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Random Encounters

by Christopher Magoun
cmagoun3@home.com

Characters in fantasy role-playing campaigns are often on the road, traveling to the next town or tracking down an adventure. Most often, the trip is uneventful, handled in a few moments of GM description and then the PCs arrive at their destination. This is fine since it gets players to the action as quickly as possible and keeps the GM's plot moving.

However, I can't help but remember fondly those old AD&D modules where the landscape around a dungeon was as interesting (often more interesting) as the site itself. The land was detailed with encounters, mini-dungeons, random events and NPCs. Some of it may have had something to do with the "Plot At Hand", but much of it was simply an interesting diversion. Getting there was literally half the fun.

In retrospect, I suppose my fond memories of those "wilderness encounters" comes more from gaming nostalgia than actual love of the idea. Playing devil's advocate, I can also remember spending hours drawing detailed countryside maps and creating encounters only to have them missed entirely ("Are you sure you guys don't want to go northeast???"), or ignored by those silly players who had read too many "How to Succeed at RPGs" articles in the Dragon and decided to bypass my encounters so they would be fresh when they reached the "real goal." And, I saw my fair share of PCs whittled down by the wilderness outside the evil temple so that they could not continue on the adventure, grinding my main campaign plot to a halt.

I suppose some kind of middle ground is best. PC trips between towns SHOULD be eventful. The wilderness of a fantasy world has little in common with the easily traveled, sterile highways of our modern world. They should be dangerous places where getting to your destination is uncertain unless care is taken... and spending a night at a roadside inn is a welcome change. On the other hand, I do not want to spend too much time drawing detailed terrain maps and meticulously charting the PCs' location in the game world.

My proposed solution is to have the GM create a set of encounter cards, using 3"x5" note cards. These cards would have the following information on them:
  • Encounter # (a unique number for each card)
  • Encounter Name
  • Encounter Type
  • Monster
  • NPC
  • Minor Event
  • Major Event
  • Place
  • Item
  • Possible Locations
    • Town
    • Forest
    • Mountain
    • Swamp
    • At Sea
    • Specific Regions
  • Description and Effects

The GM will have to create a small bank of cards to start the campaign. About 20 or so ought to be a good start. Each week the GM ought to come up with a few new ideas and add these cards to the deck. I picture these cards as containing encounters ranging from the common random creature encounter, to an encounter with a merchant, to a mundane event like their wagon breaking down (or beast of burden getting sick), to the finding of a unique site or item, or even just a surprise thunderstorm. During a trip, a stay in town or sea-journey, the GM would draw a number of cards (one ought to be sufficient, but some GMs might want 2 or 3 for long journeys, or may want to pick a few cards and choose one that he thinks would be interesting). At some point in the trip, he springs the encounter on the players.

Though at first, these cards seem to be nothing more than a glorified random encounter table, I think they are better for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, random encounter tables are generally only appropriate for specific areas. When the players move on, then new tables must be generated. If the GM constructs the cards properly, they can be reused over and over in a campaign.

Second, encounter tables are often static. Once you create them, it is often a hassle to add or delete items. The encounter deck is a dynamic entity. Each week the GM adds a few new ideas. As cards are drawn, they can be discarded from the deck (or kept in the deck if that is more appropriate).

Third, the deck can be a wonderful randomizer for a campaign. Most encounter tables are very creature/NPC heavy and have few events. I think it would be nice if occasionally the PCs had to deal with some of the difficulties of travel. Wagons break, oxen and horses get ill, roads are washed out by storms. Though you do not want these things to happen too often, a small dose of these "mundane" problems can provide good problem-solving and role-playing opportunities.

The Cards

Card #1

Name

Merchant Train

 

Type

NPC

Where

Road/Town

The PCs encounter a group of merchants who are stopped for a rest on this road. They will generally be friendly to the PCs and will have a number of mundane goods to sell. Examples include furs, metal tools and utensils, a few weapons and pieces of armor, spices and foodstuffs. If the GM so desires, the merchants could be carrying a few odd items that might interest the PCs -- for instance, alchemical reagents, a couple nice weapons or potions.



Card #2

Name

Transportation Breakdown

 

Type

Event

Where

Road/Wilderness

The method of transportation the PCs are using has a breakdown of some sort. If the PCs are on riding beasts, then those beasts get ill or run away. If they are on a wagon, then the wheel breaks.



Card #3

Name

Gaunt Attack

 

Type

Creature

Where

Hills/Mountain

The PCs are attacked by a group of gaunt. They will number about 1 or 2 less than the PC group (use discretion here). They will swoop down from any available high perch, trying to knock down and embrace as many characters as possible on the first round or so of combat. After the first couple rounds of combat, they will flee if they have taken any damage. Their lair may be close by, so the group will be attacked again if they spend a great deal of time in the area.



Card #4

Name

Misplaced Item

 

Type

Event

Where

Any

Oops! One of the PCs will misplace a random, small item. This item will not be something too critical, but should be something they will notice and miss. The circumstances of this loss will depend on the GM and the situation. If the PCs are in a town, perhaps a pickpocket has stolen it. In the wilderness, a worn strap on a pack may have come loose.



Card #5

Name

Tollbooth

 

Type

Place

Where

Road

The local lord has placed a tollbooth on the road the PCs are currently using. They will be required to either pay the toll (coming to 4 bits/person + a 5 penny tax on each weapon they are carrying), or try to avoid the booth by traveling through the wilderness. If the PCs go through the booth, and are fairly polite to the toll collector, he may have heard some rumors or information as to what lies ahead.



Card #6

Name

Ill

 

Type

Event

Where

Any

One of the PCs takes ill. Unless the PCs have recently passed through an area suffering from disease, it is a minor illness that will last for 1-6 days. It gives the PC a -1 to all actions and associated sneezing, coughing, stuffy head and so on.



Card #7

Name

Abandoned Guardpost

 

Type

Place

Where

Road/Wilderness

This small building and tower have long since been abandoned and forgotten. If the PCs are on a road, this post will be in some harsh terrain overlooking the road. If the PCs are traversing the wilderness, this building can be anywhere. The GM can make this guardpost as interesting (or mundane) as he likes. For a suggestion, see the associated encounter at the end of this section.



Card #8

Name

Howling Wolves

 

Type

Event

Where

Woods/Mountains

One night, as the PCs camp, they hear the baying of a wolf pack. Depending on where the PCs are, these could be normal wolves, winter wolves, mountain wolves, or any combination. The wolves are nearby, but it is up to the GM if the PCs will meet up with any of them, or not.



Card #9

Name

Lemon

 

Type

Event

Where

Any

One of the items a PC has just recently purchased turns out to be a dud. A backpack's straps or lantern's handle will break. A potion turns out to do nothing, or something annoying like turn the PC's mouth and tongue bright blue. A gem is flawed... whatever.



Card #10

Name

Corpse

 

Type

Event

Where

Any

The PCs come across a corpse hidden (not so well) along their path of travel. Depending on where the PCs are when they come across the body, it could be a beggar who died of disease, an unlucky adventurer, a goblin scout or just about anything else. The GM will have to make up the details of the body.



Card #11

Name

Wedding

 

Type

Event

Where

Near a Village

As the PCs approach, or pass by, the village, they spot a party going on. If they bother to investigate, they will be told that the party is for the wedding of the lord's reeve to the daughter of a local farming family. The entire village is here and there is food, drink and dance. Everyone is in such a good mood, that the normal fear of strangers is overcome by good will and the PCs are invited to join in the festivities.

The GM can either move this encounter along, or make it last by adding some NPC descriptions and interaction. Perhaps there is some local news to be gained here.



Card #12

Name

Funeral

 

Type

Event

Where

Village/City

As the PCs are walking, they come across a solemn funeral service. The GM will have to create a few details such as who died and how. More than likely, the PCs will keep moving, but if they do bother to investigate, they will meet a sad, but talkative aunt who will fill them in. If the deceased died in some unnatural fashion, perhaps this encounter can lead to an adventure.



Card #13

Name

Great Campsite

 

Type

Place

Where

Road/Wilderness

The PCs come across a campsite that provides shelter and is near a good source of water and berry bushes, or a game trail. This is a great place to rest and camp.



Card #14

Name

Rellen Balkandor

 

Type

NPC

Where

Road/Wilderness/Town

The PCs come across this NPC who is either traveling, or resting from his travels. Rellen is a warrior who is on a quest of some sort. Once the PCs meet Rellen, his card can be recycled and each time it comes up, Rellen makes an appearance. For Rellen's quest, I would choose some item or enemy from the campaign world and have the warrior looking for this. Rellen is a warrior of similar power to the PCs.



Card #15

Name

Goblin Patrol

 

Type

Event/Monster

Where

Road/Wilderness

The PCs come across a patrol of goblins. The exact numbers are up to the GM and should be based on the strength of the PC party and whether the GM wants this to potentially turn into a combat situation or not. Also, what they are doing here is anyone's guess. If you are near goblin lands, this could be a routine patrol. If not, then this event will be odd and disturbing to the local authorities.

The GM is encouraged to improvise a reason for the goblins' presence. Perhaps they are a hunting party looking for a fugitive goblin. They could be scouting for a larger force, or they could simply be lost. Another idea would be that the group is a hunting party that belongs to a friendly tribe of goblins in this land.



Card #16

Name

How Did They Find Me?

 

Type

Event

Where

Any

If any PC has a Hunted limitation, or a recurring enemy from their background or past adventures, then that hunted appears. He could be here to make the PCs' lives miserable, or minding his own business.



Card #17

Name

Sword in the Stone

 

Type

Place

Where

Road/Wilderness

The PCs discover a finely made sword embedded in a stone. The nature of the sword and the circumstances of its being in the stone are up to the GM. Some ideas will appear at the end of this article.



Card #18

Name

Wonderful Day

 

Type

Event

Where

Road/Wilderness

The weather is great and the PCs will be able to travel with relative ease, covering about 1.25 times the distance they would normally cover.



Card #19

Name

Whatís All This About?

 

Type

Event

Where

Town

The PCs come across two parties in the throws of a heated argument. The details of this argument and the parties involved are left to the GM. The two could be business partners or bitter rivals. They could be husband and wife.



Card #20

Name

Ghost

 

Type

Event/Creature

Where

Any

A spirit visits one of the characters. I would give this creature a 50/50 chance to be friendly or hostile to the PC in question. If the group has recently lost a comrade, or vanquished an enemy, then these make good candidates for this event. The ghost will bless or curse the character with something that is appropriate for the dead person in question. Alternately, if the GM likes visions and prophecies in the game, he can have the ghost speak a prediction of the upcoming adventures.



These are just some ideas and should give you enough to start your own deck. Using these cards successfully in a campaign depends on the GM keeping certain things in mind as he prepares and then executes his game.
  • What is your tolerance for ad-libbing the game? Many of the cards will force the GM to come up with a quick NPC, situation or scenario. While some GMs are great at this quick thinking, others are not. Determine how much ad-libbing you can tolerate and create the cards with this in mind. Either create the cards with the write-ups and situations already described, or avoid cards that force you to make things up on the fly.

  • What is your tolerance for scrapping the plan? You may not mind ad-libbing an encounter or two, but can your game survive if the PCs totally ignore the main plot and go chasing after Rellen Balkandor? What if the encounter with the PC hunted gets out of hand, and the PCs are forced to flee the area, leaving the great adventure (you know, the one you spent hours creating) behind. As you use the cards, leave yourself an "out" if you see the encounter taking over the main storyline. The hunted may have other business in the area. Rellen might decide to forego his quest for a time and follow the PCs. If the storyline is important, don't let your cards wreck it.

  • Keep the cards fresh by rotating them out of the deck. The first time the bridge is washed out, the PCs will think you planned it and they will find it an interesting challenge. The second time, they will be much less interested. The fifth time, they will ask you where you got that screwy encounter chart. Some cards are one-time cards, others are meant to remain in the deck. Even if a card is meant to be reused, rotate it out of the deck for a few weeks so that the encounters will have variety.

  • Remember, the more cards you have, the less chance any one encounter has of appearing. If you have 20 cards in your deck, then each card has a 5% chance of appearing. Perhaps you feel that 5% is too high a chance for the "Gain Godlike Power" event to occur. You need more cards. On the other hand, if you have 200 cards in your deck, the chance for the new, cool card you just created to appear is 0.5%. You need to rotate a few cards out of the deck for a while.

  • Pick two or three cards and create a story out of them. This can be a good way to randomize the encounters while giving the GM some time to think. Before the game, pick a small set of cards, discard ones you don't want and create a mini-story out of the rest of them, working their events and NPCs into your planned storyline.

  • Get a few other GMs to make decks as well and trade ideas. If you know other GMs who run the same game as you, you can hit them up for ideas, cards and detailed encounter write-ups. This means you do less work creating cards and can make the ones you do create more interesting and detailed. Also, cards from different GMs will add quite a bit of variety to the mix of encounters. Just keep in mind differing styles and power levels of the various game worlds and campaigns.

Encounter Write-ups

I suppose one of the pitfalls of this random encounter method is the need to write up some of the encounters. This could be a fair bit of work, and I have tried to keep the cards to encounters that could be ad-libbed if necessary. However, some pre-written details will be required for certain encounters. Here are some ideas for the encounters listed above. Feel free to use these, or make your own, as you like.

The Abandoned Guardpost

GM's Notes: This place was constructed over 200 years ago for a local lord. The guards here would collect tolls from people using the road and watch the surrounding countryside for signs of a hostile force of goblins moving into the lands. As the area became more settled, the need for the post decreased and it was abandoned.

About 120 years ago, the lord's land was decimated by plague. Many of the peasants died and those lucky few that survived fled the diseased land. The Baron took over the land and worked at repopulating it. This effort was largely successful, but certain areas remained uninhabited until recently. This outpost is in one of these areas.

A number of months ago, a small bandit gang took up residence in the post. They traveled the land, attacking merchants and raiding small villages and farmsteads. After their raids, they fled to this place, counting on its remote location to keep them hidden. In the case of attack, the bandits used the tower to give them warning and time to prepare a defense or flee.

Unfortunately for them, the bandits did not know that there was a powerful undead creature lurking nearby...

Approaching the Guardpost: PCs on the road can see the guard post perched on a rock outcropping. It looms over the trail and it is obvious that anyone in the tower will have already spotted them. It is also obvious from the road that the place is in disrepair. The guard tower is missing planks from the sides, as well as the ladder leading up. Shutters hang from their hinges. It is hard to say if anyone is even manning the post.

To approach, PCs could climb the rocks. This would take a climbing roll at DL 14. Equipment could lower this to a DL 11 or 12 at the GM's discretion. It looks like a tough ascent and without climbing skill; you would have to be pulled up via rope.

A more gentle approach appears down the road a bit. A small and mostly overgrown trail branches from the main road and leads up the hill. A fair bit of cut vegetation and some netting lies at the foot of the trail. Someone with tracking or survival skill (DL 7 if the GM feels a skill roll is appropriate) would understand that this was meant to hide this trail from prying eyes. The fact that this ruse has been left to falter should tip PCs that the place is abandoned.

The Trail: The trail cuts through the dense woods and turns a couple times. It is narrow, overgrown and hidden from the view of the tower. A perception roll (DL 11) will allow a PC to notice that there seem to be several small animal skeletons scattered along the sides of the trail. They are in no particular place or order. There are just too many of them to be coincidence.

After walking a few minutes, PCs appear at the edge of the wood, about 20 meters from the post. PCs will have to cross clear terrain to get to the building. However, by now PCs can see that no one mans the tower, and that the place is obviously old and unkempt.

Description: Sitting perched on a barren cliffside, overlooking a forgotten trade road lays this abandoned post. It consists of a small building constructed of a mix of flagstone and gray blocks of ancient make, held together by cracked and crumbling mortar. The outside looks old. Parts of the wall are crumbling and the heavy shutters on the windows are hanging crooked from their hinges. A tower extends from the ceiling of the building, but there seems to be no way to get up there from outside the post.

Outside the Post: The description above gives most of the information about the outside of the post. However, just inside the woods, across the clearing from the trail, there is a set of four shallow, open graves and dirt scattered everywhere. The graves look as though they have ben dug some time ago (the dirt is dried) and there are no tools here. Also the dirt is scattered and not piled, though someone might need a PER roll (or investigation) at DL 12 to notice this.

In addition, some distance in the woods lays a body wearing an old, tattered shirt and pants. The pants are unfastened and loose. There is a spear nearby with its point driven into the ground.

Entering the Post: A rotted wooden door is the obvious entrance to the post. However, there are several shuttered windows around the walls. The shutters are heavy, and those that still sit on their hinges are locked (the locks are inaccessible from this side) and cannot be opened without significant effort (perhaps STR roll of DL 17). There are several that are not on their hinges and these would allow easy access to the post.

The door is pretty easy to breach as well. It is a heavy oak door with metal bindings. However, much of the wooden part has rotted such that someone could easily smash through with a sword or axe. More simply, the door is not locked and anyone trying the handle will be greeted with the loud screeches of rusty hinges, but the door will open.

Common Room: This room has a large round table and five chairs scattered about. In addition, the walls are lined with a waist-high counter and some shelves. A ladder in one corner leads to a trapdoor in the roof. The table is in decent (if dusty) condition, but the chairs are overturned and scattered about the room. Some of the shelves are cracked and along one wall, the shelf has collapsed entirely. A cooking pit dominates one corner of the room with a stovepipe chimney above it to keep the room free from smoke. The chimney pipe has fallen from the ceiling and now lies broken in the pit. Four dead bodies occupy this room. One is lying next to the pit and the other is sprawled over the large table.

This place looks as though it was a kitchen and dining area for several guards. However, a battle of some sort has occurred. If characters examine the bodies, allow them to roll against the fact table below using their investigate or physician skills (medical -3 might be substituted at the GM's discretion).

Success DL
Information Gained

<5

None

5-7

The bodies have been killed by wounds from combat and have been dead for some time.

8-15

The bodies have been here for a long time, but some of the bodies are more recent than others. It looks like some of the skeletons have been here for well over a year, and others just a few months.

16-19

The bodies' wounds can be reasonably matched to the weapons found here at the scene. It seems as though the guards here killed each other.

20+

Some of the bodies have a great deal of dirt on them and embedded in the joints, as though they were buried and then disinterred.



The bodies wear old and now useless leather armor. Two of them carry short swords, another carries a mace and the last one a spear. One of the bodies wears a rotted coat and the remnants of a belt. A pouch on this belt carries some old tobacco and rolling papers. Another skeleton has a gold earring in the skull (was a nose ring). The ring is of low quality, but is still worth 20 pennies or so.

Bedroom #1: This room has a bunk bed, a small table and single chair. In addition, there is a large chest sitting at the foot of the bed. A small closet door is in the corner of the room.

The table has a lantern on it and a drawer. Inside the drawer are 4 flasks of oil and a fifth flask containing a potion of healing (2d4 effect and can heal wound damage). In addition, there is a copper necklace (15 pn), a couple wrapped pieces of berry flavored druth (a bit dry), some other candy and a cobrat lens (50 pn), which acts like a weak magnifying glass. Hidden in the drawer is a small key. The key is stuck to the top of the drawer using a small piece of chewed druth candy.

The closet has clothes, which are moth-eaten. There are 3 shirts, 2 pairs of pants and a warm linen and fur coat that has been spared from the moth onslaught.

The chest is locked (DL 11 to pick), but is not trapped. It contains several items of interest including a fine bone map case (50 pn) containing a map of the area, a sack with 74 pn and 200 bt, several pieces of costume jewelry (about 20 pn total), two short swords, 3 daggers and a mace (all in decent condition) and a nicely made pair of fur-lined gloves (25 pn).

Bedroom #2: This place has the same furnishings as the first bedroom, but they have been wrecked as though a terrible battle had been waged here. The bunk bed is shattered and collapsed and you have to climb over the debris to get into the room. The table is overturned and the chair looks as though it has been disassembled. Three unfortunates have met their end in this room. One lies on the floor near the entrance. He is buried in the debris of the bunk bed. The second is slumped in the corner of the room, a dagger lying in between two ribs. The third body is in the middle of the room.

Examining these bodies gives similar information as those in the common room. The body in the debris is wearing old tattered clothes and has a small shield and a mace. The body slumped in the corner seems to be wearing nightclothes with a serviceable leather vest thrown hastily over (the knife has made a repairable hole). An iron flask lies at this corpse's side. It contains a yellow, mustard-smelling liquid. This is a potion of Strength that the victim never got a chance to use. The final body wears nothing of note. A slightly rusted short sword lies nearby, as do 6 daggers.

Pantry: This room has two large cupboards and a number of sacks and small barrels on the floor. Like many of the rooms, this place is in disarray. Sacks have been split, leaving the grain and flour to mold across the entire floor and up onto the barrels. Some of the barrels are split and their contents have long since evaporated. There are two intact barrels here, but they are covered in nasty blue-green mold and will have to be freed before they can be examined.

The trapdoor leading to the basement storeroom is in this place as well. However, it is also covered in mold and a PER roll against a DL of 9 will be required to find it.

The barrels contain pickled vegetables and the other, pickled strips of beef. Both are very salty, but edible. Between the two barrels, there are about 30 meals total.

Underground Storeroom: Stairs lead to this dank cellar. The place is dug out of the earth and the walls are only partially finished. There are several barrels and crates here. These contain old foodstuffs like those found in the pantry. Most are useless now, having rotted away. Several barrels have some pickled goods that are still edible. In addition, several barrels contain clean water, ale and cheap wine. In addition, digging tools are scattered in one corner of the room. Three bodies are here, having obviously fallen in a battle.

This place also contains the bandit's treasure. It is buried in the corner near the digging tools. It will take a PER roll of DL 14 to spot the signs of digging in this dark place. Tracking or investigate skill could be substituted for PER in this roll. The treasure is in a large, locked chest (DL 15 to pick). It consists of 103 pn, a set of pewter plates and cups adorned in silver (150 pn), 2 gems (50 pn and 100 pn), 3 jugs of scented oil (20 pn each), a gold-plated cigarette case (75 pn), 6 copper ingots (50 pn each), a lodestone (90 pn) and a bank note signed to "Lord Dallern of Ismoth" worth 250 pn.

Tower: The tower is a rickety wooden structure that has a good view of the road and surrounding woods. The tower is square and has solid, waist-high rails. Each rail has a sturdy, post sticking out of it. The posts reach to a human's chest. On the eastern post, there sits a large, crossbow-like device. It seems to be designed to throw javelins over a long distance. In addition, a body lies slumped near the trapdoor.

Javelin Caster:

Weapon

Acc

Lev

Init

Dur

Cost

Notes

Javelin Caster

-3/-2

1d10/1d12

-2

4

250p

Very rare weapon. The accuracy and leverage numbers before the slash are used if the item is not braced firmly (for instance, if it is held). It takes a full round to brace the item properly and 2 rounds to load it.



In addition to the caster, there are two barrels filled with javelins. There are a total of 20 javelins here. 5 of these are special and on closer inspection, have fine runes etched along the shaft.

Farscrye Shaft (Analyze DL 14, Activate DL 16):

These are arrows or javelins that when fired or thrown, allow the caster to see and hear as though he were standing at the spot where the missile landed. A 360-degree view is permitted, as well as up and down. Viewing is instantaneous as soon as the missile hits something and lasts for up to 6 hours. However, the user's perception and consciousness is focused on the missile and things occurring right next to him will go unnoticed. In addition, it takes a full minute to "wake up" from viewing through this item.

The dead body is wearing studded leather armor on his chest and arms. This is damaged with several holes, but could be fixed. A cutlass lies at his feet.

Ok, What's All This About: When the bandits moved into the post, they discovered four bodies (presumably of the original guards). They buried them in the nearby woods. After several successful raids, they were confident in the security of their new hideout. However, at some point, they gained the interest of a powerful undead creature that haunts this place.

The creature, a Restless Walker, has the ability to animate and control corpses near it. The bandits were surprised one night as they slept. The Walker and the four bodies attacked them, killing them all. The Walker returned to its lair.

This encounter can go however the GM likes. The clues scattered about the post might tip the PCs off to the fact that the residents of the post were killed by undead. What they do from there depends on their current condition and disposition. They may flee from this place, in which case, it is up to you if the Walker appears. If they stay the night (this would be a great place to camp, if the undead weren't involved), the Walker will certainly make an appearance and all the corpses here will rise to destroy the PCs.

You may want to adjust the number of bodies that litter the post. There are a total of 11 skeletons and the Restless Walker. This is a powerful force that would quickly overwhelm a group of 4-6 PCs. Having a couple powerful fighters and a priest will help. Even so, if you intend for the PCs to win a stand-up fight, you may want to reduce the number of undead. If you intend them to flee, or use a more clever way of defeating the denizens of the abandoned post, you may want the obviously superior numbers of skeletons to force the PCs to reconsider battling until they are dead.

The Sword in the Stone

Description: In a small clearing in a deep woods sits a boulder. It is about 10 feet long and has features that are roughly man-shaped. For instance, the boulder has an obvious head and shoulders, but no facial features can be discerned. Two arm-like protrusions jut from the "shoulders" and lodge firmly in the ground. A wide and powerful looking body makes up the rest of the stone. Like the arms, this also extends into the ground. No legs are visible.

From the middle of this thing's "chest" juts a finely crafted silver sword. Runes are etched along its blade. The pommel is interesting in that, unlike many swords, it extends in four directions. The metal in each of the directions is carved with a different design. One is a carving of a raging fire, another of a sturdy brick structure, another of blowing clouds and the last one is carved in snowflake patterns.

Around the Site: The site looks normal enough. There are deep woods all around. The boulder is found in a quiet clearing with all manner of shrub, grass and flower growing. A very close inspection of the ground around the boulder will show that there is an intricate series of carvings in the earth. These carvings are dug into the earth and sealed with silver. Anyone with rune knowledge will know that this is runic script. If all the runes are found, a roll against rune knowledge (DL 15) will know that these are runes of protection and permanence. They are likely meant to keep something in or out of the area. It is unlikely that they are still potent however as they have been overgrown.

What Has Occurred: Many years ago, this place was the home of a pagan cult that worshipped an earth elemental named Garok. Garok gave his followers power over the earth in the form of an earth rune (not detailed here). His followers provided him with sacrifice of precious metals and the occassional human prisoner. Using a powerful weapon, the leader of the First Order of Templars, Aln Tirnfaddon, battled Garok and imprisoned him in stone. However, in doing so, he lost the magical blade forever.

The Sword: The name of this powerful sword is Pagan's Tomb and it is a weapon that feeds on elemental energy. Forged of "heavenly metal", the blade was designed to damage elementals and rob them of their magical power. Pagan's Tomb was created by the great elemental master, Caluud, and presented to Aln Tirnfaddon to aid him in ridding Bostonia of the pagan elemental gods.

Paganís Tomb

Weapon

Acc

Throw

Lev

Parry

Init

Len

Dur

Cost

Notes

Paganís Tomb

0

n/a

1d10

0

+1

M

---

---

magical broad sword

Legendary Powers:

Elemental Resistance: Paganís Tomb grants its wielder a +3 to all saving throws dealing with elemental powers and spells.

Elemental Damage: Paganís Tomb can hit all elementals and summoned elemental creatures, even if they are phasing or otherwise non-corporeal.

Elemental Seeker: Paganís Tomb can detect elemental creatures and magic without fail in a radius of 250 meters.

Entomb: Paganís Tomb can permanently trap an elemental creature. The attacker must roll a 11 or 12 on his attack die and hit the elemental. The creature is trapped in an inert state (such as a rock, or a pond, or an eternal flame) for as long as the blade remains within it.

 

Spell-Like Powers: Paganís Tomb has powers for each of the four elements. Each elemental group can be used up to three times each day.

Fire Group:

Bolt of Fire: The character uses combat: thrown, or combat: magic skill to determine the to-hit chance. Any other missile combat skill may be substituted at a Ė3 to hit. If the fire bolt hits, it does 2d12 points of damage.

Control Flames: The wielder can cause flames in a 10 hex area to move, become stronger or weaker, change color or extinguish. The control lasts for several minutes.

Ice Group:

Bolt of Ice: This bolt does 2d8 points of damage, but affects the target like the 1st circle Blizzard spell, Frostbite.

Freeze: The wielder can cause an amount of liquid, or marshy ground up to 20 hexes to freeze and become passable. Creatures trapped in the ice need to make a STR save at DL 17 to break out.

Earth Group:

Entangling Earth: The ground under the target gets soft, then hardens, trapping him. The target is held for 20 rounds unless an AGI or STR save vs. DL 17 can be made. Once the victim is trapped, a STR save vs. DL 21 will still free him.

Wall of Earth: A wall of up to 9 hexes may be created. It lasts for one hour.

Air Group:

Powerful Gust: The target is picked up by a gust of wind and thrown 2d6 hexes (taking that much damage as well). Armor does not affect this damage.

Fly: The caster can fly for 1 hour at a rate of 11Ē each round.

History: See above.



The Stone: The stone is the trapped form of Garok, the powerful earth elemental. Pagan's Tomb uses the elemental powers of Garok against him, trapping him with his own magic. Releasing the sword has the unpleasant side-effect of freeing this beast. Fortunately, he is greatly weakened from his ordeal and the fact that he has no followers.

History and Rumor: Depending on where this encounter occurs and how much work the GM is willing to do in advance, there might be quite a bit of local rumor surrounding the sword and stone. Any number of myths might have sprung up around this place -- anything from terrible creatures and witches haunting the clearing, to being proclaimed king if you manage to pull the thing out.

How You Get the Sword: Well, this depends on if the GM wants a powerful sword in the hands of the PCs. In my campaign, the wards and runes embedded in the earth around the stone are ruined and powerless. This means that the sword can be extracted from Garok. However, it will take some powerful magic or someone with superhuman strength. Examples of ways someone might obtain the sword:

A STR save against DL 35 can extract the sword. Mind you, this is an impossible save in almost any normal circumstance. However, an incredibly strong human (or even better, Borakki) with magically enhanced strength could get the job done.

A dispel magic spell against a DL of 26 will cause the magic to weaken enough that the sword can be pulled from Garok.

An earth-based spell that shapes, melts, moves or destroys earth can free the weapon. This spell would have to be at least 3rd Circle and would have significant minuses (-5 for instance) to free the weapon.