After a lot of extreme environments last month; icy tundras, arid deserts and even scorching volcanos, we decided it was time to get back to more temperate climates. Our first battlemap of March features a stone bridge, crossing over a deep ravine. How deep does it go? What could have caused such a scar in the earth? What dark creatures lurk in the dark below? All good questions, and all shall remain unanswered by us. Make it work for your world, and your setting.
We had a lot of fun creating this map, as we love the idea of a chasm stretching down further than the eye can see. The power that a void can invoke is something else entirely, with the absolute feelings of wonder, and terror, that it can instill in someone. Just the thought of crossing this bridge filled us with so many ideas for stories, about how and why it was created, what it leads to, and much more. In these encounters, we hope you will see at least a few of these ideas play out.
Encounter 1: Pay the Toll (Levels 1-3) Average/Hard
Just as the bridge comes into sight, the party also become aware of a number of figures standing on/by it. As they get closer still, they can make out a group of humanoids in leather armour, spread out across the area, along with one elderly looking woman in tattered clothing, seemingly in conversation with the armoured figures. As the party finally reach the pass, they overhear the woman arguing that she cannot afford the unreasonable fee the armoured foes are trying to charge her for wanting to cross the bridge. They hear the man in charge demand that she pay 50 gold, or she cannot pass through, and will have to travel for miles to reach the next bridge.
If the players attempt to cross, they will be asked to pay the “Bridge Toll” of 50 gold for the privilege. 50 gold, each. The man in charge will demand payment, and will threaten hostility if they attempt to cross without paying. The group of bandits is made up of 1 stronger enemy and a number of lower leveled enemies, based on the party level:
Level 1: 1 Thug (basic rules - p164) and 3 Bandits (basic rules - p162)
Level 2: 3 Thugs (basic rules - p164) and 2 Bandits (basic rules - p162)
Level 3: 1 Bandit Captain (basic rules - p397), 1 Thug (basic rules - p164) and 2 Bandits (basic rules - p162)
The party can choose to either pay the fee (unlikely at a low level, as they likely aren’t very wealthy), fight the bandits, persuade the bandits to let them pass for a reduced rate (charisma (persuasion) check, DC 14), or simply find an alternate place to cross, further along, and take their chances.
Encounter 2: Motes Over a Bridge (Levels 1-3) Easy/Average
Along the road, the party find themselves faced with a seemingly bottomless chasm. Fortunately, they think, there is a wide and sturdy bridge built over it. Unbeknownst to the party, the chasm itself is a sacred place to an ancient clan of druids, and is warded with their magics. As they attempt to approach the bridge, they find themselves attacked from below, as the ground itself seemingly erupts towards them, slamming into their bodies. 2d3+2 Earth Motes (statblock below) attack the party, leaping from the ground, and quickly burrowing back beneath, attempting to prevent them from crossing the bridge.
Encounter 3: The Obvious Encounter (Levels 4-6) Average
Seemingly unguarded, the party approach the bridge. As they grow closer, they notice the carcass of a dead goat lying on the path in front of them. A few steps ahead, they see a second goat, just as still as the first, and just as dead. Examining the bodies will reveal that they died from bludgeoning damage. Finally, as the party eventually reach the bridge, they hear a shouting from below. A troll climbs out from beneath, holding a final goat carcass in his hands, which he promptly throws at the head of the party (thrown with proficiency, dealing 2d6+4 bludgeoning damage on a hit).
Encounter 4: Lingering Emotions (Levels 4-6) Average/Hard
The closer the party get to the bridge, the more uneasy they feel, with a lingering sense of fear seemingly gripping them all. Even animals (especially horses, if the party are travelling with them) seem to grow increasingly freaked out, until they eventually refuse to move further forward. They party find the feeling strongest when they are by the chasm itself, as if the fear is leaking from its depths.
Attempting to cross the bridge, the party will find themselves interrupted by a mournful wail, erupting from the darkness below. Immediately afterwards, two shadowy beings from below rise out of the depths, each one seemingly made of shadows, in which terrified, writhing, humanoid faces seem to occasionally surface for a second at a time, letting out terrified cries for help. Two Vestigial Fear (statblock below) now block the party's way, and must be dealt with in order for the party to continue.
Encounter 5: Terror from the Deep (Levels 7-9) Hard/Very Hard
Approaching the bridge, the party begin to finally get a sense of just how deep the chasm is. They can’t see a bottom, no matter how hard they try, and it almost seems like the darkness is trying to climb out towards them. Wait. It is climbing towards them! Two pitch black creatures, each with six limbs, are crawling at speed out of the depths below, directly towards the bridge. As they come into the light, the party can see the creatures in their full splendor; 10 ft. tall humanoid shapes, pitch black, so dark, in fact, they seem to absorb the light around them, making the area look darker. Each one has 4 arms, each ending in a razor sharp claw, and despite lacking any form of mouth, they both let out a screeching sound that seems to pierce the air around them.
One Chasm Crawler (statblock below) will emerge from the chasm at each end of the bridge, blocking in any creatures currently on the bridge, and stopping anything else from walking onto it. They are immediately hostile towards the party, and will attack immediately. If they kill any of the party, the Chasm Crawler that delivered the killing blow will drag the body off the bridge, and carry it down into the darkness (unless stopped).
Encounter 6: A Roc-y Situation (Levels 7-9) Very Hard
It’s the only crossing for nearly a day’s march in any direction, and it’s the one the party decided to use. Unfortunately, it’s also the one place that a Roc (basic rules - p342) has decided, for whatever reason, to make its nest. Extremely territorial, and protective of its eggs, the Roc will attack any creature that approaches. The bad news? The party have to fight a Roc. The good news? I’ve heard Roc eggs go for a good price on the black market! I hope that doesn’t come back to bite the party, though...
Encounter 7: A Rocky Situation (Levels 10-12) Very Hard/Deadly
Approaching the chasm, the party feel the air pulsing with warmth every few seconds. Closer yet, they also start to hear a faint growling from its depths. The growling stops quickly though, and is replaced by an extremely laboured flapping, or giant wings beating to lift something immense.
Finally, cresting above the chasm, a huge Rock Dragon (statblock below) emerges, and turns its attention on a nearby goat. Quickly diving on the poor creature, the Rock dragon gulps it down along with a large mouthful of dirt and stone. As it turns it’s massive head towards the party, a small amount of the recently swallowed stone re-emerges from the creature's mouth, dripping down in a molten pool of lava.
Encounter 8: Underhanded Overpass (Levels 10-12) Hard/Very Hard
DM: *shows party the map*
Party: Where's the monster?
DM: You're looking at it.
Expecting some great foe to be awaiting them on their journey, the party are almost disappointed to just find an empty bridge crossing the chasm. No matter how closely they look, that’s all they can see; just a gargantuan stone bridge. That is, until one of them touches it, and finds themself stuck…
The bridge itself turns out to be a False Pass (statblock below) pretending to be a bridge, in an attempt to lure travellers onto its body for it can dissolve them for nutrition, and the party seem to be a thoroughly suitable meal! (turns out the real bridge is half a mile further east)
|Adult Rock Dragon Statblock|
|Gridded Version of the Map|