Ten Road Adventures
By: Jesse C Cohoon
If going by what happens in most games, travel on the roadways are mostly uneventful and boring, save for the few times that you’re stopped or delayed due to plot complications. But travel can be much more than a way to get from point A to point B, it can be a hook for potential plot lines, a character’s past, and more. Read on:
a. The Roadway Pickpocket: a seemingly helpless bystander is on the roadway, and asks the PCs for help getting back to town. When they agree, she robs them blind of all their loot while they sleep. If the PCs pursue, they soon lose the trail. When they get back into town, they see her again. Do they chase or not?
b. The fleeing victim: a bedraggled, and half-dead traveler stumbles upon the PCs, grasping one of them, saying “They come; flee before it’s too late!” before passing out. When the person comes to again, they can attempt to find out more details about what she or he was fleeing from and what type of a danger it is.
c. The plague victim: A person with some sort of pox stumbles upon the PCs. As they go to help, the person grabs onto one of them, infecting them. In a modern day setting this could be the beginning of a zombie outbreak.
d. The lost innocent: a person was kidnapped and then later abandoned. Due to their age, a disability, or confusion they are unable to tell where they came from. It’s up to the PCs to solve the mystery and get them back to where they belong.
e. The Wandering Bard: a traveling bard runs across the party and starts asking them about their adventures, about what challenges that they’ve faced. Parting ways after a bit news of the party’s exploits spread far and wide do to the bard’s influence. Are the stories accurate or do they paint the party in a bad light?
2. The Troll Bridge: this is similar to the classic tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” with the troll being any nasty monster seeking food (i.e. the PCs) or passage in order not to harass them. This can be twisted in that those guarding it could be a polymorphed creature cursed to collect tolls until someone sees through the curse to the true nature of the person. Another twist might be that the bridge (or other suitable roadway) could be manned by governmental officials, or other such personnel.
3. Bandits have taken up the roadway robbing any who dare to pass, but leaving them otherwise unharmed. The PCs are on a very time sensitive mission and if they delay – even to fight, it may end up costing them the mission. Do they allow themselves to be robbed so that they can get going or do they fight in order to keep their stuff?
4. The Tinker: an old tinker in a wagon is blocking the entire roadway, because it seems to have lost a wheel. The PCs have the time, and well within their skill level to do so. Do they bother to stop and help? Talking to him will give them clues they otherwise would not have had. If they have any broken equipment, he can see if he can fix it for the PCs for doing this favor for him.
In modern times it could be a junker whose car broke down and the PCs are able to fix it.
5. The “Road Closed” / Redirected sign. There can be a variety of reasons why a road might be closed or traffic might be redirected.
a. Flooded Road: The road or bridge may have washed out either due to a flood or to an angry water elemental playing havoc on the local waterways. It also could be too muddy to pass and any attempt at doing so would leave the PCs sunk up to their knees in mud or washed away due to a strong current. Who knows what nasties are in the water? In modern times, it can also be electrified as well!
b. Construction: This is a type of a thing that takes place mainly in cities. If there’s heavy construction equipment, scaffolding, or ramps that block the road may cause a road to be closed. The PCs hear a cry for help within the construction zone. The workers say that they’re not allowed to go investigate. Do they disobey the order and seek out whoever is asking for help, endangering themselves by not having the proper equipment?
Similarly, a road can be closed due to road construction or rebuilding. Some materials may be safe to pass over (drying concrete, tar) but may leave evidence of being passed over. If the PCs need to get through the area quickly, do they risk leaving evidence of their passing?
c. Crime investigation: Sometimes the authorities will want to close down a street in order to ensure there is nothing to contaminate the crime scene. The PCs have committed a crime and must get into the active crime scene investigation – through force, guile, or stealth.
d. Accident: This happens mainly in more modern day settings. Vehicles crash into one another and ensnare traffic to the point where the authorities need to close the roadway down. If the PCs are in a vehicle, they may need to find a different route.
Similarly, a train might have derailed causing a spill of dangerous chemicals, gasoline, causing the entire area to be evacuated.
e. Roadway conditions: icy conditions, excessive amounts of windblown snow, or destroyed roadways due to missing paving stones, potholes or sinkholes all might be responsible for road closures. In mountainous areas the authorities close down the roads for an entire season because they can’t afford the manpower to rescue vehicles that get stuck in the snow. The PCs facing such a situation may be able to get through if they are careful about it, but they may also get stuck… Do they risk it?
f. Plague: a group of people has blocked the road going into town and they won’t allow anyone to pass because there’s a plague in the town ahead. The PCs have the cure for it and need to get through. It’s up to them to convince those blocking the road to let them through.
g. Town Held Hostage: A town is being held hostage by some outside force that comes into the town. The townsmen finally got tired of it so it’s blocked the road to prevent anyone from coming in or out of the town. Do the PCs see how they can help the town?
h. Fugitive: A group is looking for a fugitive, which can either be the PCs or someone they know. This can work one of several ways. It can be a roadblock where a person or some group is searching for someone. In this instance the PCs can try the scene from Star Wars in which Obi Wan Kenobi said “These are not the droids that you are looking for.”
Conversely a person or group of people could be on the roadway going from group to group to question them, and/or search for their fugitive.
a. The Traveling Caravan: The party comes alongside a merchant caravan and the PCs are hired as guards to protect its cargo. What the PCs weren’t told is that their cargo are something that they would object to (an addicting drug, slaves, black market goods, etc.). Once they find out do they fulfil the terms of their contract or not?
b. The Circus/ Musical Troupe: The PCs run across a circus or musical troupe and in order to infiltrate an enemy kingdom, they join it in order to slip past the country’s border unchallenged. If found out, they have to talk their traveling companions not to give them up. Conversely, a circus or musical troupe might join the PCs that are up to no good and the PCs have to stop them from causing irreparable harm.
7. Traps: Someone could have dug a spiked pit for the unwary, harried, or stupid to fall into. In this case, the PCs must find out who’s responsible and why. Other types of traps that may be appropriate for the road are bear traps, and spiked log traps.
a. People Fleeing Disaster: there is a group of people coming towards the PCs who are fleeing from something: a fire, flood or barbarians that are pillaging and burning the town up ahead. What can the PCs do to help, if anything?
b. Monsters Fleeing: some much more powerful monster has moved into the area and even monsters that will generally tolerate one another’s presence are fleeing, not even bothering to take account of the fact that the PCs are in the way. The PCs need to find out what’s going on and fast before the situation becomes problematic for the nearby towns.
9. Army on the Road: An army is marching on the road. The PCs need to find out what’s going on without causing problems for themselves or anyone else in the area. What tactic can they use to do so without getting caught?
10. Cultists: a group of cultists is spreading death, and decay for some evil deity or demon. Because their pattern is at random where they strike, it’s up to the PCs to cast a wide net to be able to catch and stop them before the whole area falls to this evil influence.