How’s Them Road Apples?

As a player I often wondered how much time we actually spent on the road between locations. In some campaigns we seemed to ALWAYS be on horseback or foot, camping by the roadside, holed up in some creepy inn, or stuffed in the stacked hammocks aboard a ship… We never really complained all that much, though life on the road probably got a bit monotonous over time for our characters. One muddy track on the outskirts of one kingdom probably started looking like every other.

FromOldBooks.org

FromOldBooks.org

Lately I’ve been pondering ways to make those days on the road a little more interesting. Not every trip needs to be exciting, just like not every watch will turn up an encounter in the dark. But little things can make such journeys more memorable, don’t you think?

So here’s a collection of a few tables to ponder the next time your PCs are on the road and you want to add something to the mix. Grab a handful of d10s and d6s and see what you come up with!

Not all events on the road are going to be exciting. Most will be everyday events involving mundane creatures, people, and activities. But each of these can be used to spread news and rumors as well as introduce new plot elements and NPCs into a more vibrant world.

Also, busier roads will have a higher percentage of opportunity for events. How much traffic may rely on factors such as common trade routes, local military activity, distance to primary population centers, etc.

d10 Occurrence of an Event

  • Empty Roads – 1 on d10
  • Barely Traveled – 1 or 2 on d10
  • Regularly Traveled – 1 to 5 on d10
  • Busy Road – 1 to 8 on d10

d6 Timing of Event

  • 1-2 Now
  • 3-4 Coming
  • 5-6 Past

d6 Direction of Event

  • 1-2 Same direction
  • 3-4 Opposite direction
  • 5-6 Stopped
FromOldBooks.org

FromOldBooks.org

d6 Event Type (see related table)

  • 1. Weather
  • 2. Maintenance
  • 3. Bandits
  • 4. Transport
  • 5. Travelers
  • 6. Locals

d10 Weather

  • 1-3 Pleasant
  • 4-5 Overcast
  • 6 Wind
  • 7 Fog
  • 8 Rain
  • 9 Flooding
  • 10 Snow

d10 Maintenance

  • 1-3 Road fine
  • 4-5 Ruts in road slow travel
  • 6-7 Road washed out
  • 8-9 Repairs underway
  • 10 Road blocked

d10 Bandits

  • 1-3 On break
  • 4-6 Decide you’re not worth it
  • 7-10 Attack!

d10 Transport

  • 1-3 Single messenger
  • 4-5 Farmer with cart
  • 6-7 Trade caravan
  • 8-9 Small military unit
  • 10 Army caravan

trail-skinny-bw2d10 Travelers

  • 1-3 Single rider
  • 4-5 Small group on foot
  • 6-7 Handful of riders
  • 8-9 Large group on foot
  • 10 Major procession

d10 Locals

  • 1-3 Lone worker
  • 4-5 Children playing
  • 6-7 Local shepherd with small flock
  • 8-9 Family gathering
  • 10 Holiday event

How To Use This Approach

Let’s say your PCs are traveling to the next town to start a new adventure. You want to determine if anything happens along the road. It might be something as simple as a gentle rain or a strong wind, either of which may set the stage for a future encounter. Or it might be an armed group of riders who have blocked off the path ahead. Rolling 3d6 and a d10, I came up with the following:

  • (Now/Bandits/On a Break) The party rides on and notices a small camp off the side of the road with a few prisoners tied up and under guard. As they ride past, several people gather their things and hop on their horses to follow the PCs.
  • (Now/Travelers/Small Group on Foot) The party is forced to slow down as they come upon a small group of robed figures heading their same direction. When questioned, the leader explains they are on a religious pilgrimage to honor their god(s) at a nearby ceremony.
  • (Coming/Same Direction/Weather/Wind) – As you glance behind you, you notice a storm front building and can see a wall of dust and wind quickly catching up to your current position.
  • (Coming/Stopped/Maintenance/Road is fine) – You wondered at the fine condition of the road today until you saw the kingdom road crew stopped for a meal on the side of the road. Ahead you notice the road becomes rutted and bumpy.
  • (Past/Opposite/Transport/Army Caravan) A large group must have gone the other way just recently. You see all sorts of trampled grass, deep tracks, road apples, and debris scattered as far as the eye can see…

 

This approach will likely show up in an upcoming product, but in the meantime feel free to play with some of the random generators and pick up one of the other Moebius Adventures products at RPGNow, DriveThruRPG, Paizo, or d20pfsrd!

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