Saturday night I had two brand new players. One had played D&D long ago and some Vampire, the other no rpg experience as far as I know. They both rolled up fighters. Which means the party looked like this:
G - F
La Bouche - hireling
Janis - hireling
Z - F
Pita - hireling
Mika - hireling
Fabrino - hireling
Derick - F
Jimbo - hireling
Zigfreid - trained baboon
Spike - F
Darkyo - F
Gilda - F
Didi - F
That's 7 fighters my friends, and 12 if you count the combatant hirelings. Also, all but two have plate and shield. This is more a little army than adventure party. How did this happen? I think mostly because brand new players tend to pick fighters as an easier option to try out -- they have enough to pay attention to without figuring out spells. And my new players have trickled in over time. My most experienced players were generally the ones that picked mages or clerics and they've had to move and leave the game group.
I think this is actually pretty survivable at low levels of my old school D&D (my interpretation of it anyway). Low level magic users are good for that sleep spell to knock out a lot little critters, or you could just have a lot of fighters and kill them. My players also have some interesting magic items that give them choices- one can turn into a wolf, etc. As for clerics, well, I probably need them to meet some more undead. As for the plate mail, yeah, maybe a rust monster.
Anyway, G and Darkyo reached the top of the island fresh from burning down a village of legless creatures. They met two tough but dashing looking women, Didi and Gilda, and their old compatriot Derick. (people that like plotted games would probably have an aneurysm at the dream logic of my players popping in and out of play, but I see no other way to handle it with a shifting player base).
At the top of the island is a villa with quite a few buildings, some large. G and his hirelings proceeded to investigate an unfinished but large barn, Derrick and the new women headed off to investigate a peacock cry, and Darkyo circumnavigated an out building looking for a door. She found one, entered, and was engaged in combat by a spitting cobra amidst the wreckage of a kitchen. She was blinded and her trained ferret Otto was killed before she retreated.
The other crew found a huge set of double doors with a big crude pad lock on it. Didi tried picking it open and did ( what the hell, I gave her 5d6 and had her roll under her dex of 12, is that ~10% chance? I did say it was big and crude). Opening the doors revealed a huge room with mother and baby Pit-Elephants, yes that's elephants crossed with pit bulls. They seemed unperturbed, until a giant pit bull appeared amongst them and they started to fight.
This was created knowingly by Z and Spike inside the villa at a animal hybridizing machine they had figured out. The ruckus eventually led the party to all get together outside. G wanted to hunt so they could cook something (and heal an extra hp during the night-- thanks Talysman) He saw and bagged a zurkey with his bow, its white and dark meat in stripes, was delicious after roasting. The party all ate, and slept in the barn.
The next day the traveled to the opposite end of the main building to an identical but finished barn. Inside the saw a pile of bodies. They quickly formed an imposing shield wall. A Stitcher appeared out of the straw and managed to stitch the trained baboon's arm to his chest before being slain by a battle axe blow from Didi. They found a treasure cache and that was it for the night.
All this time I've been using reaction rolls for when I don't have a strong preconception of what creatures/npcs will do. It's nice to off-load that responsibility and inject unpredictability into the world and the emergent narrative. Except the more I play, the less unpredictably the damn reaction rolls appear to be. More often than not monsters are confused/uncertain, which means players get the drop on whacking them to death. I think I'm going to have to move that result to the lower end of the bell curve and replace it with violent reaction to reflect the dangerous world I imagine my campaign to be.
My players were telling me Didi's player was really skeptical about D&D and didn't want to come, but after the night was having fun and wants to come back next week. It probably helped that she picked the big lock successfully and got the killing blow on the Stitcher, neither of which I planned. Gilda said she had a great time to that this was a "new side of me" she'd never seen (yeah, I'm her boss). I gave both the new players magic items to try and give them a buy in, an amethyst ring to Didi, a bone stylus to Gilda. I also told them they'd heard of pirates around this island . . .
The party seems at a loss of what to do next, there was talk of building a boat. I asked "Do any of you know how to build a boat?" They seemed puzzled about where to go on the island which is odd because the two who went inside the villa's main building know there are places unexplored. They may have forgotten since it's been weeks since that session.