Gobbiton Update

In AD&D wolves are a pretty scary thing to encounter.  They are 2+ HD creatures and run in packs.  They are not for 1st level encounters, which should have served as an indication that running around the Wolflands is not for new characters, nor for n00b players.

And when I say n00b players, that means new to AD&D strictly by the book and with all rolls out in the open.  The PC campaign has been a bloodbath with the total character kill count approaching two dozen, not including pets and hirelings.

So let’s turn our attention to the organically grown domain game that has taken shape in the region.  The two major factions in conflict are the goblins of Gobbiton and the dwarves of Romek Zoden.  (The hobbits and orcs are just vibing in their respective lairs.) To make these two factions play as independently as possible, I’ve turned the general operations management over to the ravening hordes.  Fans of the Joy of Wargaming on YouTube act as the goblin mob, and any rando on the Artist Formerly Known as Twitter act as a dwarven (stone) cabinet to the chief.  In each case, when a critical juncture arrives, I come up with four possibilities and throw up a poll for them to vote in, and the winning choice becomes cannon.

The results are often – but not always – unpredictable.  In some cases there’s one clear path and that option wins the poll running away.  In other cases the polls wind up in a near dead-heat, which means that no obvious choice exists.  It’s a great way to showcase how easy it is to turn patron management over to others, and allowing yourself as the DM to be as surprised by the actions of your NPCs as the players.

In the case of the Wolflands, we have even seen terrible decisions made due to a delay in the promulgation of news.  The dorf council, dismayed at their losing streak, opted to send a messenger to the human town in the hopes of tricking some foolish…I mean hiring some brave adventurers to help clear out gobbiton.  At the same time, the primary adventuring party – the Steiner Brothers – were getting ambushed by a dwarven patrol that hadn’t got word to lay off the doorscrapers.  A sole survivor of the wiped out dwarven team managed to get back to Romek Zoden in time to warn the chief, who sent out a large band of reinforcements to intercept the messengers and provide additional muscle in the event of trouble.

And the event of trouble was definitely on tap because the goblin players had opted to increase patrols and send out a large raiding party to score more loot.  This effectively doubled the chances that either of the original message or the callback message would be intercepted.  As it happened, the large raiding party rode north into the wilds instead of west toward the human town, and even when taking some risky short-cuts the dwarves managed to avoid any goblin entanglements.  But the possibility remained, and was it was made possible by the use of double-blind strategies resulting from the two polls.

It’s a wonderfully compelling way to manage a campaign, and when combined with 1:1 time creates an adventure for DM and player alike, as everyone gets a chance to experience the dramatic moments that occur at the intersection of multiple “but that means”.

You should try it sometime.

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