Between Here and There: Short Encounters for Long Journeys
It’s useful for a GM to have a set of brief, versatile encounters suitable for dropping into a recreation session when there’s a need to vary up the pacing of social gathering challenges, or colour up the world slightly.
To start out, I’d wish to introduce something I call “Road Challenges”—encounters meant to be experienced on those lengthy roads betwixt cities and towns, towns and dungeons, dungeons and haunted monasteries, and so forth. They’re perfect for once you need to add a layer of adventure to the narrative journey between locations, change up the rhythm of the overall recreation, or just give the players one thing to do should everybody discover themselves waiting for different players late to the desk.
Whereas most recreation master guides supply some ideas for outside encounters, they’re typically simply units of random tables. The spontaneity of rolling random encounters may be fun, however it may also be work. Contemplate a few of these steered Street Challenges to enliven travel in your recreation.
(Observe: These are introduced with fantasy settings in mind. Sooner or later, I’ll tackle different recreation settings resembling science fiction and horror.)
“While traveling down a wooded secondary or country street, the get together rounds the bend and sees, about 50 ft forward, a desiccated corpse lying near the aspect of the street. In one hand it holds a hammer. Within the other hand, the dried husk of a body is holding a signpost with the written aspect face down.
“It is not unreasonable to assume that whoever it was, it was about to hammer the sign into the ground alongside the road.”
If the get together stops to research the scene, they may discover that then overturned signal reads, “Warning! Giant spiders nesting near.”
In fact, that’s when the enormous spiders attack.
You’ll be able to substitute the spiders with no matter you assume applicable. It’s a simple type of lure easily foiled by paranoid players who’re continually checking the edges of the street for threats. It’s still an amusing scene, even when the social gathering reads the signal after defeating whatever comes onto the street to attack.
“You’re about two miles away from Blooddagger Fort atop the Stabbing Mountain. In the distance, you’ll be able to see its tall, malevolent spires piercing the sky as eldritch power crackles along its obsidian walls. The street ahead stretches out toward the bottom of the mountain. It appears abandoned. For once, no enemy seems to be blocking your pre-ordained assembly with the citadel’s master, Lord Horrendor the Awful.
“No sooner do you’re taking another step when the street ripples and the sides curl up and lure (lead player in marching order) in a 10×10 dwelling mass of road-camouflaged creature. A gaping maw rimmed with sharp tooth opens as the creature attempts to draw you to its ravenous mouth.
“Roll for initiative.”
Go to Google Photographs and lookup the flatfish or the monkfish. Discover how they mix with the ocean flooring making it straightforward to either sneak up on prey or wait for the prey to return to them.
If your social gathering isn’t paranoid enough, or in the event you simply need to sluggish them down a bit, a homebrew creature along the strains of a land-based flatfish or monkfish could be what you’re wanting for. Prior to now, I’ve retooled the D&D trapper monster and transported it out of the dungeon and onto dust or mud roads.
This can be a notably sinister trick to tug on gamers traveling on foot. If driving, it’s a chance to separate gamers from their mounts. (Notice: this doesn’t mean any harmless horses or rideable owlbears need perish. They will just be frightened off.)
This creature may be scaled easily to suit your street or number of most popular victims.
This state of affairs could seem acquainted when you’ve seen Thor: Ragnarok. It’s a basic ploy for a purpose.
“It’s a sunny, peaceable morning as your get together breaks camp and returns to the street resulting in the deserted temple. You journey a number of miles with ease, confident that you simply’ll arrive in time to witness the traitorous sheriff’s secret assembly with the Conclave of Chaos.
“All of a sudden, a pair of terrified peasants stumble by way of the brush along the aspect of the street. One appears to be bloodied and near dying. The opposite barely has the power to help his pal.
“‘Help! Oh, gods! My friend and I were attacked by goblins. Please…help! He’s dying!’ says the less wounded of the two. They collapse onto the road in front of you.”
And it’s at this point that the bandits, goblins, or what-have-you burst from the other aspect of the street to rob or assault the get together, in fact, the pair who approached the celebration are a part of the ruse and attack as soon because the get together turns their backs on them.
It’s important to not have a physique mendacity in the midst of the street. That just screams set-up—particularly for those who already pulled the earlier trick with the enormous spiders.
Have the pair of decoy peasants emerge all of a sudden, from out of nowhere. While they’ve the attention of the celebration targeted on them, even if for a short time, this lets the actual menace flank the social gathering or strategy from behind.
And hey, if that doesn’t work. Attempt having one of many disguised bandits bodily throw the other one on the get together and see what occurs. That’s apparently an choice now.
This one is a favourite of mine, however I exploit it sparingly. On the floor, it seems random or unfair, however when you’ve got a strong villain or drive working to thwart the social gathering, this may be seen as one other, if sudden, software of their evil bag of tips.
“Travel down the street towards the ruins of Dundridge is straightforward. The seldom-used street seems to be, nonetheless, in good condition. The weather is truthful, the skies are cle—wait…
“In the sky above the road ahead, you see a giant flaming ball rocketing through the sky. After a moment, you realize it’s heading in your direction. As it blazes closer, you see it’s about to crash into the middle of the road about a hundred feet ahead of you. Brace for impact!”
Here you possibly can determine what sort of impact the influence has. Let everyone roll for some sort of evasion and injury from flying rocks and splintered wood based mostly on how distant from the landing spot they’re. It shouldn’t be too critical an quantity. The “meteor” isn’t the actual menace. It’s more just a very dramatic means of introducing…
“As the smoke and dust clears, you see in the middle of a fifty-foot crater a thirty-foot wide black globe with lightning crackling along its surface. After a few moments, the mysterious black orb shatters into millions of tiny pieces which blow away to reveal an angry Frost Giant. The giant glares at you with glowing red eyes, hefts its mighty war axe, and charges!”
I like to use frost giants. You need to use whatever you’d like. The great thing about this is that there doesn’t
should be any actual logic behind the monster selection. This is simply the dangerous guy’s means of flexing some muscle and displaying off by literally dropping a problem in entrance of the social gathering. And the crater is now a hindrance to wagons or different wheeled conveyance.
I wouldn’t overuse it. Contemplate it a very boutique type of villain spell—not something they have a variety of in inventory. And I definitely wouldn’t advocate dropping monster meteors like this immediately on prime of the get together. If that’s your plan, you might as nicely just say “rocks fall, everybody dies” and ship everyone residence.
Also, word that this isn’t like D&D’s meteor swarm spell or the homebrew meteor strike spell I’ve seen floating round. Save these for the upper-level ultimate boss fights. All “Incoming” is meant for is to enliven an in any other case routine tramp down the street to the villain’s lair.
AND THE REST
Not each encounter must be a struggle. Typically a street challenge can simply be a simple street encounter with a more open-ended set of interactions.
A traveling service provider will help a party restock. They could even have a type of nifty multi-dimensional shelters the social gathering might lease for a superb restorative relaxation.
Main roads are doubtless patrolled by royal guards or Legionnaires. Is there a recognized murder hobo within the get together? Perhaps they need to don a disguise.
Woodcutters, hunters, and farmers going to market ought to pop up now and then. Typically they could be a supply of rumors, each true and false, to help together with your story. A well-traveled street might have a beggar or two. These people know the value of data and can often determine adventurers as those who may pay for a confirmed rumor or little bit of strong information.
Some games appear to run just like the social gathering is the only group of heroes in the area and that their world-saving adventure is the one one happening.
Not even shut. A minimum of not in my worlds.
Back in my early days of gaming, it wouldn’t be exceptional for the players to see Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser heading down the street in the other way on some mission of their own.
Or perhaps they’d come across a secretive foursome of halflings.
Just for fun, the get together once encountered a bunch of knights skipping down the street with squires banging coconuts behind them. It was good for a throwaway chuckle, but one thing I might convey myself to do only once. It’s method too straightforward to get carried away with the foolish and not all players recognize it.
When not ripping off pop culture references, you possibly can attempt having gamers run into NPCs from previous video games and campaigns. Perhaps they acknowledge one another. Perhaps not. Perhaps they even run into older, retired characters. One thing to deal with with care, however with some potential as nicely to enliven your world.
Lastly, think about having something too massive for the get together to problem stroll on by. Perhaps the sky might darken as an enormous dragon flies overhead to who-knows-where-and-why. Perhaps a couple of cloud giants are simply passing via, strolling by means of the forest, kicking over timber, and stepping over the street as they go on their merry little method.
Attempt to make passing encounters like these colorful and fascinating, but not too distracting from the primary mission.
I hope a few of these strategies show useful in your recreation. I’ll be returning to this matter to cover different travel conditions, including encounters in numerous wilderness settings, sea, air, and even outer area.
The journey must be as a lot enjoyable as the destination.