Having tried the three worlds, we’re now in limbo. One of the players at yesterday's session hasn’t yet tried the Ancient Greek world, so we’re going to give that another shot this coming weekend, and possibly reach some sort of consensus after that. I hope that the players who missed most or all of the trial worlds can form some sort of opinion based on what they read here.
Yesterday’s session did not meet its potential. I’m not sure the players are aware of how much freedom they have. I created enough of the domain that they were able to go anywhere in it, and I showered them with adventure hooks over the course of several hours, but they pursued almost none of them. Of the few they did pursue, they gave up almost immediately when nothing blatantly screamed ‘Adventure here!’ Their style of play was conservative. There's certainly nothing wrong with that if that’s the kind of game they want, but I get the feeling they weren't entirely satisfied. I get that feeling when I’m told things like, ‘I noticed you don’t like magic items’. This particular comment came after the party came very close to magic items on various occasions but just didn’t go far enough to obtain them.
Rewards abound, but effort is needed. In the case of magic items as with so many other things, it’s just not going to be obvious. The greater the reward, the more difficult it is going to be to obtain. Such is nature. I’m certainly not going to say anything like, ‘You find a healing potion.’ You might find, if anything, a bottle with a mysterious liquid in it. If it has a label, the writing on it might mean something only to the person who wrote it. For all you know it might be poisonous or even explosive. You might taste it and see, or have an NPC you don’t particularly like taste it. Or you might take it to an alchemist for analysis if you want to go to the trouble of finding one. Even talking to said alchemist could lead to an adventure hook if you ask the right questions. Talking to any number of people could likewise. Following any detail could lead to an adventure. But keeping your head down, ignoring people and clues in the landscape, will guarantee that opportunities pass you by.
The initial quests are free. Those are just to get you started. Beyond that, you’re on your own. Depending on the outcome, the benefactor of your first quest might send you on another, or he might not. The benefactor in yesterday’s session, Sir Robert Corbet, suggested the party follow a certain underground passage, but they got hacked up in the process. Fine, one might say, they made off with some coin and just a few battle wounds, so all is good. They simply had no strategy. From Sir Robert’s perspective as a seasoned veteran of the battlefield, though, they had ample time to prepare and take precautions but instead spent the day attending Mass, drinking ale, and watching wrestling matches and cock-baiting. They botched the operation, and he’s probably glad to be done with them.
‘Never trade luck for skill’ is a military axiom, but complete lack of skill is never highly recommended. (Follow that link; there is much that applies to a D&D campaign.)
Any number of interesting characters might come your way. Yesterday, for example, the party encountered a bard named Japhet on the road, and he told them where he’d be for the next few days before we was on the road again. At a big event in another town weeks later, one of the players asked, ‘Is Japhet there?’ but the window of opportunity was gone. Even if he were in town, the party wouldn’t find him unless they looked hard, and as he already told them he travels throughout the country and beyond, they’re just not likely to ever meet him again. That’s the way it goes. The same goes for any number of NPCs and hints toward bigger things. I can--and do--shower the party with hooks, but if they don’t pursue them, then onto the shelf they go. I might use them in some form at a later date, and I might not.
When the party does choose a world to keep for the long run, I hope it is based on the environment, culture, danger level, type of magic, creatures and so on, and not simply on the luck of particular situations they just happened to stumble upon.