I recently started a West Marches style game because of our group's increasingly deteriorating attendance. We still wanted to play when we get a chance to get together but not everyone will be able to attend, neither will a group necessarily be composed of the same people each session (save for maybe 1 or 2 regulars).

The way the campaign is setup, the PCs are part of an Adventurer's Guild where they can get quests on a billboard or through rumors or etc. And the nature of the quests change depending on the result of previous skirmishes.

The other week, one group (let's call them group A) obtained valuable information on a necromancer and his location. One of their members went insane getting that information and group A is super excited to kill the necromancer. I ended the session there and decided to pick it back up next week.

Now, as it turns out, most of group A's players cannot make it this week and this week's group will be composed of 4 different players, except one (let's call these guys group B).

It makes sense that group B can also be offered the quest to kill the necromancer, and they likely will take that quest. But, I foresee here a problem. If group B cashes in on group A's sacrifice, this might make group A dissatisfied or even sow resentment toward group B.

The reason I can't just not give group B the option to do the quest, aside from it not making sense in-game, is that I have no idea if group A can even get back together with the exact people who originally got the information. So, things can't move forward with the necromancer.

How can I satisfy both groups, is it even possible?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Honest question: is "the necromancer is secretly TWINS!" off the table? \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 0:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexP Yeah, I've thought of that and decided that they are, in-fact, triplets (ok seriously, they are 3 colleagues). But I will also be bringing this kind of situation to other "bosses" where that excuse won't slide. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question has inspired me to try and set up a West Marches campaign, so thanks for that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


One of the central premises of a West Marches campaign is that one character may start events in motion that their player will not get to see resolved. If the players aren't okay with that, either they've chosen the wrong campaign to play in or they weren't properly briefed on how things were going to be.

As players attend and miss sessions, the group continues on whatever narrative path they've chosen. Perhaps Group B won't feel the pressing need to go after the necromancer and is instead more interested in curing the insanity one of their members suffered and then tracking down a goblin warlord establishing a foothold in the hills to the north. Or maybe they want vengeance for the aforementioned insanity and brutally destroy the necromancer before Group A reassembles. More realistically, it'll be somewhere in between.

There's going to be some bruised feelings and jealousy, but that's what drives the players over the long haul. From Ben Robbins' blog:

An intentional side effect of both game summaries and the shared map was that they whetted people’s appetite to play. When people heard about other players finding the Abbots’ study in a hidden room of the ruined monastery, or saw on the map that someone else had explored beyond Centaur Grove, it made them want to get out there and play too. Soon they were scheduling their own game sessions. Like other aspects of West Marches it was a careful allowance of competitiveness and even jealously to encourage more gaming.

So, the direct answer to "how do I satisfy both groups" is to just keep the game running. They'll take care of that themselves.


The way I would tackle this issue is two-fold:

1) Prepare the Necromancer quest in time for Group B's session, but also prepare one or tow other "conveniently available" quests on the billboard or whatever. If Group B ultimately decides to do the Necromancer quest, so be it. If they decide to take one of the other available quests, then great! Crisis averted.

2) Assuming Group B takes the Necromancer quest, run it as planned and let things happen as they will. If the Necromancer can find an avenue to escape at the end of a climactic battle, take it. Fudge a couple dice if you have to. If he can't, allow Group B to savour their victory and then prepare a "revenge quest" where he comes back from the dead to strike Group A when a suitable number of their people are present in some future session. (After all, he's a Necromancer. What kind of Necromancer can't swing at least one "come back form the dead" plotline?!)

"Oh, hey now, that's against the West Marches spirit! You can't play favourites like that!"

A) Yes, yes I can. I'm the DM gosh darnit.

B) I'm not advocating doing this sort of thing all the time. In this particular case, Group A really earned a shot at the Necromancer, and they sounded excited about it. This is the sort of thing DM Fiat was made for.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ -1: utterly breaks sandbox play and the role of the GM as a neutral referee, and therefore makes all successes and failures of the players moot. (The 'back from the dead' event is justified, if the character has predetermined access to such powers or allies.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Close, in the West Marches sense, consider having the Necromancer come back regardless. It is, as you say, a Necromancer. And doesn't need to time it to "strike back" at party A; instead, the Necromancer dies, and returns somewhere else and grows in power (this time, seeking to hide his nest better). Envoys from the resurgent necromancer start to reach out to other creatures in the area, and a coordinated response to the raids starts to form... \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 20:11

It makes sense that group B can also be offered the quest to kill the necromancer, and they likely will take that quest.

Are you absolutely sure of that? You mentioned that group A has basically already accepted the quest and has made some headway on it. Unless it's been a few weeks, there'd be no reason for group B to basically try to steal the kill. If there's someone running the Adventurer's Guild, then this sort of unhealthy competition is the very thing he's there to prevent.

If you're pretty sure group A won't get back together again, then you could easily send B on the quest, because then they're also trying to redeem the Guild's reputation.


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