 at 2:54 am

    RE 3rd level PCs adventuring in 1st level areas
    Are you using the standard 4E XP rules?

    I recently found your blog through your comment over at ars ludi. I have considered running a 4E sandbox game and have quickly read all of your posts.

    Two of the things that I would likely change about the 4E XP system would be to make the XP progression more exponential and to make the bulk of the XP come from the old 1gp = 1 XP.

  2. 2 Michael Pfaff December 1, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Hey P,

    Yup. Due to the nature of the campaign, sometimes I have higher level characters adventuring in lower level areas with lower level players. In fact, we just had a guy level his character to 4th (the highest level character yet). I’m using the standard XP budget of 4th Edition, but basing it around 5 PCs no matter what (as all my encounters are pre-generated). Trust me, if you are the sole 3rd Level character with a group of 1st Levels, you’re still in the thick of it. We recently had a 3rd Level character die in a TPK with a few other 1st Levels.

    In addition, some encounters are “harder” or “easier” on the random encounter table – I use a 2d6 [hoping to expand it to 3d6 soon] random encounter chart. If you know anything about dice probability, 2d6 creates a bell curve where the middle will come up more often. The number 7 will come up more often than the 2 or 12. So, I have created a spectrum of encounters, where the middle 5-9 are “standard” encounters, 2-4 are “easier” encounters, and of course 10-12 are “hard” encounters.

    Players have learned very quickly that it’s important for them to be cautious and use “Monster Knowledge” checks as often as they can to Size Up their opponents.

    I’ve found giving this option to players is important because using Ben’s suggestion of “pockets of danger” has made a few places on the map cause some characters to run for their life and warn others to “stay away until higher level!”.

    As far as using gold for XP, I think that’s a totally viable option. It makes “getting the treasure” more important than “finding the bad guys and killing them” which is what my campaign has become about in a way. Sometimes the players will need XP to level up, and they go “hunting” for kobold war parties. Ha.

    I do hope you get your game off the ground. It is GOOD FUN.


  3. 3 p_armstrong December 3, 2009 at 6:33 am

    A few more questions for you:
    1. Where do you play – a private residence, a game store, other? Just curious given your recruitment process/methods.

    2. How have you been using skill challenges?

    3. How are you finding pacing? With the length of combat is significant exploration accomplished during a session?

    4. One of the key aspects of “old school” hexcrawls was the management of resources – both combat related (hit points, vancian magic, etc) and non-combat related (food & other provisions). You didn’t want to be lost in the mountains when you were beat up and running low on provisions. How does this fit into a 4E hexcrawl?

    Thanks again. I am really enjoying your posts.

  4. 4 Michael Pfaff December 3, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Well, lemme try and answer these for yah:

    1. We’ve defaulted to playing at my house. Originally, we played at a variety of public places – Gattiland (a pizza buffet with party rooms), game stores, hobby shops, the mall, etc… But, our game sessions lasted too long (well, we couldn’t get started early enough) due to everyone’s schedule. So, now we play in my kitchen.

    2. I’m not a big fan of skill challenges. If I use them, they are really simple. For example, I had the PCs find a dwarven ballista – as a small Thievery challenge they could disassemble it and take it back to town to sell it.

    3. Generally, no. Significant exploration is not had. Usually, the PCs will find a location, and maybe get the first encounter (maybe more if they haven’t had any random encounters) and then have to make plans to come back.

    4. Most of the time, I don’t track provisions. The PCs will rarely stay out for more than one night. Most of my adventure locales are but a few hours away from town (at least for the low level areas). My map is divided into 1/2 inch squares and one inch represents a mile. So, most of the time, they are back in town before night fall. Which is good, because it means they can go adventuring with other people. On the other hand, character resources, like healing surges and powers is on a very rigid management cycle. The PCs let me know when they want to rest – short or extended – or head back to town for the session. I’ve imposed a rule that if they do rest outside of the city walls, they must make an Endurance check at the end of each extended rest. A failure means their healing surges per day are reduced by 1 until they rest in town (this is cumulative). I do give them a bonus on the check for building a campfire (which poses a hazard in itself) and eating provisions and whatnot. If the PCs are running low on resources and decide to rest outdoors, they have to do a watch and there is a chance of random encounters per “watch”. I also do a random encounter check per mile of travel.

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