So the party's been stuck in the wilderness for months now. Winter-edge-of-nowhere wilderness. It turns out the biggest killer is ravines. That's right, ravines. You'd think it would be wolves, bears, oversized spiders, bloodsucking vines, tentacled freshwater things, hostile humanoids. Angry fairies? Carniverous pandas? Nope. Ravines.
Pretty sure we've lost six party members to ravines.
The fantasy genre gets a little dull in a winter wilderness. The party has been climbing down ravines. Climbing back up ravines. Crossing ravines. Drowning in the water at the bottom of ravines. This is the inglorious death of an adventurer.
I tried to spice things up, but most of the usual suspects are hibernating. And it's not just winter, but the wilderness: no farms or towns to explore, hordes of humanoids or country brigands. I did give them a dragon, but that devolved into a debate on whether or not they're warm-blooded.
At one point I resorted to kobolds with catapults.
Warring tribal factions was a thought, but who fights in the dead of winter? Whole Afghan wars shut down for winter. Some undead, some ghosts, sure. But how many can there be?
We've learned some things though:
- 50 feet of rope is not long enough to cross a 50 foot ravine
- Ice is slippery
- Snow covers up a lot of sharp pointy things
- Water in a frozen wasteland is really cold
- Circular clearings around mysterious mounds are terrible places to camp
- That food you never bother to keep track of is kind of useful
- Carrying unconscious party members through the wilderness sucks
- Carrying unconscious party members across ravines is worse
This is what happens when you give players options. They think everything's an adventure hook. Describe a sickly dog in an alley? Evil cult is poisoning dogs as a precursor to world domination! Point out the thatched roof on the inn? Obvious arson foreshadow! So when my “flavor text” included a bunch of mercenary adventurers docking at the ferry to load up for an expedition to a remote mine in the hinterlands? "Let's join up!"... so here we are. Wilderness. Ice. Snow. Ravines. My favourite part is that the further they go the less they want to head back: "it's so far, I don't want to trudge all the way back again." So... they go deeper.
This doesn't mean i haven't tried to make it interesting. There were brigands and orcs and fairies and gnolls and zombies and skeletons and then huge-giant-frankenstein-zombies. There were tentacled water monsters. There were rapids and overturned boats. There were crazed attack bears covered in spiked barbed armor. There was inter-party intrigue. There were planted spies from external factions. There was even a liche they narrowly avoided and only know about from reading the blog. There was an entire slave ship that “teleported in” to do business with said liche. There were carnivorous pandas.
None of that has saved them from the ravines.
Are there more creative encounters to salvage the dullness? More interesting monsters? Exposure to the ruins of a world rich with history? Sure, but here's to hoping for cities and a good pint.
(the cartoon is totally stolen from cartoonstock.com)