Due partially to icy roads only three players showed last night, which created a much different dynamic than the 7ish person parties we've been used to. With less people in the decision making process, shit got done! Also, since they were painfully aware of being under-staffed, potentially hostile encounters were avoided at all costs, leading to much less random bloodshed and speedier travel.
Blax Jax the fighter has been taking every opportunity to prove himself in the fighting pits of Zig (muscle priest fight club, have an obsession with bears), initially as a means of becoming more skilled with cesti. We moved to Dungeon Crawl Classics where two-weapon fighting is pretty crappy for fighters with normal dex, so this was a way for him to become competent at what he wanted his fighter doing. It soon enough transformed into a spectacle where the other PCs bet on the fight outcome, almost exclusively favoring his opponent since he had a streak of bad luck the first few times.
Blax Jax's player had just heard of henchmen and was like "man I want a side-kick!" last session so I decided he'd won enough renown in the fighting pits to impress one of the other fighters, named Jadi Amar. It was a bit awkward introducing the henchman since Jadi actually got really lucky rolling for stats and then rolling in the fighting pits, so he beat the hell out of Blax Jax and promptly, incongruously inquired after employment with his defeated opponent. Ah well, the important part is Blax Jax has a sidekick now and his player seems to have become attached to his new buddy.
|Jadi Amar the henchman (source)|
(In the off chance my players are reading, secrets follow so stop here please!)
They entered the Andin Woods to the North, still creeped out by the fauna in the woods constantly watching them but less worried about sudden murder from that front. I had forgotten to give the name of the woods when they heard rumors, so they eventually dubbed it the Watcher's Wood instead, which is a much better name than mine to be honest. Players naming locales makes me happy, it really drives home the feeling of discovery for me! The first night camping in the woods they rolled a locale-related encounter, and since the closest locale is a sealed prison-casket of an awful demon, several were plagued with nightmares about the creature.
The next morning they encountered a hunting party from the pirate stronghold just to the North, who due to a good reaction roll were not immediately hostile despite outnumbering the party 2-1. Pashi, the party cleric of Owsceish (god of the seas amongst other things), was able to talk the 'sailors' into leaving peaceably with her god's blessing on their next voyage. The party immediately booked it when out of sight, leaving a false trail and keeping double watch. Doubly inexplicably they then returned, following the trail to the stronghold they knew had, at a minimum, twice as many inhabitants as them and sketchy armed ones at that. Fortunately they remained unseen, getting a decent scout on the fort's layout and noting a moored ship nearby. Curious as to whether Jadi Amar the henchman had heard of the pirates I rolled an intelligence check for him, critically failing. Instead, he told the PCs a totally unrelated story about folks who eat human meat and wear their skins said to have been active in the area long ago. This tipped the danger-scale for the PCs in a way a small army of sketchy armed 'sailors' had not, and they decided to back off for the time being.
Forging their way through the wilderness towards the East, chasing a rumor of a crater of pointed crystals able to heal those who spill their blood willingly upon them, the party ran across a tumble-down sugar cane plantation with spring-fed brick-bordered cistern near at hand. Investigating the brick house and lily pad covered cistern, a sweet sorrowful singing was heard from the waters. They asked Jadi Amar if he knew anything of the place and he once again failed his intelligence check abysmally. So he tells more stories of awful cannibals. Creeped out still, the cleric cautiously approached the cistern, the rest of the party under orders to shoot her with an arrow coated in paralyzing toxins in case something went awry (!!). Luckily the nymph who made her home amongst the decaying ruins reacted positively, excited to have company after so long and eager to convince them to share any rum they might have carried with. Long story short, Namia the ruin nymph was bribed with large quantities of hard liquor, freely giving information about the surrounds in exchange. Since she was eager for conversation, she reacted positively to exploratory requests by the party about patching up the manor house and establishing a working sugar cane plantation again.
A few more bits were crammed into the end of the session (such as massive waves and subsequent tales of a new island appearing just off the coast), and all in all it was a jam-packed session that went in a surprising direction. I'm really digging how the hexcrawl is working out now! I spent a bunch of effort setting up the original sandbox (of which they've seen but a tiny portion), but now the PCs drive everything and all I have to do is elaborate a bit on how the world is reacting to them. I've gotten much more comfortable with the hexcrawl rules we're using so for the most part it runs pleasingly smoothly. I'm excited to see what next session brings!