Sarah Darkmagic's blog

Lessons Learned

Over the past few weeks, I've been running the Newham Shire/Arcadia campaign for my group. I've been having a blast and I think my group is having fun as well. Recently, however, I think I made a pretty big beginners mistake. Many of my story lines have been a bit more complex than the normal, "there be bad guys" type campaigns, and I really thought my players might appreciate a couple of encounters with clear bad guys that one doesn't have to feel so bad about killing. The second of these encounters involved a small band of spriggans (5 in total) who were demanding a toll in order to cross a bridge. I thought it was going to be a pretty fun, if a bit of a hard encounter and I spent a fair bit of time figuring out how the different members of the spriggan team would act and how to use their powers most effective.

However, in all my planning, I didn't expect that my players might not want to fight. Just as important, I couldn't see how these little guys (who dip their hats in the blood of their victims) wouldn't want either a very large toll from the players or their blood. This failure to think a bit outside of the box led to a rather awkward incident where my players rolled fairly high but it was well near impossible to get the result they wanted.

If I had thought about this possibility in advance, I could have done a much better job meeting my player's expectations. Their attempts to use diplomacy and intimidate could have been part of a harder skill challenge. The failure condition could be that they were required to pay an even higher toll or just that they would have to fight the spriggans. I would have felt better about it and I think my players would have as well. In the end, my players really appreciated the more difficult and challenging encounter, but I think it would have been an awesome encounter with the addition of the skill challenge.

A Brief History of Sarah's New Hampshire

Sarah's ancestral homeland, New Hampshire, is a peninsula connected to the mainland on the northern side and mostly protected from it by a range of nearly impassible mountains. A land of great beauty and magic, many wars had been fought by those seeking to rule the land. These wars greatly saddened some of the gods and they finally grew tired of the strife and destruction that made the land ugly. The gods sent word to the inhabitants of the land, warning them to flee north or else be buried beneath tons of glacial ice. The inhabitants fled north to the desert of discontent. It is said that the lake that formed there was created from the tears of those who had to leave and that is why the river that runs from it, the River of Sorrow, has such bitter water.

Glaciers covered the land for one thousand years. The gods hoped that all would forget about the magical place and it would once again be their playground. The glaciers left behind large lakes in the mountains, which still contain the magic from the glaciers themselves. This magic trickles its way from these lofty lakes in streams and falls and makes its way to the River of Sorrow, over time turning the bitter water sweet.

This river runs south to the Lake of Lost Memories, so named because ruins of the previous civilizations ring it. It passes through the Dwarven town of Andernach, built on the hills Krahnenberg and Engwetter. It passes under the great stone Dwarven bridge and onwards to the great lake.

In the center of the lake is an island with a tall tower. To the northwest lie the woods of the Eladrin, to the northeast, the elves, to the southwest, swamps and to the southeast, the city of Abernathy. Abernathy is a human city, their capital for the region. Humans have lived here just for the past 99 years and this was the first city founded, as much of the magic in the lower portion of the region is concentrated in the lake. Here is where the nobility dwells.

Further south of the lake, where the Sweet River (Süßwasser) runs into the ocean lies the port city Barmouth. Most of the town is inhabited by newcomers, involved in merchant trade or the ship building industry. The natural and magical resources from the rest of the region are shipped through this town and goods from abroad come through here. The ships built here are highly desired, as the woods are full of trees of exceptional strength and flexibility. The town is run by a council of 9, with the majority of the members appointed by the nobility who make their home in Abernathy. While the nobility is quite benevolent and try to allow the city to conduct its own affairs as much as possible, there is some tension because the newcomers want to rapidly expand the city boundaries and push ever closer to the woods and swamps of New Hampshire.

The humans haven't explored much of the woods, although some have traveled to the Eladrin city. The well trained eye can see a number of elven towns in their woods. Since they've been here for just 99 years, the human cities and towns aren't well built up yet, and the whole area has a colonial feel to it. The exception would be that the ruling Darkmagic family lives in an old stone castle left over from an earlier time.

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