Pilgrims on the Road
The gods wield tremendous power. Their clerics call upon powerful magic to smite the living and can raise legions of the walking dead. Paladins and blackguards smite their foes with divine wrath. A temple can wield tremendous political clout in a kingdom, as it offers or denies the support of the gods.
But not all of the gods’ servants are mighty warriors or crusading priests. Many of them are common folk drawn to a deity’s teachings. These worshipers may lack a cleric’s spells or a paladin’s fighting skills, but they can still play an important role in an adventure. This article presents sample pilgrims or agents for a variety of deities. You can use them as short encounters while the party is on the road. The pilgrims actively work to promote their deities’ interests, giving them a good reason to interfere with the party. The pilgrims also serve as an examples of how folk other than clerics or druids can play an important role in a religion’s activities.
Therris Windrunner (CE male elf rogue2) poses as a cleric of Boccob. He stole the robes and holy symbol he now owns from a wandering priest that he ambushed and killed. In his current guise, he claims to seek knowledge of people and places to add to the catalogues of Boccob’s libraries. He asks questions about the party’s exploits, paying careful attention to the PCs’ tactics, favored spells, weapons, and magical equipment. He may use seemingly innocent questions on the details of all this information. Once he completes this reconnaissance, he reports to a small group of murderous brigands who tailor their plans to counter the PCs’ favorite abilities and tactics.
Delyra (CE female halfling bard 5) poses as a wandering minstrel and storyteller. She claims to spread news and rumors from near and far, but in truth she works to inflame political and racial tensions and provoke fights on the road. She may steal an item from a merchant, hide it in an adventurer’s pack, and then inform the merchant of the “robbery.” With a few choice comments or insults, she tries to goad others into fights. She likes to spread malicious stories that ruin the reputations of honorable adventurers. Delyra sees herself as a herald of Hextor. As she travels, chaos, bloodshed, and death trail in her wake.
Grond Fisthammer (CG male dwarf barbarian 3) leads a small group of dwarves who follow Kord. This band of pilgrims seeks to prove their might against a variety of opponents. If they meet anyone who is obviously in excellent physical condition, they challenge that character to a wrestling match or arm-wrestling contest. In the former case, both combatants remove their armor, drop any weapons, and grapple until one person pins the other and holds his foe in place for one round. In the latter case, both competitors make opposed Strength checks until one person succeeds three times. Grond mocks those who turn down his challenge. He may decide to follow a coward for several miles, hoping to use taunts to force a contest. Grond has a 16 Strength and the Improved Unarmed Strike and Improved Grapple feats.
Eral (NE male human bard 2) and Vendra (NE female half-elf expert 3) are human worshipers of Nerull who seek to spread death on the road. They pose as a pair of supply-laden merchants. They also carry a few satchels of spices and herbs that they sell to other travelers. When they encounter the PCs, they beg to travel with them. Eral claims that the mercenaries they hired took their money and fled during the night. If the PCs agree, Eral and Vendra offer to share their food, water, and other supplies, including a large, comfortable tent. The food they offer is tainted with spoiled flesh and ordure. Any PC who eats it is exposed to blinding sickness (Dungeon Master’s Guide, р. 292). If the PCs refuse, Vendra tries to distract the PCs while Eral slips the contaminated food into their meal.
Jethren the Wayfarer (NG male human commoner 4) is a hermit and fanatic worshiper of Obad-Hai. He wanders the road оп а quest to walk around the entire planet. He believes that if he completes this task, he will gain a cosmic insight into the workings of the Shalm’s mind. He has long, shaggy hair, tanned skin, and rotted, crooked teeth. He refuses to use any product of civilization, and wears only a simple deerskin robe. He also carries a gnarled, stout oaken branch as a staff. He tracks the party from their last campsite. If the PCs left behind any trash, even ashes from a campfire, he hunts them down, throws their garbage at them, and demands an apology for their violation against nature, If the PCs humor him or make an effort to treat the wilderness with respect, he does what he can to help them. He hears much news on the road and could offer valuable information.
Claren (LG male human cleric 5) has served Pelor for more than 50 years. Day after day, he wanders the road in search of those who need his magic. He keeps a small store of potions purchased with the donations he receives for his work. Claren freely offers his assistance to the poor and downtrodden, and in exchange for his help he requests a donation or an oath of debt. In the latter case, he asks travelers to travel to the nearest temple of Pelor and offer their services to the clerics. Claren believes that Pelor guides his steps, and time and again he has arrived in the nick of time to save an injured traveler or aid adventurers who in turn completed quests in Pelor’ name. If the characters are in desperate need of divine magic, Claren might arrive to help them while also serving as a convenient excuse to put the party into Pelor’s debt.
Krotor the Resolute (LN male orc commoner 1/warrior 1) is a reformed bandit who, under the strict tutelage of priests of St. Cuthbert, renounced evil and became a traveling prophet and preacher. He still bears the symbolic scars of his tribe along his arms and face, but he now wears a simple, brown robe and carries a thick tome of St. Cuthbert’s teachings. Krotor prefers to deliver his sermons at busy crossroads and is not above yelling to make his point. He may dog the tracks of a cleric of a rival faith, debating points of theology or making a hard sell for a conversion. Krotor is intelligent even compared to humans, but he loves to play stupid to turn the tables on others. Despite his aggressive tactics, Krotor has renounced violence. He fights only to protect himself and others.
Entherra (М female gnome expert 3) is а wandering fortuneteller and worshiper of Wee Jas who spreads her goddess’ message through the visions into the future that she offers. She believes that if her auguries are depressing or doom-laden, she can help drive travelers to their doom or spread a general sense of pessimism and misery. She uses a deck of cards similar to the tarot, careful questions to probe a person’s past and expectations, and sufficiently vague but ominous declarations to terrify others. By paying sharp attention to news and rumors, she might pick up enough information on the party to give them seemingly accurate or well-informed “insights” on their current adventure.
BY MIKE MEARLS ILLUSTRATION BY UDON STUDIOS
WITH JIM ZUBKAVICH