So the first session of my home-brew West Marches campaign that I've decided to name 'The Surrendered Lands' was played last night.
The party had 2 fights, the first against goblins and the other against skeletons. Both fights were reasonably hard and on both occasions, one or two characters were dropped to 0 HP and forced to make Death Saves. But I think this OK for a West Marches game.
For the first session, there was a full roster of 6 PCs, they were: Shamos Ulf Servus Khann Alton Crackblaster Tarquis Ger Nak
All sessions begin the same way: With the party passing through the gates of the immense and legendary Castle Torrog that guards the way through the mountains which divide civilisation from the wilderness that is 'The Surrendered Lands'.
Once past the gates; from the their vantage point the Party can spot the speck of a structure at the edge of the foothills below and an expanse of hilly forests stretching out beyond it. A mountain path winds its course downward.
The party decide to follow the path for a few miles as it meanders downwards and they lose sight of the structure. The path then descends into the foothills. At the edge of theese hills the path turns west into a shallow vale and very soon the party encounter a crossroads and the structure they first saw. In fact it is two structures. A dilapidated small tower south of the path and a utterly ruined castle to the north of the path.
The part decide to investigate the small tower first. As they approach, they spy movement on the tower roof.
They make no attempt at stealth as they advance and they are spotted!
The lookout goblin on the roof blows his horn and descends, rousing his companions and all ten of them charge out to attack the party.
Ten goblins might be seen as a bit much for the first encounter for some level 1 characters. But this is a West Marches game, so what the hell!
The party take a few hard hits but defeat the goblins and explore the tower. Mostly it is a mess (Due in no small part to being inhabited by goblins!). They find some loot and study and small library. Contained within are some books written in the language of the people who used to inhabit these lands centuries ago. The cleric takes some of these books.
These books contain the history of the tower and more importantly information on the ruins to the north. But the characters will need to translate the text first.
The party then decide to explore the ruined castle. The castle ruins predate the tower by centuries and they surmise that it was built by the tyrants who ruled over these lands further in the past. Barely any ruins still stand, but the party spot two basements; one quite open and the other quite obscured. The party investigate the 'hidden' basement. They find an area that is remarkably well reserved and discover it is seeped in magic. In the center of this basement is a giant disc wrought of steel and bronze, made in such a way as to stylistically resemble three flames. They poke and prod the disc but are unable to affect it or move it. The sorcerer expresses a desire to come back when he has a Knock spell and see what happens when he uses it.
He'll be disappointed. This is a powerful magical seal that prevents access to another dimension called 'The World Desert'. It requires three 'fetishes' to unseal and Knock won't have any affect. Some of the books that the cleric took from the tower explains some of this. Once the characters acquire all three fetishes, they can unseal the way. But this will lead to an area meant for much higher level adventures which hopefully will occur in about eighteen months from now.
The party then explore the other basement, it is partially collapsed and ruined. But the party think that they've spotted a way out. However the way is blocked by extensive rubble, the party investigate and deduce that most of the rubble did not occur from a collapse and that someone, long ago, blocked the way Something as scratched into one of the rocks. but erosion has rendered it unreadable.
Not ominous at all?
So the party clear the rubble and descend. They find the door into what is ostensibly a dungeon... They begin exploring the complex and find it mostly empty. it is silent and dusty, there are clear signs of fighting in past in several rooms, but there are no bodies or remains to be seen...
This is deliberate on my part, I wanted to try and create a feeling of foreboding as the party explored. This level only has two encounters and one of those is quite large.
The party explore, find some hidden areas and are rewarded with some loot. Eventually they encounter a very large room, in their candlelight they can dimly see something at the far end of the room. They cross the room towards it and are swamped by skeletons that emerge from side rooms. A fight ensues and they defeat about twenty skeletons. Half the party are reduced to 0 hp. At this point the session ends and the party return to Castle Torrog.
Due to time restrictions, the players leave without exploring the side rooms (More on this in session two.).