A corpse lays at the side of the road, or path. The man has been robbed of everything but a few tattered pieces of clothing. It looks like the scavengers have been working on him for a few days. The smell is ghastly. What dangers lay ahead?
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.
You realize a group of men is going right to you. The man in front has a hard determined look on his face, the two men behind follow him with some uneasiness. He stops before you, holding the handle of his sword in one hand, and slaps (choose person carefully) with leather gloves he carries in the other hand. "Rhadagald Thinvoice, I challenge You to a duel to dea..." Stopping abruptly, he realizes this is the wrong person.
As the PCs cross a brigde/tree over a deep river they see the glimmer of gold and jewels lying at the bottom. At further inspection they notice that it is the skeleton of a man still holding on to a sack of treasure. Will the PCs try to dive to get it? What killed the man? Did he simly not let go of the bag he could not swim to the surface with? What cleansed his bones so? Are there flesh-eating beings that dwell in the deep? Can the players resist the chanse of being wealthy for once?
The PCs traveling along the road/path/trail begin to hear a low droning sound. As they approach they find their path obstructed by hundred of thousands of droning insects. Locusts swarm though the air, feasting on the grass and plants. Passage will be slowed, but the insects pose no threat to the party, aside from being crunchy and disgusting underfoot, climbing into pouches and eating exposed food goods.
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.
A rather large armed group slowly walks the road. Unless you get to see what they transport, you could think it is a caravan with expensive goods, or the soldiers escort someone important. But this is a prisoner transport, on the way to mines, criminals on their way for punishment.
The soldiers may be willing to talk, the captain will have a few questions on you and the road, but they will keep distance, and part soon.
While setting up camp for the night, the PC's are aproached by another group of adventurers who seem nice enough. The road is somewhat dangerous and the other group suggests camping together. The two bands split watches, one adventurer from each group watching at once. The night goes by without incident, the next day the PC's travel with the other group as they are going the same way.
The group consists of Hordel the ranger, who is skilled with the bow. Hordel is a quiet man who speaks little but appears quite skilled. Dremar is a barbarian who is a little excentric, he seems to be an excasive drinker and thiunk that battle is the solution to everything. He appears to be a stout and powerful fighter with his greataxe. Ferrin is the leader of the group, a rouge by trade. He is daft and witty, speaking with the PCs often and asking many questions. He fights with finesse with his rapier. Preminitat as a cleric but he will not say which god he worships. He uses his spells to empower and heal his party and fights with a club. He sticks close to Ferrin. Ferrin is a great talker and tells much of himself and his party, but asks even more about the history and capabilities of the PCs. He tells of some adventures his party has had, and they seem like an interesting group of mercenaries. Hordel is quite and has little interest in speaking with the PCs, he ignores most questions. He spends a lot of time with Dremar and sometimes Ferrin. Dremar seems to not care about any questions ansked to him, nor does he seem to know the answers. He seems battle hardened and is a simple man. Preminitat rarely starts conversations but will speak with the PCs. However, some of his accounts of the party's history seem to condradict those of Ferrin.
The Party spends another night and day with Ferrin's group. One of four things can happen on the third night.
1: While eating dinner around the fire, Ferrin gets into an argument with one of the PCs when he/she mentions the discepincies between Ferrin's stories and Preminitat's.
2: Hordel gets mad after repeated questioning about his life from the PCs.
3. Preminitat gets mad after repeated questioning from the PCs about what god he worships.
4: One of the PCs rejects the offer of a drink from Dremar and he takes it as an insult.
All of these scenarios result in a battle between the parties. If Ferrin's party is defeated and still lives he swears vengance. His party may then cross paths with the adventurers again.
As you travel through the thick growth of a forest, a great shadow suddenly moves over you. You raise your head fast, but whatever it was, it was faster. However you try, you don't see anything, and nothing approaches you. Maybe it is better so.
On the road up Dethl Mountain, you will encounter the guardian, Rustus, a goron Pyro Mage. only those who can take the heat will withstand him. to defeat him, one must use a goron's worst enemy: water
On route from Geli to Nekrass the characters meet a peasant boy on the road. He's wandering in the direction from which they've just come. If this seems a little bit incongruous, they may wish to ask him a few questions. He's perfectly willing to talk: he's called Lamish and he's run away because he knows he is the heir to the throne of Geli and his parents didn't believe him. How far is his home? About five weeks walk from here. How much has he eaten? Nothing. Has he drunk? Only from the filthy roadside ditches. In short, it's a wonder he is still alive. And yet he seems perfectly healthy.
Is he a thief, waiting for travellers to trick? Is he lying because there's something more sinister under all of this? Is he telling the truth? And anyway, what should the characters do? Do you take him to Geli? Do you try to find his parents? Or leave him to make his own way?
In Azur, the streets are crowded, and the PCs' poor grasp of Azuran makes it hard for them to find out why. Still, they shoulder their way through the crowds, trying to get to the house of the renowned wizard they seek, when suddenly they realise they are standing very much alone. The crowds have ceased their talking and their gazes are fixed on the PCs. The imperiously clothed man standing before them smiles and speaks in Azuran: "Ah! Volunteers! And so eager too!"
There are more ways than one to encounter a dragon. With a low level group it's obviously not feasible to meet one in its lair and fight it. But standing on a bleak moorland, utterly exposed and vulnerable, it can be a chilling experience to see something flying far far overhead. Something that could just be an eagle, but you never know...
A little way up the narrow valley, before they reach the woods, the PCs notice the squat, tumbledown buildings by the riverside. They are hardly big enough for a human to stand in, and the complex cogs and shafts that occupy the central cavity of one of the buildings are perplexing. What were these buildings? And how safe are they to explore?
Alternatively a desolate place is the perfect setting for a derelict chapel or croft. There needn't be any actual physical encounter involved, but it adds atmosphere to a place to see its dead history. For instance, in the Outer Hebrides there are whole deserted villages which were razed to the ground by the English during the Clearances. Such stories give a setting authenticity and character.
Magical forests are never a good place to sleep, especially seeing as much of the population is nocturnal. Firewood taken from the wrong tree can turn against its collectors, and a strangling onslaught of angry twigs and branches can be surprisingly severe and difficult to disentangle yourself from. Fires themselves attract enemies, and not only malevolent predators. Giant moths and gloomwings are tempted by the heat and light, but are often misunderstood.
The PCs are setting up camp at the end of their first day of walking through the Esh-Inel Mountains, when they hear in the distance a low rumbling, like thunder. It grows progressively louder until it echoes off the mountainous bowls around them, then dies away again. At its worst the ground starts trembling. It happens every day at this time, and it is the noise of the Great Carts on the dwarfish underways returning home after a day mining, laden with many tons of ore.
In a crowded marketplace, a man is standing on a soapbox, orating. Some of the crowd are cheering, some hissing, some standing around saying "I can't hear a bl**dy word he's saying". It's a hustings for an election. The PCs can either leave, or stay and listen. If they do the latter, then they can vote too, and they might get quite involved in the cheering. Depending on who wins they might get quite involved in the post-election brawl too...
There are numerous possibilities with this encounter: the PCs might end up talking to one of the nervous candidates before their speech, and offer encouragement and support. Of course this candidate may well turn out to be someone with outspokenly unorthodox views, and the crowd don't take kindly to s/his supporters. Or maybe the seemingly innocuous candidate turns out to be a complete racist, and the PCs wander off embarrassedly, pretending they weren't talking to this person five minutes ago.
A fragment of letter drifts down to the street. You catch it, and unfold the charred edges.
"...know I will always lov..
..at never dies. It is th...
..f my passion that b...
...nd it cannot be ext..
....n heaven or....n hel..
....ill be by you...ide an...
...... yours foreve.........
... Mendates ........
Looking up from the fragmented text you glance around at the rooftops. There. A minute snowfall of scraps of letters is cascading from the chimney of a half-timbered house nearby.
The characters are wandering through the bustling crowds of Lasopolis. A street conjuror is performing a simple summoning spell, something for the kiddies. A bit of odious purple powder in the fire, an incantation and out pops a saak-lizard or a muhmentarsh, writhing from the flaming brazier. But the conjuror has only a poor grasp of the arcane magical tongue. A few stuttered syllables could lead to Other Things coming through the brazier and giving the crowd more entertainment than they had paid for...
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.
Bag on a Stick
Very simple gag but a great one, since it can be used multiple times over, even in the same adventure. Great for tribal natives gone restless and humanoids, but anyone can have set this up. Just what the header says, a simple bag over a stick stuck in the ground or floor.
As GM you can place the bag on a stick anywhere, in a floor crack the heroes have passed before, outdoors in a clearing or path, or at the edge of the PCs' encampment the following morning, what have you. Place anything on the stick - a coiled yellow viper angered by the bag removal, mini crossbow w/poison, transdermal hallucinatory drug dusted on the bag, yellow mold colony, an NPC ally's head, a weapon, scroll tube or satchel, what have you.
The idea is to build tension and/or stall for time/distract the party. Provided it's used properly, you'll be amazed at how paranoid players will get from this simple gag.