Random Encounters for a Dynamic World and Emergent Sandbox Narrative

One thing about sandbox games, you never know what your players will latch onto.  You may have created a ton of content around the fringes of your civilization, even plan for players to go off in totally different directions than they end up going. All of that preparation only to have players latch onto a single nugget and invest all of their time and effort concentrating on a single region!

That’s what we’ve done in our DCC game; after finding that abandoned sugarcane plantation, all plans for exploration went out the window, and the focus of our game has shifted to restoring and securing the farm.

This game has really brought to the forefront the importance of book-keeping, time-keeping and random encounters to maintaining an immersive experience.  It also allows for a truly dynamic game world that includes the four adventure plot classifications.

Our last session was filled with a number of skirmishes around our farm that led us to declaring all-out war against a neighboring smuggler-fort.  Chance and an unpredictable enemy strategic AI (determined by random encounter rolls, natch) meant that a lot of our previous plans for establishing peaceful mercantile relations went out the window.  I’ve attached the in-world session report below for those who are interested, but I’d like to share the nuts and bolts of what happened.

Not only has our DM been rolling for encounters for the travelling party, he has been rolling for the farm as well; this would force us to keep investing our time and resources in the project because leaving it to its own devices could mean disaster should it come under attack.  We’d posted guards, but casualties can mount if the farm suffered a particularly bad week or two.

Times when we were en route to the farm, the farm suffered a couple random encounters of its own; the golden bear we’d been hunting struck, but that was a predictable annoyance.  What really messed up of our player-scheming was an encounter that the DM rolled for in which a couple of the Pirate hunters stumbled on the farm at night.  Our mercs earned their pay by shooting at intruders; the Pirates didn’t know what hit them, but it meant that diplomatic relations would be rocky at best if we could establish them.  We decided that we needed to bring up reinforcements, so we went back to town to hire more mercs.  Right as we arrived with reinforcements, the town was in the midst of another random encounter of its own.  The Pirates were reconning in force, but did not expect a small army of 20+ soldiers and a pack of hunting dogs to show up in the middle of their foray.

A combination of random encounters and fortuitous timing led to our decimating the local organized threat to our little outpost.  Now we just need to get the palisade and guard towers up so the farm can better defend itself from white apes.

The plantation may thrive someday, but it shall be born in blood.    Pashi met a disgraced treasurer from west over the seas named Cirra who volunteered his blade to our cause.  Helene bought a coon dog named Shiloh, and Elyse bought a pony named pony.  Our motley crew set forth to the northern guard tower where we left the guards a map of where they could find our plantation and make their weekly patrols.

On the way to farm, we saw a deer in the tree that had been eaten on by something.  We found disaster had struck when we’d arrived at the workers’ camp.  The golden bear had attacked the night before, and though it was driven off, three workers had been killed.  The following night was equally filled with danger; on the first watch, pirate scouts stumbled on the camp and one was shot dead by our mercenaries.  Second watch, a panther showed up and was not driven off before it had torn Shiloh in two.

On the dawn of the third day, we debated what to do: Namia said the golden bear only showed up to drink at the stream about once a month; the more pressing situation was what to do about the pirates.  We’d speculated for some time that they had been bandits or smugglers, though the possibility had remained open that they were simply woodsmen or libertarian survivalists.  The previous night’s incident threw a bit of a wrench in our plans to approach them peacefully as business partners.  We ultimately decided that we should return the body of slain pirate under a flag of truce to the pirate fort.  No talk, no negotiation, just a simple message that we were returning something that belonged to them.  We left the body outside the fort and returned to the plantation.

With multiple apex predators in the forest about the farm and possibly a hostile pirate enclave nearby, we determined that we would need more soldiers and more workers.  We left with the promise to return with more men and supplies and asked Leah Hawkeye to hold on as best she could until we returned.

Back in town, we spent day 5 buying 6 dogs (one to replace Shiloh and five to leave with the mercenaries and workers to help in a pinch and raise an alarum when danger was near.  With the plan to sell rum to the pirates out the window, we made inquiries in town and found that there was no domestic producer of rum in the region; this gave us leverage to seek investment capital from a local tavern keeper.  We secured an investment of 250 gold which we used to hire more workers and levy additional troops: 6 archers, 6 heavy footmen and a Sergeant, Heinrich the Vast.

Before leaving we made inquiries about the new dungeon that had sprung up in the middle of the bay a week or so before.  Though we had pressing issues, we thought to at least make inquiries about it.  Elyse suggested finding a cleric who could perform an auger for us.  The best we could find was Balia Valra, a priestess of the Serpent, who looked at the entrails and told us it wouldn’t sink and drown us all for at least three days.  While Pashi flirted with Balia, Elyse cased the small temple.

Keeping the farm from being destroyed by bandits and wild animals sounded more important than drowning in the bay, so we marched off toward the guard tower.  From the tower, we set out for the farm, offering to show the seven guardsmen the way on their new patrol route.  Our small army of 3 party members, a henchmen, 6 dogs, 20 soldiers, 4 workers, two mules and a pony arrived to find the pirates were attempting to recon in force; Leah Hawkeye had holed up with her troops and the workers in the old house and the pirates had not expected to meet so much resistance.  The pirates were massacred; save for the two we captured, those who tried to flee were torn apart by dogs or ridden down.

Elyse interrogated the survivors; while we got mixed intel on the pirates, we learned that they had a poorly guarded ship that they sometimes used to harass merchants and get supplies with.

We determined that the we had to deal with the pirates before any further work could be done safely on restoring the plantation.  We spent the night with heavy watches, as we had over 30 souls gathered about the temporary housing.  The watch that Helene was on heard the horrid cries of the fearsome white apes of the north.  A couple of the monstrous beasts appeared at the edge of the clearing, but quickly ran when they were showered with a volley of arrows.

In light of the diverse range of apex predators roaming tthe woods, we decided that the best bet was to send the workers back to the guard tower until we returned.  The seven guard patrolmen escorted the workers and the two prisoners back to the tower while the 22 mercenaries and hunting dogs accompanied us off toward the cove where the Pirates kept their ship.

At night, we stole their long-boat, and while the mercenaries provided a noisy distraction on the bluffs above, we rowed up to the pirate ship.  The pirates got a few arrows off at us, and killed one of the archers who had joined us on the boat, but we quickly overwhelmed the few defenders.  We took the prize ship and its cargo back to town to sell off.  The plan now will be to hire more guards and more workers; hopefully when Valora has the time, she’ll be able to nuke to pirate fort so we don’t have to set in for a long siege.  On the plus side, the pirates now will have no access to food or supplies in their fort; we can wage a war of attrition if need be, but we’re now a major force in the region.

Attached is a map of our plantation; most of the structures present besides the Old House, a shed, and one long-house are just part of the foreman’s plans for future construction.  As you can see, given enough time, we’ll have quite the stronghold and, once the rum starts flowing, revenue stream.

Helene hit level 2 and, with a sizable loan from Helene, Elyse reached level 4 by having commissioned an impressive silver wasp statue dedicated to Vespia; she hasn’t been attacked by wasps since she became a worshiper, so as far as she knows, something’s working.

 

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