The characters come to a settlement close to the eaves of Davokar or the wooded foothills of the Titans or Ravens. Wherever the location, the residents have an issue in that their stream has run dry. The flow has experienced seasonal variations in the past, but nothing quite so severe as to have dried up altogether. If pressed, some of the locals recall sounds or activity in the woods to the north a couple of weeks ago (or – depending on the encounter rolled or chosen – there may have been other travelers who have gone to investigate, animal calls or heavy storms).
The path/track in and out of the settlement runs along the eaves of the wood, occasionally meandering in somewhat deeper. The nearest settlements in either direction are a couple of days good travel distant. The GM might have a local watchtower somewhere to the east or west of the woods, but this will also be a good day of travel distant because of the difficult intervening terrain or necessitate a wide detour so as traverse on easier ground.
Following the course of the muddy bed upstream, the characters find… [roll 1D6]:
- Corpses. … dead bodies of both animals and Ambrians choke the throat of the stream, forcing the water back into a murky pool. The surface appears oily, streaks of sickly rainbow colours rippling across the surface. The boggy ground sticks to boots (reducing movement to 1/4 normal) and the gathered carcasses reek. A Challenging [Cunning—3] test notes that the corpses show signs of predation and gnawing. While some of them appear to have literally washed down into this mess of bodies, most appear to have been dragged here – evident from tracks on the stream side of the ‘dam’. Anyone with Beast Lore (Adept | Undead) will recognise the signs of a dragoul pack (core, p 230) – and tracks indicate a large on (double the number of PCs). Perhaps on their way here, the characters heard rumours of rough and dangerous roads with several travelers going missing, but no clear culprit. The dam provides clear evidence of the traveler’s fate (and their mounts, plus local wildlife) – and anyone with a [Strong—3] stomach can loot the bodies for coinage and hardware worth 2D4 shillings. An additional [Vigilant—1] test will reveal a curiosity (see Symbaroum – Adventure Pack 1) with a value of 1D10 + 10 thalers. Of course, there’s the small matter of dealing with the dragouls first… and they’ll seek to surprise the adventurers if at all possible.
- Bandits. … a hastily lashed together mound of wreckage and debris layered over an uprooted tree. The remains of a cart and load – barrels and many sacks – bulk out the blockage. Closer inspection of the dam reveals the owner of the cart appears to have been built into the ‘dam’, an emaciated and bloodied arm sticks out free from the shards of broken wood. Further investigation finds a couple of horses grazing amongst the trees on the left bank. On the right bank, there are two bodies strung up in the trees, one a guard – stripped down and gutted – and the other a woman (the farmers wife), beaten and violated, before someone finally hung her by the neck – Medicus/Cunning—5 will make it clear she was already dead before anyone strung her up. While investigating, anyone remaining on guard can make a [Vigilant—3] test to realise they’re being surrounded by a gang of bandits [Robbers = PC Experience + 50, plus one Robber Chief (core, p 211)] intent on taking their possessions, torturing them and leaving them to die.
- Beavers. … a pile of sturdy timbers and branches piled with incredible skill across the course of the stream. The blockage has created a broad pool – deep and dark. The ground appears to have been worked, the banks of the pool created by the concerted efforts of several large and determined animals over a period of time. No ill intent exists nor complications of corruption — but the beavers will not take kindly to the destruction of the dam and while they will not defend it with violence, the act of removing it will draw the attention of a local Witch (core, p 242) and her curses.
- House Dispute. … a dozen bored soldiers, well-armed and armoured (as Cult Warrior with commander equivalent to Queen’s Ranger; core, p 211-212). They have built a rough dam across the river from a fallen tree and several panels of timber, send the stream off at an angle from the original course. They explain that the waters belong to their master’s House (one that none of the characters recognise without a Challenging [Cunning—3] test that picks the heraldry out as House Anafeld, one of the minor families that, nevertheless, found a role to play in the later years of the war in Alberetor and the razing of barbarian fortifications in Ambria). They do not take kindly to threats and have no inclination (or knowledge) to argue the legalities of their activity. They’re bored, so any acts that heat-up their emotions (harsh words, threats, etc.) will lead them to aggression and, if pushed, violence.
- Refugees. … a large camp of dejected souls beside the stream, choked with rubble, refuse and a broken wagon. The ground around the blockage has become boggy and unwholesome, clear signs evident that the refugees have moved the position of their camp further and further away as the mire has expanded. The refugees show signs of malnutrition, excessive fatigue and disease. Medicus/Cunning tests along with a suitable supply [1D4+2] of Herbal Cures and weak Elixirs will go much of the way to handling the illness sweeping the camp. There’s nothing corrupted about the refugees – the sickness seems to be the result of the poor conditions. They explain that on coming across the mountains from Alberetor the Queen’s officers directed them to New Berendoria, but the distance proved too much for their carts and health to handle. Could the characters help them complete the journey?
- Sinkhole. … a fallen tree. The uprooting of the tree has left a yawning sinkhole. The course of the stream was diverted into the hole, the water churning lazily as it sinks into darkness. Diverting the stream’s course requires that the characters remove the tree and dig a fresh path – the work of days and one or more [Strong] and [Resolute] tests. Having restored the stream, the sinkhole glowers like an open eye socket and anyone with Witchsight or succeeding in a Lore/Cunning test figures the hole for the opening into a previously untouched Symbarian ruin (see Symbaroun – Adventure Pack 1 for guidance on randomly generating a suitable site).
2-Minute Tabletop Map
By no means necessary, but the fine maps created by Ross McConnell (who has a 2-minute Table Top Patreon page well worth your support) include a Jungle Stream that would make an ideal battle map for this encounter.