Towering above the comforts of civilization, beyond the trodden roads are the proud mountains and hills, bones of the world, for ages under the attack of the elements, but still defying their fate.
Traveling makes up a good part of any decent campaign, be it tramping off the beaten path, riding between hills on horseback, or even winging through the air with a cadre of griffin mounted sky knights. Another part of this are encounters in the heavy terrain 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 most probably walking. Hills are often forested, so choose carefully what belongs here, and what into the Walking Through the Forest When... scroll.
Risks of the hunt
In a Flash...
The Mountain's Fury
Didn't make it...
The Final Resting Place of a Great Shaman
Somebody lived here
Risks of the hunt
The journey had been a long one and now they had entered the mountains. After an entire day spent on paths cut into the mountainside and through moss covered coniferous woods, they encounter a desperate young mountain tribal. He is searching for his beloved wife and his elder brother, both of whom he got separated from after an unsuccessful attempt to kill a cave bear. The last thing he saw was the cave bear in full pursuit of his wife. He could not help her as he had been knocked to the ground by the raging beast, and was struggling to regain full consciousness. The tribal will be clearly nervous and urges them to look for his wife during their travels. He will stay in his village a couple of miles to the north and pleads for assistance should they recover his wife, whether she be dead or alive.
On the next day of travel, they will journey upon a dim track in the forest and while they are preparing to ascend another path cut into the mountainside, they hear moans of lust from somewhere nearby. Upon closer inspection they will spy a young tribal woman in the heat of the act with an elder tribal male. They are consummating their forbidden love on the cold mountain moss, and beside them lay the skinned and slaughtered carcass of a huge bear.
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.
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 high canyon in the mountains, the players find a skeleton in a cage suspended from a pole. A few miles further, they find another, and a third contains a partially rotten corpse. The fourth contains a living man who looks as if he hasn't eaten in days. Turns out to be the local way of punishing criminals.
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...
Under a rocky wall, there is plenty of debris, rocks smaller and larger, up to small pebbles and dust. Reaching dozens, or hundreds of feet high, such fields are common to many mountains, just watch your feet.
This particular location is easily passable. But, look, there is something small falling, bouncing up and down, until it finally stops... and another piece. Then for a while nothing, then a small slide follows.
It seems this place is a bit unstable. Or... is it intentional, that all of it seems to aim on you? Proceed very carefully.
'What was that?' Your ears picked up just the hint of an echo. Was it the sound of someone in distress? Someone calling a warning to others, ready to ambush? Or was it some trick of the terrain making wind sound like a voice.
Who knows. Does one wish to dash off on these rocky crags to go check it out?
In a Flash...
The trail leads up a narrow defile, a rugged, winding gorge where erosion has exposed the bare stone of the mountains, floored with treacherous loose stones and dead trees uprooted by the gorge's frequent flash floods. It's an ideal spot for an ambush, and anyone with tactical expertise will be expecting trouble.
Soon, skies that had threatened rain deliver on their promise, and the narrow creek that first carved the canyon begins to run again. It's clear that the party must head for higher ground before they are caught by the threatened flood, but which way leads to safety?
Beyond the thick pines that cover the foothills, the party hears the crashing of two huge beasts locked in battle. The elk native to the area battle for dominance each spring, their massive horns slamming into each other, pushing and twisting to prove which animal is the mightiest. With animal grunts and strange, low-pitched bellows, the creatures struggle to claim their territory.
The elks are likely to ignore intruders while their struggle is underway, but once they finish, they may very well display aggressive, territorial behavior, especially if they feel threatened.
The Mountain's Fury
Passing through a lightly forested pass, the PCs hear a rumbling sound that grows progressively louder, very quickly. An avalanche of boulders, tons of snow, and splintered trees is bearing down on the pass. Thankfully it is a small avalanche and the PCs have a decent chance of avoiding the worst of the fall.
Didn't make it...
Passing through the heavy snows, feeling cold and tired, a body of some unknown traveler will be found, frozen dead. Depending on the means of travel and weather, he could be seen from afar, or someone could accidentally grab his hand while toiling in snow.
The cause of death is definitely natural. Perhaps a burial should be performed... now be careful on your journey, so you do not end like him.
The trail descends again, straying into a valley between two long ridges. There, below the tree line, the trail leads past massive slabs of lichen-encrusted granite, each standing on end in a mute testament to the ingenuity of some ancient culture. Time-worn runes are barely legible on the weathered stone, but they may reward a patient scholar with a clue to the history of this lonely place.
In a small clearing between two rocky outcroppings covering it from the wind, a horse is grazing on what little grass remain here. Shy, it has obviously a wounded leg, it should be approached carefully so it doesn't panic and run, its eyes are wary of humans. Without a saddle or harness, the horseshoes prove it is not wild.
Looks like somebody left it behind when it was hurt; maybe it will heal and survive on its own, maybe not. The mountains are dangerous, winter is coming fast, all who pass here are in a hurry. Those who would like to save it will lose precious time. Maybe, it is a test of kindness.
The Final Resting Place of a Great Shaman:
Note: This is ripped off the Coldforged brainstorm thread. It contains Coldforged specifics, but those can be removed by the GM at his leisure
While traveling in the mountains, a cave will come into view. If the PCs decide to explore, as PCs are wont to do, they will discover a pile of skulls near the entrance (the skulls of the shamans he enslaved on his path to becoming "Great Shaman" - when he died, so did they (against their will)). He did not hold any power over them in death, so now they are but skulls and pose no danger to the PCs whatsoever.
Inside they will find several flat slabs of stone have been formed into stairs of sorts and they lead up to a great chamber where the Great Shaman has been buried under a pile of rocks. Initially the chamber looks empty, save for the rocks and a small stream that trickles into a pool near the pile of rocks. Also there is nothing of danger in the chamber, except should the PCs disturb the resting place of the shaman, which will invoke the anger of the spirit companion he had while still breathing. This spirit is a powerful water spirit and manifests as a mist. Its attacks are performed with telekinesis and soon more stones will be flying around the chamber than the PCs would wish.
If the PCs do not disturb the grave nothing will happen. Even more: There is nothing on the bones of the shaman, nothing at all. There IS treasure hidden in the chamber however and a PC willing to dive into the pool will find it to be narrow and long. If he swims and climbs vertically down for 4 meters he will discover the bounty that the shaman brought to the grave. The cave is narrow and difficult to traverse to get down there and the bones of an unsuccessful looter will also be found here.
-Four thousand polished redbrand stones (the currency of the Haku People of the Mountains)
-A locked box containing the skulls of thirty infants (a powerful source of magic for the shaman, worthless and disgusting for non-shamans)
-A ritual flame dagger made of redbrand stone
- A lovely diamond necklace containing some 25 diamonds and formerly belonging to Kurfürstin Elana Hartberger who died in an ambush in the mountains. The shaman claimed it and loved the necklace so much he wore it every day for the rest of his life. The diamond necklace is a family heirloom of the family of Kurfürst Hartberger, who still mourns the loss of Elana. While the diamond necklace is priceless, it can be sold for thousands of gold pieces (it is worth much more). Indeed, the PCs will be hard pressed to find a fence that can give even a thousand gold. If they go to a jeweller he will instantly recognize it for what it is (the necklace is something of a legend) and he will inform them that it belongs to Kurfürst Hartberger. If the PCs go to him with it they will be rewarded well for their efforts, and the gratitude of a Kurfürst is a boon indeed. If they first go to a jeweller and then DON'T go to the Kurfürst, he is likely to hear of this and send hired help to retrieve it.
The air had grown chill the minute they descended into the strange valley, which was unmarked on any of their maps. It was so strange here, devoid of animal life and completely silent. The horses were nervous the entire journey through the vale. As they set about to collect firewood for the campfire they could hear their own voices as dim echoes through the eerie silence.
The food didn't taste anything that evening and their sleep was cold and troubled by nightmares. While they are clearing camp the next morning, one of them stumbles over a piece of stone jutting out of the ground nearby the horses. On closer inspection there seems to be runes engraved into the polished surface. The symbols true meaning is no more known among mere mortals and if they decide to dig deeper, they will discover that it is an ancient altar buried within the soil.
Any historically oriented party member will recognize the largest symbol to be the insignia of the powerful warlock who ruled this realm several centuries ago. At their departure from the area, something will seem amiss with one of the party members and all will remember the stories of the warlock's thousand curses.
A dead tree alongside the trail displays a variety of decayed heads. Representing various races and ages, they have each been impaled on iron spikes driven into the rotting trunk. A plank has been nailed below them, its crudely-scribed runes a baffling warning:
Those who remain on the trail soon discover that a band of miners has claimed it as their own. These tempermental prospectors are likely to attack anyone who learns the exact location of their "claim".
The trail runs alongside a gorge, the stream within swollen with recent rain. A spot of color down the slope catches someone's eye. Near the streambank lies a set of noble regalia. The embroidered robe of royal blue and cloth barding both bear a design of three golden horns: The arms of Arnmund the Rancorous, a notorious, murderous noble.
The blackguard had been followed here, sought by enemies of his house. In order to confuse his pursuers, he tossed his heraldic gear into the gorge, but an unfortunate gust kept the robes and barding from reaching the stream to be carried off. He remains somewhere nearby, his pretense of being a simple knight on pilgrimage somewhat inconsistent with his expensive, well-fed destrier.
Somebody lived here
You come upon the remains of what was once a house with a garden. Most of it was washed away by a flood or an avalanche, the garden gate leads into a small cultivated space opening into a precipice. A bench still remains. A rag doll can be found in the grass under it.
A rather thin dwarf is camping here. He was cursed with the exceptional ability and drive to climb, something he won't reveal to mere random travelers. But tomorrow he will climb on that tall mountain, barehanded, without a rope. He could be persuaded to teach someone a bit about climbing, though his natural aptitude makes people try risky maneuvers.
One day, he will choose a peak that is too dangerous.
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? Responses (7)
In the vein of the other Random Encounter threads, here comes a knock-off for the mountains!
Old goodness was reposted here - feel free to add new encounters.
Another good idea for an encounter list!
what val said.
We need more of these tales.