A Highland Adventure

A Highland Adventure

Smaller dungeons are easier to explain in a story-based world than large ones. PC's quests should have them traveling to 3 or 4 locations instead of a single one.

One approach is to create an adventure in a particular area where the  dungeons differ by type and setting.  This works well for a search and locate types of scenario.

This example is set in a highland/upland area.

The weather can and should be a significant factor in this location. Visibility varies with low cloud and mist. Rain and snow are near constant companions along the way. Cold is an issue at night - being creative around shelter will be important.

Set-Up: A party of NPC travelers had set out for a remote shrine.  Their aim was to assist one of their members to take healing waters for a debilitating ailment.

Their return is long overdue.  On inquiring at the shrine, it appears that they never arrived and no trace has been found along their route.

The father of one of the missing people has posted a hefty reward for information; with a bonus for their safe return.

Session 1 Beckdale:  Retracing the unmarked route to the shrine, the adventurers make their way up Beckdale; a deep cleft in the high dales with a fast-flowing stream at its base.

Following this route allows them protection from the weather on the initial stage of the journey. (2-3 days)

The high walls, large rocks and scattered copses make this territory ripe for ambush. Within the setting create a bandit camp and ambush points, plus additional monster encounters.

The party can find evidence that their quarry were attacked but passed through on up to the fells. They may have to deal with the bandits to pass through themselves.

Session 2 High Fells: On emerging from Beckdale, the PCs find themselves on a high upland landscape.

There are few trees to be seen amongst scattered boulders.  Swathes of heather and gorse blanket the landscape. There are no roads, just a choice of animal tracks.  The location of the shrine is several days to the northwest.

Observation/tracking rolls allow the PCs to start out on the correct track (if failed they can pick from a choice and trust to luck or process of elimination). Towards the end of day 1, snow and limited visibility hinder progress.  Following the track becomes progressively difficult and finally impossible.  The PCs must survive the cold of the night.

Day 2 brings rain and wind which melts the snow.  The trail they were following yesterday has disappeared and they must retrace.

Eventually they discover that the NPC party had struck out to the east (disorientated in bad weather?). The PCs can now begin tracking afresh.

Mix in a variety of encounters over the next couple of days; spiders, hunting packs, flying creatures, even hill trolls!

By day, danger can be seen approaching though it is difficult to hide from.

At night, the absolute darkness and poor weather makes it hard to guard against unwelcome surprises.  Fire can be seen a great distance away!

Finally, the PCs locate a wounded member of the missing party.  They tell a wild and improbable tale of armed figures emerging 'from the ground out of nowhere - in broad daylight!'  The party had no warning and were quickly subdued and taken away.

They abandoned this party member thinking they were dead.  They did hear something about 'below ground' as the attackers made off.

Session 3 Old Mines:  A network of mines with overgrown and partially hidden entrances explain how a traveling party can be taken by surprise.  The PCs must first locate an entrance to the network and then navigate their way through.

Create a GM map with several exits, dead-end mine workings and subterranean monster encounters.

The presence of manned guard points along the correct route confirms when they are on the right route.

Work in traps, natural hazards and some hidden loot to keep things interesting and rewarding.

The party eventually emerge onto an unfamiliar section of highland.  In the distance stands a fortified tower.

Session 4 The Broch:  The Broch is located some distance off the route to the shrine.  It is located on an outcrop of rock allowing either a frontal or more stealthy climb/infiltrate approach.

Though not large, the Broch is well built and easily defended, allowing difficulty of combat to be tailored to group size and experience.  The remaining NPC party members are split across locations within the Broch.

Map out a three story (plus basement) small fortification.  Place the NPC party members throughout (eg one in a dungeon, one in the servants area, one close to the Broch's owner).

Consider whether all the prisoners survive - an early fatality will motivate the PCs during the remaining rescues. 

A wrap-up session can include the return journey and rewards (if applicable).

The PCs may decide to visit the shrine with the prisoners to treat their unwell member - some of the PCs might need healing too!

Happy Gaming!
-Stolph

P.S. You can now earn gold coins on Scabard!

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