Traveling makes up a good part of any decent campaign, be it walking along a country road, riding across fields on horseback, or even winging through the air with a cadre of griffin mounted sky knights. Another part of this are encounters along the road that are not anchored to advancing the story, or thwarting the PCs. Some random encounters are just that, random.
This scroll is for the purpose of collecting such small encounters that might be run across by a group of low to mid level PCs who are either walking, or mounted.
So without further adieu, I present Where the Road May Take You…
1. The Tinker Goblin
2. The Wandering Horse
3. The Crossroad’s Gallows
4. The Naked Man
5. The Broken Road
6. A Toll is a Toll
7. Demeu Ghost-Hands
8. The Feud
9. The Cadaver
10.The Wandering Carnival
11.The Guardian Templars
12.Newly Baked Bread
14.The Encroaching Forest
15.The other wandering carnival…
20.The Dining Hall
22.Yet another camp…
23.The five horsemen of Misplacing
24.Not much of an invitation
25.It is their road as well
29.D**n the weather!
30.The Empty Graves
Additional Ideas (38)
A comical sight, this goblin walks along the road though much slower than the PCs, so he is easy enough to catch. He is small and greasy like the rest of his kind with nervous hands and a creased face. Unlike the rest of his kind, he has learned that it is better to befriend humans than try to attack them. As such he is now a traveling tinker and doer of menial and disgusting jobs.
Of course he harangues the PCs to look at some of his goods, such as feathers for fletching arrows, empty bottles to hold potions, or an assortment of pieces of rope. nothing valuable, but something that could be useful later on, given the right circumstances.
If nothing else, he will enquire if he can follow the PCs until they reach the next town, for safety.
The PCs encounter a horse trotting towards them, it has a saddle and bridle, but no rider to be seen, though a careful eye can tell that the horse has been badly spooked. The PCs can keep the horse and valuable gear for themselves, which should be a tempting option for starting level characters, or they can see about a potential owner in the next town.
Of course the owner will be able to recognize his mount from brandings or other markings, as well as some sort of identification in the saddle itself. If they keep the animal and gear, they could be in trouble for horse theft, but if they return the animal and gear, they could receive a modest reward for doing the right thing.
In a rural area, the PCs encounter a gallows, well built of iron and stout timbers complete with several bodies swinging from the nooses. This is a backwards area and doesnt have a proper church or temple, so criminals are hung several miles from any habitations so that if they rise as undead they will not be able to find their way back to visit wickedness upon the locals who hanged them. A variation could have bodies hanging in iron cages, left to perish from hunger, thirst, or exposure.
An extension could be a crossroads zombie that he broken its noose and is wandering up the road. An alternate path could be a potentially important NPC or valuable henchman to be to be released from one of these crossroads cages.
Bereft of all clothing yet still maintaining a semblance of dignity, the naked man walks purposely along the road. In the previous town he lost his shirt, quite literally, to a group of unscrupulous thieves who cheated him at cards. If spoken to he will speak, but is perfectly fine to ignore the PCs. He wont join the party, but promises to speak well of them if they would lend him a pair of trousers and perhaps a crust of bread.
(...and expecting things to be too much like the movies.)
The road has been badly washed out but a recent storm and has not been repaired yet. Mounted PCs will have to dismount and lead their horses across the rough, and potentially dangerous terrain. PCs on foot will have to cross this area of broken earth and mud with some care, lest they loose a boot to the sloppy mess.
The local lord charges a toll on merchants and travelers, and the Pcs encounter one of the collection areas/boths/workers. This toll is to see to the maintenance of the road, and its policing, as good, or as bad as it may be. Well equiped and armored PCs are going to be given a higher toll than the farmer hauling firewood to sell in the market. Refusing to pay the toll and using the road is tantamount to theft from the lord, and is treated accordingly.
As the PCs make their way along a lonely stretch of moor-road, not far from town, they notice a campfire on a hillock. Ascending the hill to investigate, they see a plain looking man, sitting dangerously close to the fire. Nearing the man, who pays no attention to the PCs, they can see, to their astonishment that the man is holdng his hands in the actual fire, letting the flames lick his hands. He shows no emotion, and if the PCs keep looking, they will notice that the man's hands are not burning, and he shows no signs of pain or even discomfort. This is Demeu Ghosthands. He is suffering from amnesia, and if spoken to, explains that his hands are merely illusions. He cannot feel anything, as they can be plainly seen, but everything passes thru them, as if through air. The depressed, even suicidal bard, who was once kown as an expert Zither player, has no memory of how his hands became this way. So he sits, hoping sensation and feeling return to his ghostly appendages.
A few miles outside of a farming village, the PCs see the road blocked by a small crowd. At the center of the crowd are two old men, farmers by the look of them, furiously shouting at each other. If the PCs inquire, someone in the crowd will explain that it's Old Man Cheras and Papa Ghel, the patriarchs of two large farming families that go back generations. A feud between the families also goes back a ways. Most have forgotten it, but when Old Man Cheras saw a Ghel shepherd treading on his land, he went berserk. Now the two elderly gentlemen are close to duking it out in the center of the main highway. Perhaps the PCs could negotiate peace between them--or side with one and end the feud by force. Or they could just move around them.
It seems the PC's just barely missed some action! Lying in the grass to the side of this quiet road is a freshly slain corpse - The murder must have happened only minutes ago. The blood which had poured from a hastily slit neck is still fresh - it hasn't even dried up and the body is still very warm. There are no sign of tracks from the murderer, and the dense woodlands which the road runs next to could hide anyone without difficulty. Closer inspection of the corpse and his backpack will find that there is no money - either he never carried any or it was stolen - but there is a fine collection of smallgoods, from expensive clothing to golden rings on his finger, to a silver letter-opener. The PC's could take these items, but if they plan to tell the local militia at the next town, they may want to hide their new gear. For the next ten minutes after finding the corpse, any rustling in the bushes by friendly forest animals might be subject to the waving of weapons and the close study of where the sound came from.
A small caravan of four gaudily decorated house-wagons travel in the opposite direction of the PCs. As they come closer the PCs can see that men are hastily putting on white make-up and women are pulling down their blouses, creating more cleavage. All of a sudden the PCs are approached by beautiful, but tired looking women offering to foretell their future (they can actually do it too, to a lesser degree) and painted men juggling daggers and tumbling around. Small children howl and run in circles around the PCs. Of course they expect money for this and make all sorts of offers to the PCs.
The following can be purchased:
-The clowns claim to be able to throw daggers or axes and be able to hit an orange at the head of the PC (or, laughing when he politely declines, they will do it to an eight year old girl instead).
-The clowns will rope walk between two trees for a fee.
-The clowns will perform slapstick comedy for a fee.
-Two of the women claim to be clairvoyants and will foretell the immediate future of the PCs (excellent to foreshadow an upcoming plot)
-All the young adult women and men will sleep with the PCs for money, but will not make the initiative.
-The elder male will sell foodstuffs, general merchandise (blankets, rope, wine skins, etc...) as well as, after some goading and persuading, thieves equipment such as pick locks, lock acid and cracker powder.
-The children will pick pocket the PCs relentlessly and will not quit until the elder female says "Shooo-shooo" (then they will run away and approach her in private, handing over the stolen goods)
Ahead heavily armoured warriors walk in line, guarding an immense carriage pulled by eight oxen. The carriage is lacquered white, with a hint of gold to its shine. The carriage is not especially tall but is rather long and wide. The warriors are clad in chain mail with breastplates and flat topped T-visor helmets. The warriors are draped in white cloaks with insignias of crossed golden swords on their back, and on the right side the front.
These are the chosen of the high patriarch, elite among their kind and they guard a dark and sinister relic known as Umankh-Athal, which they have just retrieved from the clutches of a recently slain elder spirit known by some as Khurmunalt. The relic, which is a great warhammer, has been locked inside a Templar Transport especially prepared by the council of elders and protected by layer upon layer of divine magics. It will be safe as long as it is kept within.
The Templars will be gruff and suspicious, paranoid until they reach the relative safety of High Haven which is quite some days away still. They will not share food with PCs nor will they offer support in combat. Should the PCs aid the Templars against potential foes, they will give them a modest reward and gruffily tell that they should be on their way.
The road passes a small farmstead from which the inviting smell of baked bread emanates. The sound of children playing can be heard from the barn and in the fields the serfs are working. Should the PCs look for the bread they will find it cooling down on the sill of an open window. Inside a young woman is singing as she is preparing yet another bread for the oven.
As the PCs pass through a small village, 3 ravens wheel in the sky. Not only that, but Rudnus Kumalhain, the great farmer, falls down from his mansion roof as he is fixing the tiling. Soon the villagers discover that the PCs must be "the source of their bad luck" and that they are "in lead with the ravens, well known harbingers of evil". No doubt one of the PCs has the evil eye, "using it to inflict misfortune upon honest folk".
As the villagers mill in from the fields a small posse forms and if the PCs decide to stay, they might well try to hang the one with the "evil eye". If the PCs leave, they might get some eggs and rocks thrown after them, but that is all.
The PCs have travelled long and far and now a giant forest is on both sides of the road that they walk. The farther they go, the narrower the road becomes and by nightfall there is nothing left, but a narrow path and the branches whip the PCs in the face as they struggle forwards. Strange thing is that no more wanderers are met and for all purposes it seems the PCs are the only people left in this world.
Suggested Alternative Reasons:
A) Natural growth: The road has been reclaimed by nature and everyone else have been using another route for over a year. The way will take them where they want to go, but now that the patrols no longer venture here, the woodland road is once again troubled by sinister beings
B) The Realm of Limberlost is nearby!
C) The trees encroaching on the road are Autumndale Trees...
D) Dark Treants are herding the forest onto the road, putting all travellers in dire peril. When the PCs sleep, roots will drag them down into the soil or they will be crushed under the weight of an enormous tree. "Bloodcurdle Vines" will strangle the PCs, sending small root-tendrils down into their blood vessels to savour every last droplet of blood. The greater oaks will lift the PCs from the ground only to release them from great heights. If only they had some fire...
The reason the Dark Treants are attacking is because they have been agitated by the presence of the warlock Apsaloht, the outlaw practicing his dark arts on the trees of the forest. Since they can't touch Apsaloht, they sure try to harm his kin (humanoids).
The PC's see a large caravan of more then a dozen large wagons. Some are laden with cages occupied by odd creatures. Many diverse and odd people travel either on or beside the horse-drawn wagons.
This is The Carnival of Forgotten Souls.
A band of armed and mounted men approaches the party and bids them stand. Local yeomen and landowners, they are searching for a fugitive that has eluded local justice; they are veeeeery suspicious at encountering a group of armed strangers at such a time. They will brusquely order the PCs about, demanding that they submit to a search, give up their horses so that the searchers can use them to replace their fatigued mounts, and generally throw their weight around.
There is probably no sign of the fugitive that they seek, but if they are put on the right track, they are likely to dispatch their victim with rough local justice and no semblance of a fair trial.
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.
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!"
The heroes find the crumbling, overgrown ruins of what appears to be some sort of grand dining hall in the forest. Deciding that it is a good place to camp, the set up a fire in the center. However, they are woken in the night to see skeletons waltzing in the moonlight to organ music that emanates from the open air. The skeletons touch nobody, dancing around them all night.
You meet a large number of villagers, walking and weeping beside the coffin of an old bearded man (or adapt to your funeral customs). If asked properly, you learn about an old wizard, a wise man that long helped the tiny village to grow and prosper. Even after death he shows his favour: he gave most of his possesions to the poorer members of the community. All the villagers show him now respect this way. Why do you ask, are you adventurers? (As a last wish, he left a tiny case for the first group of adventurers that crosses the village).
A good camping-place with something extra: a gallows with a hangman, reduced mostly to bones and a few rags. It marrily hovers in the wind. Any manipulation will make it fall apart. An excellent camping place, except for the midnight hours, when ghosts of those executed haunt here. Some wail for their crimes, some re-live their execution over and over, some want to have a talk, and still some others want to scare the Living for fun.
Five men are herding some fifteen horses down the road. They won't be very talkative, but are willing to sell a horse, or more horses if the heroes are interested, for a good price even. They are horse thieves, already sought by regional militiamen. Anyone with a stolen horse (all are marked) may get into trouble. (If found guilty, horse thieves face prison or even a hanging execution.) Similar thefts have happened only a month before, and a reward is offered.
A revolt or attack happens against a strong city/kingdom. All the losers of the battle that can be captured are brutally crucified along the roads that enter the kingdom to show their strength and as a demonstration of what happens to their enemies. ... a long road, decorated with hundreds of dying crucified soldiers... You see them bleeding, you hear them screaming and whispering for help. Do you really want to enter this reportedly peaceful kingdom?
Diseased people, (leprosy or any other such fear inducing disease) when traveling, will often times wear a cloak that entirely covers their body and ring a bell as they travel, used as a warning for any others to stay away. Could be used for a disguise or safe passage. ... you meet strangely cloaked people, sometimes ringing a bell. "Please give us something to eat, mighty heroes!" This is time to show how good they are.
Herbalist in the group mistakes one plant for another and mistakenly poisons the group. Not to death, but pretty darn ill with recurring symptoms until the cause and cure are realized. (Local people may be able to help rather easily. "You ate Dragon's Rot you fool, looks and smells just like mint except it has these small thistles on the root. Only grow in the Hornwood Forest, that must be where ya got them. Eat this and you will feel better in 4 hours."
PCs camp for the night in a dry pine forest. Fire skill of the person that made it is usually pretty good, but during the first watch the unexpected happens: a spark lights the surrounding woods and a brush fire quickly starts. Be quick or it could turn into a disaster that could affect the entire region.
Young kid from last town has been following the PCs and doing a rather good job at it. PCs weren't expecting to be followed so weren't worried and the boy/girl was careful. Notice the follower a couple days out of town, kid ran out of food and started getting careless. Followed the 'mighty adventurers' to see if he could join them. Father is a wealthy merchant. Bring him home, bring him with, send him off? What do you do with an unwelcomed guest.
Rain slowly builds, thunder and lightning continue to roll in. Road muddies, horse/wagon getting stuck in the mud. Thunder strikes coinciding with a deep hole a horse just walked in, horse panics, breaks its leg (maybe just sprain?). Horse is decompacitated and the rain just went from pouring to an all out monsoon. Shelter needs to be found, horse needs to be taken care of, covered in mud, add the posibility of items being lost to the confusion with the wind and dealing with spooked animals.
The road passes the tumbled ruins of a village, destroyed and abandoned in regional troubles over a hundred years ago. All that remains are bare foundation stones and the occasional crumbling chimney.
As they pass the crumbling shell of the village's temple, the characters can see that the overgrown churchyard has signs of digging. Many of the ancient, forgotten graves have been dug up recently. Further investigation suggests that grave robbers have been systematically looting those graves that have the most impressive (and thus, expensive) tombstones.
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.
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.
They come across a band of refugees. Could have been thrown out of their town by a tyrant taking of their land, bought out by somebody unexpectedly, fleeing a battle they know is coming their way. Could be proof of what they are searching for, hints and tips of what is to come, or just to broaden the reality of the world.
A few shepherds bringing their sheep down the road to a town where they will be sheared. Effectively block the road making riding or moving through them difficult to impossible until they are all passed.
Could just find all the tracks on the road and may not know what it is.
An entire meadow was flooded here. Looks like a lake, could cover part of the road, and you have to deal with locals that have a flat bottomed boat to get across it.
Similar to the Broken Road, the track simply vanishes, and continues a few miles on.
If it isn't nasty enough, it could be in worse conditions - at night or in deep fog, when you need to keep your direction to not get lost.
The PCs come across a tall smokehouse with a ladder laying broken across a rocky out cropping next to it. On the roof of the barn is an old man sitting slumped beneath a large straw hat. He calls for the PCs to "please help a foolish great grand father get down. He was patching the roof to his smokehouse when his ladder slipped and broke against the rocks. He lives alone in the forest, and has been stuck up there for almost a day.
The man is extremely old and would have trouble with any climbing device other than a ladder, and even that isn't easy for him. His ladder is broken beyond convential repair. If the PCs get him down he will reward them with some hams from his smokehouse. If they ask him if he needs anything else (or even if they don't he will mention that he lost his bucket down his well, and has been living off rain water since. Plus, "it was a very nice bucket that his late brother made 9 years ago." If the PCs help him with bucket he will mention that one of his pigs got across the river and won't come back. Assuming they help him with that he will continue to mention little problems he has.
A tree feel across his grain field and he hasn't been able to move it.
The wind blew some of his washing up in tree.
The bottom hinge on his pantry door is loose and it is in "a real dark corner" in the cellar, and he can't see well enough to mend it.
He is supposed to take a couple of hams to a nearby temple as an offering, but his hand cart has "gone n walked off somewhere" and he could really use a hand.
He has trouble finding the nearby temple.
If the PC don't eventually call it quits the sweet old man will eventually grow tired and grumpy and leave the PC without so much as a goodbye or a thank you.
The PCs come across a deep black hole in the ground. The whole is about a meter in daimeter and if the PCs have a rope or understand the gravity constant and the speed of sound they can measure that it is about 107.23 meters from the holes opening to the bottom. The whole is the entrance to a beautiful cave full of crystals and intersting stalagtight and stalagmight formations. Depending on the rain there is either and underground river or stream moving through the cavern.
The hole has been used by a local ranger as a disposal for burnt cow carcasses following a recent blight of foot and mouth disease. So if you must have to have a monster in the cave you can stick some carrion eating beast in it. Other than that this cave is just a pretty cave, no kobold miners, no lost temple, no entrance to the drow undercity and no precious metals or gems. Though the quartz crystal may fetch some money.