I know I’ve been a tad remiss in my posts of late, and did not want to leave you all hanging before the year switches over. This week’s post is a short one: just a few inserts to make travel in your game more interesting.
The horrid winter weather that has assaulted my native Cleveland got me nostalgic for last winter’s video game foray into Skyrim; so I took a brief detour from the games I should be playing right now. My character, battered, low on resources, and still leagues until she reached a settlement, happened upon a patrol of Imperial soldiers escorting a prisoner. They were heading in her direction, and so I decided to tag along for mutual protection. That’s the sort of organic encounter that made that game great, and its an element I think we tend to forget about the D&D world sometimes as we get wrapped up in our Encounter building. The world is full of other people, going about their day-to-day lives, and that can easily run up against your PC’s plans in any number of ways.
The road is a dangerous place and hardly empty of anyone but your PCs – but wether the random passers-by are going to alleviate or elevate the danger is another question entirely!
While traveling on a road between settlements, the PCs bump into fellow travelers who seem interested in accompanying them for mutual benefit. Roll 1d6 and conult the chart below:
1 – Two slimy looking merchants begin to tag along. They constantly and rudely pester the PCs to consider purchasing some of their wares, which are overpriced and shoddily crafted. When meal time comes, however, both prove to be magnificent cooks.
Time spent on the road with the merchants grants each PC who ate their meals a +1 bonus to their FORT defense until the end of their next combat encounter.
2 – A handful of dragonborn mercenaries offer to follow along with the party, sharing stories of battles fought and monsters slain. They appear to be very concerned with honor and decorum, and behave quite chivalrously, especially to any women present. After a couple nights of travels the PCs awake to find one of them is missing. Not far away, the mercenaries have the vanished PC, bound and held hostage, a blade to his or her neck. The mercenaries then attempt to ransom the captive back to his/her friends (insistently bartering for any mounts the PCs possess).
This tense standoff might end in a combat encounter, but bear in mind that the hostage PC will need to escape the bonds confining him/her before they can jump into the fray. The mercenaries are more interested in negotiating. Even then, clever or willful PCs might manage to trick or intimidate the dragonborn into yielding.
3 – Four young, brash men accompany a lovely young half-elf named Dara, explaining that they are escorting her as she flees from the cruelty of her foster parents to make a life for herself in the next town. Dara has secretly promised marriage to each of the cocky youths, insisting that the other men are “just friends” eager to help her make her journey. In all truth, Dara has no interest in marrying any of them, and merely enjoys the attention. None of them is particularly skilled at travel on the road, and it is clear they need the PCs aid and expertise more often than not.
When it is dramatically appropriate; a fight breaks out among the suitors, who have realized the ruse. Blades are drawn and the argument quickly escalates to near-violence. Though conscious of her manipulation, Dara ad no intention for the bluff to come to bloodshed, and desperately begs the PCs to intervene. If not, the young men, eager to prove their mettle to both the girl and the adventures, will fight until only one survives, badly wounded and in need of medical aid if he is to survive the fracas.
4 – Six individuals (each of a different race, and possibly culture) are taking to the road on a pilgrimage to a famous shrine (or so they claim). But from early on the PCs detect unease in their new companions – details are inconsistent, the six seem to know little about one another, and even less about this shrine. None are dressed as pilgrims, nor do they have the typical holy symbols and accoutrements one would expect. They make no violent or dangerous overtones, but exude an air of constant vigilance.
In truth, they are all refugees, escaped from a nefarious slave trader. They each made a go of settling down in the last town they came to, but their master posted a substantial reward on each of their heads. Having no friends or family, they banded together (their fear outweighing the poor sense of keeping themselves in one place, sweetening the deal for anyone who would re-capture them). The PCs might find out about this from the escaped slaves if pressed, or perhaps another roadside traveler imparts the information casually, not realizing that half the traveling companions ARE, in fact, the valuable escapees themselves.
5 – The PCs start to pass an old man and his donkey. The old-timer will beseech the PCs to permit him to follow along. But as they journey forward, it seems that the party is harried by unusually frequent attacks from monsters. The old man hold back, cowering during a fight. But in a moment of desperation, he unleashes a magical attack, coming to the aid of a beleaguered PC.
This man is a “Wild Mage,” an arcane caster who frequently loses control of his spells with often catastrophic (always random) results. While many of his kind learn to hone their chaotic skills, this poor old novice never quite got the hang of it. Unwittingly, he cast a curse upon himself that makes him smell and taste incredible to monsters – a fact that has made travel quite dangerous. If the PCs continue to allow him to tag along, they will be faced with frequent attacks unless they can remove the curse.
6 – An amiable Halfling jeweler is traveling in a wagon full of his wares, along with his family and a few rough looking guards. They offer to ride along with the PCs, and might even do some buying/trading if the need suits. While with the party, the jeweler tries on a new acquisition of his – a strange amulet that is covered in the iconography of a dead Goddess. The amulet appears to have no negative effects on his person.
Shortly after, the group stumbles into a bandit ambush. During the fight, the jeweler brings the amulet to bear on a fallen bandit or caravan guard, reanimating their corpse and using the resulting monster as a loyal underling. The jeweler, fascinated by the power, decides to keep the amulet, seeing nothing wrong with such a gift. It is hard to say if the artifact genuinely has any corrupting influence, or if it is simply a tool of great necromantic power. What the PCs decide to do, is up to them.
**In game terms, the item is a +2 Amulet of Wee-Jas. It can be used as an implement by clerics. As a Daily Power (Standard Action) it can reanimate one dead medium humanoid into an undead creature of the corpse’s level (This creature is either a standard or minion monster. The kind of monster is up to DM discretion. Undead made in this way are under absolute control of the current wielder of the amulet. These undead remain functioning until destroyed.)**