Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Random Encounter Environment: The Mountain Stream

When dungeonmastering I like my random encounters to fit into the broader arcs of my sandbox environments, so I usually have lists of available hostiles, neutrals and friendlies delineated by region. Determining the NPCs in a certain encounter is thus quite easy, however, one thing that is not always so easy is coming up with a fast idea for an iconic and memorable encounter (one of the best ways of making players think all the random encounters are part of a bigger story!).

Here, a list of encounters on mountain streams. Get your d12 ready!

1. ... as you round a bend in the rough trail you come upon a bowl carved from the cliffs by a gushing stream. The water cascades into a large, emerald pool, before gurgling further downhill into a steep, wooded ravine. On the boulders and shingles by the pool you see a group of ...

2. ... you follow the boulder-strewn trail up the U-shaped valley, when a sudden sharp/inhuman/bestial cry/roar resounds from behind a large round boulder around which tumbles the icy water of the stream ...

3. ... the trail switchbacks down into the gorge, lush ferns and trees scrabbling at the grey, flaking rock. Far below you spot movement, something or several somethings, large and covered in fur ...

4. ... crossing along the leafy verge of the alpine meadow you spy a gentle brook meandering along the marshy flat before disappearing behind the ruins of a strange and half-ruined building standing alone at the edge of the plateau. Perhaps it is an old mill or something more sinister ...

5. ... the gently rising old and crumbling road takes a bend into a sharp-sided ravine and there you see the ragged remains of an iron and stone bridge barely crossing a deep chasm down which the stream roars in spate, sending a fine mist into the air that catches the fading afternoon light and casting flickering rainbows in the sky before you.

6. ... from between two mighty cliffs the stream flows out, low now, but floods of years past seem to have washed away the trail, leaving a broken chaos of timbers, boulders and corroded structures in its wake ...

7. ... the trail continues out of the woods and into bright sunlight until it ends abruptly where a stone bridge used to stand. Only half-melted support stones remain on the two banks of a deep gorge carved into the plateau. Someone has tied several ropes leading from one side to the other, but the gently swaying grasses at the edge seem oddly luminous ...

8. ... as you come to the bottom of the narrow valley you see that the old causeway is in fact a crumbling dam of ancient masonry with logs, rubble and waste trapped behind it. The stream upriver seems cold, dark and ominously still, before continuing it's merry skipping way further down the valley ...

9. ... you push reeds aside, wading through sand and gravel beds, before coming to the stream, which widens out here, running gently across the slick, algae covered rocks. Several boulders stud its course, gushing white wakes foaming the water downriver of them ...

10. ... the high, ancient arches of the bridge span the broad valley and the confluence of the two small streams. The bridgeway towers at least twenty metres above your heads, studded with hanging mosses, gnarled bushes and dried out trees. The bridge seems to disappear in a dark ravine or cavern mouth at the other side of the valley ...

11. ... stumbling through the thick, ditch strewn wetland, pushing aside reeds and dodging under the lichen festooned branches of crumbling, half-rotted trees, you come upon an expanse of soft, sucking mud and a trickling stream in the middle of it. The banks are dotted with reeds and what seem to be the deep tracks of ...

12. ... you descend the trail from the higher plain, cautious on rocks slippery from the mist, and come upon two massive stone portals built on either bank of the wild stream leaping down the valley below. Perhaps a rope bridge once connected the portals, perhaps something else, but now beyond the portals is merely a sharp five metre drop to the icy-looking waters below ...