View Full Version : DM Help River encounter ideas

Fan of the fail
2016-07-11, 10:43 AM
The group in the game I'm running is about to take a trip down a river on a passenger barge, and I am having some difficulty coming up with interesting encounters for the journey. I have a few fights lined up (river pirates, aquatic beasties, etc.) but I'd like to switch it up and throw some non-combat stuff their way.

Any ideas?

(We're running Fantasy AGE if it makes a difference)

2016-07-11, 10:50 AM
As a childhood fan of Oregon Trail, rocks and rapids. Waterfalls, bridge ruins, eddies that pull them off course and into a swamp, swarms of mosquitoes (stirges?), spider webs spanning the river, creatures lurking in overhanging branches waiting for something to pass beneath, and of course, giant frogs, are all good options for ruining an adventurer's boating trip.

2016-07-11, 10:51 AM
Maybe some of the other passengers are gamblers or treasure hunters. Maybe they find some survivors of a previous attack on another boat, maybe one of the survivors is a spy for the pirates/ orcs/ whoever is attacking the river traffic.

Maybe a sidestream leads to a roaring waterfall, how are they going to avoid it. Maybe someone on the barge pisses off a very righteous druid, and the druid harasses them with various non combat animals.

2016-07-11, 10:53 AM
Encounters with other passengers can be facilitated by being so close to one another for a longer period. You can have the NPC that seems all lovey-dovey, but who is later found to be cheating on their SO. This can lead to further complications and drama. And if there's the one person who's just intolerable, avoiding them on a small barge can be difficult. The cheating gambler getting thrown overboard, perhaps?

There's also various naturally occuring problems. If the PCs can do anything to help, they could be interesting - though I don't know the system. Fog, shifting banks, a lodged log, or simply an incompetent, drunk or otherwise problematic crewmember could provide dangers.

Fan of the fail
2016-07-11, 11:01 AM
Good stuff. Thanks.

The swamp may be a no-go, its a river in a desert land kinda like the Nile (probably should've mentioned that :P). I'm really liking the issues that come with rubbing up against the other passengers.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-07-11, 12:14 PM
Dire sea gulls. The answer is always dire sea gulls (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?445795-Looking-for-a-monster&highlight=dire+seagull).

A Lorelei or Siren like creature might work too.

As far as currents go in my experience there are roughly six types of dangers you could use. They're not all very applicable to the kind of river where large river barges go, especially if this river is like the lower parts of the Nile (the upper parts absolutely contain all of these), but here we go anyway:

Waterfalls: Landing in the bubbles beneath a waterfall is slightly better than landing on normal flat water, provided that the basin is deep enough to not let you slam into the bottom. Kind of cliché, but always fun when they appear. You can give the ship a better chance by giving them flatter rapids to ride, consisting of maybe one or two small drops and some of the other five hazards.

Rocks: When a vessel gets pushed sideways against a large enough rock their only hope is to find a way to lean towards it so the current can pass under the boat. No leaning and the boat is in serious danger of tipping. Rocks also provide a good way to smash a hole in the bow and sink them, although it's good to remember rocks lying in the current have a cushion of water in front of them that flows away on both sides and can be used to steer around them. Behind a rock there's relatively calm water which stands still or even flows upstream a bit (to flow back down around the sides).

Waves: there are places in rivers with meters high rogue waves that just pop in random locations, but mostly they take the shape of big wave trains, one wave after the other that can tip over the boat if it's not running straight down them.

Holes: the water drops down from a submerged rock or ridge and flows off as an undercurrent while in the top layer water is sucked in against the direction of the current. A hole can trap and drown any swimmers and even trap small boats. If the boat is tilted away from the drop and the boat powers forward they can generally be exited through the side, if not the boat will tip over. If you cross a hole with a wave you get stoppers, big rolling waves that can bring small vessels to a full stop or knock larger vessels off course. These are a very common component of the wave trains mentioned above, and can set a boat up for a risk of being tipped over by the next wave. Wavetrains are the most common obstacles on large high volume rivers.

Undersomethingsomething: I don't know how these are called in English, undercurrent isn't quite right, but they're what happens when steep river banks, for instance the walls of a canyon, are eroded by the water. The current flows under the bank. These things often occur in the outer banks of corners, where the full current of the river is pressed against the wall. Can tip over small vessels and swallow swimmers and objects. Almost always spit everything back out safely at the end of the curve.

Siphons: Underwater tunnels. The mean brother of the undersomethingsomething. More often than not clogged with small rocks, tree braches or the body of the last person to enter it. If someone gets sucked into one of these and does not surface on the other side almost immediately you have to act extremely fast, or your best case scenario is that they drown before both their arms are ripped off by the water pressure. Uncommon but very, very deadly. As a kayaker I will play in a hole and paddle close to an undersomethingsomething, but I do not **** around in any way with siphons. There's probably a special place in the afterlife for those souls unfortunate enough to have been eaten by these monsters of the river. Use sparingly, and have an NPC warn players about them before they ever get close to one. If the players have strong rope, some nearby rocks providing good footing and maybe one or two skills that could provide knowledge or a bonus getting something valuable stuck in one might make for a decent puzzle, but see the last sentence. Just letting them jump in unwarned could end up like putting a sphere of annihilation in a statue's mouth. Although since they're trying to recover something anyway getting a team mate stuck might add some fun time pressure, if they have the skills or the real world wits to deal with this sort of thing.

Shiva asori
2016-07-11, 12:31 PM
A Shipwreck of another less fortunate ship, a mini-dungeon, a chance to loot, a monster nest or just a shipwreck but what ever it is it needs to get out of the way for the barge. It also can serve as a caution sign for dangerous waters ahead.

2016-07-11, 12:44 PM
Good stuff. Thanks.

The swamp may be a no-go, its a river in a desert land kinda like the Nile (probably should've mentioned that :P). I'm really liking the issues that come with rubbing up against the other passengers.

You could consider a sandstorm, then. I'm guessing they'd have to land and make shelter as best they could, which could result in various social situations. Or someone could go missing. Sandstorms could be caused by demons or djinn, and be an even greater threat than they are in real life.

2016-07-11, 12:57 PM
You should read Lord Dunsany's river voyage story, Idle Days on the Yann (http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/dun/swld/swld09.htm).

2016-07-11, 01:13 PM
Put someone on the boat who the players don't want to die. I dunno, that could be a VIP or some innocent nobody. Or hell, it could be one of the players. Then put some sort of assassin on the boat, who pushes that person into the water. Then put natural hazards in the water - swift flows, that sort of thing. Then put a predator in the water. My preference is for a grappler, like a crocodile, but whatever level works.

So the encounter basically runs as:
Party gets warned offhandedly about rough conditions ("there's fast water coming up, lords and ladies. Try not to walk around too much.")
Bad Guy pushes Mysterious Lady into the water, then lets himself fall in.
Everyone starts panicking and looking to the players to do something.

In an ideal world this sort of encounter would happen before the players are at a level where magic or WBL can be easy solutions. What you want to do is force at least one of the players into the water without being prepared.

2016-07-12, 02:28 PM
Abandoned temple on one shore could use cleaning up and dedicating.

They run into a village festival and are asked to compete in races, singing and dancing competitions.

A boatload of burros has run up on a sandbar. The obvious answer is to harness 20 burros into two strings and pull her off, but the sailors don't really know how to handle that many burros. They offer to pay the party to attempt 20 DC 15 Handle Animal checks to get the burros in line. A botch sends the burro into a frenzy of kicking and biting. There are 30 burros in total.

A wagon master wants a pontoon bridge built. Requires Knowledge Engineering and use of small boats. He's willing to pay for the privilege.

A dike has been breached and can use rapid repair with sheer brute force work for a few hours.

You won't see a bayou but there's no reason they can't run into a reed marsh and have to get the boat through.

A boatload of pioneers has overloaded their craft and it is in danger of capsizing in the river (in the humble opinion of your own captain). They are generally neutral good people but need talked into a equitable way of offloading half the gear in the boat. Your own boat can only take on half what's extra if you can talk the crew into tagging along partway. For a DC 15 you can covert one of their covered wagons into a small barge to hold some gear, a botch renders it incapable of floating. They have six wagons.

An ox has gone lame. The wagon is a mile out of a village and the owner offers some rare goods if the PCs will tow his wagon into town. They can only tow it so far before they get tired, so they have to make 50 strength checks.

A monk in a shorebased monastery boasts he can trip anything with legs. To compete with him requires a donation to the monastery. The prize for defeating him is an antique brass bell audible for three miles.

A village wedding is in disarray. The bride's father says the cows are not what was advertised and he demands an extra head to make up the bridal price. Your diplomacy is appreciated.

2016-07-13, 05:47 AM
The closed environment on the barge might be a great setting for a good old murder mystery (closed setting, limited number of witnesses

Maybe after an "aquatic beastie attack" you find one of the passengers dead with evidence of a material on him (e.g creature eggs) that was used to attract the beast. Was the victim a saboteur or did he catch someone luring the beast, if so why? (maybe for the preparation for the pirate attack?)

2016-07-13, 06:25 AM
Someone is drowning, they save that someone and it turns out to be a creature that lures its pray by that way. Make it a boss like combat, make it deadly.