Stopovers

On March 1, 2005, Posted by , In Campaign Workbook, With No Comments

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Your players have many miles to go, it’s getting dark, and their map shows wilderness for miles around. Is it going to be another night camped just off the road, huddled around a smoldering fire with the PCs taking turns on watch? Why not give them a more interesting campsite? Here are twelve places where traveling PCs might spend the night. Each includes an adventure hook, but they are also a great way to add some interesting detail to an otherwise boring night in camp.

ABANDONED HAMLET

This small collection of dilapidated buildings appears to be the remains of a remote village. Half of the buildings have been burned to the ground, but a couple still have enough of their roof thatching to repel rain and wind. What drove the occupants away and put the buildings to the torch? Was it a territorial pyrohydra (Monster Manual 156) that still patrols the ruin?

BRIDGE

A wooden plank bridge spans a small river here, deep in the wilderness. Passing travelers and campaigning armies have repaired the structure many times over the years, so now it reflects a wide variety of cultural styles. The bridge gives some shelter to the banks beneath it, but there may be something lurking in the river. Furthermore, anyone crossing the bridge almost certainly notices the PCs huddling beneath it. A band of hobgoblins (Monster Manual 153) sometimes camps nearby, robbing travelers or charging large tolls to anyone crossing the bridge.

CAVE

Erosion has formed a small cave in the side of a low hill. It provides safety from the elements and some degree of warmth during cold months. Like most cozy nooks, however, this cave is inhabited. An albino dire bear (hp 98, Monster Manual 163) resides here, feeding off the local wildlife and the occasional traveler. During the winter months, a group of five wild elves (warrior 1) and their shaman (adept 5) sometimes visits the hibernating bear to venerate it and perform rituals around it.

CLIFF

A 60-foot-tall overhanging cliff stands here. It grants some degree of shelter from the elements and eliminates one direction of enemy attack. A large nest sits on a ledge 40 feet up but doesn’t appear to be occupied. The cliff face is carved with names and symbols from centuries of weary travelers. One set of symbols looks like a rough map to other, similar shelters. One of the shelters on the map has been recently crossed out, and a strange horned head has been drawn beside it.

DRUID CREATION

A traveling druid created this roadside shelter many years ago using a combination of wood shape, transmute mud to rock, and wall of stone. It looks like a jumble of stone walls, bent trees, and crude thatching, and it’s overgrown with vines and branches. It covers an area roughly 10 feet by 20 feet and the ground beneath it is littered with the refuse of other travelers. The druid also cast awaken on a nearby tree and charged it with protecting travelers camping at the shelter and making sure they do no harm to the surrounding wilderness. The awakened tree is treated as a huge, animated object (Monster Manual 14), but gains the plant type and has Intelligence 12, Wisdom 13, and Charisma 8.

GRAVEYARD AND TOMBS

An ancient graveyard sits on a hill overlooking the road. Its crude burial stones are almost totally obscured by foliage, but several tomb entrances can be clearly seen, delving into the side of the hill. Each tomb is 5 feet by 10 feet and all been have entered by thieves or animals looking for spoils. There is almost nothing left of the original occupants, buta thorough search (DC 20) of the tombs reveals a skeletal hand buried underneath a few inches of soil, wearing a ring of sustenance. The ring is cursed so that it also gives its wearer vulnerability to cold.

HOLLOW TREE

An ancient, gnarled tree still clings to life, even though its trunk has been hollowed. out into a 5-foot-diameter chamber. The floor of this snug room is a thick, soft layer of old leaves and moss. Although it’s an inviting campsite for a very small party, this tree may have special meaning to a dryad or a local tribe of wood elves.

HUNTER’S SHACK

This small hunting cabin lies far from the nearest town or village, yet remains accessible by road. It consists of a simple 10-foot by 20-foot shelter with a small fireplace. Pots, pans, and cooking utensils are piled on a crude table. A half full barrel of flour stands against the far wall. Strips of dried, salted meat hang from the ceiling. Will the hunter (ranger 8) and his constrictor snake animal companion (Monster Manual 279) return to find the PCs in his home? Will he attack them for their trespass or forgive them and offer his services as a host and guide?

OLD COPPER MINE

The entrance to this hillside mine is hidden from the road by vines and small trees (Spot DC 15). It consists of a ragged 10- foot by 20-foot wooden lean-to covering an 8-foot-diameter shaft entrance. The shaft widens as it drops 40 feet into a 30-footdiameter chamber. Old rotting timbers shore up the ceiling of the chamber in places, and broken and discarded mining implements litter the floor. The chamber’s delicate ceiling is likely to collapse if subjected to vibrations or very loud noises. See Cave-ins and Collapses, Dungeon Master’s Guide 66. A cete of badgers (hp 6 each; Monster Manual 268) now lives here, and 1d4 can be found in the cavern at any one time.

OVERHANGING TREE

The thick, drooping branches of this large pine tree create a 20-foot-diameter shelter protected from wind and rain. There is enough room to start a fire underneath the overhang, but the dead branches and pine needles that cover the ground are bone dry. Any fire built here can quickly spread out of control. A successful Survival check (DC 15) reveals the danger to the PCs and allows them to build a fire safely.

TUNNEL

This hole in the ground, partially covered by brush, is just large enough for the PCs to squeeze through. Further in, it leads to a maze of long tunnels and a few larger chambers. A purple worm originally dug out this complex. Eventually it accidentally broke through into a natural complex of caves extending for miles in every direction. The creature has been gone for years. If the PCs explore too far down into these tunnels, they may find the entrance to the much more dangerous caverns below.

WATCHTOWER ON A HILL

Even in remote wilderness areas, army commanders like to keep track of enemy movement. This wooden tower rises 30 feet above a modest hill beside the road. It provides shelter and a spectacular view of the countryside for miles around. When tensions rise between neighboring kingdoms, the army dispatches three lookouts (warrior 1) and one captain (fighter 3) with a light warhorse to this watchtower. If the lookouts spot trouble, the captain rides to the nearest town to warn his superiors. When there are no soldiers here, the tower is sometimes used by three gnoll brigands (10 hp each, Monster Manual 130) to watch for likely prey coming along the road.

BY RUSSELL BROWN
ILLUSTRATION BY UDON WITH JIM ZUBKAVICH