The party relaxed in the Mad Mage’s shack above the dungeon for a day, discussing what to do next. Sadly, for me, it seemed they really had no clue, and they were struggling with the sheer openness now. Every little suggestion was met with “Eh, well, who knows if there’s anything there.” I broke the immersion and told them that uncertainty is a huge part of the game, now. If they heard rumors of werewolves in the forest, they may actually be false, yes. But at the same time, it’s not like I can EVER say to them “Oh, don’t go that way, nothing’s prepared.” Part of my reasons for doing a sandbox campaign is to challenge me to think on my feet!
So while they relaxed and polished their treasure, the NPCs they had interacted with continued living their lives. The ranger from the Fangwatch came to check on them, but dare not enter the shack. Not seeing any signs of life (the party were sleeping in the basement), he decided to make camp within sight of the shack. Then a druid showed up, a friend of the ranger, so that if the PCs survived and emerged, he could make sure they aren’t planning on harming his precious forest. And then the local Lumber Consortium underboss and his muscle, a half orc, showed up. They had heard of adventurers making waves back in town, and then rushing off to this shack, and were concerned that the players were going to try to lay claim to the house. Also, an elderly town watchman showed up with a new player (an Aasimar paladin), curious about the goings-on.
All the NPCs agreed that the paladin should go check on the PCs in the shack, and he did so, and was surprised to see them alive and well. However, the party was concerned about the gathering of NPCs, and made a beeline to see what was going on. The druid gets the hint that the forest is on nobody’s mind but his, and leaves. The ranger and the elderly town watchman express their surprise at the PCs being alive. (By now, the players have taken on an air of arrogance; how cute! They think nothing can kill them.)
The underboss asserts that the cabin is the property of the Lumber Consortium, and says that if they wish to live there, they can rent it. The players ratchet up their arrogance, and boldly claim that the house is their sole property. One player gets an idea, and mentions the hordes and hordes of treasure they found in the dungeon under the cabin, hoping the NPCs will leave them alone to go looking for the treasure, and die in the dungeon. But that’s not how things are done here in Falcon’s Hollow! The underboss demands they hand over their treasure immediately, as it is property of the Lumber Consortium as well. They players continue to defy the underboss and the half orc. The ranger walks away, fearing a fight. (This was supposed to be a warning. The half orc was quite beefy, and I was afraid he would wipe the floor with the players if things got out of hand.)
But what player would relinquish their treasure? They switched gears to try and negotiate, but it was too late. They took a vague threat from the half orc quite personally and a lot of violence ensued. I’ll admit I underestimated the power of the party, and though the half-orc was able to do some damage, they eventually bested him, and he ran off with the man. (The players don’t know it yet, but they just made an enemy of the entire Lumber Consortium, because from its point of view, they’ve just marched in and stole a house and “hordes and hordes” of treasure on top of it all. Back in town, the underboss and the half orc report the incident to their superior, who immediately dispatches messages to other towns in the region. The Consortium head in each town hires an assassin and puts them on alert.)
The players are still unsure of what to do next. The topic of conversation shifts naturally to the Pathfinder Society, and the town watchman just so happens to be a Pathfinder himself. He speaks highly of the Pathfinder Society, and offers to put in a good word with the Grand Lodge should the players wish to apply. After a discussion, they decide they’d love to give it a try. They plan a route through Andoran, planning on hopping a boat to Absalom. But first, a two-day trek through grasslands to the next town.
At night, they are beset by werewolves. This is my final test of their abilities; I feel I can appropriately set up challenging encounters after this one. Interestingly enough, they notice but completely forget a hunter out in the area that had been attacked by the werewolves. The players just leave him there, bleeding, and missing a leg. He’ll survive, and he’ll be quite pissed. I can’t wait for them to encounter a particularly angry, one-legged hunter in the wilderness when they next leave town!
They get to the next town, and completely miss the fact that the Lumber Consortium headquarters here. (Of all the things to ignore…) They also shrug off a brief glimpse of a man shadowing them in the market. They’re far more interested in selling their loot and shopping.