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West Marches: Layers of History

“Run the simulation in your head: who moved here, what did they build, what happened to them, and then what came next?” Logic is the cornerstone of a sandbox. If things make sense — if there’s an internal consistency to what’s there and where things are — then players can make good decisions. Paying attention […]

Ben Robbins | June 29th, 2018 | grand experiments, west marches | 7 comments

“You know why I got the funny voices? Years of GMing”

Back with the fine folks at HyperRPG, talking about Microscope. And a bit about Follow. And West Marches. And Braunstein. And Pokemon Go. We cover some territory, we do. The bad news is, I have no idea why there is jazz playing the whole time. We couldn’t hear it in the studio. Yeah, it’s kind […]

Ben Robbins | July 25th, 2016 | interviews, microscope, west marches

West Marches: Secrets & Answers (part 1)

Writing about world-building in the expansion to Microscope got me thinking about West Marches again (more on that in part 2), so I’m taking a break from my kickstarter to answer some questions that have piled up. Some of these ideas I’ve mentioned before but never elaborated on. Other bits are things I’ve never talked […]

Ben Robbins | July 27th, 2015 | grand experiments, west marches | 31 comments

Dear West Marches

I came to Wizard’s Creek, but there was no wizard I went to Pike Hollow, but I didn’t see any pikes I looked in the Golden Hills, but I didn’t find any gold So why the hell did you expect me to know there was a centaur in Centaur Grove? –pre-emptive euology of Revor, barbarian […]

Ben Robbins | July 23rd, 2015 | grand experiments, west marches | 1 comment

Fleeing From Goblins, West Marches-style

In Ben’s original West Marches campaign, he arranged the adventure-filled regions of his wilderness in order of challenge, more or less. The further you were from town, the more likely you were to be in an extremely dangerous place… Ben tells an anecdote about his players fleeing from goblins for days, ultimately having to run […]

Ben Robbins | October 20th, 2014 | kudos, west marches

West Marches at Emerald City Comic Con

Emerald City Comic Con has added a gaming track. I wanted to do this for PAX last year but it didn’t come together. Now the stars have aligned. Sandbox RPGs: Running A “West Marches” Style Campaign Sandbox RPGs put the players in the driver’s seat. Go where you want. Do what you want. Learn dark […]

Ben Robbins | March 19th, 2012 | events, west marches | 9 comments

Mighty Morphin’ Microscope

Oh sure, you could use Microscope to make an epic history, defying chronological order and jumping back and forth to explore the moments in the history that interest you. Or you could hold up your glossy black book and yell “too easy!” and use it to do something else entirely… City Building with Microscope — […]

Ben Robbins | December 14th, 2011 | microscope, west marches | 3 comments

West Marches: Running Your Own

Alarming fact: brave GMs all over the place are taking up the torch and starting their own West Marches games. Scary isn’t it? I’ve already had some private email conversations about how one would actually build and run a West Marches of their very own. Maybe you’ve got the bug too. Early symptoms include a […]

Ben Robbins | May 12th, 2008 | grand experiments, west marches | 299 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 4), Death & Danger

As I’ve said before (and any of the players will tell you) West Marches was dangerous by design. Danger encourages teamwork because you have to work together to survive. It also forces players to think: if they make bad decisions they get wiped out, or at least “chased into the swamp like little sissy girls” […]

Ben Robbins | December 9th, 2007 | grand experiments, west marches | 20 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 3), Recycling

Did you read part 1 and part 2 already? No? Go do that. Running frequent on-demand games is a lot of work, but because the campaign was set in a fixed region there were ways I could maximize the reusability of some material I prepared. Recycled Maps: Evolving Dungeons Maps were a good example — […]

Ben Robbins | October 26th, 2007 | grand experiments, west marches | 10 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches (part 2), Sharing Info

Players sharing information was a critical part of the West Marches design. Because there was a large pool of players, the average person was in about a third of the games — or to look it the other way, each player missed two-thirds of the games. Add in that each player was in a random […]

Ben Robbins | October 22nd, 2007 | grand experiments, west marches | 14 comments

Grand Experiments: West Marches

West Marches was a game I ran for a little over two years. It was designed to be pretty much the diametric opposite of the normal weekly game: 1) There was no regular time: every session was scheduled by the players on the fly. 2) There was no regular party: each game had different players […]

Ben Robbins | October 17th, 2007 | grand experiments, west marches | 151 comments