On The Road

Approximate time to read: 8 minutes.   

The Mountain Pass provides the potential for a week long journey, while The Promised Land adventure feels a lot shorter – indeed, half of the events appear to occur on the uphill climb into the pass itself. Therefore, you might find that you want to fill out the encounters a bit and use that journey north not only as an introduction to the game, but also as a way to building relationships between the player characters.

The following encounters can appear anywhere along the journey, as the Pass supports land sheltered and fertile enough for civilisation, which in turn attracts both positive and negative elements from society. You could potentially have the Player Characters serve as scouts or a forward guard, especially if the encounter with Mal-Rogan precedes these encounters – Argasto will have become far more cautious and believe the danger warrants extra effort to avoid trouble on the road.

The Well-Tended Farm

You come across a small-holding nestled in the crook of a shallow valley, fed by a meandering stream. The farm appears relatively prosperous with a range of livestock and a large barn watched by the farmer’s diligent sons.

You might:

Offer some kind of trade for the livestock – The farmer’s unwilling without an offer of at least three times the going rate (as listed in Table 16: Farm Animals, Core Book p155). He won’t be convinced under normal circumstances to lower his prices. He will offer the alternative of selling his Meat Pies for 2 shillings a piece (large and wrapped in golden pastry); in truth these contain a little too much offal and filler, but they’re tasy enough.

Intimidate the farmer into giving you the livestock – The farmer and his two sons (all with stats similar to a Cult Follower, Core Book p211) will stand up to any act of intimidation, but won’t risk their lives over it. First blood for any of them, the player characters can make a Persuasive test at +3; they same check follows each additional wound. Once successful at a test or one of the family collapses with zero Toughness, the farmer will hand over whatever livestock they want. He has half a dozen cows, a dozen sheep, three pigs, two mules and a dozen chickens. If the player characters have travelled here with anyone else from the caravan, they’re unlikely to appreciate the heavy handedness of the encounter. The farmer will report the theft, meaning the player characters will acquire the Wanted burden in 3d4 days time.

Ask “Come with us, it’s not safe here.” – Despite the truth of the creeping dangers out in the middle of nowhere, with threats of bandits and corruption, the farmer won’t leave.

Leave the farmers and their animals alone – They’ll be watchful as the player characters pass by and might offer food and shelter if late in the day. The barn actually doesn’t contain anything of great value; the sons sit there because the barn’s position shelters them from the wind coming along the valley.

However, if you favour something more exciting, the barn actually holds a mutated bull, the body of the beast clearly riddled with corruption. The bull has strangely twisted horns, excessive musculature in the legs and it seems the farmer has been butchering the beast – which survives through Regeneration. It has the stats of an Aboar (Core, p221) with Regeneration (I), Dark Blood, Bestial and Slow. In this instance, the farmer and sons all have stats similar to a Fortune-Hunter (Core, p215).

Peasants and Brigands

You come across a group of peasants baring loaded carts and surrounded by brigands. The leader of the brigands, a man with an eye-patch and a shaven head, seems amiable enough and offers a cart in exchange for shutting up and moving on.

You might:

Accept the offer – The cart contains sacks, jars and barrels of trade goods worth 1d6+4 Thaler if sold in a city market. The player characters would get a fraction of that value if they sell it on to a trader instead, but nevertheless they should get about half.

Declare “Back away from these people or die” – The brigands will fight. Adjust personal equipment to be more suitable, but otherwise the enemy group consists of:

  • Robber Chief x1 (Core, p211)
  • Self-Taught Witchhunters x3 (Core, p214)
  • Robbers – equal to the number of Player Characters + 2 (Core, p211)

They will start the encounter scattered about the player characters, the caravan, and peasants, seeking to gain the advantage of their position from the outset. While in discussion with the leader, those brigands carrying bows will have backed off a ways to get a better position and some distance.

Ask “What’s going on here?” – The brigand commander states that he and his people all hail from the lands of Baron Hior and that these peasants have been moving and selling their product without paying the proper taxes. They’re a problem and they need to be managed so as to ensure no future disobedience. The commander keeps to the point and maintains his offer – as the cart itself means nothing to him if it also means no trouble.

If you want to change up the nature of the encounter, a Vigilant -3 test notes that a couple of the brigands carry manacles of a type commonly used by slavers in the area. If questioned specifically about the intent of the brigands and the peasants, in respect of slavery, a Persuasive test (no modifier) versus the brigand leader shows a telltale flicker.

Blinding Blizzard

A sudden, inexplicable blizzard hits the caravan. The storm strikes with such fury that the caravan cannot move ahead without considerable risk and potential for loss of life, demanding a Death March test and will slow forward progress as if travelling in Dark Davokar. The storm abates after a day and it becomes immediately apparent that some of the members of the caravan have gone missing.

Roll 1d10 for each named non-player character, except the caravan leader. On a roll of 10, that character has gone missing. In addition (or if no named characters are missing), a further 1d4+2 unnamed caravan members have also disappeared.

You might:

Make a thorough search for the lost travellers – The player characters will need to form a search party, come up with an approach to finding the missing individuals and then keep the focus of the searchers on target.

All player characters should make a Strong test, losing 1d4 Toughness on a fail and just 1 Toughness on a success – unless they have remarked on wrapping up incredibly well (in which case they cannot contribute to the Vigilant test) or use magic to keep warm (in which case they cannot contribute to the Resolute test).

Those searching need to choose who to make a Vigilant test and who to make a Resolute test – one to coordinate the search and the other to maintain morale and focus in the long hours spent. If both fail, no travellers are recovered – though a player can choose to spend a point of Experience to adjust that result by one recovered named traveller or two unnamed per point. On a single success, all named characters are recovered and half the unnamed – with the option to spend Experience. On a full success, all but one unnamed traveller are recovered.

You can complicate a search by adding an encounter with a suitable hungry wild animal, like a Beamon (The Witch Hammer, pg 66) or a pack of Snow Jackals.

Ask for volunteers to scout the immediate area – If the player characters choose not to search, but ask for volunteers, four members of the caravan head out of the camp. Roll for the missing, as before, and add 4 to the unnamed. Take a dice with a number of sides less than, but as close to, the number of missing named and unnamed. Roll with a +1 modifier to determine the number who make it back to camp. Each character that returns has lost 2 Toughness from the cold.

Belun, Bartolom and 3 unnamed travellers went missing, with 4 unnamed searching for them (2 + 3 + 4 = 9) – so the GM rolls an 8-sided dice

Whatever the result, that’s the number who return, in order of named, searchers and finally unnamed.

The GM rolls a 3 on the 8-sided dice for a total of 4 (3 + 1). Belun, Bartolom and two searchers return. Each character has suffered 2 Toughness damage from the bitter cold.

While the player characters choose not to participate, they can still choose to spend Experience as per the previous option to return more survivors after the GM makes the roll for survivors.

Make a bonfire and wait, hoping the missing travellers return – There’s little wood to be had for the purpose and despite the storm abating sitting and waiting does little for morale or temperament. No travellers will return (unless the player characters spend Experience at twice the rate noted above – two for named, one for unnamed), the caravan loses a day waiting, and any Persuasive test for the remainder of the journey suffers a -3 penalty due to loss of good will and support from the members of the caravan.

Move on, calling on the blessing of Prios for the lost – Callous as heck. The caravan doesn’t lose any more time, but the good will remains damaged, per the last entry, for the rest of the journey. Indeed, the indifference means that the player characters get a reputation that hangs around with them like a stink for the next adventure – gifting them with Pariah temporarily in respect to all contact with Civilised People. They can buy off this Burden by spending 3 Experience points at the start of the adventure. Anyone who already possesses this Burden cannot buy it off and automatically fails social challenges.

Voices Raised in Song

As the travellers make camp in the evening, a woman begins to sing a verse, her voice strong if not tuneful. A man soon joins her, continuing the verse and seeking to find some harmony. Before long, the whole caravan seems to have joined in, a riot of singing and laughter.

You can:

Join in the song – The simple act of singing along with the other travellers raises spirits and general morale. One character can make a Persuasive test, adjusted by -3 if they have no musical skills. If the test succeeds, the characters acquires a certain renown and appreciation from the caravan members who become more accepting and helpful. The player character group acquire access to two re-rolls on tests for the remainder of the adventure when acting alongside other members of the caravan. These re-rolls function like Experience points (Core, p179) but cannot be used for spend on improvement.

Declare “We need to stay vigilant.” – Any call for quiet, however sensible, dulls the mood and sours the travellers toward the player characters. Any Persuasive test for the remainder of the journey suffers a -1 penalty due to loss of good will and support from the members of the caravan.

Ignore the sing-along and keep alert for danger – The morale of the caravan rises and no one really seems to notice that the player characters didn’t join in.

Join in with a verse of your own – The morale of the caravan rises. If the player genuinely sings something – original or otherwise – award them an extra point of Experience for rising to the challenge.

If you want to add something else to the challenge, a Hard Vigilant test will detect the approach of something drawn to the sound of song, such as the Beamon or Snow Jackal, referenced under Blinding Blizzard or something ‘civilised’ like bandits or Elfling scouts, the latter which might simply then follow the caravan and keep distant, harassing the travellers only if they do something undesirable.

Feature image: Caravan by Paul Scott Canavan. Used with permission.

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  1. The Mountain Pass Hex Map – The Iron Pact

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