West Marches: A Survivor’s Story

Lo and behold, after twenty years one of the original West Marches players popped back up and shared some memories in the comments, and frankly they are too good not to give a post of their own.

Tommy, aka Lucky, aka Briarweed, sez:

I stumbled onto some discussions of “West Marches” DM style, and followed the rabbit hole down to these blog posts. Now I know why it sounded so familiar: I played in some of those early games! I only made it to like 4 sessions before moving back to the east coast in April of ’02, but I still have many vivid memories of those games.

A handful of those memories:

– The cool concept of that big wooden table where other adventurers had begun carving out the map. A few big Xs where previous heroes had fallen (and maybe left some of their treasure and items behind to collect.)

– A legitimately terrifying encounter with shadows, and a big black door that we couldn’t get past no matter what we tried.

– First character, a rogue who (unsuccessfully) tried to convince the L2 party that he was a bard, mostly pulling his weight through a dungeon, and then dying to a random crit from a wolf on the way back to town. RIP Lucky before he could even level up once.

– Reading the email tributes to Lucky after his failed attempt to make his mark on the Marches. Don’t worry about the broken lute, warrior bro; he had a spare “travel lute.”

– My next character, a druid named Briarweed: harrowing explorations through an undead-infested temple, turning the tide of a perilous battle with a timely cast of shillelagh.

– A near-TPK water trap. The rogue kept failing checks, and several players drowning before we barely managed to escape. I still recall our desperate attempts to make it through a rest in the forest while soaking wet in sub-zero temperatures, nursing the drowned warrior back to health, rationing goodberries, fighting off random encounters, and using every skill, ability, or spell I could find on my sheet to help keep the party alive in those cold wastes so we could make it back to town.

Good times. Despite my short time in the West Marches, and the dozens of campaigns I’ve played or DM’ed in before or since, I remember those sessions as some of my favorite gaming experiences.

“We buried the finest Bard in all the land and took his rations for ourselves, trudging back to keep town, weary, worn and poorer then when we left.” -from the email chat

Yes, Lucky unluckily joined the game right around the time the players concluded that just sitting around the Axe & Thistle for the winter would drain their savings, and decided to do a little “light exploring” in the snow, facing off wolf packs and making an already dangerous water trap infinitely more hazardous. On the bright side, Briarweed made it to level 2! Good times indeed.

    Ben Robbins | September 1st, 2021 | | show 4 comments