d12 interesting events for travelling

Traveling often doesn’t need to be part of the story. This has been talked about by people who have thought about it more than me, and the advice typically is: don’t bog the game down with traveling. There’s no need for combat to show off how dangerous the world is. There’s no need to take a whole session of play getting from A to B when you’re trying to show off how far away two points are.

Just use your words.

However, on special occaisions you might want something fun to happen during travel. Here’s a d12 list of ideas for you to use on those occaisions.

I tried to do a d20 list, but it’s actually tricky to add interesting events without distracting from the story you’re trying to tell, which presumably the players want to get on with. (With the exception of number 10, which was just fun.)

1. Rain has been ceaseless. Travel difficult and slow. Make a Con save. The DC is 15 if you’re travelling without tents, with a tent the DC is 10. A failure means you’ve become ill – a mundane cold or slight fluu, but none the less it sucks. You are as if Poisoned until you find medicine or 1d4 days of comfortable rest has been acheived.

2. 1d4 crows – huge ones! – appear and fly nearby for a while. They harmless follow you, curiously. If you choose to befriend the birds, make an Animal Handling check (DC 10). On a success, the crows enjoy your company and are wiling to keep an eye out for you, even joining in battle when outside.

3. You were attacked by 1d4 salamanders. You dispatch them easily. Roll a Survival check (DC 10). On a success, you’re able to disect the animals and extract their poison glands, which are quite valuable. In the right hands, they’re also a good coating for your blades.

4. Make a Perception check (DC 10). On a success you come across a recently buried cache in the ground; it contains 1d4 simple weapons (one is silvered), some bread, water, and some cheeses. There’s also a love letter/death threat/written oath in the box.

5. Make Dexterity saving throws (DC 10). Your camp fire erupts for some reason, scattering burning ashes. On a failure, the embers catch your clothes. They’re damaged now, requiring light mending.

6. Whilst foraging or looking for water, you come across a natural beehive, filled with 1d4 litres of honey. It’s delicious (and valuable), so long as you have a way of carrying it.

7. Throughout your entire journey, at night, the voice of a weeping person could be heard. They sometimes yell a name into the night, but you’re unable to tell which direction it’s coming from. This happens every night. Make a Consitution saving throw (DC 10), or you arrive at your destination with one level of exhaustion.

8. Sometime into your journey you meeting another traveller who is just leaving the general direction of your destination. They stay just long enough to answer two questions; one will be a truth and one will be a plausible lie that the players should corroberate before acting on.

9. Your horse has taken an injury – painfully broken ankle or stone in its shoe – and is unable to carry the burden of your baggage. You’re slowed and need to carry your own cargo. This may mean that you need to leave something behind if you can no longer carry it. Maybe it’ll still be there next time you come by this way…

10. A man lies dead on the floor and a shimmer of a portal – barely visible – still lingers behind him. It is stable and leads to his home which for some reason he was escaping from. Side dungeon!

11. Your journey coincides with the travelling of a circus/bardic band/priest. Along the way you helped them by sharing rations or forraging extra food for them as they were running low. They owe you a favour, which they’re happy to pay at a later date. (The currently have no money.)

12. You find a spellbook/holy book/Tome of Honourable Deeds/natural observation log. It lists a spell, ritual, or enchantment you’ve never heard of before. In fact, no one has. No one is able to deceipher it. It grows warm when it is most needed.

Crooked Taverns

The Dawdlers, your adventuring group, have made their way across nearly sixty miles of wet wheat. With the previous town now long behind them, and their tents too damaged to keep off the endless rain, the sight of the next town is the only thing that keeps their spirits from trailing heavily behind them.

The only lights still burning in the town are The Central Station, a tavern with rooms and maybe even a pillow.

“I guess we sleep for the night,” says Dwight, the gnomish barbarian.

“Sure,” you say. “The inn keeper says he has space. It’s two silvers per room.”

“I give that.”

“And you rest in the rooms, and then you’ve had a full rest. You get your spellslots back.”

Ugh. What a missed opportunity. Continue reading “Crooked Taverns”

The gods amongst us

Steven Lumpkin writes over on the 1d100 blog about ideas that he rolls on, randomly. I’ve rolled ‘Gods’ on his current table. Lets do that in twenty five minutes.

Physical embodiments of power

Gods didn’t create the world. They aren’t the source of your magic. Without them, the world won’t cease to function any differently from what it already does – except maybe there’s on less tyrant or helping hand. These people – for that’s all they are – are highways of immense magic. Where you may pluck at the arcane strings between our world and the ethereal, they are a conduit for it. The power of this radiates awfully from them, hurting to peer at them for too long.

People of this much power come baring gifts to those who wish to follow them. They punish those they are jealous of and take all they think they deserve with no regard for your livelihood. Kneel, or die. There is no way you can stop them.

Well… There was that one time. A hidden boy from the shadows with a dagger – some bards sing of the dagger’s dark mutterings but others of its mundane rust – with a quick jab and the god bled. Bled like a swine, draining over a butcher’s grate.

Missing clarity

Gods can only brag of their power. Those that brag of their knowledge are arrogant and blind. Like you they hear with their ears, taste with their tongue, and feel with their touch. Divination may be their skill set, but time enough to witness everything is likely not.

They are still prone to lust and grief, hunger and pining. So they can be prayed upon by the wise. Manipulation can be a risky game but the rewards that come along with it far exceed that. The gods know this well. One thing that unites them all is this paranoia.

Messengers and missionaries

It is not rare for a god to take on a group of their closest followers – the ones they distrust their least – and have them scout the world for them, and bring back stories and information on would-be betrayals. These people compile information, carry messages between each other, and do all they can to stay in the close circle of few, near their beloved.

This clerical work comes with rewards. Items and badges of honour which show their position alongside a god – their protection assured by just showing this badge. Enemies of their Lord often flee at its sight, fearing retribution for wrongdoing against them.

A cleric’s travels does not take them along well trodden trading roads. They paths they have to take are far more unkept, as they seek where others rarely go, looking for threats against god. As time cures all ills, so does practice. Understanding how to mend wounds and purge poisons comes with the job, after time.

Roll your character

I saw someone make some dice on Facebook once – I think they were 3d printed – with class and race icons on them. I thought it was cool but the I’m saving to buy a house right now so I didn’t even click through to see how much they were selling them for.

In a fun collaboration with my partner, we made some paper d12s, which have the standard classes on. Well, they have icons which you can guess are for the standards classes. It’s hard to differentiate between sorcerers and wizards, fighters and barbarians, so think of these more as Story Cubes. If you can’t tell, make up a story around the icon and go for what you really wanna play!

A stack of paper d12s

Lost Civilisations

Following my notes on merchants, my next article is discussing lost civilisations, ranging from the extinction of entire species, the affect of a single family disappearing, or even just one unique creature going missing. In any case, this chapter will dive into what’s left for your adventurers to find when someone vanishes from the face of the earth.

Ruins and reminders of who came before help fill your world with history that makes it feel more real. Maybe your adventurer’s quest didn’t just start last Tuesday, but they’re following the events of something that happened three centuries ago that’s only now causing problems.

Here’s what you get in this one:

  • The history of three ideas for long gone people that you’re free to steal or use for inspiration
  • Five tables to roll on (along with a healthy dose of imagination) to build your own long lost group
  • A whole one-shot adventure, with the potential to totally end the world unless your characters can act against a ritual to summon a kraken
  • Six ridiculously powerful rings
  • Stats for a bright imp, a cool celestial controlled imp
  • Sprinklings of DM advice all through

Like before, you can grab this for free here, or you can pay-what-you-want over on the DMs Guild.

More on Merchants

A while ago I wrote a tiny article giving some stat blocks for merchants and tradesman around your 5e world, and then I popped it on the DMs Guild and people actually bought it. With real money.

Alongside my excitement at having made money from my writing for the first time ever, I felt bad that it was really just two pages that people had paid for. So I supersized it!

Now, the merchants article includes:

  • Stat blocks for common and master merchants
  • A system for figuring out the value of goods (appraising), which you can use for your merchants or for players who want to make such a check
  • Three different NPCs, premade for you with wants, desires, and a place in the world
  • Each of them have a quest prompt for you to expand on that you can fit into your world, or kick off your campaign with
  • 24 items that the NPCs sell, each ready for you to put some history into
  • Four bits of DM advice!

You can grab it for free here, or pay-what-you-want over on the DM’s Guild.

I received some feedback

The best part about writing those two spells was that a couple of my friends gave me some notes which made me think about aspects of design that I hadn’t considered.

One friend, we’ll call him Will as that’s his name, pointed out that in my attempt to add fun to Sleep, I missed out a crucial point: niche spells aren’t necessarily a terrible thing. Specifically, the spell is one of the only AOE low level abilities. This is why it’s a good spell. Mark, another accurately named friend, said nearly the exact same thing about my reimagining of Gentle Repose. It’s a spell that’s good for two very specific and very important tasks; extending the time that Revivify can be cast, and stopping an ally becoming a manipulated undead. Any more than that and the spell becomes overpowered – hard to wrangle.

It’s weird that I was given this advice multiple times, by two different people. All the evidence points to this being practised wisdom. Will and Mark have played longer than me (and dare I say it, pour over the core books much better than I do). Not to mention the fact that Wizards likely know what they’re doing – so many of the spells must behave like this for some reason. It must be that a singularly purposed spell is just Good Writing.

Despite that, I still want to scream “WHY!?”

Aren’t sleepy crickets and animated, not-quite-dead allies fun? What’s so bad about “hijinks” (as scrap princess calls it) or “versatility” (as Mark called it)?

Does versatility make writing campaigns hard? Is a sandboxed rules environment too difficult to balance? This can only be true if a DM writing a campaign sits down and writes around these spells that open (or allow rescue from) very specific avenues of folly. In which case, the spells really are terrible. They shouldn’t take up the space they do in the PHB. I don’t think this is how people write adventures.

In a world where Wizards have given us very specific Allen keys that work only in very specific bolts, I feel like we could do with some more multitools.

Wouldn’t that be more fun?