A regular clapping noise approaching them, soon a man in a dark cloak rides by on a large horse at maximum speed. The strange thing is, the terrain shouldn't absolutely allow such a ride - most likely the horse falling and breaking a leg. If anyone desires to pursue the rider (that will of course not stop soon), they can prepare for a terrible chase, endangering their own horse, and themselves, being grasped at by limbs of trees, and risking on every step - on foot it would take too long.
Eventually, the rider will slow down to a normal pace and will leave the forest for some large settlement, exhausted but satisfied. If caught up by that time, the young man will gladly and not without pride speak of the unique enchantment on the harness of his horse, that protects the animal and his rider from any accident. He, actually a messenger, is just testing it, and can't wait until it is officially available to him and his colleagues.
Of course, he is forbidden to speak of it, so too much asking will make him careful again. Should a less than honest character use the chance, he could gain the experimental harness (possibly with some quirks), and the attention of the military, that consider it their secret project. The high-quality harness is made of black leather, with some decorations that look cheaply, but are of real gold and silver threads. It might be easily stolen if the owner is not careful. Go to Comment
Coming upon a small open space between trees, there lies the remains of a small wooden hut or cabin, hopelessly broken into a heap of beams and timber. Observant PCs will easily notice that it didn't fall apart, but was demolished in some way. The trees around did not fall, nor are there obvious signs of axes or the like. What happened here?
Some exploring later, searching for traces and tracks will reveal a bear or a similar animal has crushed it. Whatever or whoever was inside seems to be gone. In a nearby village can they get the whole story, of a fool that went to live in the woods, found a bear searching for food in the morning, and the attempts to scare him away have him made actually so angry that he teared apart the lousy construction, with the fool barely surviving under the heap... managing to pull himself out two days later. The story was so liked, and the man made such a fun of, that he moved away a week ago.
(The story can be adapted, if there is a special creature around, particularly a dangerous one. May be a trace to it, or a red herring. The poor guy might have been the only one to see it and live, but nobody believed him and so he left, and must be found now, etc, etc, etc.) Go to Comment
The other ritual (only in safe, 'civilised' woods close to large settlements)
It is a large clearing, with a few provisorial tents, some open fires, wagons and horses parked nearby. You see men and women of all ages, with a few venerable old people. Kids are running and playing in the forest around, and will certainly spot the characters before they do, running from them, shooting at them with imaginary arrows, and generally being a nuisance. The adults will be careful, but it's no secret it is the meeting of a large clan - and there is a certain likeness between most of them. Talking a little, the people will return to their own topics of aching backs, problem children and annoying neighbours. While no one would directly throw out the characters, and they may be offered to try some family recipes and personal favourites (some good, some bad), they will be slowly pushed aside, and should have enough sense to know they are not really wanted here. If they style themselves as amazing heroes, they may be given the task of watching the wagons (nothing of worth inside). Cooking and singing songs up to the late night, they'll eventually go to sleep.
Around midnight, the oldest men and a few women, the leaders of the clan, will gather and quietly leave. Entering a thickly grown area close to the clearing, they find something that wasn't there before (you can make it a special night, full moon, etc) - a large staring frog-like statue, that is actually a being of some sort... the elders have made a deal with it - it will protect the whole clan as well as it can, providing they keep the deal a secret, do not move too far away, and do not reach for too high positions. The payment is brought along - small bundles, with human children, one child of their own blood, or three unrelated children instead, that will be swallowed as a whole. The... creature may not be evil, but is certainly not a force of good. But for its part, it holds to the deal - a few of the men and women around are over one hundred years, with nobody in the family actually suffering of diseases or poverty, mostly dieing of accidents after a long and full life. The only problem (besides the need to get secretly a few babies) is the growth of the clan, which the creature in its quiet, deep voice bellitles. Accepting the current price, there will be negotiations about the price for the period, going into minute details of what protections will be guaranteed to the family. Over the two hundred years the family has been doing this, while it grew into a rather large clan, the period has shrunk from five years to every two years. The sacrifice stays the same, but even it may change eventually. A few black sheep, or branches of the family have been already removed from the protecting umbrella, and have suffered or fared well on their own. Perhaps the deal will turn out bad one day? Go to Comment
As the PCs travel the road, right after a bend they hear a sharp whistle and call: "Heeey, not so lazy, move your asses!" It is a large man that calls, and there are unwilling workers that listen. A small company, 10-15 men work on the road, push boulders aside, dig up roots from under the road, etc. The large man that shouted turns to you, smiles fast and mutters something under his breath, sounds like cursing some lazy worker. "Where does the road bring you from, travellers?" And does a little small-talk.
And what is really happening? A group of bandits is 'adapting' the road for shady purposes. The road will not be wider, but tighter, with enough cover around (and a few traps perhaps), and will become an ideal spot for ambushing travellers or entire caravans. The bandit leader wants them all to appear harmless. The 'lazy worker' he cursed was actually a guard that should give warning before any travellers come around (fallen asleep). Not surprisingly, the boss may decide for an ambush even now. Go to Comment
A slight rustle of the wind... and it stands before you. A Unicorn, whiter and more beautiful than you ever imagined it. It has deep wonderful eyes, and you can't help but admire this creature. It came to have a look at you, and now it freely goes. You have not the heart to stop it, and it silently vanishes between the trees.
Note: unless specifically needed, this encounter should never happen again. Go to Comment
You find a patch of edible funghi. They taste well and all, no ill effects. UNLESS you consume some beverage, even 3 (three) days after eating the. Then you become really sick with pains, vomiting, all the fancy stuff. As a gift or good meal, it could be a cruel joke or to make sure the heroes spend their time focused on the mission. Or the fine soup you had in the inn yesterday could have some in.
(Inspired through a real-world fungus. It was really used to cure alcoholism.) Go to Comment
Then it started, first it was sounds from far away (the sensitive characters may feel something), then approaching, until even the closest trees start to slightly crack and... move? Seriously, if it was a person, you could swear it was, like, stretching its arms out, and... stretching itself. Some wild animals may cross the path, running somewhere. And then there is wind, strong wind, and the clouds form on the sky. It will be raining. And the normally peaceful forest starts to look a little too awakened.
What happens is a rare release of positive natural energy. It occurs at most every few years, but The Forest remembers, and it looks forward to the moment, the trees and plants even spreading out their twigs and leaves to receive the rain. For mortal creatures, being well soaked in or drinking of the rain water would work as a gentle healing effect, but growth is also possible.
The event is completely harmless, the forest will soon sleep again. For a time, it will be easy to call upon nature's spirits, who will often fool around at the time, enjoying themselves. Go to Comment
You, or to be exact your animals are visited by some vampiric creature (at night only). Unless you guard them at night carefully, one or more of them might serve as a blood-donor. Signs are a minor wound and weakness, which may take a few days. The animal will be 10-20% slower, problematic if speed is required. There is a 1% chance of the animal getting ill, possibly much bigger if there is a cattle-plague or a similar disease in the area.
PCs drunken senseless can be subjected to the same treatment. Go to Comment
Deep in the woods, a massive bare rock occupies a clearing. There is a large door, almost a gate on it, so tightly fitting that it almost seems to be one with the rock around. Hearing on it will help little, feint sounds are heard, but not discerned.
A part of the stone stands out, it seems to be used, but is certainly no handle, at least not for a human-sized hand. With great force and precision, the door can be pulled open.
But even as it finally comes free, the door's owner shows: a beast of a man, or perhaps a small giant? His is an ugly face, and there he screams insults and curses on the visitors! No matter the arguments, no matter the gifts or threats, he withdraws back and closes the door, and no one will open it, as his power is unbeatable...
Oh, and by the way: it's a red herring.
The whole thing is an illusion. Certainly, the delicate ornaments of the door, the semblance of a gap, and the slightly worked 'handle' are a result of manual work. Yet whoever tries to open a door that is not there, surrenders his mind to the spell.
The giant does not pull the "door" shut, because it was never open in the first place! The solid piece of rock can resist most attempts at forcing or breaking in, short of blowing the hill apart.
What remains is the question of why is it there? Was there an illusionist with way too much free time? Or did it serve some evil mind to get rid of heroes for a moment? Or could it be a test of some kind? You decide. Go to Comment
The players see a small shrine to the local nature deity just of the trail. Before they even approach it, they can smell the foul stench of rotting meat. If they inspect the shrine, they can see it has been desecrated by rotting organs in the last few days. There is no mistaking it for an obscure ritual, the organs are thrown everywhere, not left in specific places as in sacrifice.
If the players try to clean the shrine, they will soon find it has been boobytrapped to fling sharp splinters covered in the rotting gore in every direction. While only doing a few points of damage, they injured players will likely take sick soon unless they get medical attention. Go to Comment
As the players travel along the trail, they notice a bear in the woods, following thier moves. It does not make any agressive moves, but neither does it leave. As daylight fades, the players need to decide what to do. Is it a spirit guide, or gaurdian to the forest; is it a lycanthrope, or being controlled by evil spirits; or is it just a curious bear? Go to Comment
It seemed like a great place to camp. The clearing was good sized and sheltered from the wind. The brook just a few feet away. There is a natural hallow to keep the horses.
Then the night came.
It was like it became a different place. The temperature dropped. The wind, which does not seem to disturb cloth, almost cuts through you like an arctic wind. No one can sleep, as the soft ground has turned hard. The horses are uneasy. The Bats are flying over and stopping in the trees.
And then there is the eyes. There are glowing eyes just inside the tree line watching your group. The mages and clerics can detect nothing, but there is still something there.
(yet there is nothing at all... The Darkness will do nothing unless the players do something to it. And even then it will all seem to be a conincidence.)
Of course, in the morning, it all becomes sweet and light. Go to Comment
Bears are a common resident in many forests, from smaller black bears to the massive and intimidating grizzly bear. These animals are large predators, and are enormously tough. The Pcs happen upon a bear cub as they travel which quickly runs away squalling at the top of its lungs. Moments later the PCs are left to face a very irate Mother Bear.
To represent the rage of the mother protecting her young,t he bear gains a few stat boosts to make the encounter more challenging, such as damage reduction (say taking away the first two or five points of damage done in attacks on the bear) or a 10 to 15% resistance to magic, just to keep it interesting. Go to Comment
The PCs come across a wild thicket of luscious looking blackberries. They eat the berries and become drunken fools. Later they find out that the berries were part of a fae garden and were intended for fae wine. In payment for stealing the berries, the mischievious fae make life inconvenient for the PCs. Horses are untied, water skins are drained, spare clothing is drug into the water, etc. Go to Comment