The best part about Ben Robbin's West Marches style

If you've never read about Ben Robbin's "West Marches" sandbox campaign, turn your browser this way and have a read of Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and Running Your Own. Go ahead. They're quick reads. I'll wait.

So... the very best part, at least for my campaign, was the idea of "start each session in town/civilization, end each session in town/civilization." It has been a god-send for my campaign.

It has allowed me to run a "drop-in", "drop-out" style of campaign. If real life shows up and someone can't make it, the party isn't hosed, stuck in a dungeon, waiting for the Magic User with the only knock spell to unlock the way out. If a group of mainly fighters with no cleric wants to take on the orc horde, it's no problem! If someone wants to run two or three characters concurrently, they can have the luxury of doing it. I've had 5th level players alongside 1st level players. I've had all sorts of mixes and matches. It's been wonderful.

It also forces a respect of time and paying attention to "what's the mission." The players know they have x amount of time to get the thing done. And it also puts them in position to let me know ahead of time "this is the mission." So that when we hit the table, they are ready to go.

There are many nuggets of goodness from West Marches, but this bit has been one of the best.

And what happens if the players decide to ignore that rule, or they lose track of time and they're still deep in the dungeon or in the wilderness? Well.. then I refer to a handy, dandy chart that Jeff Rients wrote a long time ago... the Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom. After hearing the descriptions from that table, my players have NEVER chanced it. Because... DOOOOM!!!!


  1. Also, always starting at home base in a city/town you get the opportunity to offer the players a roll on the carousing tables! :)

    I love that part!

  2. Very true, @Andreas! I've seen political incidents start, curses get laid, intrigue happen, all from that little table.


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