Whoo. Good to be back.
I was kind of reluctant about this session, I'm still kind of putting in long hours at work and feeling the effects of that, and I'm still dealing with attendance issues for this whole sandbox experiment, so I was seriously considering bagging it, but I forged ahead, and was really glad I did because this was a real rip snortin' session.
One humorous note I should add is that two of my players had come directly from some sort of historical reenactment event, and were dressed in Colonial garb for ye olde gaming session, which was a hoot.
I think the fact that everybody was mounted did a lot for this session. As in real life, horses are a real force multiplier, and so their battles with the worgs went a lot better. It also really helped with travelling across the map, as they went twice as fast, reducing a lot of the chance of random encounters. (Not completely though, as the hobgoblin ambush will attest.)
I think I was a little testy at times in this session, and for that I apologise to any of my players. I say this as a lead off to a couple of things I found slightly frustrating, which was mainly a tendency for the players to look at me to direct them, especially when the Road Wardens from the Fort came into play.
I know that as generally law abiding, modern day citizens, folks have a tendency to want to defer to authority. It kind of left me in a weird position. I wanted to give them the guard detachment to help bolster their numbers and give them some confidence, but I didn't want to call the shots. I had to explain to them that they were running the show, and that I would not throw in any opinions about what they would do unless absolutely necessary.
Also, at the start of the session I kind of sensed there was this expectation that if they just reported the location of the goblin base, the Fort would take action against the monsters. That's not how it works. Dungeons are for players. You can't just tip off the cops and let them sort it out. In the game world, the Fort is at it's utmost patrolling the road and guarding the small swath of farmland around it's borders. They don't have the guys to spare to put down monsters in the wilderness. That's the adventurers' job.
I think this is somewhat an artifact of the difference between Sandbox format and normal, narrative format. So to reiterate to my players: I am not going to tell you what to do. I will only dangle hooks and it is up to you to decide whether to follow them. You guys are well appraised of most of my initial rumor table, and have a wealth of things that you can go and do. Go do them!
I'm also noticing a tendency for my players to over think things, and to be very cautious about where they go and what they do. I know you want to be prudent and considered in your approach, especially at low levels, but there is a time where when you know where the goblins live, you go and kick their scrawny little asses.
One notion that I'd like to disabuse the players of is that south of the highway is "above their pay grade". I think you are assuming too much there without trying it and seeing.
In my mind, the proper response for adventurers when hearing "Beware of the terrible peat bogs to the South." should be "Huh... I wonder what the big deal is." not "Whoa, thanks for the warning, I sure won't go there."
I dunno, I'm probably getting too cranky here, and I don't mean to give offense to my players. Just take this with a grain of salt and good humor. And cowboy up and go kill some freakin' monsters already!
Oh yeah, one more thing, if I haven't alienated any of my few regular players by the above rant. I'm gonna be setting the quorum for a game at three. Two players just ain't enough for me to feel motivated about, so be advised that if only two sign ups are present by Saturday afternoon, the session is going to be called off.