Protect The Hideout
Ok, for some reason the PCs are strolling through a wood,
populated by goblins. They walk through a small clearing
with a stream and they hear "Protect the hideout!". Now if
the PCs were standing in the water, they dump a bucket full
of piranha or similar fish into the water. After this they
stand on little tree stands above and fire arrows, and maybe
a shaman is up there casting spells too. If the PCs kill the
goblins they might find the hideout they were protecting.
Inside, there is a dungeon going deep into the hillside. The
first half of the dungeon is infested with various creatures
that enjoy snacking on the goblins. About halfway through
the dungeon, they find a boarded up door. Now through there
is the hideout. After they kill the leader, they find papers
showing how they planned to use several dozen kegs of oil
and fire to burn up and blow up the critters outside of the
boarded door. The fact is, if the PCs hadn't intervened, the
fire would've spread outside and would've burned down the
If for some reason the players don't attack the goblins, the
forest and settlements nearby would be burned down. They'd
probably see fire and smoke in the distance, and town criers
would be yelling the tragedy throughout the streets.
If they raided the hideout, they found treasure and eight
dozen kegs of oil. The label on the barrel shows the name of
a local merchant, the players can take it to him or tell him
the location of the stolen oil for a nice reward.
Jingling Tree Trap
re: Purple tress that jingle in a breeze.
Using the purple musical tree idea could be fleshed out more
if the area was inhabited by an aerial creature like a djinn
or a creature from the plane of air. It could use its wind
creating abilities to 'jingle' the trees to attract passers-
by to it. This could be a trap encounter or maybe the
creature needs some assistance returning to its home plane.
The PCs see a monolith carved with the words of several
ancient languages. No one without an ancient languages skill
would be able to interpret them. And even bards would have
difficulty making sense of them. After the PCs have a chance
to examine the monolith, everyone gets a very odd feeling.
Nothing damaging, nothing strong enough to analyze. About
100 yards later, there are more monoliths with even more
ancient languages carved on it. Pictograms, symbols, and
other obscure carvings that can easily be misinterpreted.
The odd feeling intensifies to a full blown magical effect
emanating from the monolith. If the PCs keep looking for
monoliths, they'll find that they ring a large area filled
with dead or undead vegetation, mutated indigenous
creatures, and other strangeness. An aura of dread permeates
the place. Careful investigation will show this to be a
magical fallout zone and the carvings will be warnings to
stay away in every language known at the time--which will
not include Common.
The Lone Traveler
A lone traveler is encountered. Obviously not used to
wilderness survival, this person may be found near death,
badly wounded, or just scared and starved. The traveler has
a story for why he or she is out here alone. Could be a
runaway serf trying to hide from the authorities, a noble
kidnapping victim who escaped and can't find his or her way
home, someone fleeing an advancing army or a marauding
monster, an escaped virgin sacrifice fleeing both the dragon
and the village search parties, a shape-changer pretending
to be helpless in order to steal something or lead the PCs
into an ambush.
The Weak Shall Inherit Nothing
After the PCs clean out a dungeon and are ready to heal
themselves and figure out who's carrying what, another group
of well-rested adventurers show up with wagons and carts.
They begin the process of grabbing everything that isn't
Freshly killed dead bodies are lying around. They may be
partially eaten or just left intact except for the wounds
that killed them. If they were killed by a monster, that
monster is still out there....somewhere. For a dash of
terror, have some evidence found on the bodies indicate that
they were experienced adventurers. Deaths by weapon could
indicate that the PCs have entered a war zone with
skirmishers and snipers still nearby, that these were
victims of bandits--innocents who got in the way of
bloodthirsty bounty hunters, bounty hunters beaten by their
quarry...the possibilities are endless.
What's That Smell?
One of the NPCs the PCs are traveling with is so afraid of
getting insect bites that he/she is convinced to buy insect
repellant. Or it could be someone with horrendous body odor
that they mask with perfume. Only it's musk from a rutting
male monster. The attacks start when the group passes into
appropriate terrain. Until the PCs find out about the musk
and eliminate it on EVERYTHING, female monsters in heat will
attack them repeatedly, going after the character with the
musk. This is the clue that something is not quite right.
Mistreatment During Caravan Duty
The PCs are hired to be guards on a caravan or escorts and
their supervisor is an incompetent fool who has no idea how
to manage people. This means playing favorites, badly
thought up guard schedules, and poor working conditions. The
PCs and any NPCs who are in the situation will be racking up
resentment and possibly subdual damage from not enough food
or fatigue or other bad conditions.
A chase scene. In the middle of the night, monsters or enemy
NPCs kidnap someone and the PCs must track them, chase them
down, and rescue the prisoner. If you want to be truly
devious, make the kidnappers much more powerful than the
party so they'll try for a bloodless resolution.
Bridge Challenge Of Honor
If there is a paladin in the party, have them arrive at a
bridge crossing held by a rival paladin who challenges the
PC paladin to a contest of arms. Make this into a huge
chivalric production. Only catch is, the paladin who loses
must give up all belongings, including his/her companions.
This should lead to a huge amount of pressure on the PC
paladin, and the rest of the PCs with their freedom at stake
will of course want to take action to affect the outcome of
Flee! It's A Dragon!
A dragon flies overhead but doesn't attack. That means fear
saves. If there is a herd of animals present or non-
warhorses as mounts, the animals panic and scatter and PCs
must fight to control their mounts, chase down panicked
animals, find their way back to the trail if they were
themselves fleeing in panic.
Guard The Food
If the PCs don't specifically state that they're taking
steps to keep wild animals out of their food by hanging it
from branches (or just have them make a simple Wilderness
Lore roll), sometime in the night wild animals (dire or
normal, your choice) eat all the party's food. Unless your
cleric can create food, your party now has to hunt and
forage to get provisions. This is a good one for city
dwellers in the middle of nowhere.
Godzilla Vs. Mothra
Two groups of monsters are battling it out. It could be
territorial aggression, rival tribes, or an invasion. You
decide whether the monsters will ignore the PCs, divide
their energy between enemy monsters and PCs, or unite
against the PCs.
'Ware Nature's Fury
A major storm hits. The PCs see it coming a couple hours
ahead of time. Depending on the season and region, it'll be
a blizzard, a thunderstorm, a tornado, hurricane, sandstorm.
It hits fast and hard. A simple Wilderness Lore roll isn't
going to get them through this. And if the PCs are high
level, an elemental or two will add extra nastiness.
If the PCs have a particular destination, they can get
hopelessly lost. Point out that landmarks don't look right,
the river bed that was supposed to be there isn't there, the
rock outcropping that looks like a griffin's head is
missing, etc. Blame it on a blown Wilderness Lore check, a
Maze spell lingering in the area, a guide who is utterly
incompetent, an incorrect map. This is a good method to hook
PCs into adventures. Plot out several sets of tracks with
different animals, numbers, types, and age of trail and let
your rangers have a field day with lots of kibitzing on the
Creepy Forest Willies
A very creepy forest. It's dark. You can't see the sun under
the forest canopy. No birds are chirping. No insects
buzzing. It's too quiet. A DM with good descriptive and
atmospheric skills can milk this to the utmost without ever
a monster being encountered. Call for Spot and Listen rolls
periodically. Call for Scry rolls from anyone with an INT of
12 or better. Make them see and hear and sense things. If
you do want to have a monster show up, make it an
aberration, an outsider, a demon, devil, undead, or some
other thing not found in nature.
A small water elemental (or a woodland spirit, such as a
nymph or dryad) extinguishes all fires in the immediate
vicinity of a pristine mountain lake where it dwells.
A group of greedy goblins are searching for a buried trove
which they hid beneath a rock. Unfortunately for them, a
hill giant has been moving rocks around and they can't find
Moldy Golem Guardian
The PCs encounter a shield guardian covered in a yellow
fuzz. It stands near the long dead body of a wizard, which
is also covered in the yellow fuzz.
The golem attacks anyone who comes within 30' of the wizard,
or anyone who attacks the wizard or itself. It will not
pursue more than 100' from the wizard spot, and will target
anyone molesting the wizard.
The fuzz is of course, yellow mold. The mold will erupt
each time the golem is hit, and it will also erupt on the
first two attacks the golem makes.
The golem fights until destroyed or until its targets are
The wizard's belongings are left to the DM. Belongings may
have been ruined by the mold, or the passage of time.
At twilight, as the PCs journey near a swamp or other lonely
place, one of the PCs notices a mounted figure in the
distance, a warrior or knight judging from its armor and the
horse's barding. The figure is obviously staring at the PCs
when it gestures for them to follow. It begins to ride off.
When the PCs get within say 100' or so they can see that the
mounted knight is skeletal, as is his mount. If the PCs
stop, the knight stops to gesture them forward.
As they travel thru the swamp, the knight answers no calls,
and its mount seems able to keep the distance to about 100'
from the PCs. Spells affect the creature as they would a
ghost - though no spells pass thru it, both knight and mount
simply seem to shrug such spells off.
If destroyed, the knight will reappear the next night.
The knight travels only at night. The journey takes less
than an hour. Along the way, if the PCs fall victim to pits
or sinkholes or wandering beasts, the knight waits for them
to follow once more.
When they reach a low embankment, the knight stops and
points up the bank, and waits. Should the PCs
investigate, they find the remains of an armored knight and
its dead steed. The bones remain, having been gnawed on and
weathered over the years. The knight has been dead for
The armor (knight's and horse's), as well as the knights
sword and some other items, are magical, and will prove a
boon if the PCs properly bury the knight and his mount.
Should they simply raid the body, the items could turn
cursed. Or perhaps the ghostly knight follows them and
attacks as they sleep, returning each night until he is
The PCs are travelling and come upon an immense briar. It
is no doubt magical. It completely blocks the path and
extends for as far as they can see to the left and right. It
is twenty to thirty feet high.
There are some bare patches that have formed a sort of maze.
Of course the creator of the maze, a druidic minotaur, hunts
the PCs down for food. It use entangle and its pass without
trace to avoid to the thorns and avoid tracking. Any
summoned animals would be used to distract the PCs while he
strikes from the rear, using pass plant to escape.
The thorns do not burn easily thanks to the druid's spells.
The PCs unknowingly travel right into a pixie controlled
area. They are accosted by the invisible faeries and told
to march straight back out or be punished. If they can
plead their case for crossing, the PCs can march through the
area, but they must not dawdle. That is, they keep walking,
even thru the night, without stopping to sleep or eat. The
pixie land requires at least 48 hours to cross without
stopping. At the end of the journey, the PCs are exhausted
and sleep deprived, and that is when they are beset by
whatever monster the DM wishes to launch at them. This is a
chance to confront a higher level party with a group or a
lone monster of lower CR and still have it be a threat.
If the PCs are having a hard time (that is, the DM
underestimated the damage the monster can cause to the
hampered PCs) a few of the faerie folk might take pity and
come to the PCs aid. Of course, they may also steal some
things when the PCs collapse to sleep.
Rope Bridge Menace
The PCs are trekking thru the wilderness and come to a
ravine. A wooden-rope bridge once spanned the chasm, but
now only one side of the bridge remains--basically two
ropes, one 3 feet above the other spanning the gulf.
The PCs can go around, but it will add a day or two to their
trek. They can scale down into the ravine, but are faced
with the prospect of crossing the raging river that runs
Any PC using the rope to cross (or flying over) will be
attacked by one or more of the creatures roosting in the
ravine's cliff. This cave is on the PCs side, and out of
view unless a spot check is made. The creature can be
anything from a single peryton, manticore, or chimera, to a
flock of stirges. Basically any flying creature that
recognizes a 'captive' audience. The PC on the rope can
fight but takes a -4 to hit and loses all Dexterity and
Shield benefits, plus, if fighting, he must make a climb
check or fall into the raging waters below.
Moon Gates & Werewolf Guide
The PCs are looking for the entrance to a dungeon or some
sort of old shrine, etc. known to be a few days away. They
have acquired a guide familiar with the area. The entrance,
the guide says, is visible only in the light of the full
On the night of the first full moon, still a day or two from
their goal, the full moon's light reveals the guide to be a
werewolf! He transforms and begins to savage the PCs. If
they kill him, they may never find their goal, so they must
fight to subdue. This same transformation will occur every
night of the full moon. The guide in human form may or may
not have memories of the event. If he doesn't, he may
wonder at why the PCs wish to tie him up before nightfall.
Bathing Giants Land The PCs In Hot Water
Travelling through a volcanic/hot springs area, the PCs come
upon three fire giants relaxing in a hot spring pool of
lava. The PCs need to pass the area--perhaps the entrance
to whatever dungeon they plan to raid lies on the other side
of the pool in a sheer cliff wall.
The giants have left their armor and equipment outside the
When combat begins, one giant will make a grab for his sword
(he is closest to the gear) while the others will splash
scalding water or lava at the PCs. Treat the splashes as an
area attack, possibly a line or cone 30' to 50'. Damage
would range from 1d8 for water to 4d6 for lava. (DM's
discretion). Saves as appropriate.
Drunk Ogres Sleeping It Off
The PCs have camped for the night with a low fire of coals -
-no real flames to speak of, but hot enough to cook over and
to keep them warm.
They hear loud, deep laughter from multiple voices echoing
in the distance. The laughter is not menacing. A PC making
a successful Spot check will notice a bright spot among the
darkened hills, most likely a camp fire. The fire appears
to be on a hilltop some 400 yards away.
If the PCs do nothing, nothing happens. The sporadic
laughter continues for another hour, and then stops. The
far off campfire seems to die out normally. Nothing else
If the PCs investigate, they need not be too stealthy (other
than not using any light source to approach the camp). The
campsite belongs to a group of six ogres engaged in some
revelry to celebrate their recent success against a tribe of
orcs. They drink from small barrels of ale, eat partially
roasted shanks of meat, and toss gold coins at each other
from several small chests. (The number and composition of
coins is left up to the DM. Copper, silver, and platinum
all look like gold when reflecting fire light.)
The ogres are not completely wasted, though their level of
inebriation and the combat negatives are left to the DM. A
low level (3-5) party coming upon six totally smashed ogres
(-6 to hit and -3 to AC) would be challenged but not
A smart party would wait until the ogres have drunken
themselves to sleep and then move in and slit their throats.
I advise the DM to allow the party a single round of coup-
de-grace attacks and have the slain ogres bellow out as they
die, awakening their fellows.
The ogres could be replaced by trolls, giants, or ettins, or
a mix of all of these (I prefer the latter--2 ogres, 2
trolls, an ettin and a hill giant. Variety is the spice of
This encounter allows the party to practice stealth (if they
aren't stealthy on the approach, the ogres will notice and
all hell will break loose on the party).
It also allows a party of lower level PCs to fight several
big scary monsters. At times it may seem like they have
bitten off too much (this usually occurs after the first
time the ogre's club connects with someone). Pursuit of a
fleeing party would be half hearted at best, as most of the
ogres treasure is laying about the campsite.
And finally, having the ogres inebriated gives the DM an
out, should things get too hectic. For example, when one of
the drunk ogres swing his club and misses the PC, maybe it
connects with the ogre standing next to him. Depending on
the state of drunkenness, this encounter can range from comic
relief to sheer terror.
The party is travelling overland when they come to a rocky
crevasse. While not impassable, it will require careful
navigation. Unknown to the party is that the crevasse is
the home of a small collection of beings hostile to
interlopers. (These creatures can be whatever fits the
geography and challenge level of the adventure.) The
encounter should appear to the party to be a technical
challenge, clambering up and down rocks, transporting their
gear without breakage, etc. The whole time that they are
engaged in this, they are being watched, and when they are
at their most vulnerable an attack will be launched.
Beating off an attack while scattered over 200 vertical feet
of rock will certainly add a certain level of tension!
Moth Invasion With A Twist
Setting is pretty much anywhere from temperate to tropic.
Deep forest will be better for the loss of visibility
Telegraph the danger slowly with what first looks like
migration of herd animals followed by an all out stampede of
all the creatures of the forest. Most likely the players
will be thinking flood or forest fire at this point. Feel
free to mislead them with talk of the dryness of the forest
and the apparent lack of any deadwood on the ground.
The strangeness starts when the slower animal/monsters pass
partially or totally denuded of any fur or claws.
Then comes the visual of a brightly coloured cloud of wings,
little ones. Tiny little moths that cover the gamut of the
rainbow in their display.
The forest is kept clean by a cloud of small moths who ONLY
eat dead tissue or fur. The players are safe, but any
leather, hair, wood, paper etc. that they have exposed is
not. Vulnerable to area effect attacks this could be done
along the veins of army ants. Easy to kill some but there
are so darn many of them.
Origins? Think about it for a moment. Neighboring
necromancers or containment of a lich would be an obvious
purpose for the creation of such a swarm.
Nasty? Only to the ego and perhaps the wooden weapon
crowd...don't like that staff he/she rolled up? This ought
to put paid to it.
Tree Music Makes Good Cover
Take purple trees that make music when it's windy and add
some danger: large snakes or other tree-dwellers that are
camouflaged by the tree bark and leaf patterns. The trees'
music covers the sound of their movements and allows them to
ambush their prey (the characters).
Flooded Burial Ground
An ancient and forgotten burial ground flooded in some past
century and now a shallow lake with numerous small hills
that are grassy and bare and in the middle of it. A great
place to meet undead as well as water-dwellers; set it next
to an inviting swamp and it'd make a great treasure-hunting
ground for a black dragon. The water makes for a series of
small, confined battle areas and will make any encounter
more tactically challenging.
A deep arroyo, its sandstone cliffs layered in sunset
pastels and honeycombed with small holes that are home to a
multitude of scorpions -- small and large and everything in
between. Experienced PCs will think nothing of small,
normal stinging creatures, but hundreds of them at once can
present a dangerous challenge.
The PCs travel down the winding, narrow trail hidden in a
deep forest when suddenly they hear screams and shouts in
the distance. An elf or a good thief can also hear a few
metallic clanks and the galloping of horses. A few moments
later, the PCs hear a series of long, ear-piercing shrieks
and the galloping becomes louder. The shrieks stop, but the
galloping continues. Around the corner of the trail ride
four armored men on great horses. The trail isn't wide and
horsemen try to ride straight thru, running the PCs off of
it. If the party goes forth, they will find a good dozen
Aarakocra(gangly bird-men), and spread across the ground are
one dead, and two injured bodies of other armored humans.
The bird-men will put up a good fight, and it is always
interesting to see how players adjust to the bird-men having
the advantage of flight. If the party runs away they will
more than likely not be followed as the bird-men will just
snack on the already fallen humans. But, if the players
kill all the birds and save the two injured humans (and
nurse them back to health, possibly even escort them back to town)
they'll receive a nice reward for giving the NPCs their
Green River Of Blood
A river of green blood, a pursuing enemy and visible,
scattered materials. For added fun the green blood can be a
Where To Dump The Body?
The PCs meet someone who is on the way to dispose of a body.
He might come from a nearby village where he killed someone
and is looking for a quiet place to bury the body or get rid
of it in other ways. The body might be concealed on a wagon.
Or maybe he just started to dig a hole when the PCs meet
Bounty Hunter Trap
A random character falls prey to some sort of trap and a
hunter (or two) pop out. They are trying to trap a vicious
wolf raiding the area - 50gp bounty on every wolf tongue -
which can also be used to pay taxes (this actually is
Thrown Horse Shoe Bad Luck
A character's horse throws a shoe-happens more often in
real life then it happens in games. the PC must walk the
horse back to town or risk having a lame horse. A variation
can be a stone in the hoof.
A bunch of women from a nearby town gathering
berries/mushrooms/truffles spots the party. They can (if
treated politely) provide a lot of local rumors and
information. The downside is they are horrible gossips and
by tomorrow mid-day EVERYONE in the region will have heard
of the party... and not everything heard may be correct
"Yes, I heard about you lot... they say you are deserters
from the army...".
The PCs encounter singing or talking plants, animals, and
stones--a magical oddity. A spellbook or powerful magic item
is buried nearby and the magical radiations leaking from the
item have had this side effect. If it's removed from the
immediate area the special effect will gradually fade. If
it's returned to the area, the effect re-occurs. Other
variations include blue trees or pink shrubs in a small
An 'unofficial' toll station and roadblock. The local
monsters have gone into business for themselves. They'll try
to con the party out of a few copper or silver each + a toll
for the animals of course...
Thief In Disguise
A wandering tinker/toymaker - actually a thief and a good
one at that (specialises in Open locks and Find/remove
trap). This guise gives him an excuse to carry a lot of the
tools of the trade with good excuse. He is travelling from
one city to another.
Bard On Foot
An oldie but a goody--a wandering minstrel. He'll ask to
accompany the party for a brief time--safety in numbers
and all that. He'll pay for his food with songs and jokes
and stories along the way. This might fun for the players
but the added noise will act to increase the chance of
wilderness encounters unless the party tell him to shut up.
The bard will not rob the party at all (someone will always
be suspicious of the bard anyway) and may be able to pass on
rumours, local history etc.