It's been about a year since I last ran a session of 'The Surrendered Lands'. I think it's safe to say that the game is now dead in its current form.
Unfortunately, job changes and real life had gotten in the way, making it harder and harder to play.
But the real killer was losing the venue - which was my old place of work. With it I lost most of my pool of players, which are needed to make a west marches game work.
Also; as I write this we are still in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK. Social distancing is likely to continue well into June at the very least and The Surrendered Lands was never designed to be run in any way other than face-to-face.
But it's not all bad. It ran for 15 sessions and I enjoyed them all.
I will always remember the dilapidated old goblin tower with fondness.
With the benefit of hindsight, there are a few things I'd do differently.
When I originally envisioned the game I did so with 6 players in mind, this was a mistake. If I were to do it now, I would scale the game for 4 players instead. It's easier to get 4 players for a session and the pool of players can be smaller. Also the sessions would play a bit quicker.
Furthermore, D&D 5e assumes a party size of 3-5 players and the game is scaled for this. It can of course accommodate extra or fewer players, but that requires an additional step of calculation. So 4 players, I now think is a good number.
The material I wrote needed to be a bit tighter and focus the players direction more effectively. Players should get hints that lead to locations, that lead to further hints, etc. In video game parlance this is known as 'Quest chaining' or probably more accurately 'leaving a breadcrumb trail'. That's what I needed to do better. But I found it quite hard to start one without knowing how it was going to end.
Earning XP for gold; it's an idea I still like, but D&D 5e isn't built to accommodate this play style. It was something I didn't realise this until a few sessions in. Because I was awarding XP for getting treasure it was necessary to reduce monster XP.
I reduced monster XP by 90% to compensate. Perhaps it was a bit too much, maybe 75%?
As a result, I had to triple or quadruple the gold that the PCs received.
The consequence of 'XP for gold' was that PCs would accumulate a lot of gold and 5e essentially has no 'money sinks'. PCs aren't required to build castles when they reach 10th level any more and the 'magic item marketplace' from previous editions has gone (Rightfully so in my opinion.) and this means they have very little to spend their money on.
Perhaps I should have awarded 5 XP per gold? Or even 10? Do away with monster XP entirely and give 10 XP per gold?
Other than that, the sessions seemed to go well enough and people said that they enjoyed it, but then again, they would.
So, for now, 'The Surrendered Lands' is done. Perhaps it'll return someday,
Reading, writing, playing and painting are things I do.